Port Burwell Provincial Park: Camping & Beach Guide 2023
If you’re looking for some of the best camping on Lake Erie’s North Shore, Port Burwell Provincial Park could be just right for you!
Port Burwell Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s most popular provincial parks. Its 2.5 km long, sandy shoreline, beautiful family campground, excellent amenities and unique position along the birding migration route make this Ontario Park the perfect spot for camping in Southwestern Ontario.
If you’re heading to Port Burwell this camping season, then this guide for all you need to know about camping, swimming and making the most of your time at Port Burwell Provincial Park is for you!
Port Burwell Provincial Park Overview
Port Burwell Provincial Park is located in Elgin County along the north shore of Lake Erie. Its sandy beaches, mature forest and well-maintained amenities attract thousands of campers and day-use visitors each year.
You can visit Port Burwell Provincial Park during its camping season of mid-May to mid-October. Depending on how long you plan to visit the park, you will either purchase a day pass or an overnight camping pass.
What is Port Burwell Provincial Park Like?
The gorgeous beach in Port Burwell Provincial Park is one of the main attractions here. The beach includes a wide, sandy shoreline that’s perfect for families with young kids, sunbathers, and even dogs (in the popular dog beach section of the park). The park is filled with lush Carolinian forest and, closer to the water, lots of sand dunes.
There also are also several hiking trails that wind through the park’s forests and along the lake’s shoreline. If you’re visiting the park during the bird migration season of the spring or fall, be sure to bring your binoculars and keep your eyes on the sky because, if you’re lucky, you could watch thousands of birds flying overhead.
Port Burwell Provincial Park has a campground with over 230 campsites, including electrical and non-electrical sites. The campsites are generally flat, spacious, private and well-maintained, and many even have grass covering. Each campground also offers several amenities, including showers, washrooms, and water pumps.
There is a spacious day-use section of the park located close to the beach. This includes a picnic area with BBQs and washrooms, and the Park Store where you can find camping essentials and refreshments.
Like all Ontario Parks, there is a Visitor’s Centre with recreational and interpretive programs throughout the summer season. There are also recreational facilities including a playground, volleyball and badminton courts, a baseball diamont, small basketball court and horseshoe pits.
Port Burwell’s rural location along the water also makes it a great place to relax and enjoy colourful sunsets and clear skies for stargazing.
Where is Port Burwell Provincial Park?
The address for Port Burwell Provincial Park is 9 Wilson Lane, Port Burwell, Ontario, N0J 1T0. It is located 20 minutes from Aylmer, and 30 minutes from Tillsonburg. If you’re staying in London, you can reach Port Burwell in one hour, and if you’re coming from Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge it’s about one hour and 20 minutes away.
It is one of multiple Ontario Parks that line the Lake Erie North Shore.
Camping at Port Burwell Provincial Park
Camping in Port Burwell Provincial Park is a must-do if you have the time to spend more than one day in the area. Car camping and group camping sites are available, which includes both serviced and non-serviced sites.
Our family went camping at Port Burwell on Labour Day weekend in 2022 and had an awesome time. The spacious, shaded and private lot was great for the many kids who tagged along. The site was private, mostly shaded (though sites vary in shade), and quiet.
Tip: If you’ve never camped at an Ontario Park, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules of the campgrounds. Noise levels, the number of cars that can be parked at each site, and entry and exit times are some of the important rules to make note of when you make your reservation.
Port Burwell Provincial Park Campgrounds
Port Burwell Provincial Park is laid out in such a way that the day-use area is at the beach, while the camping area is set back from the water.
There are three campgrounds in Port Burwell Provincial Park: Alzora (where our family stayed), Leander, and Iroquois. There are comfort stations with flush toilets and laundry facilities in all three campgrounds.
Campsites here are forested, but include sites that are primarily shady and others that are primarily sunny. Sites vary in size from spacious to small. There are three comfort stations in Alzora campground, and it is located close to the playground, recreation field and interpretive centre.
Leander campground is located next to the recreation field, interpretive centre and playground, making it a popular choice for families with kids. Most lots are fairly sunny and grassy, and are moderately sized. Some sites are less private in this campground.
Iroquois campground features mostly larger, serviced campsites, making it a popular spot for those with trailers. Sites vary in shade/sun, making it easy to choose the type of coverage you’re looking for.
Tip: Camping sites vary in size and features. The Ontario Parks Reservations website shows you a photo of each campsite so that you can scout out the best fit for you.
Group Camping Sites
There are two group camping sites in Port Burwell Provincial Park. One is suitable for 20-80 campers, while the other is suitable for 30-100 campers. Water and flush toilets are closeby. Be sure to check the minimum allowable group size before making a reservation.
