It's no lie, Ontario summers are HOT! We’ve all reached the point when we see the temperature in the car say 40 degrees Celsius, then start scrolling through our phone contacts to see who has a pool. We complain how cold it is in January, then August rolls around and we are sitting in our back yard with the garden hose and a frozen cocktail, trying to stay alive. If only there was a BEACH or something for us to go and cool off...
But wait…there is, and there are lots of them!
Before I did some research, I thought I needed to sit by my phone and wait for a cottage invite before I was able to see a beach in Ontario. Little did I know there are quite a few within driving distance from Toronto!
This year you wont need to suck up to anyone and everyone with a cottage or pool-I have found you 15 great options.
1. Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks is located in Picton, a little over 2 hours from Toronto. You can go for the day or spend the weekend camping or at a bed and breakfast. It costs $17 per car to get into the park, and you have your pick of a few great beaches. This is probably my favorite beach destination in Ontario. The sand on Dune’s beach reminds me of a tropical island. If you are looking for a nice hike I recommend The Dunes Trail. Another nice beach within this park is Outlet beach- the water tends to be wavier, but is crystal clear and warm during the later summer months. WARNING: There is an intersection in the middle of the park with a 4 way stop- make sure you fully stop here- I know a few people who have gotten pulled over here, and yes I was one of them, and YES the tickets are legit.
2. The Elora Quarry
The Elora Quarry/Elora Gorge is a great place to come if you are looking for either adventure or relaxation. If you like to live on the edge- you can chose to ride the waves in a tubing adventure in the gorge. If you want to relax, you can take your tube and float along the calm waters of the emerald green quarry. There is a beach area where you can pack a picnic or cliff jumping for those of you looking for a rush. Campsites are also available for those looking to spend more than a day. While your there- take a stroll through the adorable town of Elora. Don’t forget to check out the cute shop: Mermaid Antiques.
3. Flowerpot Island
The Crystal clear waters of Flower Pot island will make you feel as though you drove to Aruba. Okay- maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I have never seen water this clear within Ontario! Located off the shores of Tobermory- Flowerpot island is a 30-minute boat ride. When I was there I took the Blue Heron Cruises ($40 round trip- a little steep, but worth it!) Make sure you check online before you go to ensure boats are running over to the island. From here you can snorkel, cliff jump, swim, hike- all the summer faves. The water is a little chilly- so try to go on a HOT day! Regardless- the views are impressive, even if you wont want to go IN the water. This may be a weekend trip, since the commute from Toronto is about 3.5 hours.
4. Bruce Peninsula National Park
Located near the town of Tobermory, Cypress Lake has plenty of camping and yurting options (Be sure to book well in advance though- it tends to fill up quickly! I tried to book a yurt in March and they were already booked up for summer 2016!) While you’re here, don’t miss out on the grotto! It’s like something out of a Mexico tourism brochure! Again- water is a little chilly, but swimming within this cave is pretty crazy! The water around here is bright blue- some of the nicest water you will see within Ontario! From Toronto, you are looking at about 3.5 hours.
5. Crystal Beach
I discovered Crystal Beach last summer, and it has become my go-to beach for a daytrip! Located near the US boarder on lake Eerie this beach has white sand, warm waters and adorable doll house style homes. The downtown has flower pots and decorative colorful bicycles scattered throughout, with an American-style charm to it. This is a great beach to come for the day, bring a tube and lounge in the sun! It is free to get in, with lots of parking- so there are no excuses (except maybe that annoying QEW traffic!)
6. Sauble Beach
I LOVE Sauble beach! Located about 2.5 hours from Toronto in the town of South Bruce Penninsula- there is a lot to do around here! Grab a kayak or canoe and paddle your way to sauble falls, hit the white sand beach, swim in the crystal clear water or grab an ice cream and walk up the strip. If you are staying for a long weekend, you can chose to do a day-trip to Tobermory, since it is about 30 minutes away. There is camping options and cottage rentals available for any amount of time. There are cute shops along the main strip to buy that bathing suit or flip flops you've always wanted!
7. Ashbridges Bay
Located downtown Toronto, Ashbridges Bay may not be the top choice for swimming, however if beach volleyball, stand up paddle boarding or just tanning on the sand sound like something that interest you- you may not have to drive out of the GTA. With a long stretching boardwalk that runs along the water- you can chose to ride a bike, rollerblade, go for a run or join in on some beach yoga. If you walk up to Queen street, you can find numerous places to shop and dine.
