|Scenic kayaking in Ontario Parks (Photo: Ontario Parks)|
With the kids back in school, September is the perfect time to pack a picnic-for-two and really go out for lunch! Here are five parks with romantic picnic areas that are easy drives from Ontario centres. You'll find more on the Park Blog at http://www.parkreports.com/parksblog/?p=3921. For recipe ideas and other picnic tips, check this post, http://www.parkreports.com/parksblog/?p=3850.
In the Greater Toronto Area
Forks of the Credit Provincial Park is only 24 kilometres northwest of the City of Brampton. The Credit River narrows in the park and plunges into a deep gorge. Hiking trails include the famous Bruce Trail. Mid-week is the best time to visit during peak fall colour time. http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/fork.html
Fitzroy Provincial Park is on the Ottawa River 50 minutes west of Ottawa. Picnic tables and barbecues sit in a pretty setting under tall white pine near the park beach. There's also a stand of 200 year-old bur oak and two hiking trails that will treat you to spectacular fall colours. Camping is available. The nearby community of Fitzroy Harbour is on the site of a former fur trading post dating back to the late 1700s. http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/fitz.html
South of London
Port Burwell Provincial Park is home to one of the finest beaches on Lake Erie. In early September, monarch butterflies stop here on their way south. In fall, birds of prey include hawks, eagles and turkey vultures. Local farm stands near the park sell fresh fruit and vegetables and if you love to camp with friends, try booking campsite #402. Staff call it the site with the million dollar lake view. http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/portb.html
Between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie
Chutes Provincial Park is the only provincial park on Highway 17 between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie and it's a beauty. The landscape is iconic Canadian Shield with towering conifers, rocky outcrops and a swift-moving little river called Aux Sables. A river trail takes you to a park waterfall and the Seven Sisters Rapids. The picnic and day-use area are next to a nice beach across from the falls. http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/chut.html
In the Thunder Bay area
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is sometimes called 'Niagara of the North'. This thundering cascade of water drops 39 metres over sheer cliffs into a deep gorge.1.6 billion year old fossils have been unearthed near the base of the falls. This park is close to Highway 17 (TransCanada Highway) so it's perfect for road trippers. The picnic area has a waterfall view. Six hiking trails range from easy to strenuous and campsites are well-treed. http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/kaka.html
To check which Ontario Parks are open in fall http://www.parkreports.com/openclose/index.php?year=2013 and for types of facilities and services provided, use the Park Locator tool on the Ontario Parks web site http://www.OntarioParks.com/english/locator.html. Ontario Parks' popular fall colour report http://www.parkreports.com/fall/ will begin once the leaves start to change. It is then updated regularly.