You’ll find a number of provincial parks along the shores of Lake Erie. While Turkey Point and Long Point are certainly the most popular in this area, Rondeau Provincial Park is a lesser-known gem that should not be overlooked. This intimate park is a great spot for camping, biking and hiking, If any or all of the above are up your alley, keep reading to see why Rondeau Provincial Park should be on your radar!
About Rondeau Provincial Park
Long before colonization, these lands have been essential to the lifestyle of Indigenous Peoples since time immemorial. While there are claims of the Mississauga Peoples being in this area of what is now Ontario, the Attiwonderonk (Neutral) People are said to have been the most predominant. Based on the research I’ve found, they traded flint with both the Huron and the Iroquois to help provide each side with weaponry during their battles. However, the Attiwonderonk were said to have disappeared by 1651 due to a number of reasons including famine, intertribal wars and diseases brought by the Europeans.
European arrival meant the landscape started to change and there’s plenty of history to be found at Rondeau Provincial Park and the area surrounding it. The park got its name thanks to French explorers Dollier de Casson and Bréhaut de Galinée as they referenced the bay (rond eau aka round water in French) and its importance as a landmark. Then the appointment of Simcoe as the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada saw the area being developed with an emphasis on naval military support. The neighbouring Shrewsbury even played an important part to help slaves escape when the Fugitive Slave Bill was signed in the mid-1800s!
Then came 1894 and the park was officially established as it is one of the best examples of a Cuspate Sandspit (the transport of sand and fine grave by two converging currents) in all of North America. Not only that, but Rondeau Provincial Park protects over 3200 hectares of Oak Savannah, dune habitat, coastal wetlands and some of the last remaining stands of old growth Carolinian Forest in the province. These important environments support a number of species that are at risk – more than any provincial park! It’s one of the things that makes Rondeau such an incredible spot and one to visit again and again.
FUN FACT: Rondeau is the second oldest provincial park in Ontario, established just one year after Algonquin!
For more information about Rondeau Provincial Park’s history, there’s a fantastic presentation online you can check out here that really dives deep into not just the park itself but the era before it was created.
Things to Do at Rondeau Provincial Park
While Rondeau may only be 32.54 km² in size, it still has plenty to offer visitors in terms of outdoor activities. Whether you’re looking to explore on or off the water, here are the top things to do at Rondeau Provincial Park!
Rondeau Provincial Park Hiking
Strap on a comfy pair of runners as there are six hiking trails at Rondeau Provincial Park to be explored! While they vary in length, all of them offer little to no elevation change meaning it’s perfect for hikers of all ages and skill levels.
The shortest trail in the park is Warbler’s Way, a 500-metre loop that is full of life! As you can guess by the name, chances are you’ll hear warblers chirping away and even see them as they scoot from tree to tree. Keep an eye out for black walnut trees and bee balm which is known to attract pollinators like bees, hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies!
Next, we have the Spicebush Trail at 1.5 kilometres long. Enjoy a plethora of boardwalks as you follow this loop trail past a wide range of vegetation. You’ll see a number of beautiful flowers such as spotted touch me nots and blue cardinals. There’s even a section that’s overrun by ferns! While it might be tempting to pick some of these beautiful plants, be sure to practice leave no trace so that everyone who visits the park can enjoy this beautiful trail.
Then we’ll head to the visitors centre where you’ll find the Tulip Tree Trail. Similar to the Spicebush in that it features a number of boardwalks, this trail is barrier-free and the most accessible trail for handicapped visitors. Leading you through a deciduous forest, the Tulip Tree Trail also connects with one of the accesses to the beach alone the Lake Erie shoreline. Despite the fact that you’re traversing through some wetlands on this trail, there are little to no mosquitoes which is always a plus in my books!
