Story by Vacay.ca Staff
One of Canada’s best-kept secrets is that it is full of beaches. In a country with a world-leading 265,523 kilometres of coastline — nearly twice as much as the United States, the No. 2 nation in the category — the wealth of sand and seashells shouldn’t be a surprise. Some of Canada’s beaches are so outstanding, in fact, that any ardent beach-goer would readily categorize them as world class. At Vacay.ca, we have spent recent months combing the sandy spots of the nation, determining which beaches are the absolute finest and deserve a visit from you this summer.
The criteria for our choices included rating the beaches on their quality of warm and clean water, amenities, accessibility, swimming and water sports options, safety, sense of place, relaxation, and facilities.
Some terrific beaches did not make the list. Among the notable omissions are Bennett Beach (Yukon), Devonshire Beach (Alberta), Kellys Beach (New Brunswick), Parksville Beach (British Columbia), Sauble (Ontario), and Carter’s Beach (Nova Scotia). As always when Vacay.ca’s travel experts produce one of our lists, we welcome public opinion. Send us an email to let us know your favourite beach in Canada — after you’ve perused our list.
[box_light]Vacay.ca’s Top Beaches on CTV: Click here to watch![/box_light]
In time for the solstice, here are the Vacay.ca Top 10 Beaches in Canada for 2013:
1. Singing Sands, Basin Head Provincial Park, Souris, PEI
Location: 93 kilometres east of Charlottetown
Interesting Facts: For reasons scientists are still trying to figure out, this beach makes a strange swishing sound whenever the wind swirls or when a visitor walks on it. Tourism officials on Prince Edward Island suggest the reason may be because of the texture and consistency of the quartz sand. Nevertheless, the sound is a unique feature of a beach that has some of the warmest waters north of Florida. In summer, the water temperature will top 21 Celsius degrees (70 Fahrenheit) at Singing Sands and other sandy spots on PEI, which has more than 800 kilometres of beaches to explore.
Why This Beach Rocks: Some of the warmest waters in the northern hemisphere. The supervised beach is in a day-use (summer) park that has a play area, food, washroom, shower facilities, and the Basin Head Fisheries Museum.
2. Wasaga Beach, Ontario
Location: 134 kilometres north of Toronto
Interesting Facts: In 2007, a major fire ripped through the main street pedestrian mall of this beach town in the Georgian Bay region. The blaze destroyed several businesses and damaged the lucrative tourism industry. It was a difficult time for the community but Wasaga Beach has hardly missed a beat since renovations were completed. Wasaga Beach is uniquely situated. The bustling beach city, which may be the closest thing Canada has to anything resembling Daytona Beach or Fort Lauderdale, is located between two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves — the Georgian Bay Littoral and Niagara Escarpment.
Why This Beach Rocks: For high school students from the surrounding areas, Wasaga is the ultimate hangout and the place to go for good times. Wasaga is the world’s longest freshwater beach (14 km). The provincial park that bears its name has eight beach areas. Great events throughout the year include the Wasaga Beach Fest (June 22-23), Wasaga Beach Short Film Festival (May 21 to October 15), and Wasaga Beach Blues Fest (September 13-15).
3. Brady’s Beach, Bamfield, British Columbia
Location: 174 km west of Nanaimo and 130 km south of Tofino
Interesting Facts: An Alberta investor named Jack Purdy is working on a $60-million plan to boost Bamfield’s tourism infrastructure, meaning this mostly unknown gem of a community is likely to be very well known in a few years. Brady’s Beach is a secluded place on the Pacific Ocean, accessible only by ferry, float plane or an unpaved logging road. Intrigued to visit this beach? Aim to be there from July 6-14, when the Music By The Sea festival takes place.
Why This Beach Rocks: Surrounded by the Pacific Rim National Park, the ocean, government-owned land and First Nations territory, Bamfield is about as enclosed and intimate a community as you will find in Canada. Brady’s Beach benefits from that topography and political structure. It features rugged coastline, fresh water, and scuba diving, and is close to the Barkley Sound islands, populated by sea lions and bald eagles.
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: “Brady’s Beach in Bamfield, a funny little place that Garrison Keillor or Richard Russo could go to town with, is a British Columbian beauty with many of the hallmarks of the legendary beach-to-end-all-beaches: It’s hard to reach and nearly unheard of; has not one café, chain hotel, Starbucks or McDonald’s near it; and possesses the ability to put your mind in a place you might only be able to reach with hard drugs.” Read more about Brady’s Beach
4. Ingonish Beach, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Location: 127 km north of Sydney, Cape Breton’s largest city
Interesting Facts: A natural barrier at this beach separates the salt water from the Atlantic and the fresh water streaming in from rivers on the island, allowing swimmers the unusual choice of dipping into either the ocean or a lake. The beach is extremely popular with Nova Scotians because of the warm water and its spaciousness.
