The Beaches of Southern Ontario

Beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park Sandy beaches dot the string of coastal parks on the shores of Lake Ontario, Lakes Huron and Erie in southern Ontario.

Most provincial parks in this region feature long and wide expanses of sand dunes and marsh areas that are a bird watchers paradise. Enjoy the unique marine heritage of this region which includes amazing fishing ports, lighthouses and interpretive tours.

Sand Dunes to Explore

Marvel at the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world at Sandbanks Provincial Park. Two of the finest bay mouth and coastal sand dune systems in Ontario are found here. A hiking trail allows you to explore this unique ecosystem, with distinctive dune plants that thrive only in this environment. Wasaga Beach, the world’s longest freshwater beach is nestled in and around 14 kilometres of white sandy shore on the southern coast of Georgian Bay. It boasts a beautiful area of rare inland sand dunes, covered now with vegetation, including many rare species of wildflowers. Hiking and biking can be found in the 2,900-acre Blueberry Plains nature reserve on over 50 kilometres of trails. In the winter these trails are groomed and track-set for cross-country ski enthusiasts.

Historic Ports and Lighthouses

Many southern Ontario beaches are located near working harbours. The communities of Southampton, Port Elgin, Port Stanley, for example, all have beautiful beaches perfect for exploring history. Some, like the Southampton beaches near the Chantry Island Lighthouse, offer an opportunity to explore lighthouses and historic Presqu’ile Lighthouse near the family-oriented beaches of the nearby provincial park.

Fun in the Sun

Simply walking the shore and swimming in clear, fresh water is Ontario summer at its best. Beaches like Sauble, Wasaga and the beach at Grand Bend are well-known playgrounds, receiving millions of visitors each year. Sauble Beach was recently ranked by Maclean’s magazine as among Canada’s top 10 best beaches. Strong spring and fall winds are optimal for adventure activities such as kite surfing. Staying another night to relax and watch the sunset is a fitting end to a day of outdoor exploring. Ontario’s “West Coast” provides ample opportunities along the shores of Lake Huron to watch the sunset.

A Natural Stopover for Migrating Birds

The shorelines of the southern Great Lakes are natural funnels for waves of migrating shorebirds, raptors and songbirds. Spring and fall are the prime birding seasons, with many locations to observe birds, often guided by knowledgeable field naturalists. Special events throughout the season draw many experienced and not-so experienced birders. Long Point is a recognized United Nations World Biosphere Reserve. The parks’ beaches, sand dunes and marshes are home to an amazing variety of songbirds during March and migrating waterfowl each spring and fall. At Long Point Provincial Park, walk along the park’s boardwalk following a protected sand spit in Lake Erie. Other parks with notable beaches and birding opportunities include Port Burwell and Rondeau Provincial Parks and Point Pelee National Park.

Canada’s Southernmost Lands

The Carolinian forest zone is located deep in Southern Ontario. Here visitors will find a great diversity of plant and wildlife species, including many species not found elsewhere in Canada. This area is also home to more endangered and rare species than any other life zone in Canada. Point Pelee National Park is a tiny green oasis, which is internationally known for its spring and fall migrations of birds and its stunning autumn monarch butterfly migration. Vistas such as “The Tip” of its peninsula and Marsh Boardwalk provide unlimited opportunities to discover nature in this unique ‘deep south’ region of Canada within the Carolinian zone. There are more rare species of plants and animals here than any other region of Canada.

Oak Savannah Woodlands

Pinery Provincial Park has vast waves of sand dunes that meet the largest oak savannah woodlands remaining in North America. It teems with rare and unique butterflies, songbirds and reptiles. The Park offers 10 hiking trails that allow easy access to explore this unique ecosystem. In spring each year, the Return of the Swans provides an exciting opportunity to see up to 10,000 tundra swans stop to rest near Grand Bend and the beaches of the Pinery Provincial Park on their northward migration.

Useful Links:
Long Point Provincial Park
Point Pelee National Park
Pinery Provincial Park
Wasaga Beach Tourism
Northhumberland Tourism
Bruce County Tourism
Canada’s Carolinian Forest
City of Windsor and Essex County
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Prince Edward County Tourism
Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory
Rondeau Provincial Park
Georgian Bay Coastal Route

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