Batchawana Bay (Lake Superior)
The beach in the provincial park at Batchawana Bay has the shallowest and the warmest water on Lake Superior—no small consideration when you’re trying to swim without catching hypothermia. While there isn’t exactly a town nearby, per se, there are still lots of places to stay, eat and browse—check out the Austrian cuisine at the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort, stay in a small roadside motel, and do a little shopping at Agawa Crafts, where you can pick up moccasins, wood carvings, gas, and beer, all in the same place.
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Cobourg (Lake Ontario)
Cobourg, located about an hour east of Toronto, boasts a sandy stretch of Blue Flag-certified beach that’s definitely a hub for folks looking for a break from the city. Cobourg itself is a lovely town with a well-preserved nineteenth-century core, perfect for strolling and window-shopping. And if you’re feeling romantic, there’s even a spot to get married a little farther from the main beach. If you feel like it, leave a “love lock” on the Rotary Harbourfront Park bridge to mark the occasion.
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Grand Bend Beach (Lake Huron)
Grand Bend’s Main Beach boasts a Blue Flag designation, meaning clean water and lifeguard supervision in the summer months. Grand Bend is justifiably popular, but, nicely, there are lots of beaches close by that are a little less crowded, including Pinery Provincial Park, Bayfield and Port Blake Conservation Area. And they’re all close enough that you can come back to Grand Bend and check out its range of restaurants—everything from fine dining to greasy spoons—art galleries and boutiques.
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Picton (Lake Ontario)
Picton is home to Sandbanks Provincial Park, noted for its vast network of sandbanks and dunes and three beautiful swimmable beaches. This year, though, many of the beaches, roads and parking areas have been affected by flooding, so check in advance before you go for the best ways to access the water. And if the weather isn’t cooperating, check out Picton itself—a perfect place for wandering through historic buildings and relaxing by the marina. If you’re in the car, go to Bird House City on County Road #8 for a collection of more than 100 birdhouses, many reproductions of famous buildings.
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Port Burwell (Lake Erie)
Port Burwell has a great beach and a beautiful provincial park—but it’s also got lots of fun activities for when you don’t want to get sand in your bathing suit. The lighthouse, for example, was built in the 1840s, restored in 1986 and is one of the oldest marine historic sites on Lake Erie. Plus, it offers great views of the village and harbour. If you’re interested in something slightly more modern, check out the Wind Interpretive Centre in nearby Straffordville, showing up-close views of one of the 66 wind turbines that dot the landscape of the Lake Erie shore.
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Port Dover (Lake Erie)
If you’re a biker, Port Dover is the place to be on Friday the 13th. If you’re everybody else, Port Dover is great any other day. Once you’ve gotten your fill of warm Lake Erie water, wander along the pier and check out the lighthouse (pick up an ice cream on your way), then sit and watch the sunset. Feeling hungry? The Erie Beach Hotel is a long-time tradition with a serious amount of retro charm. Enjoy their Lake Erie perch, a tableside salad bar and their justifiably famous celery bread.
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Port Stanley (Lake Erie)
Port Stanley’s Main Beach is one of 26 beaches in all of Canada to have earned Blue Flag status for its commitment to water quality and safety—but that’s not the only reason to go. (It’s a pretty reason, though!) The beach itself boasts warm water and a sandy bottom that slowly slopes downwards—perfect for families and nervous paddlers. Families who want even more peace and quiet should check out the town’s Little Beach, located at the east end of town. The nearby town is a perfect break from the beach, with boutiques, restaurants and a heritage conservation district devoted to maintaining the town’s commercial fishing history.
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Sauble Beach (Lake Huron)
With the second-longest freshwater beach in the world (after Wasaga Beach), Sauble Beach is the epitome of a great beach town—endless sandy vistas, warm water, and lots of fun activities even when you’re done swimming. But do go swimming first: Sauble’s seven-kilometre beach was voted one of the world’s top 10 beaches by the Toronto Star. With that much sand, there’s plenty of room to stretch out and relax. At the beginning of August, the town celebrates Sandfest, with competitive sand sculpting, a classic car show and live music.
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Wawa (Lake Superior)
Wawa, with its giant goose, doesn’t immediately seem like an ideal beach town, but just 10 minutes from the monument, on the shore of Lake Superior, you’ll find Sandy Beach—complete with stunning views, a white sand beach, and an interpretive pavilion that tells the story of the Indigenous peoples of the area. When you get hungry, head into town to the Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant—it has a gorgeous terrace in the back with a great view.
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Tiny Township (Lake Huron)
Tiny Township, located along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, is a collection of great beaches, cottages and small shops—it’s not so much a beach town as a network of little hamlets. That being said, there are ice cream shops and antique shops and interesting stops galore, so it’s worth checking out the area if you don’t feel like braving the crowds at Wasaga Beach. The aptly named Tiny Beaches Road is a twisting trail along the water with several beaches perfect for a quick dip.
photo courtesy of Jim Marshall/Shutterstock
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photo courtesy of Jim Marshall/Shutterstock