Skipping off to tropical climes may be the default for those seeking sand, surf and sun, but there dozens of dazzling Ontario beaches that check all the boxes. Near or far, day trip or weekend getaway, Ontario is full of beautiful, sandy beaches just begging you to stretch out your towel and enjoy. 

In Prince Edward County you can pair your choice of several different sandy Ontario beaches with wine wandering through the area's wide breadth of wineries. Nature enthusiasts will want to take one of Ontario's best hikes out to the Grotto for crystal-clear turquoise waters. Meanwhile, Sauble Beach, with its adorable June Motel, is the throwback beach town destination of our retro dreams. Each of these Ontario beaches has something special to offer visitors and most are only a short drive from the city.

If you'd rather not pile back into the car, sun-baked and sandy, most of these Ontario beaches offer accommodations nearby. Camp out in a provincial park, post up in a motel or rent out a cozy cabin and make a whole weekend out of your beach day. Just be sure to check in advance for the most up to date information on swimming conditions and beach capacity. 

And we shouldn't have to say this but, whichever of these Ontario beaches you visit, always remember to leave the beach in the pristine condition you found it in. 

12 Ontario beaches to visit this summer

1. Grand Bend

Famous for its strikingly colourful sunsets and known for being one of Canada’s best beach towns, Grand Bend offers more than just a day of lying on the sand. A lively vacation destination in the summers, you’ll find restaurants and bars with packed patios and live music. North Grand Bend Beach sees swarms of people crowd its 20 acres of sandy beach, continuing the energetic atmosphere — head to South Beach the other side of the river for a slightly quieter respite.

2. Sauble Beach

A picture-perfect beach town if ever there was one, Sauble’s main strip is lined with surf shops, ice cream parlours and burger shacks, and complete with a retro “Welcome to Sauble Beach” sign. As for the beach itself, you can’t beat seven kilometres of pristine sand on the shore of Lake Huron — it’s the second largest freshwater beach in the world. A recent revamp of the area has seen cutesy motels move in, but you can also camp in Sauble Falls Provincial Park. Leave your cell phone behind and let the retro beach vibes transport you to simpler times.

3. Pancake Bay

Protected by two promontories, Pancake Bay offers a sheltered section of the world’s largest freshwater lake to take a dip in. While the bay may warm up faster than other parts of the lake, the sheer size of Lake Superior keeps the water fairly cold until mid-summer. Sitting pretty at 3.2 km, the fine sand beach is one of the best in the province. Campout overnight in a yurt at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, located along the historic paddling route of the voyageurs.

4. Hanlan’s Point

Clothing may be optional at this one-kilometre stretch of beach on the Toronto Islands, but fun sure isn’t. Dozens of boats pull up to the beach on weekends, cranking out tunes and contributing to the party atmosphere at Hanlan’s Point. Drinking remains illegal at Toronto beaches but you’d never know it hanging out on this beach. Prepare for a raucous time and don’t forget to sunscreen your unmentionables — and check the ferry schedule.

5. Indian Head Cove

Crystal-clear turquoise waters, rocky promontories and lush forest are a sight for sore eyes at this incredibly scenic spot. Well worth the half-hour-hike through Bruce Peninsula National Park, this breathtaking inlet on the shore of Georgian Bay is a small slice of paradise. While it may look tropical, be prepared for cooler waters due to its location at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Hike for another five minutes to find the Grotto, a cave enclosing a pool of sparkling blue water — swim inside and explore this natural gem.

6. Sandbanks

The mighty sand dunes are the draw at this picturesque provincial park, along with its famous sandy beaches. There are three to choose from: Outlet Beach is the most popular, with two kilometres of sand gently sloping into Lake Ontario, while Lakeshore Beach and Dunes Beach are quieter escapes. Dunes Beach is the best place to spy its namesake sand formations, and as the largest bay mouth barrier dune formation in the world, the waters on this side are sheltered, offering warmer swimming conditions.

7. Wasaga Beach

Though its reputation as a party town may be known far and wide, the real draw here is the beach, which also stretches far and wide. At 14 km, this sandy expanse is the longest freshwater beach in the world. There are six different sections to choose from: You’ll find the crowds at Beach 1 and 2, dogs are welcome on Beach 3 and those after a quieter atmosphere should head to Beach 4 or 5. Nature enthusiasts will want to check out the system of trails and sand dunes, but if you just came here to party, we don’t blame you.

8. Port Dover

Breathtaking Ontario beaches | Sunset at Port Dover beach

This resort town is known for its famous motorcycle rallies, a 40-year-old tradition where bikers gather every Friday the 13th to ride the Norfolk Route. Outside of this event, Port Dover draws visitors with its sandy beach on the warm waters of Lake Erie, outfitted with palm trees and a pier complete with a little lighthouse. For a true taste of the lake, nearby restaurants like The Beach House serve Lake Erie perch and pickerel on the menu.

9. North Beach

A less-busy alternative to Sandbanks, North Beach Provincial Park offers a quieter beach day destination in Prince Edward County. The park straddles Lake Ontario and North Bay, with sandy beaches on either side — 1,200 metres face the lake, while 800 metres face the bay. There aren’t any overnight accommodations here, so post up in one of the County’s charming hotels or head home after watching the sunset, of course.

10. Agawa Bay

Another gem on the coast of Lake Superior, this beach is located at the Agawa Bay Campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Here, the 3 km-beach is on the pebblier side — swimmers with sensitive feet beware. The rocky area is also home to Agawa Rock. Don’t miss a visit to this sacred site where generations of Ojibwe painted their dreams and sprits onto the rock in red ochre.

11. Cobourg Beach

Backing onto the 12.5-acre Victoria Park, Cobourg Beach or Victoria Park Beach is a sandy oasis with ample access to picnic areas and landscaped lawns. There’s also a splash pad and two playgrounds onsite. Further west of Victoria Park, Cobourg’s West Beach is a lesser-known spot with a mix of sand and pebbles, and a beautiful boardwalk running from Ontario Street to Hibernia Street.

12. Crystal Beach

It’s all in the name. Known interchangeably as Bay Beach or Crystal Beach, this strip of sandy shore boasts crystal-clear waters. Located in the waterfront community of Crystal Beach in Fort Erie, you’ll find plenty of shops, bars and restaurants within a 10-minute walk. Having recently undergone renovations to make the beach more accessible, the facility now includes an accessible ramp down to the beach, a viewing deck and a state-of-the-art public washroom with changerooms, lockers and foot showers.