For years, Rockwood Conservation Area, part Ontario's Grand River Conservation Authority, has been where we kick off our annual camping season. In this review, we’ll tell you why we love this little park.
Most of our trips are quick Friday to Monday getaways. We want to minimize driving time and maximize camping time, so we love finding parks within 45 minutes of our home in Oakville, Ontario.
Rockwood Conservation Area is about 60 km from Oakville, which means we can usually arrive before the sun goes down on Friday night, depending on the time of year. Also, because it’s northwest of us, we skip the really heavy Muskoka-bound traffic.
Rockwood is one of the smaller campgrounds we frequent, with around 100 sites. However, nearly half of those sites are unserviced (beautiful for tenting!), and the TCC at 32’ only fits into a few of the remaining sites.
There are no seasonal sites in the campground, which gives Rockwood more of a provincial park feel than the other Grand River Conservation Authority parks.
For our first camp of the season, we book into Maple Lane. This is a newer area of the campground with only 16 sites--all with full electric/water/sewer hookup.
They’re all relatively level, back-in sites with packed gravel pads and a sizable lawn area.
There aren’t really any trees in this section, aside from a row of tall cedars at the back of the sites on the south side; however, this does make it really easy to back in.
We’ve camped on both the north and south sides of Maple Lane and don’t really have a preference. Our only tip is to avoid site 50 as that’s where the septic bed is located. It’s likely not an issue for much of the season, but we did book there in October one year and it was pretty ripe!
These sites are also very close to Highway 7, so you will hear some road noise. Since we’re typically here in May it’s not really an issue for us as we usually have the windows closed and the furnace on!
While Rockwood Conservation Area is only 79 hectares we still find quite a bit to do.
They have a couple of short trails to walk. The Pothole Trail leads you to some cool limestone caves and glacial potholes. It’s an easy walk and stroller-friendly from what I recall--our stroller years are nearly a decade behind us!
At the end of the trail, you can check out the ruins of an old woollen mill. It’s been a popular destination for as long as I can remember, but on our recent trip, we were disappointed to learn visitors can no longer enter the ruins. Unfortunately, despite improvements a few years ago, the mortar is crumbling and the site is not safe to enter. It’s still pretty cool to check out, though.
The Cedar Ridge Trail takes you up to the top of the cliffs around the Eramosa River. We haven’t done this route for a few years, but I recall it was nice.
The river itself is awesome for a short paddle. We often bring our canoe and once you get away from the beach area it feels like you’re in Muskoka. Watch out for the nesting geese in spring, though--they can be quite aggressive!
If you don’t have a canoe, you can rent one--or a paddleboat--at the beach.
As for the beach itself, it’s small but cute. And very welcome on a hot summer day! It can get quite busy with day visitors as the park is a popular picnic spot.
There’s also a mini-golf course near the gatehouse, which is fun when the kids have exhausted all other activities!
Rockwood itself is pretty small (are you sensing a theme here?!), but there’s one local attraction that’s not to be missed: Saunders Bakery.
This place has been around for about 100 years, and when you walk through the doors, you feel like not much has changed.
I grew up about 20 minutes away and I have fond memories of my Dad heading out early and coming home with still-warm jelly donuts from Saunders. It didn’t happen often, but those memories stick with me because these donuts are amazing.
In addition to donuts, Saunders Bakery offers breads, rolls, squares, tarts and cookies. It’s not a huge selection, but it’s all yummy. Make sure you have cash on hand as this is a cash-only business!
Rockwood also has a pretty cute Home Hardware. We usually poke in there on our way back from the bakery. It’s a good place to pick up a few camping necessities and every once in a while you’ll find something neat. We bought some super-comfy camp chairs here a few years ago.
There’s also a small Foodland grocery store with an LCBO Agency inside in case you need to top up on food and drink supplies!
The city of Guelph is just a short drive down highway 7 and has more amenities if you’re looking for a more complete grocery shop. On rainy days we’ve gone bowling in Guelph or even to the movies.
Overall, Rockwood Conservation Area is a great little campground with much to offer. It certainly keeps us coming back year after year!