The beach life is the good life. There’s something about land surrendering to sea that calms my senses – even when I’m storm-watching on Canada’s wild west coast! As a cold weather-averse Canadian (I realize this statement makes me something of an oxymoron) living in Vancouver, each winter I seek sun solace in Vitamin D-prone destinations like California or Australia. The last day of every beach vacation goes something like this: in a fit of heat-deprived bliss, I consider chucking my return flight ticket out to sea.
Summer is a whole other story with a strong case – think SPF 50 – for Canada’s beach life. As a four-season country cradled between two oceans, plus enough lakes and rivers to sink a ship, our waterfront overfloweth; meaning every major metro comes complete with a beach. Here’s where to find the hottest plots of sand in Canada’s cosmopolitan cities.
Surrounded in sea, Vancouver’s bathed in beaches (spoiler alert: some even sprout petite palm trees)! The best part: many of the city’s sandy swaths are within walking distance from downtown’s hottest hotel addresses, while others are a quick bike, bus, or Aquabus ride away.
To fully escape Vancouver’s skyscraping skyline and become one with the horizon, cycle to Second Beach in Stanley Park. This slice of Pacific Ocean paradise is best experienced leaning against a log while watching day dissolve into night, noshing on take-out from Nook pizzeria. In town, English Bay is one of the city’s most iconic beaches – think palm trees and a floating slide – surrounded by a ton of restaurants, including the homegrown Cactus Club Cafe. Just across the water, take a bus to Spanish Banks, quintessentially west coast for its far-reaching sandbar and forest backdrop. Finally, Kits completes the coastal city’s beachfront, sporting a score of volleyball courts and grassy patches if you’d prefer to enjoy the sun sans sand in your toes.
Viewfinder Tip: Bring your bathing suit to Canada’s major metros to suntan in the city.
Lounging at the edge of Lake Ontario, Toronto is Canada’s largest cosmo with a beach for every urban sunbather. My two best bets are also the most colorful, and conveniently cozied up to downtown. A few blocks from the Toronto Convention Center, HtO Park is marked by perma, yellow-topped umbrellas, wooden Muskoka chairs (known as Adirondack chairs South of the 49th parallel), and a completely different pace of life. A few blocks East is another sandy stretch called Sugar Beach, an artsy space showcasing dusty rose sunshades, white chairs, and candy cane-colored rocks in a nod to its location fronting the Redpath Sugar Factory. While the two-acre park’s promenade is lined with maple trees, sadly, you’ll have to find local syrup elsewhere (syrup goes better with snow anyway).
Sugar Beach, courtesy Danielle Petti
Splashing onto the scene in summer 2012, Montreal took a page out of Paris’ playbook and opened a white sand stretch along their riverfront. Dotted in powder blue parasols, the 3.2-acre Clock Tower Beach sits pretty beside a fresh catch of yachts and sail boats moored in a quiet section of the St. Lawrence River. Located at the foot of Old Montreal’s cobblestone streets, it’s the perfect perch to cool down – seriously, it has misters – and sip a bevvy from its bar after a busy day of sightseeing.
What urban beaches do you flock to during summer?