The Black Oak Trail is another loop featuring rolling hills and dense forest. This trail is approximately 1.7 kilometres long and while it has the most elevation change of all the trails, it’s still a leisurely hike. I would say the Black Oak Trail is the tighest of all the trails since there is substantial foliage from all of the trees. However, it means that the sunlight peeks in through the leaves and gives the trail a sort of mystical, Alice in Wonderland vibe. If you’re looking for a spot to escape into nature or possibly enjoy a forest bathing session, this would be the trail to go to!
The longest trail in Rondeau Provincial Park is the Harrison Trail. This 8 kilometre out-and-back trail used to be a gravel roadway that allowed visitors to access the lighthouse located at the tip of the peninsula. It’s now only used for walking and cycling as it traverses the full length of the park. Fantastic for bird and butterfly sightings, it will also take you through a number of the habitats found in Rondeau including the Oak Woodland, Oak Savannah and Carolinian Forest.
Last but certainly not least, you have the South Point Trail at the base of the park. While this was once a full trail that looped around the edge of the peninsula, Lake Erie’s fierce waves had other plans as they washed out part of the trail. Now it’s two separate out-and-back trails, east and west, that are 1.6 kilometres and 3.1 kilometres consecutively. Each takes you through a forested area and then opens up to a beautiful stretch of beach on Lake Erie. Be warned though, as you get closer to the point these little monsters called deer flies will come out of the shadows in the warmer months so be prepared.
SOMETHING TO NOTE: The Marsh Trail was damaged due to flooding and has since been closed. While there’s hope it will be repaired, there is no set date for this maintenance to happen.
Biking at Rondeau
If you’re an avid cyclist, Rondeau Provincial Park is a great spot to get the wheels moving. Of the six hiking trails, four are available to cyclists: the South Point trails, Harrison and Warbler’s Way. As I mentioned, these trails are flat which makes them great for beginner cyclists to get more comfortable on their bicycles while enjoying the beauty found within the park. Plus, the numerous roads throughout the park are perfect for exploring by bike!
Paddle Rondeau Bay
If you have a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard, make sure you bring it with you to Rondeau Provincial Park. The sheltered waters of Rondeau Bay are fantastic for paddling as you explore the park’s shoreline.
Whether you’re doing a day trip or staying for a few nights, add a golden hour paddle to your schedule if you can. Trust me, the sunsets over Rondeau Bay are absolutely magical and being on the water for it makes them extra special!
Of course, Lake Erie can certainly be a great paddle but she is notorious for having a strong undercurrent. Unless you’re an experienced paddler, I would recommend sticking to Rondeau Bay where the waters are calmer.
Bird Watching at Rondeau
Passionate birders will certainly know that the parks around Lake Erie offer prime bird-watching opportunities as they are along a number of migratory routes. Rondeau Provincial Park is no different!
To date, 334 bird species have been sighted in the park with 134 of them using the park as a breeding ground. The Rondeau Peninsula is a very important stopover for a number of songbirds as well as waterfowl. Keep your eyes peeled for thrushes, flycatchers and other migrating passerines! Thousands of ducks and Tundra Swans come to Rondeau Bay in the spring and fall, which is always a sight to see.
If you’re on the lookout for some rare species, you might catch a glimpse of a Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Townsend’s Solitaire or Yellow-throated Warbler if you’re lucky! Also, Rondeau Provincial Park is one of the only places in Canada where you might spot the Prothonotary Warbler, an endangered species.
Soak Up the Sun Along Lake Erie
While the hiking and biking are pretty great at Rondeau Provincial Park, one of the biggest draws has to be the expansive beach along the shores of Lake Erie. Bring your swimsuit, towel, a book and anything else you may need to enjoy a fantastic afternoon of fun in the sun! With numerous access points from the park with many just steps from the campground, it’s easy to enjoy a beach day while enjoying the park.
You can also go for a swim on the Rondeau Bay side, however there is a lot of seaweed and other plant life which can make the experience a little less enjoyable. I recommend sticking to the Lake Erie side but be careful as she can have a strong undertow. There are no lifeguards so enjoy the waves of Lake Erie at your own risk!
