Best beach for catching waves
Location 20km south of Tofino, Vancouver Island
The Vibe While the pristine sands make you want to lounge on shore, you can’t visit Long Beach without enjoying the surf. Rent a wetsuit and surfboard and see if you can get upright before the day is through.
The Details Nestled between the rainforest and Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim, Long Beach is popular for surfers of all levels because of its gentle tows and mellow winds.
Best beach for taking it all off
Location Where the Strait of Georgia mingles with the English Bay in B.C. (that’s West Vancouver for you non-west-coasters)
The Vibe This prime-location stretch of sand is one of North America’s top nude beaches.
You’ll get a great glow sans tan lines (but don’t dare skip on the sunscreen). Plus, it’s in a great location – where else can you spend the morning skiing and the afternoon baring your buns?
Best beach for a trip back in time
Location Four hours’ drive west of Edmonton.
The Vibe Yes, it’s surrounded by aspen forest and the slopes of Pyramid Mountain rather than silky sand, but Patricia Lake is ideal for the tourist who’d rather explore its historic shores.
The Details This was once the test site for a top-secret Second World War project to build an unsinkable aircraft carrier, and bits of the prototype vessel can still be found at the lake’s bottom.
Best beach for a picnic
Location Just off the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park.
The Vibe Shallow waters and a scenic mountain view make this perfect for a family hangout or outdoorsy date.
The Details Grab marshmallows in nearby Banff and roast them over the on-site firepits while enjoying the view of Mount Rundle.
Best beach for a spa-like soak
Location 100km east of Saskatoon
The Vibe Visitors enjoy the therapeutic effects of bathing in water so buoyant it’s impossible to sink, bobbing about like rubber ducks under sunny skies.
The Details The high salinity of Little Manitou Lake is nothing short of curative (it has five times more salt than the ocean). The list of health benefits – from increasing blood circulation to preventing hair loss – is long.
Best beach for activities
East Grand Beach
Location On the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, 80km north of the capital
The Vibe This little paradise on the prairie rivals a community centre in leisure activities and Banff in beauty. Whether you want to swim, stroll or play sports by the lagoon, the whole family can dip their toes into the bustling beachfront.
The Details The endangered piping plover nests here, which makes it a great place to bird-watch.
Best beach for a city escape
Location The heart of Toronto The Vibe Once a parking lot, this city beach at the edge of Lake Ontario is now the perfect place to lounge under hot-pink umbrellas when a getaway to cottage country is not on the cards.
The Details Nestled between the Redpath Sugar Factory and Corus Entertainment headquarters, Sugar Beach also hosts concerts and film screenings.
Best beach to cross off your bucket list
Location On the southern tip of Georgian Bay, a two-hour drive north of Toronto.
The Vibe The youthful atmosphere and infectious buzz of this destination will have you getting involved in the many events, activities, water sports and festivals taking place all season long.
The Details This 14-kilometre stretch is the longest freshwater beach in the world.
Best beach for a party
Location On the sands of Lake Huron, 220 kilometres west of Toronto.
The Vibe Packed with sun-kissed visitors enjoying waterside patios like Coco’s and watching holiday fireworks displays, this beach doesn’t sleep.
The Details Take a break from sunbathing and check out the unique shops and restaurants lining Main Street.
The Best Beach For When You Just Can't Decide
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Location In away-from-the-city haven Prince Edward County (for the uninitiated, that's about two hours east of Toronto).
The Vibe With golden sand stretching across three beaches in the park, there's something for everyone at Sandbanks. (We recommend the sand dunes at sunset.)
The Details A Sandbanks visit is the perfect way to spend time in P.E.C. in between wine tours, antique shopping and must-try foodie stops.
Best beach for exploring
Location Tucked into the eastern shore of Lake Superior, 155 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The Vibe Crystal-clear water creeps up the sand and into the evergreens. Go exploring beyond the beach for new sights and uncharted territory around every corner.
The Details You might spot First Nations pictographs on rocks in the area if you go for a hike. And don’t miss nearby Bathtub Island, where a warm shallow pool awaits.
Best beach for building sandcastles
Du Havre-Aubert Beach
Location Surrounded by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, in Quebec’s Magdalen Islands.
The Vibe Home to the world’s biggest sandcastle contest, a sense of childlike wonderment exists for all ages at Havre-Aubert, where elaborate castles always blanket the beach.
The Details Resisting the urge to create a show-stopping castle is hard, so come prepared with a bucket and shovel.
