A trip to the beach is the perfect summer pastime. Luckily, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to sandy beaches to visit in Ontario. Here are six fantastic beach towns you should visit this summer to soak up the sun and some local culture too:
1. Sauble Beach
Located on the Bruce Peninsula just 26 kilometers west of Owen Sound, Sauble Beach is a spectacular 11-kilometer stretch of sand on Lake Huron and boasts being the second longest freshwater beach in Canada. One of Ontario's original beach towns (the name goes back to the turn of the century), Sauble Beach is great mix of beautiful vistas, stunning sunsets and a touristy-honky-tonk main drag that leads to the water. It even has a retro "Welcome to Sauble Beach" sign on Main Street!
Summer events include a Tuesday night classic car cruise and Sandfest.
2. Grand Bend
Grand Bend is one of Southern Ontario's most famous beach towns, sometimes known as "Florida North." The town, located on the shores of Lake Huron, is a magnet for tourists with its population going from about 2,000 to 50,000 in the summer. The beach is famous for its "sand dunes" and the town has a classic Main Street loaded with good shopping restaurants and bars. Nearby is the beautiful Pinery Provincial Park as well as hiking trails, museums and other local spots of interest.
3. Long Point
This spectacular beach in Norfolk County forms part of a UNESCO designated World Biosphere Reserve, an area protected because of its unique ecology and wildlife. Located on the North Shore of Lake Erie near the town of Port Rowan, (about two hours from the Hamilton area), Long Point is a 40-kilometer-long spit of sand stretching into Lake Erie and home to more than 80 species of birds and waterfowl and visited by hundreds more during migration. The Town of Long Point swells to about 5,000 people in the summer, and greets about 100,000 visitors a year. The nearby Long Point Provincial Park is a popular campground in the area if you want to extend your visit.
4. Wasaga Beach
Wasaga, as it is affectionately known, is a favourite vacation spot for families with more than two million people visiting the area each summer. Located on 14 kilometers of sandy beach (the longest freshwater beach in the world) on Nottawasaga Bay (southern part of Georgian Bay), Wasaga is only about two hours north of the Toronto area and just east of Collingwood. In 2007, a huge fire devastated most of its famous and funky main street, but it has since been rebuilt and modernized. Today, the area is famous for its beaches but also for hiking in the nearby Blue Mountain Caves, cycling, fishing and sailing.
5. Port Dover
A small, once sleepy beach town on the shores of Lake Erie, Port Dover has become internationally famous for its Friday the 13th Motorcycle Weekends. Started by a bike enthusiast and shop owner named Chris Simmons, the day has grown from a gathering of a few friends to an event of huge proportions, sometimes attracting more than 100,000 people. But Port Dover is also a lovely little beach town with a quaint main street anchored by The Arbor, famous since 1919 for its 12-inch hotdogs and "Golden Glow" drink and the venerable Erie Beach Hotel, owned and run by the Schneider family since 1946 and renowned for its fresh-fried Lake Erie yellow perch. The town has new restaurants, good shopping, coffee shops and more. Now, a growing retirement community, "Dover" hosts the Lighthouse Festival Theatre series, a Perch Fishing Derby, Art in the Park and other summer festivals.
6. Crystal Beach
Angelo Coniglio/Wikimedia Commons
The sign says "Welcome to Crystal Beach, The South Coast of Canada" and the white sand and blue water of the northeast shore of Lake Erie could almost make you feel like you're in Florida. Baby Boomers will remember Crystal Beach, which is part of the town of Fort Erie, for its honky tonk amusement park and roller coaster and its famous dance hall. But those are both part of Crystal Beach's past (the amusement park was closed in 1989 and the once famous Crystal Beach Ballroom, which hosted the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra through the Big Band years, was demolished that same year.) Today, the town, which is about 90 minutes from the Toronto area, is still a lively spot with restaurants and shops - and the same lovely beach.