This is part 2 in our 3-part “staying in weird places this summer and we don’t have much money” series. You can read our first overnight adventure HERE.
I’d been curious about this urban camping spot since reading about it a couple of years ago, and had been wanting to visit the beach for a while, so rolling together an overnight visit and a morning of swimming seemed like a good mini vacation. At just about 20 minutes* from downtown Montréal, RécréoParc is a migratory bird sanctuary with a nautical zone; urban camping with 34 platforms for tents, 10 tent included sites, and 4 ready-to-camp buildings; a beach; miles of walking and biking trails; a beautiful and modern pavilion/resto; playgrounds and more.
It’s a really interesting and gorgeous spot that overlooks Montréal and the St.Lawrence River and rapids, and where you can wander around, run through fields, picnic beside rushing water, or join in one of the park’s year-round activities.
We opted to stay just one night, because at 115$ the ready-to-camp spots aren’t exactly cheap, and it was just the right amount of time to explore, relax a bit, and then frolic at the beach. With a longer stay you could also try out some fishing, or rent a personal watercraft.
I didn’t find the park’s website super helpful when trying to decide which one camping site to pick, but went with the “L’Urbain” which is a shipping container converted into a teensy, tiny little home.
To be honest, I was more excited pre-camping than I was satisfied post-camping. A shipping container seemed so…weird and cool. But it actually felt like staying in a cramped IKEA-decorated college apartment. But with better beer. (You can view the camping sites HERE, there are not many pictures. And HERE is the handy camping guide.)
Our ready-to-camp container was supposed to be equipped with a coffee maker, pots and pans (we had no pan, but luckily had stashed one in the car), a propane camping stove, fridge, table and chairs, a clothesline, a bicycle rack, beach chairs and an outdoor bench with storage. You need only bring your bedding and food. We also brought a hammock which was comfy.
There WAS electricity (by solar panel) in ours and we were able to charge our phones overnight. There was even a small fan inside. If you’re renting a different one, I’d call to check what they have.
You may also want stuffies, and pillows, and ten million snacks, and bug spray, and drinking water, and, and, and…..
IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot drive to any of the camping sites. Cars are left at the parking lot of the Pavillon d’accueil, and ALL OF YOUR GEAR must be carried in. If you don’t feel like lugging it all, you can borrow a trolley (they’re small) from the Pavillon, and then return it after. But it makes a lot of trips. A lot. Like, so many. You can also pay for a baggage transport, but I forgot to ask how much it costs.
Things I liked about our camping experience:
-It was quiet. Actually, the river was quite loud, but the park itself was quiet. Like, strangely empty. My favourite moment was our after dinner pyjama stroll along the walking trails that hug the river, where we barely saw anyone, and the boys played in the empty playground and ran through fields that we found off the main path.
-Despite the not-so-easy portaging of all of our stuff, it was REALLY nice not having cars driving through the campground.
-There were GREAT birds all over.
-The view of the river is stunning.
-The nearby beach made a great day outing. We drove there as we left afterwards, but you could also walk or bike directly from the camping area.
Things I didn’t especially love:
-Our shipping container was very, very cramped. With bunk beds and a pull out futon, it was impossible to reach the sliding door once the bed was pulled out.
-The ladder for the bunkbed didn’t match the bed and fell off twice while the boys were trying to climb up (yoiks), then fell on one’s head as they were sitting on the floor underneath. I made sure to mention it when we checked out as it was definitely a safety hazard. I’m going to assume it’s been fixed now. So we were unable to use the top bunk.
-Each ring of campsites has its own central area with a porta-potty, a large open-sided shade shelter with picnic tables, a potable water station, and a communal fire pit with free wood. I really, really missed having a fire at night on our own site, and tending a fire down the road didn’t seem all that appealing when we really just wanted some roasted marshmallows and then to chill. That’s just me though, it might be great for large groups!
-I found the website to be lacking in a lot of information I would have liked to know before going, including that the beach entry is half price for campers (it would have changed my planned activities), that there was a BBQ on the Friday before (I would have changed dates), and that there is a Sunday brunch available at the beautiful Pavillon d’accueil (I would have stayed over the Saturday night instead). There IS some mention of activities and the brunch on the website, but not many details, so I HIGHLY suggest calling before booking to see if anything special is going on. After our stay I saw that there was lazer tag later in the summer!
So ya, we had a fun time in general, the park itself is very nice and calm, especially in the evening, and it’s amazingly close to Montréal. The urban camping would also be great for anyone who wants to try tent camping for the first time without investing in all the equipment, or for those wanting to try something a little unique.
I’d actually do it again, but probably try out one of the other ready-to-camps like the canvas circus tent site, or the totally see through igloo-like dome.
Things to note:
-The Pavillon d’accueil is where you register, pick up your keys if you’re staying in a ready-to-camp, grab a map, taste some amazing food and grab a coffee, or rent a bicycle or one of the other items they have available. In the basement campers can use the community room, the showers and washrooms, laundry, or get a healthy snack in the vending machine. It’s open 24 hours/day for campers, but it’s not exactly close to where you’ll be sleeping.
-You can read the separate post about our Saturday morning beach visit HERE.
-Make sure to keep your camp parking pass if you park in one of the other parking lots, as you shouldn’t have to pay again.
-We visited some nearby playgrounds in Sainte-Catherine including this AMAZING one about 5 minutes away from the RécréoParc.
-Grocery stores and restaurants are in the nearby town of Sainte-Catherine, we actually went to Lafleurs and got take out and brought it back to our site to eat.
-I HIGHLY recommend going through the website to find all the activities, prices etc. And call them with any questions. I was surprised by a few things. WEBSITE HERE.
*It should have been 20 minutes, even from our house on the West Island, but that fracking Mercier Bridge and its never-ending construction made it more like 40 minutes. “Are we there yet? You said it was a short drive? Are we almost thereeeeeee???”