When the city is hot and bustling, sometimes there’s no greater respite than the beaches in and around Toronto. From miles of sandy dunes and rocky shorelines to tiny, pebbled beaches, the waterways of the city offer it all.
Woodbine Beach wins the award for not only being the largest beach within the city of Toronto but perhaps the local favorite. With 38 acres (15 ha) of sandy waterfront, you’ll find multiple spots for a barbecue with friends, kids flying kites, playgrounds and volleyball nets for a quick, drop-in game. Here, you’ll also find the Donald D Summerville Outdoor Olympic Pool, with views overlooking Lake Ontario and a seriously wicked high-diving board for those who want to test their inner daredevil. Didn’t pack a snack? There are stands with food for purchase, and during the summer months, an ice cream truck is filled with sweet treats.
While this urban beach may be bustling on a sunny day, it sure is pretty, sprinkled with pastel-pink umbrellas. You’ll often find downtown professionals sunbathing during their lunch hour or travelers snapping some photos here. Plus, there’s a water feature that’s more akin to a splash pad if the little ones (or adults) need cooling off. The beach is attached to both a plaza and a park, perfect for picnicking or sipping a glass of rosé on the grass.
Found in Toronto’s east end, Bluffer’s Park is a little tucked-away slice of paradise nestled into the shady nearby bluffs (hence the name). With a more protected inlet, the waters seem a tad warmer and cleaner for swimming, as well as sandy to save toes from sharp rocks. If you head to the pier within the park, there’s great fishing to be had, as well as a seafood-lover’s restaurant and bar – Bluffer’s Park Marina.
Hanlan’s Point makes up part of the surrounding Toronto Islands – every Torontonian’s favorite getaway spot. This beach is best suited to adults, as technically, no swimsuits are required. While considered a nudist beach, most opt for at least bottoms, and the beach vibe feels more like spring break in Miami than a quiet island in Toronto. With easy bike trails, changing rooms, restaurants and firepits, this island deserves a whole day of exploration.
This town lies on the southern end of Georgian Bay, meaning it’s a solid hour and a half away from Toronto. But considering it’s the longest freshwater beach in the world (with a fun boardwalk to boot), it’s always worth the drive. Nestled in the sandbanks, you can spot wildlife, such as the endangered piping plover. You’ll also find the Wasaga Nordic Centre and Trail, perfect for a quick jaunt through nature. After a day of sand and sun, indulge at Catch 22 Fresh Market Grill for contemporary Canadian fare.
Located within one of Ontario’s oldest provincial parks, Long Point offers some of the warmest waters on Lake Erie. Drive two hours outside the city early in the morning to experience a cotton-candy-hued sunrise, and then explore this designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve by canoe (rentals available outside the park) to get up close to the wildlife. If birdwatching is your thing, there are over 300 species to be discovered that migrate every spring and autumn. Finish off your day by picking up firewood from the park store and hitting up the private firepits for a romantic evening under the stars.
If you’re planning a little Prince Edward County getaway, you can’t miss Sandbanks Provincial Park. Home to the biggest sand dune system in the world, a freshwater sand bar and three beaches, there truly is no other place quite like it. Active adventurers can explore the boardwalk trails that weave through the dunes and wetlands of the park, while birders can kayak along the shallow waters to experience this bird migration hotspot. Within proximity to some of Ontario’s best wineries, farm-to-table restaurants and boutique shops, this beach is best reserved for a full-weekend retreat.