Ah, Canada Day long weekend; perhaps the most celebrated long weekend of the summer in Toronto!
If we’re not sticking around for the local celebrations, festivals and fireworks, we Torontonians generally head to a cottage or flock to nearby beaches.
With over 250,000 lakes (Ontario’s lakes contain one-fifth of the world’s fresh water) there are a ton of beach options available! So, to help out, I created a guide of some of the best beaches within driving distance of Toronto
I’ve focused on beaches that are clean and break the stigma that you can’t swim in Ontario’s Great Lakes – they are known as Blue Flag beaches. What is Blue Flag? It’s an exclusive eco-label awarded to beaches and marinas globally that meet specific environmental criteria, including water quality and beach cleanliness. Out of the 27 Blue Flag beaches in Canada, 19 can be found in Ontario – how’s that for stigma breaking?
I wrote this post as a collaboration for the Guided Toronto blog. Guided Toronto is a local tour operator, that plan amazing private guided bespoke tours in Ontario and around Toronto!
If you’re visiting Toronto, hosting guests or enjoying a stay-cation, check out Guided Toronto’s 5- star rated itineraries, for a local’s view of experiencing the true Ontario!
Stay safe & apply sunscreen – Happy Canada Day!
Port Elgin Main Beach
A beach destination since the late 1800s, Port Elgin is just three hours west of Toronto, located on the beautiful Lake Huron shoreline. Port Elgin’s Main Beach boasts 3KMs of fine sand beach, is wheelchair accessible, within walking distance to restaurants, nearby hiking trails and offers free parking. Port Elgin can get busy, so if that’s not your style, head to one of the other five beaches in the area – getting to some of these beaches requires a picturesque hike, so be sure to bring the right foot attire!
Port Stanley Main Beach
Located on Lake Erie’s north shore, Port Stanley is popular with windsurfers, families and couples alike. Only a two–hour drive West of Toronto, Port Stanley boasts a long stretch of fine sand beach, a newly re-opened pier with it’s very own lighthouse (and insta-worthy views of the town), an on-beach bar with gorgeous views and volleyball courts and of course, a plethora of dining options that range from kiosks to fine dining – the majority of which have lake views. Port Stanley offers something for everyone, and if the Main Beach gets overcrowded, make the short walk to Little Beach for a more relaxed environment.
The fine sand beach, crystal clear water, and beach town charm are why Grand Bend has been popular with Torontonians for years. Just over a two-hour drive from Toronto on Lake Huron, Grand Bend is a popular destination in the summer that exudes Australian beach town vibes. Its main strip is just off the beach and has a myriad of boutique shops, eateries and bars (which turn up the music at night and turn into full-fledged dance parties!). If you want to escape the inevitable summer crowds, you can check out one of the other beaches in the area ( Bayfield is also Blue Flag), head over to Pinery Provincial Park for some hiking (or more pristine beaches with clear water) or take advantage of one of the many golf courses in the area.
With 3000 feet of sandy beach on Lake Huron, from the air, Canatara beach looks similar to Jamaica’s infamous 7 Mile Beach…minus the palm trees. Luckily, at just under three hours West of Toronto, it’s easier (and more affordable) to get to than Jamaica. Located within Canatara Park, on Ontario’s Blue Coast near Sarnia, this beach is ideal for paddleboarding and has access to numerous hiking and biking trails. Considered an urban beach, Canatara is less known to the metropolitan population of Toronto, and in our opinion, it’s a hidden gem.
Outlet Beach – Sandbanks Provincial Park
If you haven’t been to Sandbanks Provincial Park yet, you’re missing a key aspect of summer life in Toronto.! At just under three hours East of Toronto in Prince Edward County, Sandbanks is the largest freshwater and sand bar dune system in the world. Containing a diverse ecosystem of spruce-fir trees, Caribbeans style beaches and the feel of an African desert, it receives over 750,000 guests a year, the majority in the summer months. Outlet Beach, situated on East Lake Bar, is the closest beach to the park entrance and has a 2KM long expanse of fine sand that gently slopes into the water. Perfect for paddle boarding, sun worshiping and water activities, this beach gets busy quickly, so leave early to secure your prime spot. If you want to bring your furry friend, there is a pet-friendly area at the south end of the beach.