Visit the Park Store
Don’t forget to pop by Rondeau Provincial Park’s Store during your visit! Located just a few minutes’ walk from the campground, you’ll find a variety of camping supplies along with some of your grocery basics – certainly perfect for those times when you’ve forgotten something at home! This is also where you’ll be able to pick up some Ontario Parks merchandise, though you can always click here to shop the Parks Store online any day, any time.
One of the things that’s unique to Rondeau is that you’ll also find a restaurant at the Park Store! Here you can enjoy a number of hot food items, coffee, tea and more… though I’ve heard that the ice cream is where it’s at.
Check Out the Rondeau Visitor Centre
There are a number of beautiful exhibits to enjoy inside the Visitor Centre at Rondeau Provincial Park where you will learn more about the history of the park and the habitats within it. There are even a few friends to say hello to as you make your way through the displays!
My favourite part has to be the Indigenous exhibit that was created in partnership with the Aamjiwnaang, Caldwell First Nations and Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewit (also known as the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown). Admire the beautiful artwork from local Indigenous artists and learn about the Lenape creation story inside the small-scale wigwam.
The Visitor Centre is also home to the Friends of Rondeau gift store where you can find an assortment of items from field guides to toys to clothing.
Catch One of Rondeau’s Discovery Programs
Make sure to ask about the Discovery Programs as Rondeau has special programming that runs from spring into the late fall season. During your visit, you might be able to catch a guided hike, educational presentations, festivals and more. Children’s programs and campfires are planned daily throughout the summer. The staff at Rondeau Provincial Park have the programming for the next two weeks posted at the visitors centre as well as listed on the park’s website under the What’s Happening section.
Follow the Storywalk
What I didn’t mention in the hiking section is that along the Tulip Tree Trail has a brand new addition this year! Scattered along the trail, you will find display boxes with a page from “A Walk in Nature” by Janne I. Peters of the Caldwell First Nation! This storywalk shares the adventures of the dynamic duo, Rainey and Mkinaak, a human and turtle that are exploring the world around them.
I not only love that this story was created by an Indigenous artist but that it also teaches everyone who follows it a few words from Anishinaabemowin, also known as the language of the Ojibway. Start from the boardwalk located by Beach Access #10 and follow the trail to the left when you reach the fork in order to enjoy the story in order.
Winter Fun at Rondeau Provincial Park
While most folks travel to provincial parks in the warmer months, Rondeau Provincial Park is one of the 31 Ontario Parks that you can enjoy in the winter, too! If you’re looking to get outside once the snow falls, head to the park where you can enjoy the trails either by snowshoe or via cross-country ski. There’s also the opportunity for some ice fishing as Rondeau Bay freezes over. Come with your fishing license in hand and cast a line!
Rondeau Provincial Park Camping
As I mentioned earlier, Rondeau Provincial Park is interesting as almost 300 parcels of land have been leased out to folks who own cottages along parts of the waterfront. So while you won’t find any waterfront sites at Rondeau, there are 262 campsites that are all a short walk from the gorgeous beaches of Lake Erie.
The campground is located at the north end of the park, just southeast of the main gate. Divided almost in half by the entrance roadway, the sites are clustered together along narrow roads that run north and south. The sites are a decent size though the majority of them are in close quarters with one another. This means that the campsites here might have a bit less privacy than you’re used to. However, the majority of them are large enough for RVs and trailers which helps in this regard.
While it is located on a corner of two roadways, I very much enjoyed my stay on site 202. It has a beautiful tree that offers a decent amount of shade across the site. The site is surrounded by trees and greenery so other than hearing the odd car, truck or trailer going by, it’s a spacious and fairly quiet site.
Unfortunately, site 202 often isn’t available but never fear as I have a few more options for you! For my next visit, I would be keeping an eye out for sites 1, 2, 11, 49, 89 and 123 as they have more privacy than many of the sites in Rondeau which is a high priority for me. However, sites 1 and 2 are a decent jaunt from the comfort station so if you’re planning on tent camping, you might want to avoid those two.
