We finally got our van completed enough, and we decided to take it on a test trip. So we booked ten days off work and picked a direction to travel, the Georgian Bay area of Ontario. So we packed up our clothes and food for a few nights and fueled up the tank, and we were off.
Before we even left town, there was an issue with the solar connections, but I made the wiring adjustments on the road. It would have been an exciting trip without the ability to charge the batteries but still doable.
Traveling up the route that traces Lake Huron shoreline allowed us to see several small towns, and we stopped off at a remote shoreline just past Goderich, where we could have spent the night for free. However, since we had barely begun our trip, we marked it on our map for a future endeavor and drove on.
On a slight whim, we took a detour to Sauble Beach to stop and watch the sunset. A municipal parking area had signs for no camping, barb-a-ques, and no fires, but nowhere did it say no overnight parking. So we decided to make this our overnight spot, complete with public toilets (closed at 11 pm, but there was a porta-potty next to it for late-night use).
What a beautiful spot to fall asleep with the sound of waves in the background. In the morning we explored the town and walked the beach. A parking area next to where we had stayed had a large no overnight parking sign on it, but we saw the police drive by at about 2 am, and they left us alone, so perhaps they are different lots.
Back on the road, we decided to stop and check out all the non-operational Provincial Parks between Sauble Beach and Tobermory. Some were gems precisely as described, and some were a waste of gas just to be disappointed. For those that don’t know, a non-operational Provincial Park is simply a park with no gate, no fees, and most likely no services with the exception, in most cases, porta-a-potties. There is no camping (tent or RV) at any of them but most allow overnight parking of passenger vehicles.
Lions Head Nature Preserve
Our next stop was hidden away, but with Google Maps, we arrived with no issues.
It was a beautiful location and great for the hiker. A trail takes you to an approximate 35-meter high lookout point. I recommend having suitable footwear if you plan on taking the white path as it is uneven terrain. For those that require an easy trail, you can take the course up the road and directly to the trail leading to the cliff area. We passed the first lookout and found ourselves on the 2nd, a much smaller platform with a breathtaking view.
When we arrived, a BoonDocker parked there was still closed up from the night, so I know they allow overnight parking. The parking lot was empty, and we enjoyed the 2 km hike to the point. We ran into dozens of people exploring the area on our way back and were surprised to find the parking lot had filled up and cars were parked down the road.
As a point of reference, I will let you know the locals expressed frustration about the traffic and parked cars in front of their homes. I would recommend arriving early in the morning or after six at night to enjoy your time there truly.
Black Creek Conservation area
We arrived at the next non-functioning park as we moved along the peninsula. Black Creek Provincial Park offers a great sand beach on Lake Huron with an offshore swim platform and portable toilets. There are a few picnic tables; however, only the first little bit of the beach is dog friendly. (not that people paid attention to the signs)
This location was the nicest we found between Sauble Beach and Tobermory. We returned here our 2nd night to sleep and next to another boondocking family in a van.
During the day, there were about two dozen families on the beach, and when we returned at 7 pm, there were only about one dozen cars still there. Traffic seemed to pick up in the evening, but there was only about three set up overnight.
I loved this location. The sand, water, and sunset made for a memorable local experience. The only thing I would have liked was a bonfire, but the area was signed, and not wanting to risk trouble, we kept ourselves to the BBQ and propane stove.
We Stopped by the lighthouse and marina for a quick photo op. Again, this time on the Georgian Bayside, the beach was crystal clear, but the shore was a pebble and hard to walk on barefoot. As you venture away from the beach, you reach sand but walking on the stone is not enjoyable.
The view was the same spectacular view we expected for this region. The lighthouse was cute, quaint, and tiny but well kept. There is a public restroom at the marina office with actual flush toilets!
Lions Head is a cute town that I would recommend anyone coming to this area take the time to visit. Unfortunately, we were on a tight budget and did not take the time to explore the local markets and restaurants, but we will stop here again.
Spirit Rock Conservation Area
Here you will see the ruins of an old 19th century stone mansion. This area is at the end of a winding dirt road with pay-for-use parking. Unfortunately, there is no pay meter, just a sign with a website that doesn’t connect you anywhere. In contrast, there is a public washroom onsite with fresh toilet paper; however, it is a hole in the ground with a toilet seat over it. Enter if you dare!!
The ruins are beautiful with monument markers that explain the history, including that it burnt down shortly after the conservation authority took it over.
Make sure you take the path at the right rear of the property and follow it down the spiral staircase to the shoreline. The location is marked with no overnight parking, so if you decide to try, you might get a knock during the night. We found the insect activity higher, so make sure you put on your bug spray before heading into the forest.