Because summer seems to pass in a flash each year, we made sure to schedule some fun family activities for late August. We generally take a family vacation in late July (this year we rented a cottage) but the end of summer can seem dull in comparison. So this year we booked a few days at the 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA, located in Lansdowne, Ontario, down the road from Gananoque.
For those of you who haven't heard of KOA (I thought everybody had, but I met somebody recently who hadn't), KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America. KOA is the world's largest system of privately held campgrounds with nearly 500 locations across Canada and the United States. While each KOA location is somewhat different, they all offer a family camping experience, with tent and RV sites, sleeping cabins (or kabins as they are known at KOA) and deluxe cabins with bathrooms and kitchens.
Whether you choose tent camping or the relative luxury of your own person cabin, the beauty of KOA is the family-friendly amenities like daily scheduled activities, showers and swimming pools. We have booked the basic, 1-room camping cabin in the past and really enjoyed it. These cabins house one big bed for the parents and a set of bunk beds for the kids. It means you don't have to set up a tent and you have a space to hang out inside if it happens to rain on your trip. On our visit to the 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA, we were lucky enough to book a 6-person deluxe kabin, which meant we had our own bathroom, kitchen, deck, fire pit and even a hot tub!
The 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA is a super friendly vacation spot for our canine friends too! Friendly campground owners Sue and Dave Barton have made their KOA dog-friendly indoors and out. Our kabin had laminate flooring and mattresses covered with zipped and wipeable plastic covers, so everything cleans up easily (a plus with kids as well as dogs...ha ha).
For long walks with your pups, there are nature trails behind the main office. And there is even a fenced "Kamp K9" dog park - a big plus for burning off some of that doggy energy! Once they are all good and exercised there is a convenient dog wash station right outside the dog park (with payment). We weren't sure how Jolene would behave in a dog park (because she tends to bark very dramatically at other dogs), but fortunately she is a little more cool off-leash and we only encountered a couple of other dogs in the dog park. Ace is kind of the opposite of Jolene - the more other dogs, the better! He just wants to play, play, play!
Here's a look at the outside of our deluxe kabin. It has a lovely big deck, where we served a few of our meals (and left towels and t-shirts to dry).
Although there are other kabins and RV sites around, the elevation of the kabin, as well as the deck area, provides good privacy.
The kitchen is nicely equipped with a stovetop, sink and microwave (no oven), plus plenty of dishes, pots, strainer, utensils, cutlery and that sort of stuff. There's also a good size fridge and a table with four chairs. This definitely ain't roughing it - there's a flatscreen satellite television. The wifi didn't quite extend to our unit, but you could use it in the main lounge area or outside the office.
According to the 2015 North American Camping Report, an independent study supported by KOA, more campers today prioritize free wifi over traditional camping amenities. The researchers surveyed nearly 3,000 people across the U.S. and Canada and found that the cell phone is must-have camping gear, as 83 percent of campers bring their mobile phone to the great outdoors. I'm hoping they are using it mainly to keep in touch with family, because otherwise that's a bit sad. The survey further notes that more people today see camping as "a way to escape the stress of everyday life" rather than as simply an affordable vacation option. Canadians spend an average of two weeks or more camping each year.
Having our own personal bathroom with shower was definitely a camping luxury.
There are so many activities and attractions for the kids at 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA. I think my kids enjoyed this huge bouncy pillow best of all. There's also a large playground area with lots of equipment.
And, of course, the best of summertime attractions - not one, but two large pools!
One of the pools has this fun (and fast-moving) slide too.
And a hot tub. There's also a big adults-only hot tub in an enclosed area adjacent to the pool.
We elected to book a kabin that boasts its own private hot tub too. Unfortunately the jets in the hot tub weren't working well. They were fixed by day three and we were able to enjoy the hot tub with an evening drink that night.
The theme of the week's activities while we were at KOA was "2 cool 4 school." I think the best activity was the tie-dying.
The kids (or adults for that matter) could bring along a shirt or pillowcase or buy an inexpensive t-shirt at the KOA office store. My kids had so much fun picking colours for their t-shirts and waiting for them to be unveiled.
We also enjoyed family movies in the lounge with popcorn. There were two movies a night, with the first one being more kid-friendly and the second more for mom and dad. My kids saw Dirty Dancing for the first time and now I regularly quiz my daughter, "Nobody puts Baby where?" (Aw Mom...in a corner.)
They also had free food-related activities in the schedule - like ice cream sundaes with lots of toppings. Be aware that there are some optional extras you might want to budget for. Those include arcade games, renting pedal bikes, mining for gems, firewood and, of course, temptations in the store - Jones soda and slushies for example.
The 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA has a very special attraction you won't see anywhere else - namely Stewie the pig, the family's own pet. Stewie will come for a visit and a bit of attention provided there are treats being offered. He is adorable.
We don't have bunk beds at home, so my kids are always thrilled when they can stay in bunk beds elsewhere. In our kabin, the bunk beds were located in a small, separate room with a sliding door for privacy and quiet. In theory, if you can get the kids to go to bed, you can stay up with a drink and watch a bit of TV.
Sometimes getting them to go to bed means offering up a canine companion. Fortunately Miss Jolene loves to go to bed early!
We had an amazing time at the 1000 Islands Ivy Lea KOA and I want to thank our hosts, Sue and Dave, for such an enjoyable mini vacation. The campground is conveniently located just a few minutes from historic Rockport Village, Ontario, where Rockport Cruises offers up regular tours of the beautiful 1000 Islands, with optional Boldt Castle stopovers. It's an incredible family excursion and I'll have a post about our tour soon.
Visit the KOA website or download the KOA App to find a campground and access trip-planning tools. KOA’s Value Kard Reward members get a 10 percent discount on daily registration fees and earn points each time they stay at a KOA campground. Points can be redeemed for rewards and savings at any KOA.
Have you stayed at a KOA before?
*Our stay was courtesy of Kampgrounds of America. All opinions are authentic and my own. Thank you for supporting the awesome companies that partner with Woman in Real Life.