Review: Sunward near Ottawa, Canada

Review: Sunward near Ottawa, Canada

Toronto had proven to be the perfect starting point for the Canadian lap of our big journey. Not only did we have the chance to experience our first nude cruise and did we soon after visit Canada’s best known naturist resort Bare Oaks, we also already found out what previous visitors to the country meant with the “Canadian friendliness”. And also what the apologetic attitude really stands for. See, the Canadians apologise for literally everything, also things that are more your own fault than theirs or things that are really out of their control. Like the weather or the fact that you just stepped into a puddle.

 

A lot of what we had heard before about Canada had come true in and around Toronto, but what we were still missing was that great wilderness. The one we used to see on National Geographic. Lakes, forests, snow caped mountains and the solitude that comes with camping in those places wouldn’t stop tickling our imagination. To find this, we had to move further into the country. Our eye fell on a naturist campground called Sunward, near the Quebec border and on Google maps surrounded by green and blue patches. It was decided, this was going to be our next destination.

Location
No matter from which direction you try to get to Sunward, you’re up for a winding but beautiful road. We probably took the longest one of them all, coming from south and spent several hours turning left and right and stopping to gaze at amazing landscapes. This started to look a lot like what we had in mind.
The nearest town is Calabogie, about 15 minutes away, which has a shop and a pizza place and the nearest Tim Hortons (the Canadian response to Starbucks which we soon started to call “our office” because of their decent coffee and free wifi) would cost you about a 45 minute drive.
When you get really near the campground there are some small signs but don’t count on finding the place without a GPS. Getting there from Ottawa will take you about an hour, from Kingston about 3 hours and from Toronto we’re talking about more than half a day (gazing at the scenery stops included).

Accommodation
We can be really short about this: bring your own. Unless you happen to know someone at Sunward who has a trailer you can use, your only option will be to build your own camp. There are several tent and trailer spots available, the most beautiful ones are right at the lake. Because of the rough underground (rocks, roots and all kinds of other hard stuff you tend to find in a forest) the owners have built some wooden platforms to put your tent on. They are flat and rather comfortable but without special pegs and a hammer there is no way you can secure your tent decently. A hammer is just that one thing we didn’t pack in our backpack. Murphy is never far away and of course a storm would be passing by during our first night. We tied our tent as much as possible to the surrounding trees, feared a couple of times during that night that our tent would fly with us in it, but in the end the forest kept away most of the strong winds and we and our tent were still alive in the morning.

Facilities
Like several other naturist campgrounds everywhere in the world, also this one suffers from what we call the “old club syndrome”. Things probably looked very nice in the late eighties but that also seems to be the last time anyone has done some maintenance to the place except for quickly repairing what has fallen down. A pity, but wasn’t this what we were looking for after all? Something off the grid and away from the beaten track and would it look all the same if everything was spotless and fancy and brand new? With that state of mind we could eventually appreciate the shack that was called a toilet.

 

What makes the place really special though is the huge lake. Not some man made hole in the ground with a couple of bushes around but a real large lake (okay, maybe not large for Canadian standards but for Europeans it would be quite impossible to own a lake that size). Surrounded by a pine forest this really started to look like what we had seen on TV. There’s a small pier that allows you to jump straight into the water and some deck chairs, one more broken than the other. The wooden gazebo aka common area had seen better times as well, only the kayaks which are free to use looked still safe enough for a tour around the lake.
There’s an outdoor shower and several indoor ones which all had surprisingly hot water, a volleyball court up the hill and that’s about it. You don’t come here for the comfort or the action, that much is sure. You come here for the nature. The night after the one with the storm would be our first night in Canada when we heard nothing but the sounds of nature. Hundreds of frogs, birds, squirrels and a distant growl which could have been either a bear or a neighbour snoring. We preferred to think it was a bear, until we remembered we had some food left in our tent.

Surroundings
What you find at Sunward, a lake surrounded by a forest, is what you’ll find all over the area. Lakes in all different sizes and trees in all different kinds and colours. With the only exception that this spot is the only one where you are allowed to be naked. There are some pretty towns around but nothing mind blowing enough for us to still remember the name. Except for Calabogie. Not because of the town but because it’s such a funny thing to say. Calabogie.
A possible day trip destination is Ottawa, the tricky answer to the famous Trivial Pursuit question “What is the capital of Canada?”. Not as interesting as Toronto or Montreal but enough to keep you busy for a day.

