On May 21st, I attended the launch of Parks Canada’s 2019 season at Thousand Islands National Park. Parks Canada is earnestly encouraging families to get outside and be active in nature. With Parka as their mascot, and the Xplorer program to get children interested in historic sites, they are hoping to build genuine interest for families to get out and explore!
As a parent, I recognize we do not go exploring as much as I used to as a child. Distractions (electronic and otherwise) take over our lives if we don’t make outdoor play a priority.
Why is Parks Canada encouraging families to get outside?
Studies have found that people who spend time in nature have lower levels of stress and anxiety, get more exercise, activate all their senses, and learn responsibility. These are important for all people, but especially children.
By the time children are in their teenage years they are often getting less than 10% of the recommended active time, as reported by Stats Canada. By encouraging families to get outside, those sedentary children will easily increase their daily (or weekly) amount of activity. And it’s so important to keep them healthy, happy, and reduce their stress levels.
What family wouldn’t love exploring the nature and heritage of so many beautiful locations across Canada? I know my daughters enjoy taking nature walks and swimming in lakes. We just have to be sure to make the time to do it!
Meeting the Team
As part of the travel media group, I was fortunate to meet Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, as well as this year’s youth ambassadors for Parks Canada. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is Parks Canada’s Honourary Guide for families, a role she has held since 2017. With this title, she is also encouraging families to explore the outdoors and enjoy all Parks Canada has to offer.
As an avid outdoorsperson, Sophie is a great choice for this honour. Her love of nature and the outdoors is easy to see. She out-kayaked us all on the water, and her passion for encouraging families to get out and explore the wonders of Canada’s natural beauty was evident in her demeanour throughout the day.
As the Honourary Guide for families, Sophie is hoping to support Canadian families in learning more about our historical and natural spaces. She also promotes the Learn-To-Camp program – a helpful way for families new to camping to try it out. (We have never tent camped as a family – we did stay in an oTENTik once which was an amazing experience. Read about that here.)
What did we do all day?
After a short hike with some Kindergarteners at Landon’s Bay hiking trail, we headed into Gananoque for a quick tour of the Thousand Islands Boat Museum. From there we headed out to Beau Rivage island for lunch and kayaking.
I had a (very short) lesson on how to kayak (I’d never been in one before!), then off we went. It was amazing, and I would recommend trying to it anyone who hasn’t yet.
The wind was up, and once we got out of the cove there was more effort required, but I had a ton a fun! I may have been in the back of the pack, but now I can say I kayaked with Sophie!
After kayaking, Sophie and her team headed out. Their work was done for the day, and the four of us were able to take a tour of more of the islands in the national park.
Scott from 1000 Islands Kayaking took us out on a Water Taxi. We spent an hour or more touring and admiring the Admiralty group of islands owned by Parks Canada. We were regaled with tales Scott had heard from other visitors, and educated on the biodiversity of the area. I didn’t know this was the only place in eastern Canada you can find a native lizard – the 5-lined skink!
Why was I chosen to be a part of this amazing day?
I received an email from a Parks Canada Travel and Media Relations Specialist just eight days before the event enquiring if I would be interested in joining a media team. I replied with a big YES!
Luckily, my day job is full of great people who support me and my writing journey. I was able to get the day off and spend it enjoying the outdoors, and meeting a few other bloggers and travel writers.
We were chosen to help promote Parks Canada as a family friendly destination because of the family focus of our writing. Each part of the day is easily done as a family as well. I would love to get my kids into kayaks and paddle around the Thousand Islands!
I think I speak for all of us when I say we had an amazing experience exploring Thousand Islands National Park, and getting to chat with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau about helping encourage families to spend more time in nature.
Thousand Islands National Park
As a long-time Kingston resident I’m a little ashamed to say I had never visited TINP (Thousand Islands National Park) before. I’ve seen many of the Thousand Islands on boat tours and from the Parkway, but getting onto some of the islands is an amazing experience.
Did you know TINP is the oldest national park east of the Rockies? Or that it consists of 20 islands, and 88 small islets between Kingston and Brockville? I learned that they are always watching for other islands to go up for sale so that they can preserve more of the unique ecology found in this area.
Another tidbit I didn’t know about the physical geography of the area: a small piece of the Canadian Shield (called the Frontenac Arch) extends down into Eastern Ontario and out into the St Lawrence River, forming the Thousand Islands. It is internationally recognized as one of UNESCO’s World Biosphere Reserves.
TINP also has oTENTiks available for not-quite-camping. There are a few on the mainland and some on McDonald island, close to Gananoque. Of course you can also boat or kayak to many of the islands and set up camp. They run many sites on the honour system – boat up, check that no one is already camping there, put your fee in the box and enjoy the evening!
Some links to help plan your family get outside:
- Learn more about Thousand Islands National Park.
- Read more about the Learn-to-Camp program.
- Check out the Xplorer program at participating Parks Canada locations.
Have you visited many Parks Canada locations? I’m a little sad to say that I have not. But I know that I will return to Thousand Islands National Park with my family to take a hike, or maybe spend a night in an oTENTik for that not-quite-camping experience.
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the great outdoors. Do you have a unique way of encouraging families to get outside? Leave me a comment and maybe I’ll be inspired to try something new!
This post was not sponsored. Parks Canada invited me to spend a day exploring Thousand Islands National Park. I received a swag bag and lunch al fresco.