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HALIFAX, N.S. — April 8th,2021

Nova Scotians are keen to go camping this year, with users flooding the provincial reservation website and once again boosting private campgrounds’ business.

The provincial booking system, which opened Tuesday for reservations, saw heavy usage over the three-day staggered reservation windows.

Sandra Fraser, parks promotion and development officer with the Department of Lands and Forestry, said the booking system was “very popular.”

Fraser spoke on Wednesday, after the reservation system opened for 13 provincial campgrounds, with seven more due to open for booking on Thursday.

“We spread the launch over three days to spread out the demand on the system and give people time to choose different parks each day,” Fraser said

“We’ve had over 15,000 reservations made in total over the (first) two days. There is still availability in the shoulder seasons during the week, but some of the more popular parks like Rissers Beach was 95 per cent booked up for the peak season as of (Tuesday).”

Fraser said there are still some COVID-19 measures in place for campgrounds, including a few site closures.

“Across our system of 20 parks, there’s 105 camp sites that are closed, so we’re not offering group camping, for example, this year. We are requiring everyone to book their campsite in advance and not on-site so we don’t have any overflow sites being available.”

Private campgrounds have also seen increased bookings. Nadine Breau, head of the Campground Owners Association of Nova Scotia and owner of Hidden Hilltop Family Campground in Glenholme, said all the member campgrounds are busy. “From my understanding, after speaking with some of my members, we’re all up in our reservations at this time much earlier than usual,” Breau said on Thursday. “It seems like people started booking early January.” Breau said most campground bookings are up by 30 to 40 per cent in reservations for this time of year.

Gillian MacPhee, who together with her husband Roy runs At The Falls Campground at Uisge Bahn Falls in Big Baddeck, said they saw an increase in business last year with more Nova Scotian vacationing in their own province due to COVID-19 restrictions cutting off travel elsewhere.

“Our business probably doubled,” MacPhee said. “Because people were coming from Nova Scotia that usually would go to P.E.I. or New Brunswick or somewhere because we didn’t have the bubble open.”

That trend is happening again for 2021, she said, with bookings about on par with last year. “But we usually start seeing them coming in pretty steady the end of April and first of May,” she said.

The campground is small, she said, with only 12 sites, but they’re fairly big sites and more private, catering to campers using tents or smaller tent trailers. “We had an excellent summer last year, really appreciated the locals supporting the private campgrounds.” MacPhee said they were surprised at the number of people who came from the Halifax area that they had not gotten in previous years.

Andy Barr, of Meadow Ridge Campground in Hillgrove, said they are relatively new operators. “We just bought the property in 2019, so we’re still building, so we’re not really, I guess a fair estimate. But it’s pretty much what we saw in 2019 and 2020. No big difference.” Breau agreed with MacPhee’s assessment about more Nova Scotians sticking around.

“I would say that’s a pretty good assumption. I would say is very accurate. I think that they can’t travel to the other provinces so they’re going to have to staycation and I believe that that’s what’s happening. And also that the provincial campgrounds don’t take reservations early in the spring.”

Campers who want to find a private campground can do so online through www.campingnovascotia.com. The website lists all the private campgrounds by region.

As far as camping in federal parks in the province, Parks Canada spokesperson Rola Salem said in an email that demand is “extremely high” and reservations are expected to fill up quickly.