Ontario Parks Camping Reservations
One of the biggest tips for camping at Ontario Parks is to reserve your campsite well in advance. With (what feels like) such a short summer season in Ontario, campgrounds are often full and not making a reservation well in advance can often mean you won’t get the spot you’re looking for, and sometimes means you won’t get to camp at the park you want to visit.
You can reserve your camping site up to 5 months before your date of arrival. For popular Ontario Parks, you will want to be as close to that 5 month mark as possible. For others, you will have much more flexibility.
Note: You must pay a non-refundable reservation fee when you book your site.
Port Burwell Provincial Park Beach
Port Burwell Provincial Park Beach is a great summer destination for those looking for a peaceful day at the beach. With its wide, sandy shoreline and minimal rocks, its no wonder this beach is the park’s main attraction.
Visitors can access the beach within the day-use area, with parking nearby. If you’re camping in the overnight section of the park, be prepared that the beach is a good 30-minute walk from most campsites. If you’re bringing heavy beach gear, it would be more convenient to drive from your campsite to the beach.
No reservation is required for day-use beach-goers, but you will have to purchase a day pass to enter the park.
It is important to note that there are no lifeguards on duty, so remember that you are swimming at your own risk. Lake Erie can particularly be known to have a bad undertow.
Port Burwell Dog Beach
Port Burwell Dog Beach is located in Port Burwell Provincial Park and is specifically designated for dogs to play and swim off-leash. This dog beach is actually well known as being one of the best dog beaches in Ontario!
One of the best things about Port Burwell Dog Beach is that the water is not too deep, making it ideal for puppies who are learning to swim. The beach also has soft, sandy terrain, which is perfect for dogs to dig, run around, and play fetch.
Visitors to Port Burwell Dog Beach should keep in mind that this is a designated off-leash area and that dogs must be under control at all times. Additionally, it’s important to pick up after your dog and dispose of waste properly to help keep the beach clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.
Port Burwell Municipal Beach (East)
The public beach in Port Burwell is located east of the provincial park, and Big Otter Creek. Unlike the beach in the park, it is free to access. It has also been awarded the Blue Flag Beach Status for a number of years, like its sister shores of Port Stanley Beach, Grand Bend Beach, and Wasaga Beach.
The Blue Flag Beach status recognizes excellence in the area of water quality, environmental sustainability and safety, and is a hallmark of Ontario’s best beaches.
Port Burwell Municipal East Beach is also equipped with public toilets, volleyball nets and picnic tables lined along the sandy shoreline.
Things to Do in Port Burwell Provincial Park
During your visit to Port Burwell Provincial Park, here’s a look at the activities you can enjoy to pass the days away.
1. Have Fun on the Beach
The park’s beautiful sandy beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing in the sun. The clear, shallow waters of Lake Erie make it ideal for children and families.
The park has two hiking trails that offer beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding forests: The Ravine Creek Trail (1km; easy) and the Beach Trail (2km; easy). You can also hike along the Great Waterfront Trail that runs through the town of Port Burwell and along the Lake Erie North Shore.
If hiking is your thing, there are also various other trails in Elgin County. We’ve really enjoyed hiking in Yarmouth Natural Heritage Area located 20 minutes west of Port Burwell.
Port Burwell Provincial Park is a popular spot for fishing, with opportunities to catch walleye, perch, trout and salmon in the lake. Visitors must have a valid Ontario fishing license to fish in the park.
During the spring and fall migratory seasons thousands of birds of different species fly over Port Burwell, causing quite the sight! The park attracts avid birders eager to witness the event. Even during other times of the year, the lush Carolinian forests of the park make for great birding.
The park has several picnic areas with tables and shelters, making it a great spot for a family picnic or group gathering.
There is a boat launch in the town of Port Burwell, making it easy to access Lake Erie for boating and water sports.
7. Port Burwell Marine Museum and Historic Lighthouse
The museum features a variety of exhibits on the history of shipping and fishing in Port Burwell and the surrounding region. Visitors can explore displays of historic boats, fishing gear, and other artifacts, as well as learn about the lives and experiences of the people who worked on the lake.
8. Tour a Cold War Submarine
The HMCS Ojibwa is is a decommissioned Cold War-era submarine that is now on display in Port Burwell. The submarine served with the Canadian Navy for several decades before being decommissioned in the 1990s. You can tour the interior of the submarine, learning about its history and the experiences of the men who served on board.
