Who's writing this review?: I am a single 45 year-old male who wasn't looking for a date, and who didn't experience more than 1 or 2 negative, "are you one of those creepy guys?"-type looks...and even it/those were fairly subtle; I think and hope that she/they (for what may be excellent reasons) were simply not yet entirely comfortable encountering adult males walking alone. I am strongly introverted, and I made strides and progress towards involving myself in the activities around me; a few of the guest were very helpful to me in this endeavor (Thank you!). Despite my lack of experience with naturism, I didn't expect to have much trouble with the transition, and I was comfortable as I undressed at the campsite. The most relevant point for this review, I suppose, is that I have a strong aversion to being photographed...even in the textile/clothed world. I think the reasons are immaterial, since the Bare Oaks Member and Visitor Agreement states that "You may only take pictures/video of people who have consented..."; my reasons can remain my own business. This was my first attempt at a real vacation in the past 10 years, and I decided to abandon it 2 days early for reasons which have nothing to do with naturism or the quality of the park.
First off, I agree with all of the positive reviews that precede mine, and I find the review entitled “Not worth the trip or trouble.” to be different from my experience. It is a clean, well-maintained, friendly place with fantastic guests and pseudo-residents. For the most part, the staff is very friendly, helpful, and efficient. Food service has somewhat limited hours (luckily with extended hours during part of my stay) and a very limited dinner menu, but the food was quite tasty and the prices were reasonable; I think you'd be silly to skip out on breakfast at their restaurant when it's available. One guest even mentioned to me that they were willing they were to accommodate his gluten-free needs. When needed, you can drive about 20 minutes to find a respectable variety of alternative restaurants with more flexible hours. While some might find naked yoga a conceptually challenging first activity; I found it to be outstanding for internalizing the awareness that you really are free from needing to "cover up"; the class was run very well and you were encouraged to participate only to the level that your body was able...my body was a bit less able than others and that was a complete non-issue. There was hot water and soap dispensers at the showers, a 24-hour sauna, and a pool; the pool was closed for a day or two during my stay, but I do expect that it was an anomaly and that they will have it working with very little inconvenience to the guests. There was also a pond available which people seemed to be enjoying just fine. I saw people from (guessing here) ages 3 to 80...all shapes and sizes, and nobody seemed to care about which age, shape, or size you were. Most guest were Caucasian, and it was good to see that the 3 or 4 who didn't fit that description appeared as welcome and comfortable as everyone else. I would say that having everyone nude was actually less sexually charged than a visit to the mall (and, no...I'm not saying that the mall is more sexually charged than most other places); this was a very positive thing. I'd suggest that you disrobe ASAP when around naturists so that you can start seeing yourself and others more as one species, and less as members of the contrived groups that we sometimes use to separate ourselves.
Hopefully I've given you the sense that it's a nice place with amazing people...it is. There were a couple of minor annoyances, but none really worth whining about, especially given the length of the review. I would have rated them "excellent", and I would have stayed 6 days instead of 4, except for the photography issue, which gave me the impulse to rate them "terrible" (I split the difference). If photography does not bother you, and an establishment not following their own rules does not concern you, then I would skip this part and just go visit when you can.
On Wednesday, the day before the FCN Festival, there was a bus trip to Hanlan's Beach which, of course, permitted us to be free of bathing suites. Before we got on the bus, people were given a blue wristband if they were agreeable to being photographed, and no wristband if they were not. I thought this was a pretty good idea and chose to be without the blue wristband. My understanding of the rules of the beach, as I overheard being discussed between the Bare Oaks employee who became the photographer and the owner of the club, was that Hanlan's Beach no longer permitted photography, but that Bare Oaks was able to be granted an exception to that rule. Not comforting, but why would they bother with the bands if they weren't going to respect them...ok, I'll go. After a very long wait in the bus on the pier, we went to the beach and people did whatever they had come to do. There was a photographer there with an expensive set-up who, as far as I could tell, was good about photographing the large number of people who wanted to be photographed and nobody else. There were also a few of the unofficial folks from the bus who whipped out cameras...and they seemed to be fairly careful as well (a little disturbing for me to have them around, but that's more about me as long as they are respecting my privacy). Then there's this Bare Oaks employee who would frequently pick up the camera and, in my carefully observing opinion, not worry about the backgrounds of his shots. I saw him take a close-up photo of a gentleman who appeared to be sleeping, and I am certain that he had no blue band. The subject of that photo then sat up and seemed amused by the whole thing; maybe they had an understanding of some sort; but he had no band, I had no band, there were a few other pictures taken right after that where I would only not have been in the picture if he were using a macro lens...and he obviously was not. Disturbed by this, I approached the owner of Bare Oaks for clarification and, hopefully, action. When I asked him how this fit with his photography policy on the Bare Oaks website (which is also on the Member and Visitor Agreement that we must read and sign when registering), he first