8. Sugar Beach
Also located within downtown Toronto, Sugar Beach has these adorable pink umbreallas and muskoka chairs that create a great setting for relaxation. Again, not ideal for swimming-but if you live within Toronto and want a bit of a change of pace- look no further! If you head a bit west, you will find a similar beach with yellow umbrellas called HTO Park -right in the middle of the action!
9. Point Pelee
Located 3.5 hours south of Toronto is the adorable Point Pelee! My girlfriends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Point Pelee last summer and stayed at a nautical themed hotel called The Seacliff Inn. This hotel is right next to the ferry that takes you over to Pelee Island. If you are like me, you cant refuse a good glass of wine- and Pelee Island has a winery within walking distance of the ferry. After you enjoy a nice trip over to the island, you can head down to Pelee National Park. This park not only has some great beaches, but is also the most southern tip of Canada! Don’t go try to swim within the waters of the tip though- strong undertows can drag you out into the waters- stick to the beaches on either side of the peninsula. We decided to rent bikes while we were within the park- a fun and easy way to get around!
10. Port Dover
I found this little gem last summer- Port Dover is located about an hour past Hamilton, and reminds me of a mini California with the beach shops, palm trees and a pier with a lighthouse on the end. The water was not too cold, pretty clear and perfect for an afternoon of relaxing in a tube (drink in hand, of course!). There are plenty of food truck style places to eat as well as a few restaurants. Don’t miss Hewitt’s Dairy Bar located on highway 6 in Hagersville for some ice cream on your drive home!
11. Grand Bend
Grand Bend is one of my favorite beaches, located on Lake Huron, close to London. You are able to rent a cottage, campsite or (my fave option) a hotel room at Oakwood Resort. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops located on the strip, so you wont have any problem filling your time while you are here. The water is really nice, often wavy, but a little chilly if you don’t go in July or August. There are numerous types of water sports available and beach volleyball some weekends. You may recognize the name of the beach from the show “The Grand Benders” – if you don’t- look it up. We came here for a girls Bachelorette weekend and had a blast!
12. Toronto Island
You can catch the ferry over to Toronto Island from Queens Quay, downtown Toronto. Once you get over to the island you can chose from numerous activities. If you don’t have a bike- I would recommend renting one- this is a fun way to get around. You can choose to hit one of the beaches on the island (If you are feelin’ a little wild you can head over to Hanlan’s Point Beach- the nude beach!) If you have kids- Centre Island is a little amusement park with rides and animals that will entertain them for hours. There are often festivals in the island within the summer months, so check online in advance. BONUS: Amazing views of the Toronto skyline (or, as Drake would say, Views from the 6)
13. Anywhere in Muskoka
If you are from Ontario, you know that Muskoka is awesome. There isn’t just ONE beach for me to name here, since there are so many beautiful lakes. A lot of the lakes don’t have public beaches, and only have private cottages on them, however there are a lot of different places you can cool off. Some of my favorite Muskoka hotels to check out if you are looking for a true Canadian weekend include: The Rosseau Muskoka resort and spa, Deerhurst Resort, Windemere House Resort and Hotel, Taboo & Clevelands House. My favorite little Muskoka town: Port Carling- dinner on the water at Grand Electric cant be missed! My favorite place to canoe- The Oxtongue River.
14. Turkey Point
Turkey Point is located in the village of Turkey Point (obvi…) and is one of the only provincial parks with a Golf Course! (If your man dosen't want to hit the sand you can tell him to hit the links!) For those who want to stay the night, camping dates begin mid May and extend to mid October. This beach is located along the same shore line as Port Dover, on Lake Eerie. Looking for a wild summer boat party, and can't afford the plane ticket to Miami? Check out Pottahawk- the crazy party located near Turkey Point each July. Named "Canada's Biggest Boat Party"- with over 2,000 boats and 10,000 people attending each year!
15. Port Stanley
This beach is located on Lake Eerie in Elgin County in the village of Port Stanley. Named one of the most outstanding beaches in Ontario- this might be one to put on the top of your list this summer! "Main Beach" was awarded the "Blue Beach" award in 2011 for its warm waters and sandy bottom that gradually leads out into the lake. A great place to go with either friends or children- since there are multiple beaches ("Little Beach" is a great option for families) with a cute little town filled with adorable shops and dining options.