Why This Beach Rocks: Scenic cruises and whale watching are also available. Along with the variety of swimming options, the area on the Cabot Trail also offers both salt-water and fresh-water fishing.
5. Long Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
Location: 189 km west of Nanaimo on Highway 4
Interesting Facts: Twenty-thousand grey whales migrate up this coast each spring and summer. Whale-watching tours operate from Tofino and nearby Ucluelet. Word of warning though — this area gets lots of rain, as it is in a temperate rainforest. July to September are the best months to arrive.
Why This Beach Rocks: Storm watching, whale watching … this beach has all kinds of thrills, whether you’re in the water or not. The longest sandy beach on Vancouver Island, with 16.6 km of pristine sand washed by a cool pounding surf, Long Beach offers eye-popping scenic views. Long Beach is in a stunning environment, running alongside the Pacific Rim National Park and in sight of the enchanting Wickaninnish Inn.
Vacay.ca West Coast Sports Editor Miguel Strother says: “Surfing in the Pacific on the Canadian west coast, as cold as it sounds, might just be one of the most beautiful things to do anywhere in the world.” Read more about surfing in Tofino
6. Grand Beach Provincial Park, Manitoba
Location: 100 km north of Winnipeg on Highway 59
Interesting Facts: Living on Lake Winnipeg, Grand Beach Provincial Park includes 3 km of beautiful landscape. Some of the dunes near this beach are 12 metres high. The beloved boardwalk that runs along the beach was built in the 1930s — a great place to go for a sunset stroll. The family will enjoy tons of activities, including beach volleyball.
Why This Beach Rocks: Berries, baby … and lot’s of them! While you enjoy a long hike on this beautiful beach, you can pick berries along the way. You’ll find Saskatoon berries ripening toward the end of June, and Chokecherries and Blueberries are ripe by August.
7. Havre-Aubert Beach (Sandy Hook), Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands), Quebec
Location: On an island, 20 km north of Nova Scotia
Interesting Facts: Catch a plane, take a cruise from Montreal or the daily ferry from Souris, PEI. This beach features 12 golden kilometres of beautiful sandy beach, with a view of Entry Island from Bout du Banc Point. A great place to disappear and be creative — no wonder you’ll find so many artists, especially sand artists, flocking to this community. In August, the water temperature will top 20 Celsius degrees (68 Fahrenheit).
Why This Beach Rocks: One big reason — one of the world’s best sandcastle contests, the Concours de Châteaux de Sable (August 9-11, 2013).
8. Parlee Beach, Shediac, New Brunswick
Location: 32 km north of Moncton on Highway 15
Interesting Facts: Overlooking the Northumberland Strait, which separates New Brunswick and Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island, Parlee Beach Provincial Park is convenient for families, campers and RV owners. It has 190 campsites. Away from the beach, you’ll find the world’s largest lobster sculpture, a roadside attraction in Shediac.
Why This Beach Rocks: The salt water is warm and the beach is close to a community, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the restaurants and other amenities in the town.
9. Martinique Beach, East Petpeswick, Nova Scotia
Location: 61 km east of Halifax
Interesting Facts: Five kilometres of beach to picnic, BBQ and play on. This area is a home for several different species of birds, and is a protected area for the piping plover, a bird you have probably never heard of before. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get a good look at friendly seal, who will occasionally buzz the shoreline to give appreciative gawkers a look. Another reason people love to visit this beach is for diving, where water temperature rises to as high as 18 Celsius degrees (64 Fahrenheit) in late summer.
Why This Beach Rocks: A beautiful beach and a bird sanctuary is one of the attractions. The loud waves and gorgeous sandy expanse attract surfers, beachcombers and swimmers from around the globe.
10. Sandbanks, Prince Edward County, Ontario
Location: 98 km west of Kingston on Highway 401
Interesting Facts: Everything a beach lover wants can be found at Sandbanks, including windsurfing, boating and wonderful swimming opportunities. Visitors can also indulge in several great (and tasty) events and fairs, featuring wine, maple syrup and cheese — not to mention antiques, fishing, bluegrass music and quilts. Two hiking routes that will please active travellers are the Woodlands Trail and the Cedar Sands Trail.
Why This Beach Rocks: On the shores of Lake Ontario, Sandbanks features golden dunes that form two of the largest freshwater sandbars in the world. With more than 549 campsites in the surrounding provincial park, Sandbanks is a great spot for all kinds of summer activities.