Best beach for swimming
Location Less than 200km northeast of Saint John, N.B.
The Vibe Trade in your deck chair for a towel because the best thing to do on this beach is dive in and get wet.
The Details With the warmest water in the north (reaching up to 25°C), Parlee Beach can make you feel like you’re vacationing further south.
Best beach for meditation
Location A three-hour drive north of St. John’s, Nfld.
The Vibe The calm waters and spectacular views offer a serene oasis for those looking for a scenic walk or a place to finally read that book that’s been collecting dust on a bedside table.
The Details Minutes from the historical town of Sandy Cove, the beach is surrounded by picnic areas, hiking trails and the famous Sandy Cove Head Lookout, where a view of the entire beach can be captured in one photo.
Best beach for hiking
Salmon Cove Sands
Location 120km from St. John’s, Nfld
The Vibe With a hiking trail rising over 60 meters above the heart-shaped beach, Salmon Cove Sands offers a high for those who want to trek on the clifftops overlooking the Atlantic.
The Details Fishing boats making their way past the rocky shores and whales feeding on caplin at the mouth of the cove can be spotted from the trail.
Best beach for a “Caribbean” escape
Location 160km southwest of Halifax
The Vibe With turquoise tides and sparkling white sand, Carters Beach lends a tropical touch to the east coast. The clear water is perfect for snorkelling, giving you a glimpse of the sealife lurking below the surface.
The Details The sand gets its sparkle from the surrounding granite – but granite holds cold temperatures, which means the water is icy enough to remind you that you’re still in Canada.
Best beach for wildlife watching
Location On the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island, NS
The Vibe This whale-watching mecca is a marine wonderland, so don’t forget the binoculars.
The Details Secure a spot on a whale-watching tour, as there’s no better place than this stretch of shore to see seals, dolphins and fin, minke, humpback and pilot whales.
Best beach for a kayaking trip
Cabots Landing Beach
Location The northern tip of Cape Breton Island, NS.
The Vibe Paddle out to enjoy the view of the island and feel the salty air on your face. Stop for a picnic lunch and an afternoon hike through the trails on Wilkie Sugar Loaf mountain.
The Details Cabots was once a launching site for First Nations Mi’kmaq heading to Newfoundland.
Best beach for making music
Singing Sands Beach
Location 100km east of Charlottetown, PEI
The Vibe This beach, quite literally, speaks for itself – believe it or not, you’ll create your own soundtrack by simply shuffling along the sand. Don’t forget to pack a guitar for accompaniment.
The Details The theory is that the perfectly rounded quartz sand is what produces a clear “singing” sound while you walk – but scientists still aren’t quite sure.
Best beach for taking postcard-worthy pictures
Bennett Lake Beach
Location A 45-minute drive south of Whitehorse
The Vibe Come armed with a camera, as you’ll want to capture this unique landscape. Think blue waters fringed by the snow-capped Coast Mountains and impressive stretches of sand.
The Details Sand from Bennett Lake Beach is carried by the wind to the nearby Carcross Desert — the “World’s Smallest Desert,” as named by Guinness World Records.
Best beach for a walk on the moon
Location Cross Great Slave Lake with Jazz Air from Yellowknife, N.T.
The Vibe Glacial boulders left behind from the Ice Age form a fascinating visual moonscape here. Visit at dusk for a truly alien experience.
The Details The area is also on a band of salt flats formed by water that has percolated through underground salt deposits left by an ancient sea some 390 million years ago.
Best beach for a polar-bear plunge
Hay River beach
Location On the south shore of Great Slave Lake, across from Yellowknife, NT.
The Vibe With calm, cool waters that don't warm up until mid-summer, this beach is a prime spot for kayaking, boating, fishing or a refreshing dip after a day of soaking up rays.
The Details Once the home of an active northern trading post, Hay River is now a hot spot for viewing the natural waterfalls and the aurora borealis and for fishing expeditions.
Best beach for an adventure
Location To find your way to Brady’s Beach, you have to first find your way to tiny Bamfield, B.C. There are no paved roads leading into town, so visitors get here by hiking the West Coast Trail or catching a floatplane from Port Alberni.
The Vibe Beautiful and secluded in the most wonderful way, this rugged bit of coastline will keep you intrigued for days.
The Details Brady’s Beach is one of B.C.’s best-kept secrets. Search out the blowhole in the craggy rocks – it’s said to spout water six metres in the air when the waves crash.
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