When you see places or things with your name on the sign, do you feel compelled to check it out? With a name like “Yashy”, I don’t see much (if anything) with my name on it but “Murphy” is quite the common name. We’re always looking out for it. During our visit to Lanark County in Ontario, we were told that we simply HAD to visit Murphys Point Provincial Park with the kids. And we did of course! As you may know, I’m not very outdoorsy but because the kids and Chris enjoy being one with nature, I’ve been pushing myself to plan outdoor activities (let’s admit it, if I don’t plan it, they probably won’t do it). I have always thought that parks in Ontario were for hiking and just roaming around the woods but I was quite wrong! We spent 4 hours at this Ontario Park and found plenty on offer beyond hiking. Given that Ontario Parks recently turned 125 years old, this was a lovely way to join in on their celebrations (especially as we missed Canada’s 150th last year).
Disclosure : Our visit to the park was coordinated by Lanark County Tourism and Ontario Parks but opinions, as always, are TOTALLY Ours.
Things to do in Murphys Point Provincial Park Beyond Hiking
Perth has many activities for families and a visit to the Murphys Point Provincial Park was just one of those. Located about a 20 minute drive from downtown Perth, an educational and relaxing day awaits you in this park located on Big Rideau Lake, part of the historic Rideau Waterway. While there are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, we discovered some additional kid friendly activities in this Ontario Park that is also an hour’s drive from Ottawa.
Guided Tours of the Silver Queen Mica
The park offers guided tours of the Silver Queen Mica Mine. If you can time your visit around one of those sessions, I highly recommend you do so. Our guide, Tobi, was not only knowledgeable but as a dad he knew exactly how to engage Baby Boy and Little Monkey so that they too learned about the hazardous conditions of mines, as well as what mica is and its present day usage. During the tour you can expect to pick up a hard hat on your walk into the mine, where you will explore the miner’s bunkhouse before heading underground.
We were able to venture back in time to the early 1900s when the small-scale mica mining business was booming in eastern Ontario. The entire experience was filled with lessons and I was reminded of geology and science classes from high school. The kids were eager to hear about the mine but mostly they were looking at the sparkly “stones” and whacking any flies that came their way. We were informed that the mine is not wheelchair accessible and is only open during scheduled guided tours, which are offered up to three times per week in July and August and on weekends in the fall. It is recommended that you pre-register at the registration gatehouse or call ahead for this 1.5 hour guided hike down the trail and into an early 1900s mica mine (you can call the park directly for more info at 613-267-5060). There’s also a Silver Queen Mine Open House Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon throughout the summer.
During our tour we bumped into Dr. Paul Keddy and his wife, who are well known local ecologists. This was a real treat because Dr. Keddy is an author of a Lanark County book which speaks about the ecology of the area. He was well versed about insects, snakes and a while bunch more. We actually learned plenty from him – I later Googled him and he’s quite renowned for the work he does and has authored quite a few books. It was a stroke of luck that he and his wife were exploring the park with their grand daughter, who was in town visiting them. The park is definitely one that the locals are very proud of. It uses sustainability practices and thus, we got to see and learn about the rare Gray Ratsnakes that are an endangered species that the park is preserving and protecting.
Evening Nature Show
If you’re around in the evening you might be able to catch an interactive talk led by one of the experienced park naturalists. I’m not sure the kids would find this one that entertaining but it would be educational for sure!
Visitor Centre and Kids Programming
The park’s Naturalists are extremely knowledgeable and you can visit them at the Visitors Centre which has interactive exhibits. There you can find the details of the Discovery Drop-In program during July and August and pick up an activity book for kids aged 6 to 12 years before you go exploring! In addition, there is a daily Ratsnake demonstration at 2 p.m. during the months of July and August and it isn’t rare to come by a Park Naturalist equipped with insect nets, binoculars and props, just waiting for you to strike a conversation with them. During our visit there was a birch bark canoe build happening and we swung by to take a peek.
Beach Time and Water Activities
Murphys Point Provincial Park is home to two beach areas and the one we visited was the more secluded one closer to the camp grounds and known as Hogg Bay Beach. During our week day visit there were a few families around but I did hear that the place is quite busy on the weekends. As you will notice in our picture, we had sections of the water to ourselves but one of the highlights for me was meeting another set of grandparents who had brought their grand kids to the park. They told me that they had been bring their kids (the parents) and now they were enjoying seeing their grand children roam around and enjoy the park’s facilities.
The water was warm, the entry was shallow and in addition to the picnic tables nearby, there was also a playground which we made good use of. The best feature of the park was the sparkly sand from all the mica in the area. We couldn’t get enough of that!
I should also mention that you can rent kayaks, canoes and fishing tools at the park’s general store if you’re looking to be a bit more active in the water!
Needless to say, if you’re the camping type (I’ve had disastrous experiences the two times I’ve trids – once in Dubai and once in Canada), the campground here looked great for families. I heard that they even have a Deluxe Yurt but of course, you still don’t have an in-house water source which is something I struggle with! Perhaps one of these days I’ll enroll in the learn to camp program offered through Ontario Parks and I’ll become a pro camper!
We do have a couple tips that we picked up during our visit and thought we’d share with you.
Ticks & flies : The area is known to be tick and fly infested and so we were prepared for that. We wore bug repellent but it didn’t help us any with the Deer flies swarming us during our walk in the woods towards the mine. The kids were wearing long pants and long sleeved tops despite the crazy summer heat and it definitely helped protect them. The Deer Flies do bite and so we kept flailing our arms until Dr. Keddy informed us that the best way to avoid attracting the flies was to be as still as possible and to make minimal movements during our walk. As any proper ecologist he had a hat, his socks were pulled up and his pants were tucked into those socks. Me…not so much. I’m just glad I had traded my flip flops for running shoes that day. All that said, no ticks were found on us and we escaped being badly bitten by the Deer Flies. So that’s a win.
PARKsmart life jackets : The park has life jackets on offer if you have little ones. They are free to use (with a $25 refundable deposit) and is available on a first come first served basis.
Adopt a snake program : This was pretty cool. During our walk towards the mine, we spotted a Gray Ratsnake and Tobi was able to scan the snake and tell us that the snake’s name is “Belle” and that she was adopted by a lady who receives updates about Belle’s well being. The snakes are chipped but it isn’t a harmful process. This is being done from an educational and research angle, protecting the endangered species and you can read more about it here. With a $25 donation you can adopt a snake and learn about them via email. This would be a great gift for our kids’ class next year, wouldn’t it?
Picnic : Order a picnic lunch from CC’s down the road and pick it up at the restaurant so you can enjoy a fabulous lunch on the beach! The Crab Cakes are amazing (yup it’s Chris approved) and they sent us the best strawberries any of us have ever tasted!
In addition to what we’ve outlined, there are weekly programs offered at Murphys Point Provincial Park and you can find a fresh list each week here. If you’re looking for things to do in Perth or for a spot to explore near Ottawa, Murphys Point Provincial Park might be what you need!