Sunset on the St. Clair River
Arrive on a misty evening when the fog horns are booming and you’ll be surprised at how maritime southern Ontario can feel as you pull up to Sheboane Suites bed and breakfast in St. Clair, south of Sarnia. Behemoth sea-going freighters quietly ply this stretch of water, making ship-spotting the favourite waterfront pastime, either from the riverfront deck or your private balcony overlooking the water. On the desk in the well-stocked bedroom, a pair of binoculars and a copy of Know Your Ships: The Seaway Issue which comes in handy for those of us who can’t tell a tug from a tanker. Swim in the river, lounge in the gardens and watch the sunset over the water. The gas fireplace and an oversized whirlpool tub add a touch of romance. On a rainy day, stroll through Sarnia’s new Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery to take in some exciting contemporary Canadian art.
Point Farms Provincial Park
Dip your toes into the surf along a kilometre of unspoiled beach. Watch the sun slip over the horizon into Lake Huron. Build sandcastles with the kids or just laze on the sand. Point Farms Provincial Park is not as famous as the nearby Pinery. But this provincial park is conveniently located just four kilometres north of bustling Goderich, and is a favourite with swimmers because of its shallow, warm waters. When you’ve exhausted the beach, enjoy the view from the bluff overlooking the lake and walk the three-kilometre trail that winds through the former farmland to admire the traces of split rail fences and old orchards. The park has more than 200 campsites but if you are desiring a little urban luxury, opt for the riverside Samuels Boutique Hotel in Goderich.
Point Petre Wildlife Conservation Area
Although Prince Edward County is famous for the towering sand dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park, its extensive—more than 500-kilometre-long coastline— offers many quiet stretches far from the crowds and the relentless drone of jet skis. The southern shore of the county is one of Ontario’s top bird watching areas attracting hundreds of species, from warblers to wood ducks fly through during spring and fall migrations. But you don’t need a bird book or binoculars to appreciate Point Petre’s rugged limestone ledges and pebble beaches. Just stroll along the shore and search for driftwood.
Victoria Park, Cobourg
Mermaids, monsters, castles—they’ve all turned up on the beach at Cobourg during the Sand Castle Festival which enters its eighth year on August 3 and 4. Bring your shovels, sculpting tools and imagination to enter the competition, which features both master sand sculptors and enthusiastic amateurs. Or just enjoy the sand and Lake Ontario shoreline. Meander along the boardwalk and watch a family movie on the beach at dusk. Best of all, you don’t have to wait until August. This beach is groomed all summer starting the Victoria Day long weekend. And when you’ve had enough midday sun, the town’s many historic charms will keep you well entertained.
Canatara Park, Sarnia
Yes, Sarnia. This industrial city also boasts one of the most outstanding waterfront parks found in any Ontario municipality. Roughly 1.5 kilometres of white sandy beach on Lake Huron are perfect for playing in the surf or just lying on the sand and admiring the strikingly blue water. Forgot your beach chair? The Beach Bums concession rents chairs and towels. Or hire a bicycle to explore the 200-acre park where stately oak trees shade the lawns. At the centre of the park is Lake Chipican where your kids will enjoy watching the sassy ducks. Little ones will want to head for the red barn populated with farm animals—angora goats, sheep, guinea pigs, chickens and more. You will have a hard time prying the kids off the new choo choo complete with steam whistle, old-timey engine and caboose. Public washrooms and change rooms make this a convenient spot. Best of all almost everything is free. If you seek something a little more serene, drive 35 kilometres north on Lakeshore Rd. to the lesser known, but lovely, Charles McEwen Conservation Area for a tranquil stretch of sandy shoreline.