One of the ultimate luxuries of living in rural Ontario is having year-round access to beautiful quiet beaches. It’s easy to take for granted that we live right beside some of the cleanest and most pristine fresh water beaches on earth.
Beach quality is a major concern of mine: when my children and I play in the water, I want to be sure that it’s clean and safe. Rural communities that are embracing the value of beach quality should be recognized and commended for their efforts in caring about their local environment and playing their part to protect our planet.
Our beaches are getting international attention as well: eight of Ontario’s rural beaches are recognized by Blue Flag as being among the world’s best for water and beach quality. The Blue Flag award is truly inspired by ruralists. The organization was established in France in 1985, when French coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag for complying with sewage treatment and bathing water quality criteria.
Today the Blue Flag organization works towards sustainable development of beaches and is owned and run by the non-government, non-profit organization Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) based in Copenhagen Denmark. The organization has recognized 3650 beaches in 46 countries around the world. Beaches are awarded the Blue Flag for one season at a time, based on strict compliance with 32 criteria. If the criteria are not fulfilled during the season or the conditions change, the Blue Flag may be withdrawn.
Have a look at what Blue Flag is saying about Ontario’s eight best rural beaches:
Port Stanley Beach
“The Port Stanley beach is an urban sand beach enjoyed by thousands every summer. It is situated on Lake Erie’s north shore, with beach volleyball, a boardwalk, free parking, friendly service, lots to do and everything you need close by. There are superb and historic B&Bs, elegant harbourside inns, fully equipped cottages, cozy retreats and much more. The beach is staffed with lifeguards from late June until early September. A beach wheelchair is available while the lifeguards are on duty, and washrooms and change facilities are accessible for the people with disabilities.”
Grand Bend Beach
“Grand Bend Beach consists of approximately 20 acres of beautiful sandy beach. Located in an urban/resort setting, Main Beach is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. For many it has become a generational destination. The area serving the beach is the exciting and vibrant downtown…with dozens of restaurants, snack bars and more, all within walking distance. The beach has a wide range of amenities, including its new beach house which contains women’s and men’s washrooms, an accessible washroom, and a concession booth, and a viewing deck with stair and elevator access gives visitors a fantastic panoramic view of the lake, harbor and downtown. Fully trained lifeguards and staff monitor the beach daily from mid-June to September 3rd between the hours of 11am to 6pm during weekends and statutory holidays, and from 11am to 5pm weekdays. ‘User pay’ parking lots are capable of accommodating approximately 450 cars directly adjacent to the beach but the beach is busy so if there isn’t room there, there are several other lots a short walking distance away.”
Bayfield Main Beach
“This beach is located in Bayfield, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron. This small sandy beach has amenities close to the beach including accessible public washrooms and parking. On the north side of the beach, the pier at the mouth of the Bayfield River provides opportunities for boat watching, fishing or strolling at sunset. A pedestrian walkway a short distance east of the beach joins the beach and marina visitors to the scenic Main Street of Bayfield. This beach contains naturally sensitive features such as dunes and bluffs.”
“Station Beach is Kincardine’s primary beach. Situated along Lake Huron, this beautiful sandy beach with small pebbles stretches over 1.1 km and is a favorite destination for many. The water is shallow with a gentle slope and the beach is bounded by a boardwalk. Fully equipped lifesaving stations and first aid are available along the beach. A snack stand is located within walking distance and offers a variety of goodies for visitors. Parking is free.”
“This 14-kilometre sandy beach is located on Georgian Bay. Every summer thousands of people flock to this provincial park to enjoy its natural wonder. The park features hiking trails, a historic site that tells Wasaga’s colorful naval history, jazz concerts and environmental educational activities. Lifeguards patrol the entire beach area and first aid equipment is readily available. All necessary amenities are within walking distance.”
“Located on the shores of Lake Huron, this rural sandy beach stretches over 6 kilometers and is surrounded by a natural dune ecosystem. Fully equipped lifesaving stations are available on site with an emergency response unit in close proximity. Adjacent to many amenities, including restaurants and clothing stores.”
Northwinds Beach Park
“Situated in the heart of Georgian Bay, close to Craigleith Provincial Park and across the road from the historic Craigleith Depot, Northwinds is a small sandy beach which is the home of board sailing. There is a fully equipped lifesaving station and amenities including public washrooms and parking. Trees provide natural shade. Tables and barbeques are located throughout the park for picnics. This beach is a perfect place to spend the day with family and friends.”
Little River Beach Park
“Situated next to Thornbury Harbour, Little River Beach Park is positioned in the tip of Georgian Bay. The pebbled beach has a fully equipped lifesaving station available as well as amenities including public washrooms, a playground for kids and parking. Trees provide natural shade. This very accessible urban beach is a perfect place to spend the day with family and friends.”