When it comes to Ontario summer road trips, sometimes there’s no better option than a beach town – especially ones that sit just a couple of hours from the city grind.
Sure, they’re not all like The Hamptons. But the beaches are definitely stunning and offer plenty of like-worthy social media material.
If you’re in the market for a good, old-fashioned beach town weekend, these are your best options.
1. Grand Bend
Where: Located on the shores of Lake Huron in Southern Ontario.
Info: Grand Bend has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s best beach towns – especially among young people. The beach is famous for both its sand dunes and stunning sunsets (some of the best in Canada). The vibrant town isn’t just about the beach, either. Featuring a classic movie-like Main Street, it’s filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Nearby, you’ll find Pineries Provincial Park, along with hiking trails, museums, art galleries and the Huron Country Playhouse (Grand Bend serves as the region’s cultural hub).
Where: Located in Prince Edward County in South Eastern Ontario.
Info: Picton, the home of the famous Sandbanks Beaches, offers a more refined beach town vibe in the summer compared to some of the university student-filled alternatives. Three sandy beaches found within the Sandbanks Provincial Park, complete with the famous sand dunes, are a major draw. Not only is the charming town picturesque and quaint, you can spend an afternoon at some of Ontario’s finest wineries. Of course, the region offers no shortage of cute bed and breakfast spots, and just a short drive away is The Drake Devonshire.
3. Wasaga Beach
Where: Located at Nottawasaga Bay (southern part of Georgian Bay) just east of Collingwood.
Info: Back in the day, Wasaga Beach used to be known as lowbrow… and maybe it still is. But it’s a lot of beach – it’s the longest freshwater beach in the world, with 14 kilometres of sandy beach – and a lot of hard-partying fun. One thing it isn’t is quiet; more than two million people visit the area each summer, filling its famous boardwalk. If you haven’t been for awhile, don’t expect it to look the same: after a 2007 fire, the main street has been rebuilt and revamped. Aside from swimming and beach volleyball, you can also hike (the Blue Mountain Caves are nearby), cycle, fish and sail.
4. Sauble Beach
Where: On the eastern shore of Lake Huron in the town of South Bruce Peninsula, Bruce County in Southwestern Ontario.
Info: The resort community is home to the second largest freshwater beach in the world after Wasaga Beach. A unique feature of the 11 kilometre-long beach is the sandbar deposits along the shoreline that make the water shallow and warm – perfect for Victoria Day Weekend. Activities include golf, tennis, beach volleyball, windsurfing and fishing.
5. Long Point
Where: In Norfolk County, on the North Shore of Lake Erie near the town of Port Rowan
Info: Your best beach experience in Long Point is found at Long Point Provincial Park. Long Point’s scenic 40 kilometre-long beach is part of a UNESCO designated World Biosphere Reserve, an area protected because of its unique wildlife and ecology. The population in the Town of Long Point grows to about 5,000 in the summer, and greets about 100,000 visitors a year. The area is home to many restaurants, shops and an assortment of farmers’ markets, with plenty of rental cottages and campsites to spend the night.
6. Port Stanley
Where: Located in the municipality of Central Elgin, Elgin Country, on the north shore of Lake Eerie, on the mouth of Kettle Creek.
Info: Port Stanley remains a bustling beach town in the summer months, but also gives off a the quaint feel of a charming fishing village. The town is known for its colourful and photo-worthy architecture. The downtown area is filled with a variety of restaurants, a charming ice cream parlour, and welcoming bars. Of course, the large, sandy beach remains a major draw. Aside from the beach, other attractions include a scenic bridge across Kettle Creek, marinas, restaurants, hotels, shops and the Port Stanley Festival Theatre. In terms of accommodation, you’ll find an assortment of cute inns and summer cottage rentals.
7. Tiny Township
Where: Located in Simcoe County in south-central Ontario, in the southern Georgian Bay region.
Info: Located just a few hours north of the city, Tiny Township is home to 70km of shoreline and five parks that have been recognized as large water township parks for public use and activity on the western shoreline. Aside from the pristine beaches, you can also get your outdoor fix hiking through one of the area’s large provincial parks. You’ll find no shortage of cottage rentals in the surrounding area. You’ll find Awenda Provincial Park on Georgian Bay at the north end, and the Tiny Marsh Provincial Park in the south. Fun fact: Tiny Township is home to an artesian well that produces some of the purest spring water in the world.
8. Manitoulin Island
Where: A lake island in Lake Huron, near Sudbury.
Info: Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater island, with over 1600 kilometres of coastline. It’s filled with lakes, rivers and fine sandy beaches. Providence Bay offers a stunning, sandy beach that’s the largest on the island. The Island is also home to quaint, quiet towns and villages. Peaceful and slow-paced, this is probably not the best option if you’re looking for the typical party-filled beach town. Instead, you can enjoy lengthy hikes and bike rides through the region’s stunning winding roads and hiking trails, or wining and dining at quaint mom and pop restaurants. Because it’s not exactly ‘day trip friendly’ from Toronto, the island is filled with bed and breakfasts and vacation cottage rentals.
Of course, if you can’t make it out of the city, there’s always Sugar Beach, Ashbridges Bay or the beaches of the Toronto Island – something most of us take for granted.