INSIDER TIP: Even if you’re tent camping, you might want to think about an electrical site. On those chilly evenings or damp days, it’s really nice to be able to plug in a kettle and have something warm very quickly rather than having to wait for a fire to start!
Things to Do Near Rondeau Provincial Park
While I spent the majority of my visit exploring the park in all its entirety, there are a number of things to do near Rondeau Provincial Park! If you’re planning on spending a few nights here, check out these great spots close by.
Just across Rondeau Bay, you’ll find the quaint town of Erieau. Take a stroll out to the lighthouse along the pier and pop into the shops along the main strip. Grab a pint at Bayside Brewing Company and some tasty fish at Molly & OJs. Ice cream is always a good idea so why not grab a cone from ErieView Ice Cream? It’s also home to one of the best beaches in Ontario and while Rondeau Provincial Park has a fantastic beach itself, it’s sometimes fun to have a little change in scenery!
Wheatley Provincial Park
It may be tiny at just 241 hectares but there’s still lots of fun to be had at Wheatley Provincial Park! As Ontario’s most southern provincial park, it’s actually at the same latitude as Northern California! Enjoy the beautiful Carolinian forest either by paddling Boosey and Sugar creeks or along the two trails in the park. Oh, and if you’re camping at Rondeau around Halloween you may want to plan a visit as Wheatley gets all decked out for Halloween!
Point Pelee National Park
If heading to Wheatley is on your radar then I recommend heading another 20 minutes west to check out the most southern point of mainland Canada! Point Pelee National Park is a year-round destination with fantastic birding in the spring, the perfect spot for a beach day in the summer, the Monarch migration in the fall and wandering past incredible ice formations come winter. Be sure to pop into the visitors centre and check out their exhibits to learn more about this area of Ontario.
RELATED: For more things to do near Point Pelee National Park, check out my guide to the Windsor-Essex area!
Just 40 minutes northwest of Rondeau Provincial Park, Chatham is the closest city to the park. Head into the heart of town and pop into some of the boutique shops or grab a bite at a local restaurant. Enjoy views of the Thames River from Tecumseh Park and take a stroll along the waterfront. Learn more about the Underground Railroad at the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum and the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring the city!
Rondeau Park FAQ
Here are some things to know for your visit to Rondeau Provincial Park as well as some frequently asked questions about it and the area.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Rondeau Provincial Park?
For 2022, it costs $18.00 per car to visit Rondeau Provincial Park. Ontario seniors and those with a disability permit are offered a discounted rate of $14.50 and $9.00 respectively.
How Much Does it Cost to Camp at Rondeau Provincial Park?
Fees vary by site but typically one night of Rondeau Provincial Park camping costs $42.00 for a non-electrical site and $47.50 for an electrical site plus reservation fees. Rondeau Provincial Park camping reservations can be made online here or by calling 1-888-668-7275.
How Long is the Rondeau Provincial Park Camping Season?
New in 2022, Rondeau Provincial Park has extended its camping season! While it used to run until the end of October, you can now camp at Rondeau Provincial Park from April 1st until November 13th.
Are There Ticks at Rondeau Provincial Park?
Yes, ticks are a common sight at Rondeau Provincial Park so be diligent and make sure to do a tick check as those carrying lyme disease have been spotted in the area.
If You’re Looking for More Ontario Parks Guides…
Hiking, Biking & More at Bronte Creek Provincial Park
Everything You Need to Know About Long Point Provincial Park
Your Eagle-Eyed Guide to Mikisew Provincial Park
Camp Your Heart Out at Oastler Lake Provincial Park
See Why You Need to Rent a Cabin at Silent Lake Provincial Park
Don’t Miss This Hiking Guide to Short Hills Provincial Park
Give Winter Glamping a Go at Killarney Provincial Park
Enjoy a Chill Winter Escape at Windy Lake Provincial Park
This post is brought to you in partnership with Ontario Parks. While I was compensated for my time, all of the content and opinions here are honest and speak to my personal experience!