When many people think of Canada and Ontario, the first thought that enters their mind is snow, cold and ice. No we don’t live in igloos! You may be surprised to learn that our summer months get as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), and often even higher.
Since Ontario summers seem to be getting shorter and shorter each year, we want to make the most of what short amount of time that we have. What is known as our May 24 weekend kicks off our beach season, notwithstanding that the average temperature is on average 15 degrees Celsius (58 Fahrenheit) and an average of 2 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit) during the evening. This is one of the reasons that we are known as the “Crazy Canuks” lol.
Ontario has many options for swimming and water sports all across the Province; however, the beaches that I have outlined here are the largest beach attractions and all are known for their beach activities. I hope you join me as I hit the waves for some beach fun!
- Population: 2,102
- Distance from Toronto: 220.5 km (137.01 miles)
Grand Bend is a small community in southwestern Ontario, nestled along the shores of Lake Huron. It is one of only 27 beaches in Canada which has earned Blue Flag status for its commitment to water quality and safety.
Grand Bend is a destination that has more than “just a beach” to offer families, although the beach is to die for – and it offers mats to make it completely accessible!
Grand Bend offers one of the most beautiful beaches of all of Ontario’s beach towns. The beach is close enough to the main street to walk if you need to have a bite or a brew.
On the main street, just a short distance from the beach, you can rent seadoo’s from Splash Waterworks, or if you prefer to paddle board rentals are available at West Coast SUP.
Grand Bend offers approximately two blocks of shopping, where you will find beachwear, hats, sandals, jewelry shops, candy shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as mini golf to give you a break from the beach and shopping.
For the more serious shopper, I recommend taking the 21 minute drive to explore Bayfield, which has the most amazing boutique shops.
Grand Bend offers many different types of eateries, all on the main street within walking distance from the beach. Whether you want to relax with a brew or grab a hot dog and fries while on the go, Grand Bend has it all.
Willie’s Beach Bar: Just across the street from the beach, you can grab a bite and brew and hang out on the outside patio. It’s a great spot to people watch.
Spud Shack: You can even keep your bathing suit on for this one! Grab some fries to munch on while wandering the shops.
The Dairy Dip and Pizza Place: Burgers, fries or ice-cream anyone? The Dairy Dip has it all, and you can eat at a table outside in the middle of all of the action.
Grand Bend offers various forms of accommodation, which include primarily cottage and cabin rentals and camping facilities. However, if you don’t feel like “roughing” it, their is a hotel or two to stay at.
Visit Grand Bend Tourism to explore all that Grand Bend has to offer.
- Population: 6,161
- Distance from Toronto: 133.2 km (82.77 miles)
Port Dover is located along the northern shores of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario. It becomes a hub of activity during the summer months and its primary source of income is from tourism and fishing. Other than the beaches, Port Dover is well known for its Arbor Dogs, (hot dogs), perch and Friday the 13th.
Whether you want to swim, boat, seadoo, or laze in the sun, Port Dover beach offers it all. For the fisherman, take a short walk from the beach to the pier and drop your line.
This small beach town comes alive every Friday the 13th. Bikers (motorcycles) flock to Dover from all across the globe, both in winter and summer months. It is quite the sight to see.
Like most beach towns, Port Dover has an array of stores to stock up on beachwear, sunglasses, beach toys, etc. You aren’t there to shop anyways. You are there to eat, drink and have some fun in the sun.
Port Dover is famous Province wide for its fresh caught perch, as well as the Arbor Dog. To say that you have joined one of the millions in tasting this delicious food, be sure to visit:
Erie Beach Restaurant: This restaurant specializes in locally caught perch, and offers The Cove Room for lunch and dinner, The Terrace Room and The Cove Bar.
The Arbor: This takeout restaurant serves up the best hotdogs around. While wandering the streets of Port Dover, be sure to stop by and pick up your Arbor Dog.
Callahan’s Beach House: For those of you who don’t want to miss out on the action happening at the beach, throw on some clothes and head to The Beach House for a relaxing lunch of pub food.
The Ice Cream Tank: For dessert, a stop at The Ice Cream Tank is an absolute must! Be sure to try the cherry caramel swirl, with the made on site waffle cone. It is simply the best!
Port Dover is primarily a road trip destination not far from Toronto, and not many spend the night. If you have had too much to drink, the Erie Beach Hotel is located on the main strip and offers front row seating of all of the action.
If visiting Ontario, a visit to Port Dover is an absolute must!
- Population: 2,000
- Distance from Toronto: 218 km (135.46 miles)
When visiting Sauble Beach, you will find 11 km (7 miles) of white sandy beach in the Bruce Peninsula, along the eastern shores of Lake Huron. Much of the Sauble Beach lands continue to be owned by the Saugeen First Nation. The land is then leased to the cottagers, which benefits all. Ontarian’s continue to be thankful for the first settlors who discovered this little peace of heaven in 1877.