Winter in Port Burwell Provincial Park
Port Burwell Provincial Park is just as beautiful to visit during the winter months! While the park is closed for camping during this time of the year, you can still explore the park’s trails and admire the snow-covered trees and icy shoreline.
The park is transformed into a winter wonderland and is perfect for outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking. The park’s trails remain open year-round.
Tip: Be very cautious if you venture on the beach when it’s frozen over. While it can be tempting to walk on the iced over water, it can be extremely dangerous and you should only admire from a safe distance.
Tips for Visiting Port Burwell Provincial Park
✔️Do not pick plants or remove wildlife from its natural habitat.
✔️Lake Erie can have a dangerous undertow. There are no lifeguards at the Port Burwell Provincial Park Beach, so watch your children very carefully!
✔️Remember that fishing in Ontario requires a fishing license to be carried while fishing. You can apply online through the Ontario government website.
✔️Only one vehicle can be parked on each campsite.
✔️Roads in Ontario Parks are considered highways by law, and therefore regular road rules apply even within the park.
Weather in Port Burwell Provincial Park
If you’re camping during the hot summer months, expect temperatures in the mid-20s to low 30s Celcius. Nights are usually very mild, in the high teens or 20s Celcius.
Beware that there can still be the odd cool night (so check the weather ahead of time and pack accordingly). Otherwise, hot summers mean light bedding, mosquito repellant, sunscreen and extra water canteens to keep up your hydration.
Spring and autumn in Ontario can bring cool nights! If you’re tent camping in Port Burwell Provincial Park during the spring or late summer/early fall, you would be wise to bring lots of layers, blankets and other supplies to keep you warm.
Temperatures should still be above freezing during the first and last part of the camping season (May and October), though snow is not completely unheard of in October (I distinctly remember a snowfall in Southwestern Ontario on October 15). You should expect nighttime temperature ranges anywhere from single digits to high teens Celcius.
FAQs About Port Burwell
Here’s a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about Port Burwell Provincial Park and beach.
Do you have to pay to go to Port Burwell beach?
Yes, you need to pay to access the Port Burwell Provincial Park beach, as the park charges a daily vehicle permit fee. The day pass grants access to the park’s day-use area and its amenities, including the beach, trail, and picnic areas.
It’s important to note that this is different from the Port Burwell Municipal Beach, which is a separate public beach located in the town of Port Burwell.
Can you swim at Port Burwell?
Yes, you can swim at Port Burwell Provincial Park’s beach as well as at Port Burwell Municipal Beach (East) in the town. It’s important to follow any posted signage or instructions from the park staff regarding swimming conditions.
Additionally, the park does not have lifeguards on duty, so swimmers should use caution and supervise children at all times.
Are dogs allowed at Port Burwell beach?
Dogs are not permitted on the designated swimming area of Port Burwell Provincial Park’s beach, but they are allowed on other areas of the beach and park as long as they are on a leash and under control. The Port Burwell off-leash dog beach is a great spot for dogs to run and play without a leash.
Visitors are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and disposing of any waste properly to keep the park clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.
How many campsites are in Port Burwell?
Port Burwell Provincial Park has over 230 campsites spread across three campgrounds, with options for both electrical and non-electrical sites. You can choose from various levels of privacy and shade, and the park also offers group camping sites to accommodate various group sizes.
Other Lake Erie Provincial Parks
Port Burwell isn’t the only Ontario Parks location along Lake Erie. Here are the others you can check out.
✔️Wheatley Provincial Park
✔️Rondeau Provincial Park
✔️John E Pearce Provincial Park
✔️Port Bruce Provincial Park
✔️Long Point Provincial Park
✔️Turkey Point Provincial Park
✔️Selkirk Provincial Park
✔️Rock Point Provincial Park
Tip: If you’re looking for a fun place to stay along Lake Erie, consider a glamping trip to Long Point Eco Adventures! With affordable safari tent accommodations and amazing adventures like ziplining, kayaking tours through “Canada’s Amazon,” what’s not to love about this place!
Wrap-Up: Port Burwell Provincial Park
We hope you now know everything you need to in order to plan your trip to Port Burwell Provincial Park in Southwestern Ontario. This Ontario Park on Lake Erie is a great summer campground for families and groups looking for a good mix of camping sites, convenience and access to a fabulous beach.
Have fun exploring Port Burwell this camping season!
Erie is the owner and author of Everywhere Ontario. She’s lived and traveled around Ontario for over 30 years, visiting small towns and big cities from the shores of Lake Erie to the crisp northern air of Hearst along the Trans-Canada Highway. She is passionate about maximizing fun and supporting local tourist businesses and is always looking to provide the best recommendations to her fellow Ontario travelers. Read more about Erie here.