Written by Denise Deby.
There’s good news for people who are yearning for a camping weekend or wanting to spend some time in wilderness but don’t have a car.
Parkbus is an express bus service that takes people to Algonquin Provincial Park and brings them back to the city. Parkbus stops at several campgrounds, trailheads and outfitters in the park, so people can head right out to camp, backpack or canoe.
Parkbus set out on its first trip this weekend, and leaves again from Ottawa to Algonquin Park on August 9 and again on September 20, 2013. The bus departs from the Rideau Centre and from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Return adult tickets are $83.98 with lower prices for kids, students and seniors and negotiable for groups.
Once you get to the park, you’re on your own—you’ll need to book your own accommodation, take equipment and pack food and supplies. You can rent gear in town, though (Mountain Equipment Co-op offers 50% off rentals for Parkbus passengers) or from outfitters in Algonquin Park. If you prefer not to camp, you can book roofed accommodation within the park.
The Parkbus doesn’t have room for canoes or kayaks, so you’ll have to rent those in Algonquin, but they do have limited room for bikes on board, and can sometimes accommodate pets, so check in advance.
I can see the service appealing to people who don’t have a vehicle, would prefer to avoid the environmental impact of driving, want to travel as a group, or are new to camping. (Parkbus brings knowledgeable volunteers on every trip to advise people who need information or maps, and has useful links and tips on its website.) Parkbus also seems ideal for backpackers who want to see some of Canada’s famed natural areas–several international travellers were on the inaugural trip from Ottawa.
Alex Berlyand and Boris Issaev, the enterprising and thoughtful co-founders of Parkbus, both immigrated to Canada as young people and recognized the need for an alternative and more sustainable way for people to get to Canada’s parks.
Parkbus is run by the non-profit Transportation Options, and is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Ontario Parks and Parks Canada, with Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Ontario Ecotourism Society as collaborating partners.
Parkbus has been operating for three years from Toronto to destinations that now include Algonquin Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park and Killarney Provincial Park. Ottawa is their first new departure city after Toronto, and they’re hoping to add more destinations from Ottawa to other parks if all goes well.
Check out Parkbus at http://www.parkbus.ca/ottawa.php for more information.