You Can Camp if You Want To, You Can Leave Your Fears Behind

by Samantha on November 6, 2015

Ivy Lea KOA provides an enjoyable camping experience for non-campers

I’m not a camper.

Anyone who knows me knows that camping and I — “never the twain shall meet”

Having grown up as a first generation Canadian with parents from the Caribbean, the whole “camping in the woods, getting back to nature, avoiding bears paradigm was lost on me. The few times that I’ve gone camping haven’t turned out particularly well. On one occasion, I froze my tush off when the temperatures dropped to almost 0 degrees Celsius. Not exactly my idea of a good time. Suffice it to say that, following this debacle, the thought of revisiting such fun activities was not the first thing that came to mind.

And then of course, I heard about glamping. Apparently, there’s a movement towards bringing la dolce vita to the great outdoors. You know — a “marshmallows and merlot” sort of vibe. After roasting these sugar bombs on a stick, you, too, can retire to your fully decked-out tent (if you can call it that) that is not only heated and spectacularly furnished, but, in some cases, includes indoor plumbing. This, so you don’t have to relieve yourself in the woods in the middle of the night like the common folk do.

Surely, I thought to myself, there must be a happy medium to each of these extremes. What does one do when they don’t want to wake up aching after spending the night on a cold and bumpy tent floor or they don’t want to spend a pretty penny “glamping up” a fully-furnished, industrial-sized tent just to get a good night’s sleep?
Thankfully, there is an in-between option for camping-shy folks like myself, and it works. Think cottage-meets-camping-meets-nature-meets comfort. Not exactly “glamping” (something I don’t get, really, why not just be inside instead of outfitting a tent?) but not throwing caution to the wind - or sleeping in the wind - either.

This camping middle ground is a great alternative for those of us who aren’t “outdoorsy” enough to rough it like the big kids, or aren’t ready to pop open the Moët & Chandon while moose roam around outside.

Some may call it “Outdoor hospitality” or “Soft rugged.” I, unashamedly, call it “the comfortable and easy way out.”

I recently took the family to this well-needed middle ground at KOA Ivy Lea, located in the Thousand Islands. Having never been to this part of Ontario (heading North to cottage country from Toronto, not East has been the usual route during the summer long weekends), I was eager to check out the scenery and also find out if there really were 1,000 islands embedded in the St. Lawrence River (there are).
To say that there was some trepidation about the accommodations is an understatement - let’s just say that there have been previous experiences where the family and I entered our rented cabin and fear and disgust were just two of the emotions felt upon walking through the door.

Not so with this latest escapade, as the cabin was decked out with all of the advertised amenities with no surprises (thankfully!). Yes, I love nature and the great outdoors, but I also love satellite TV, a fully outfitted kitchen and running water. Oh, and heat, on a cold September night.

“Check” to all three.

Waking up in the morning to a freshly brewed cup of coffee indoors, via a coffee-maker is a really great thing. Yes, I know - it’s all about the fire, right? No worries - that can still be done…and then you can go inside to sleep…on a bed.

The site was nestled in a lovely part of the Thousand Islands, with easy access to the Thousand Island boat tours that are popular with tourists. The family and I took a boat tour with one of the many tour operators that are offered in the region (thanks to KOA Thousand Island owner, Dave, for helping to coordinate and for being a generally amazing host). Check online for a variety of options and cruise providers to suit the tour that will best suit you and the family.

A quick rundown of what made my “camping” trip at KOA Ivy League agreeable (other than the obvious fact that I was not sleeping on the rough or soggy floor of a tent):

The cabin was spotlessly clean and well taken care of - When I walked in with the family, I breathed a sigh of relief that there was not a dust bunny, mouldy smell or grimy appliance to be found.

Main cabin area

 

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There was a reasonably-sized kitchen area with a stove (gas),a full fridge, making cooking for the family a breeze. Bring along some groceries that you can pick up in town and you’re good to go.

Kitchen

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No middle-of-the-night trips to the woods to pee here: there was a three-piece bathroom with a shower.

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Ever shivered in a sleeping bag while inside a tent when temperatures dip much lower than you planned for? I have. It’s not fun. And for this reason, sleeping inside, where there’s a  fully-functioning furnace for cold nights is appreciated.

Accommodations for our family were great - with the three kids, myself and my husband, we comfortably slept in our own respective spaces. The boys had a small  but cozy room that had a bunk bed - perfect for mischief-heavy evenings when sleep was the last thing that was on their minds.

Boys bunk

 

Kids in bunk bed

Bunk

The Master Bedroom was clean, comfortable and large enough to sleep a couple, as it included a Queen-sized bed. It also had generous storage (drawers, wardrobe) for clothes and personal items. Oh - an the view out of the window was great.

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In the main living area, the futon is large enough to sleep two adults and one child, or three children, or a combination of all. In other words, the space is generous for anyone who’s looking for a good night’s sleep.

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Okay - I’m a bit of a slave to technology and so are my kids. Guilty. I’m also not very good at being creative all of the time, especially when the kids are whining about being bored. For this reason, I’m fully admitting doing whatever is required to keep the children quiet, if only for an hour or so, just for some peace and quiet. Selfish, I know, but so necessary, especially on a family vacation where the weather may disappoint or downright spoil any possibility of enjoying the great outdoors.

This is a very long way of saying that the large TV and satellite service are welcome amenities for those who are traveling with kids to this location.

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*Note* The wi-fi was spotty and in the cabin it wasn’t accessible. Apparently it’s under repair so will likely be up and running better than ever by the time you visit!

What I really love about the cabin was the privacy. It was nestled in the woods and a bit off the beaten path, though only steps to all of the outdoor amenities (if that makes any sense), such as the swimming pool, the main building/store, the playground and the hot tub (if you get one of the cabins that have one - make sure to specify this when you book).

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The way that the camp is set up is that there are many heavily-treed areas that afford visitors the visual privacy yet are not too far away from the popular features on the campsite grounds. The cabin itself is lovely, with a full deck, outfitted with some Muskoka chairs, a BBQ and a table that can easily fit a family of five. If not enjoying a meal, the deck also provides a great place for reading, relaxing, and socializing, or for the kids - a place to play.

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The campground provides a number of amenities, not the least of which were a pool with a slide (the kids love it!).

Kids in the pool

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There was also a huge trampoline-type thing where one can jump to one’s heart’s desire. Yes - we all got into the groove:

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VIDEO: KOA Trampoline Fun

Some things to remember:

  • There are no linens,  so bring your own, as well as towels.
  • Bring groceries with you - there are a few items available in the campsite store, but they’re more expensive than they are at the supermarket and the selection is limited.
  • This location and cabins in particular are very popular so book ahead to make sure you can get exactly the type of accommodations that you want.

All in all, the kids had a blast and the family got some well-needed rest and relaxation with the perfect balance of fun in the great outdoors. If it’s not abundantly clear, we had a fantastic time on our trip and hope to visit again next year.

Verdict? Highly-recommended!fourstars

Finally, for those of you who are confused about the title of this blog post, here’s some ’80’s pop as a hint:

VIDEO: Safety Dance - Men Without Hats

Are you a camper? Do you like roughing it outside, or do you like the “camping lite” type of holiday similar to the one described above? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.

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