With 11 km (7 miles) of beach, it goes without saying that the beach is the main attraction in Sauble Beach. With its large sandbar creating shallow and warmer water, this beach attracts thousands of tourists, young and old, every year.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy when you need to escape the sun and crowds at the beach. Sauble Beach offers golf, mini golf, boat tours and the newly opened Ascent Aerial Park. For the water lover, visit Sauble Falls to rent a sea-doo, kayak, SUP, canoe.
For the fisherman or waterfall chaser, a visit to Sauble Falls is in order. Spend the day fishing, canoeing, kayaking or hiking at Sauble Falls. Don’t forget to bring a picnic!
Whatever activities interest you, Sauble Beach offers activities and adventures for the entire family to enjoy.
Sauble Beach is not known as a shopper’s paradise, unless of course you are shopping for beach or surf wear. Then this is the place to go. You will have no shortage of options in this department.
Even though it is summer and I always prefer a picnic to a restaurant, there are places to grab a quick bite to eat:
Casero Taco Bus: Grab a fresh taco to go from the window of double-decker bus. If you also need a brew, hang out on the licensed patio.
Two Chicks Café and Smoothie Bar: A visit is a must to this fun and energetic cafe. Enjoy the patio and listen to some tunes, while enjoying a sandwich or wrap.
Beach Burger: Visit this iconic landmark, located on the main street by the beach, for their world famous burger.
As most beach towns, Sauble Beach does not offer many hotels. The tourists who visit this beach destination usually prefer cottages or campgrounds and Sauble Beach offers an abundance of both.
- O’Leary’s Beach Cottages
- Sauble River Marina and Resort
- Knottie Pine Cottages
- Sauble Falls Provincial Park
Be sure to visit Sauble Beach if you want to explore paradise!
- Population: 20,675
- Distance from Toronto: 147.4 km (91.59 miles)
Wasaga Beach is located along the southern shores of Georgian Bay on the Nottawasaga River. It is known as the longest fresh water beach in the world, spanning a distance of 14 km (8.70 miles). During the summer months, you will want to arrive early, as the entire 14 km of beach is packed with visitors.
While Wasaga Beach offers many activities for the entire family, it is known for attracting older teenagers, millennial’s and xennials. Having said that, this baby boomer made a visit to this beach during our most recent May 24 weekend, and had a blast.
Obviously, it is the beach that attracts an over-abundance of tourists, many of which you will see out riding the waves. If you want to join in the fun, water equipment rentals are available at Ride On Rentals.
Like many of Ontario’s beach towns, tourists to not visit for the shopping, however you will find many stores along the beach strip to purchase beachwear, hats, sunglasses, summer clothing and souvenirs.
Lucky for you, you don’t have to stray far from the beach in order to find a quick bite or brew.
The Sandbar: Grab a quick bite and a brew and enjoy the beach vibe from the patio of this roof-top restaurant.
Grandma’s Beach Treats: Grab an ice cream from Grandma’s to cool you off while you wander the beach strip.
Beacon Restaurant: After hours pop into the Beacon Restaurant for some live music and evening fun.
Wasaga Beach Brewing & Beach Bar: When the sun gets to hot, stop in for a cold one, and try their own Beach 1 Cervaza.
You will find no shortage of accommodations in Wasaga Beach. From hotels, cabins, camping and cottage rentals, you will have no problem finding your preferred type of accommodation. Remember though that you are in a beach town and the majority of the accommodations will not be a 5 star rating, but are more than comfortable for your time at the beach.
To explore more activities, restaurants and accommodations that Wasaga Beach has to offer, visit Wasaga Beach Tourism
This by no means is an exhaustive list of the lakes you will find in Ontario. With more than 250,000 lakes in Ontario, you will have no problem finding a spot to rest and cool off when visiting Ontario during the summer months.
WATER SAFETY IN THE GREAT LAKES
All of the beaches mentioned in this article are situated along the shores of one of Canada’s 5 Great Lakes.
- Lake Huron
- Lake Erie
- Lake Ontario
- Lake Michigan
- Lake Superior
While the lakes look beautiful and harmless, they can be quite deadly if they are not taken seriously.
There have been over 600 drownings in one of the Great Lakes since 2010. Be aware of what to look for before entering the water. Avoid these situations and you will be guaranteed to have a safe and fun swim in one of Ontario’s Great Lakes:
- Rip tides or swift currents
- Structural Current (do not swim near a pier or breakwall)
- Waves that exceed 3 feet should be avoided
- Temperatures below 25 Celsius (77 Farenheit) can be dangerous to life threatening
- Algae and moss
“If you need me, call me on my shell” – Unknown
SAFE & HAPPY SWIMMING!