Point Pelee yurts: nature without the work of real camping

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As for the constellations that turn out, it turns out that Point Pelee is a reasonable replacement for Bobcaygeon. I know this because it’s 11 p.m. and I’m lying on a Lake Erie beach mesmerized by countless stars scattered across a gigantic sky.

Point Pelee National Park, a sandy spit jutting out into the lake, is the southernmost point of mainland Canada. It is also a starry sky preserve.

There’s no moon tonight, the weather gods have blessed us with mostly clear skies, and Tragically Hip is on my mind.

My husband and I have become star chasers over the past few years. The serendipity of a convertible and a side road in Hawaii introduced us to the wonders of the night sky. Since then, the ability to look up continues to draw us into nature.

The truth is that I am not an astronomer. I don’t really care about planets, much less constellations, and I’ve fallen asleep in every planetarium I’ve ever been to. But the sheer beauty of the night sky – especially reflected in the dark water – well, that’s something else entirely.

In addition, Point Pelee offers the possibility of sleeping in a yurt. Who could resist?

It’s not exactly a yurt. The park describes it as a cross between an A-frame cabin and a prospector’s tent and gave it the vaguely confusing name oTENTik. Beyond the odd name, however, they’ve got it all right.

For anyone who wants the joy of sleeping in the middle of a national park without the hassle or deprivation of tenting, yurts are perfect.

Built on a wooden deck, they offer heating, electricity and indoor sleeping space for up to six people. There is also a wooden table with six chairs and a stainless steel food preparation area equipped with basic dishes, utensils and pots and pans. A terrace shelters two bright red Adirondak chairs, where I sit to sip my morning coffee and watch the woodpeckers fly among the trees. A fireplace, a picnic table and a gas barbecue complete the equipment.

Beyond the relative comfort of the space, the yurt offers the possibility of immersion in a place of fabulous beauty.

Bald eagles above our heads

For nature lovers, Point Pelee’s Marsh is its central attraction. One of the largest remaining marshes in southern Ontario, it is home to all manner of quacking, flying, crawling, crawling, and swimming animals.

Today, a family of wood ducks float through the cattails while less nervous mallards splash around energetically, using the marsh as an oversized birdbath. Two bald eagles soar above our heads as schools of silvery minnows move away from our shadows.

We spin through the swamp on a mile-long boardwalk, binoculars in hand. Many benches offer us the opportunity to sit quietly and wait for the sounds and sights of nature to resume around us.

Besides the promenade, a tower offers a panoramic view of the marsh. And for those looking for a water-level adventure, the park offers kayak and canoe rentals and boat launch areas.

Point Pelee’s other must-see attraction is its beautiful sandy point – the official place where the Canadian mainland ends.

Between the marsh and the point, bike paths, walking paths and boardwalks meander through the different ecosystems of the park. And, of course, the beaches.

Our perfect beach for stargazing was a beautiful sunset beach just a few hours ago.

Most of the west side of the 15-kilometre-long park is sandy beachside, with well-maintained restrooms and changing rooms in several places.

We’ve brought our kayaks to the park in the past, but for a late October visit, we’re opting for bikes instead. They prove to be an ideal way to explore during the quiet off season.

We go from the trail to the tip of the beach, then back to the campingwhere 24 yurts provide the park’s only lodging option.

From a parking lot, we load our provisions into a cart for a short walk through the forest and our yurt. Spatial and oriented to each other, the buildings maximize a sense of privacy and seclusion.

Yet they are all only a few steps from a central building with toilets, showers and dishwashers.

We opted for minimal hassle and equipment, bringing only bedding and easy-to-prepare food. But as crazy as it sounds, I’d probably take advantage of the electricity to add a small coffee maker next time.

Between sunset and stargazing, it’s the perfect time for a campfire and the sticky indulgence of roasted marshmallows.

Finally, it’s dark enough to bring a hot cup of tea and an armful of blankets to the beach. But first we turn on the gas stove in the yurt, setting the thermostat to 24 degrees.

This is definitely my style of camping. I am already planning a return trip with snowshoes in hand. No doubt we will have a national park to ourselves once the gates close for the day. And imagine stargazing.

If you are going to:

  • Point Pelee National Park is just over 300 km from Oakville. Follow 401 towards Windsor, then look for signs for Leamington and Point Pelee.
  • You can currently rent Point Pelee yurts through March 2023 for $128 per night. At some point, rentals will open for next season, although that date is yet to be set. Accessible and pet-friendly yurts are also available.
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