Ask anyone in British Columbia or Nova Scotia where the best beaches in Ontario are, and they’ll probably laugh. After all, Ontario is known for big cities, traffic, and huge forests. People in Ontario know better. In fact, Ontario is home to the longest freshwater beach in the world. Also, there’s an entire “west coast” of Ontario along the shores of Lake Huron. If there’s one thing Ontario has, it’s great beaches.
The Great Lakes are freshwater inland seas. They have tides and waves and shipwrecks. Entire ecosystems thrive in them and along their shores. From the tip of Lake Superior to the mellow waters of Lake Eerie, these massive lakes are ringed by beaches. Many of these beaches are sandy summer paradises. But there’s more than just Great Lake beaches in Ontario. Some of the best beaches in Ontario can be found along rivers and smaller lakes. There are thousands of beaches in Ontario. We checked out as many as we could and came up with a list of the five best beaches in Ontario.
What Makes Beaches in Ontario Special?
If there’s one thing that sets Ontario beaches apart from the coastal Provinces, it’s that these beaches are freshwater. And, unlike many beaches in Alberta and Manitoba, they’re warm enough to swim in during the summer. Also, many of these beaches are sandy and have great amenities nearby. Of course, if you head to the wild Ontario north, you’ll find less civilization. That may be just what you’re looking for!
Another thing that sets beaches in Ontario apart from the rest of Canada is how crowded many of them can get. Wasaga Beach is the world’s longest freshwater beach. It has 14 kilometers of white sand along the crystal blue waters of Georgian Bay. But we didn’t consider it as one of the five best beaches in Ontario, because it is overcrowded. Wasaga is about an hour north of Toronto, near the city of Barrie. Thousands of Torontonians flock there every day in the summer. We find Wasaga crowded, noisy, and stressful. It costs a lot of money to park anywhere, there are fees for using the toilets, and there’s elbow-room only everywhere on the beach. No thank you.
So we set some rules about how we chose the five best beaches in Ontario.
How We Chose The Best Beaches in Ontario
First, people had to be able to swim in the water. This wasn’t too much of a problem in southern Ontario, but it did rule out many beaches in Northern Ontario. Those waters are just too cold all year round for comfortable swimming. The next rule we had was that the beach had to be comfortable enough to lounge on. While many beaches in Ontario are sandy, there are many more which are made up of giant boulders and sharp rocks. You can’t comfortably sit there or get a tan.
Third, these beaches couldn’t be too crowded. While we don’t mind being isolated on a beach, having some people around, along with bathrooms, restaurants, parking, and other amenities, is really nice.
Once we had our three rules in place, we were ready to choose the five best beaches in Ontario.
If you’re already planning next year’s outings, and you’re in Ontario, then you may want to check out these beaches. You can swim, lounge, and relax at all five of these beaches. They are in no particular order, and we don’t have a single “best” beach. Instead, we have five of the best beaches in Ontario.
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Along the shores of the Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County lies Sandbanks Provincial Park. If its name doesn’t give it away, this is a sandy place. The beach is wide and soft sand undulates in gentle hills with beach grass sticking up in tufts. The water is gorgeous and on most days there are one-foot swells for you to play in. Because Sandbanks is near Belleville, it’s far enough away from Toronto that only the adventurous head there. But, because it’s a Provincial Park, there’s ample camping facilities complete with showers, electrical and water hookups, and spacious manicured campsites. Belleville is a fifteen-minute drive away.
Next up is the beautiful, peaceful beach at Port Elgin. This beach fronts onto Lake Huron, which we consider our favourite Great Lake. The beach is sandy, and several kilometres long. Most Torontonians head to Wasaga Beach, leaving Port Elgin to the few who know of it. Here you’ll find mostly families and quiet couples minding their own business. There’s none of the rowdiness of Sauble Beach. The town itself is filled with amenities, including cottages, hotels, motels, camping, grocery stores, coffee shops, and amazing restaurants.
Rockwood Conservation Area
If you find yourself near Guelph, head to the quiet filled-quarry at the Rockwood Conservation Area. Here you’ll find a tiny little beach with enough personality to make you fall in love with it. The sandy beach itself is small, but there’s always room enough for a family to throw down some towels and stretch out. The water is dark and cool, yet won’t freeze your nipples off. If you have little kids then this is one of the perfect beaches to take them to. You can easily keep an eye on them and, because there are no waves, you don’t have to worry about riptides. Also, there’s a big building with a restaurant, washrooms, and change rooms right next to the beach.
If you get bored of the beach, take an hour-long walk around the lake. The trail is groomed (we brought a stroller with a sleeping baby in it once) and meanders through a forest and across streams and meadows. There’s an old textile mill that’s now a rentable wedding venue, and you can check out rocks carved by glaciers. If you want to stay longer, camping is available.
Forget California. Southampton, Ontario is all you need if you want a wide-open sandy beach with tons of sunshine. Just west of Owen Sound, on the shores of Lake Huron, you’ll find Port Elgin’s biggest competitor for best beach in Ontario. The sand here is very soft, and the waters are clear and cool. If there’s a good breeze you can expect decent swells to jump around in. The town itself is loaded with all the amenities you could want, so book a hotel room. Even better, rent a cottage right next to the beach and you’ll never have to leave!
So far, all the beaches in Ontario we’ve looked at have been in the south. Well, not Pancake Bay. You’ll find this gem of a beach way up on the shores of Lake Superior. This means it has a short window of when you can actually swim in it, because northern Ontario doesn’t have a long hot season. Nevertheless, if you do make it between July and August, you won’t be disapointed. There are several provincial parks in the area, as well as hotels and restaurants. Yet the beach itself feels isolated, especially compared to the ones in southern Ontario. Still, this is definitely one of the best beaches in Ontario!