denied that there was a photography policy, switched to basically paraphrasing it, said with what seemed to be an amused dismissiveness that this wasn't a Bare Oaks event anyway, and that those rules didn't apply because this was an FCN event. As I stood there a little dumbfounded that he had offered no concern or suggestion for the actions of what seemed to be the BARE OAKS PHOTOGRAPHER, he gave an "I'll placate you" wave to the photographer and asked him if I was in any of the pictures. The photographer, teaming with an arrogance that seemed to follow him throughout my stay at Bare Oaks, said that he came up with the blue band procedure and that nobody without a blue band got photographed. Even if he meant that only the blue-banded would be the main subject of a given photo, the sleeping guy alone invalidates his statement. Also, the FCN festival didn't start until the next day, and the GTA Skinnydippers appear on the Bare Oaks website as organizers of the outing. The GTA Skinnydippers have the same photograph-only-with-consent rule. So, I meandered around uncomfortably until it was time to leave. Two days later, ironically during an event called "Why do we keep our naturist beliefs and activities a secret?", I'm sitting in the basement of the Bare Oaks Clubhouse, enjoying the discussion...when...FLASH! There's another guy who is obviously heavily involved with operations at the park; admittedly, it is unclear to me whether he was an official of Bare Oaks or of FCN, but my strong impression is that he was from Bare Oaks and co-presenting later that day on "Nudity and the Law". I asked him if I was in the picture. Without looking at the picture (just as at the beach), he went straight to the blue-band answer, saying that if you don't have a blue band, you don't get your picture taken. This is positively absurd in this situation. There was a room of approximately 25-30 people sitting in chairs, most of whom had their hands near their laps. I was only able to see the wrists of about 6 people around me, and only 3 of them had blue bands. I heard another guest ask if he was in the picture, apparently with some concern about it. I decided that there was no point in approaching the owner again, I now understood that he was not concerned and that he would probably pin it on the FCN again (this one actually was an FNC event, but it was on Bare Oaks property...do the rules not apply here either?).
Although I was now irrevocably distracted by the unexpected flash, I had planned to go to another event. Feeling that I wouldn't be able to relax, I instead went off-site to lunch and thought about my options. I realized that I no longer trusted Bare Oaks to respect my privacy or to follow the rules that they make us (rightfully) read and sign at registration. Friedrich Nietzsche said "I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you." Admittedly, I am currently upset about the action and the result. They seemed to follow all of the other rules, but when will those become meaningless? As what is almost an aside...why do they need all of these pictures anyway?
Unfortunately, I do not expect to return to Bare Oaks unless I hear that it is under new management. I had been listening to the Naturist Living Show, and I agreed with probably at least 90% of what was SAID, but I don't think I'll be able to hear the voice without associating the dismissive behavior and apparently disingenuous statements.
As I don't want to misrepresent Bare Oaks, I'll copy the photography policy here. I didn't notice until after the first problem that their response for inappropriately taken photos is meaningless when they are the offenders, since we are subject to "(their) sole discretion".
"Naturists, in general, are sensitive to having their image exploited. Objectification and exploitation of the human body go directly against naturist principles; therefore, the use of photographic equipment (or any other image recording device) is extremely limited. You may only take pictures/video of people who have consented (or whose guardian has consented in the case of children under 18) and then only if there is no chance that someone will misunderstand your intent. Anyone surreptitiously recording images or videos will have their equipment confiscated. If you choose to take photos/videos, you agree to turn over all your image recordings to Bare Oaks management upon request so that we may review them. Furthermore, you agree that Bare Oaks management has the right to decide, at its sole discretion, to permanently confiscate any image recordings that it believes violates any of the above."
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park is a year-round naturist park near Toronto in Canada where the entire family can experience traditional naturist values in a modern setting. We are nestled among the natural wilderness of the Ontario Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine. Our varied landscape includes open spaces, forests, ponds, streams and a small lake. We also have many recreational facilities. Our clubhouse provides year-round amenities including saunas and a whirlpool. Bare Oaks offers day-use memberships and seasonal campsites but also welcomes visitors and travellers.Some might use the terms nudist and nudism to describe us and what we do. But we prefer naturist and naturism because our creed is so much more than just taking your clothes off. It is a life philosophy with physical, psychological, environmental, social and moral benefits. We go beyond a mere recreational pursuit and promote ethical naturism. We endeavour to live a naturist life and nudity is key to body acceptance and an integral part of our naturist philosophy. As such, we are not clothing-optional. Clothing is worn only for protection. We give visitors a chance to adjust but everyone is expected make a decision as to whether they want to be naturists or not.Located between Toronto and the gateway to Ontario's cottage country, it is the perfect location to stay while visiting Toronto. A short drive south on Highway #404 gets you into Toronto in about 30 minutes. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park Hotel East Gwillimbury
- Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park Canada/Ontario - East Gwillimbury