Do you dream of soft sand and clear blue water? Summertime at the beach is a vacay dream; it can be a playground (beach volleyball! Paddle boarding!) or the ultimate relaxation lounge (reading! Doing absolutely nothing!). This may be surprising to some, but Ontarians don’t need to get on a plane to reach quality beaches. Grand Bend, Wasaga, Sandbanks and Woodbine may be some of the province’s best-known beaches, but there are many more idyllic (read: less busy) options to add to your beach bucket list. Read on for nine options. Note: Please be a responsible traveller. Stay home if you don’t feel well and make sure holiday plans follow the latest provincial guidelines for travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Brights Grove Beach

Where: Sarnia, Ontario
Cost: Free
Website: www.ontbluecoast.com

Twenty minutes from Sarnia’s city centre is the province’s blue coast beaches with a little bit of everything. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard to explore Lake Huron’s shores, or hop on a bike to cycle along the beach to find a quiet spot to relax with a summer read.

2. Katherine Cove

Where: Sault Ste Marie, Ontario
Cost: Day-use fee from $12.25
Website: www.ontarioparks.com

Found within Lake Superior Provincial Park, be ready to sink your toes into powder-soft sand in this protected cove, where it’s always a good place to swim in the calm lake water. Bring a kayak to explore Lake Superior. There’s also bragging rights to obtain: hike 15 minutes from the cove to see Bathtub Island and swim in a “tub” created by Mother Nature.

3. Mille Roches Beach

Where: Long Sault, Ontario
Cost: Free
Website: www.stlawrenceparks.com

West of Cornwall, this island beach is the largest in this area of the St. Lawrence River. The spacious and tree-lined shore is perfect for paddling or dog-paddling in the calm river. For those who want to stay longer than a day, there are many campsites available for reservation right along the water at St. Lawrence Park.

4. Pancake Bay

Where: Batchwana Bay, Ontario
Cost: Day use fee from $12.25
Website: www.ontarioparks.com

An hour north of Sault Ste Marie, this pretty bay located within a provincial park has water that rivals the Caribbean for its shades of blue and three kilometres of sand. Because of its sheltered location, it’s perfect for swimming, canoeing or kayaking, but when shade is needed, escape the sun by hiking the nearby Lookout Trail to get the best view of the bay – and maybe a moose.

5. Port Burwell

Where: Port Burwell, Ontario
Cost: Day use fees from $12.25
Website: www.ontarioparks.com

South of London on the shores of Lake Erie, this provincial park offers a certified Blue Flag beach, making the grade for high water quality and environmental practices. Get a workout on the beach volleyball courts or wander the sands to see birds, butterflies and dragonflies. And don’t forget to bring Fido – there’s a dog beach too.

6. Port Dover

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Where: Port Dover, Ontario
Cost: Free
Website: www.ontariossouthwest.com

Welcome distractions are found here on the north shore of Lake Erie. There’s a pier for fishing, shops and restaurants are a short stroll away and many options to rent items to play on the lake from kayak to kitesurfing. Bonus: mats have been installed to make this a fully-accessible beach.

7. Sauble Beach

Where: Sauble Beach, Ontario
Cost: Free
Website: visitsaublebeach.ca

A long-time fave, this beach town has bragging rights with seven kilometres of coast on Lake Huron, the second largest freshwater beach in the world. All the benefits of the town make it easy to spend a day with nearby watersports rentals, boutiques and family restaurants, while there’s plenty of room to pop up the umbrella and relax on the white sand.

8. Singing Sands

Where: Tobermory, Ontario
Cost: Parking fee from $11.70
Website: www.pc.gc.ca

One of the attractions of Bruce Peninsula National Park, a short boardwalk trail from the visitor centre showcases ferns and sand dunes, before arriving on the expansive sand beach on Dorcas Bay. There’s a picnic area for when hunger strikes, and endless shallow waters to cool off, wade and make sand castles.

9. Sunset Beach

Where: St. Catherine’s, Ontario
Website: www.visitniagaracanada.com

Found close to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, it’s easy to walk, run or cycle to this Lake Ontario beach, where there’s also a small boat ramp for those wanting to explore the lakefront by canoe, kayak or small sailboat. (Note: currently the beach is open for Niagara residents only).

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