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COLUMN: Camping doesn't have to mean barbecued food

Local camp's kitchen is a perfect fit for food columnist, featuring pizza delivery, homemade fudge, Kawartha Dairy ice cream, and milkshakes

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” – Walt Whitman

The weather this past weekend was spectacular to say the least.

One could not have asked for a better weekend to celebrate moms and soak up some sun. It was just the break that our family needed. An opportunity to get out, enjoy some fresh air, dust off the hiking boots and shake the winter out of the trailer for a new season of summer adventure.

My wife Kim and I have been counting the days to our first camp-out of the year since we put our trailer away at the end of last season. Camping and campsites have always been a big part of our lives. It has been a great source of fond, funny memories and epic stories for us and for our kids to share.

Our family’s camping adventure started out with a borrowed pop-up tent trailer and a weekend run. It now finds us in our cozy cabin on wheels enjoying week long stretches when schedules allow.

Those early trips were all about bins, tarps and set-up work. Now its trailer levelling, service hook-ups and calling dibs on your favourite camp chair. We’ve come a long way!

With our trips, we have been able to see and experience so many great parks around Ontario. We have been able to enjoy the quiet and peaceful connection to mother nature and the natural beauty of our provincial park system. It is truly a treasure for our province. Each of our parks are unique and offer a variety of new experiences for the camper. Awenda, Pinery and Bon Echo parks are just a few of our favourites.

And when we went looking for a family-centred, fun and lively experience there are just as many private camping and RV parks around our region. These parks offer many services and amenities that cannot be found at provincial parks. From full-service hook-ups, easy pull-through sites and activities and conveniences meant to make your experience as comfortable as you like. They cater to a different kind of camper.

We have always been able to enjoy both worlds, but lately find ourselves leaning toward the type of hospitality you find at a well-run private campground.

One brand that is synonymous with a quality camping and family vacation experience is KOA. Since 1962, the unmistakable black, red and bright yellow logo of a KOA is the sign you are at a facility with friendly service and great amenities. There are currently 14 KOA-branded campgrounds here in Ontario and we are lucky enough to have one of the best in our own back yard.

Located just south of Craighurst on Penetanguishene Road is the Barrie KOA. This campground has been in operation since 1986. Owned by Tony and Amy Raposo, Barrie KOA is a family-run business with the couple's three children growing up and working alongside their parents.

The superior customer service skills of the staff are evident as over the years they have been able to keep up with the campers' changing needs and expectations. Continually upgrading the campground and its amenities with attention to details gives campers what they want and keep them coming back season after season.

Kim and I love this campground. For us, it's an easy run, a mere 30 minutes from driveway to site. Just far enough away yet still close enough. It makes for a great spot for us to set up, tidy up and get either start or finish off our camping season.

When the kids were younger, they loved the daily activities, crafts or games and, of course, the daily wagon ride. Now that they are full-blown teens, they are a little more discerning in activity choice. The things that never fail to please are the pool, a good wifi connection and the freshly baked pizza available for delivery right to your site.

The Barrie KOA kitchen is a perfect fit for me, featuring pizza delivery, homemade fudge, Kawartha Dairy ice cream, milkshakes and more. The kitchen is located on the campground in the newly renovated main building. In addition to the kitchen they have a fully stocked store and gift shop with just about everything you might need, including the butter that I forgot to pack…

This past weekend was a great start for our camping season. We got to spend some time relaxing, eating and enjoying the great outdoors, and Mom even got to enjoy a Mother’s Day Mimosa Brunch!

Thank you, Barrie KOA, for helping us make a few more amazing and priceless memories.

If you are interested in seeing more about what the KOA has to offer, click here.

Daniel Clements is the chef technologist at Georgian College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.