 

Staff
Sunward works with a honesty system. We had seen this before at the bar of several other naturist places where you’re supposed to take your own drinks and write them down on your tab. At Sunward they took this a step further though (maybe because they really like the system but don’t have a bar, we don’t know). When you arrive you have to take an envelope from a mailbox which contains a list of the house rules and a registration form. You fill out the form, put it back in the envelope, add the money (you could try to add your credit card but we doubt you’ll ever see it again) and put it in a box. There you go, checked in. An extremely easy system to cheat and we doubt that it could ever work in any other place than a naturist one.
So no check-in desk. When we parked our car and started to search for a spot to put up our tent, maybe looking a bit puzzled, a guy named Tony came down to give us a short explanation about the place. Two days later we would briefly meet Tony and his wife again and that would be our only encounter with staff.

Guests
Although in our imagination we would be camping all by ourselves in the middle of nature, we were happy to see that there were some other guests as well. Especially the guy who told us he had some spare tent covers in case ours would take off and never return. In total we met about ten other guests, all of them visitors on a regular basis. Clearly Sunward doesn’t attract the amount of tourists the larger campgrounds do. But that doesn’t mean we felt out of tone, everyone was very friendly and talkative and most of all pretty curious about how we ever ended up there. From Belgium of all places.

 

 

Summary
Visiting Sunward means forgetting about luxury (unless you bring your own but be careful, there’s no electricity) and leaving most of your comfort behind as well. What you get in return is an excellent piece of nature and a chance to camp in the woods just like on National Geographic.
Oh and it’s near Calabogie. There, we just said it again.

 

Read more about this resort on  NUDE
More info and reservations: http://www.sunward-naturist-park.ca
More photos: On our Facebook

5 thoughts on “Review: Sunward near Ottawa, Canada

  1. Canada sure seem to look pretty.

    “Like several other naturist campgrounds everywhere in the world, also this one suffers from what we call the “old club syndrome””
    I wouldnt mind this at all, retro is cool ,id take that anyday over the fancy looking hey ,check out how badass this place looks ,im Hollywood now..

    Isnt the Summary what real naturism is actually all about?
    ps id miss my phone tho

    1. “the old club syndrome” is not really about the lack of amenities. We actually loved that the place had no electricity, the silence and the amount of stars during the night was breathtaking.
      It’s more that you can really see that the place has been very nice long time ago (and with that we don’t mean fancy, just not falling apart) but that some urgent maintenance is needed. Old clubs used to rely on volunteer work from their members to repair such things, but as the members get older and they fail to attract younger ones, suddenly nobody can do it anymore.

      1. Yeah , i guess i think that shows that hm .. those younger ones are lazy lol.. they rather have things serviced to them maybe ,dunno.
        I mean yeah, like when u say naturism ,that comes to my mind, nothing but nature and u , nothing else that is fake/man made.
        But ya ,thats why im not a naturist haha, i think id die without my phone or internet, as of right now at least.
        I recall i saw somewhere a video of some ppl that i think i dunno maybe it was Brazil or maybe im totaly off.. but there was this guy hes wife i suppose, and few kids, like literally living in a jungle ,made a tree house and stuff, looked pretty amazing.
        Somehow thats what i think of when one says naturism.. to me it somehow blends with something that is not new or modern,but things that are natrual, aka NATURism.

  2. Sunward is a special place. While it is perfection in natural beauty, it is the members and guests that make the Lake special.
    Every guest is met and welcomed by one of the owners (Tony in this case). If feeling social, sharing a laugh with other guests or members is easy. Should you prefer to be quiet, there is even a small island with just one site.
    Living off gird can be as luxurious as you wish to make it, something Sunward is very good at. Every drop of water comes from the Lake, power is primarily solar or propane. Life at Sunward is never at the expense of the wilderness, but never uncomfortable.
    Often described as “rustic”, being at the Lake is really all about not sweating the endless small stuff in our lives. For the friend who worried about being linked; the only compromise is using your phone data to go online. Phones work just fine too.
    Despite the authors visit coinciding with the wettest, coolest days of this summer, I am glad the magic of the Lake touched them.

    1. Well said Elizabeth. I have been going to Sunward for a few years, a three hour ride for me to get there. There are other nudists campgrounds/facilities closer to my home but Sunward has a very special irresistible cachet, friendly atmosphere and all in nature. Will be going there for many more years.

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