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1 June 2023

5 Reasons To Summer On Lake Huron

Snug Harbour, Franklin Island, Georgian Bay. Photo c/o Destination Ontario

Having spent most of my life in Ontario’s Great Lakes region, I often take for granted the access we have to these giant basins of freshwater.

My personal favourite is Lake Huron. I spent many happy childhood days digging in the wide sand at Wasaga Beach and my teen years camping at the Pinery and Awenda Provincial Parks.

As an adult, I fell in love with the lake all over again when I started visiting the shores with my then-boyfriend-now-husband. We loved going to Bayfield, staying at the Little Inn, visiting the wonderful Village Bookshop and strolling along the beach at sunset. We got married in Kincardine at the Beach Pavilion and have been going back to Lake Huron every summer since. It really doesn’t feel like a complete summer unless we’ve had a least a few days with our three children on Lake Huron.

Over the years, we have found some amazing places to visit on these annual summer trips. Read on below for some of our favourites as I outline my top 5 reasons to summer on Lake Huron.

Reason #1: The Coastline

Boaters look over the bow of a glass-bottomed tourboat as it passes through the clear waters of Fathom Five National Marine Park near Tobermory. Photo by Destination Ontario

While it is not the largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron actually has the longest coastline of any freshwater lake in the world due mainly to its jutting peninsulas and thousands of islands. The lake, which sits between Canada and the United States, offers a breathtaking variety of coastline — from rocky shores and windswept pines to sandy beaches and high cliffs overlooking turquoise waters.

Canada’s side of Lake Huron stretches from Sarnia in the south all the way up to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, then around Georgian Bay to Sault Ste. Marie. It encompasses Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, and the 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay, the largest freshwater archipelago in the world.

If you’re into water activities such as diving, paddling or swimming, you’ll find perfect locations along the coastline. Tobermory is famous for its diving spots, while the Georgian Bay Islands are a paradise for exploring by kayak or canoe.

Reason #2: The Beaches

Building a sandcastle at Wasaga Beach. Photo c/o Ontario Parks

When I think of Lake Huron beaches, I immediately think of the long golden stretch of sand in Wasaga, Grand Bend or in the Pinery. But given Lake Huron’s size, there are actually different types of beaches depending on where you go.

Craigleith Provincial Park near Collingwood, for example, has a shale rock beach, while Georgian Bay has polished granite shores. Wasaga, which is famous for its wide sand and shallow waters, has the world’s longest freshwater beach.

While I love all beaches, my kids and I prefer sand. Some of our favourites include:

  • Providence Bay Beach on Manitoulin Island. When we visited this beach last, the waves were huge, the water was cold and the sand was lovely and clean. We were there on a sunny day in July and had the beach to ourselves. The kids had a great time jumping over the waves and it reminded us very much of the ocean. Manitoulin Island is overall an amazing destination.
  • MacGregor Point Provincial Park. The park has a few beaches but we usually travel with friends that bring their pups so the dog beach is our go-to. MacGregor Point has a spectacular dog beach with lots of room for dogs to run and play.
  • Grand Bend Beach. Visiting Grand Bend always feels like a holiday — the atmosphere is lively, the sand is soft and warm and the water is refreshing. Expect it to be busy and if you are going on a weekend, go early. You can bring a picnic or visit one of the nearby restaurants for lunch and dinner.

Reason #3: The Sunsets

In Michigan, Lake Huron is known for its killer sunrises, but on the Canadian side, it is all about the sunsets. My favourite part of visiting Lake Huron starts at the Golden Hour when the sun begins to lower on the horizon, loses its fierceness and bathes the beach and beachgoers is a soft warm light.

I could live forever in these beach moments.

The sunsets on Lake Huron are legendary and we never miss one when we are visiting the shore, even if it means putting the kids to bed well past their bedtimes. You really can’t go wrong on any west facing Lake Huron beach, but some of our favourite sunsets have been in Grand Bend, Bayfield and Kincardine. We’ve also seen spectacular sunsets in Awenda as well as in Manitoulin.

Reason #4: The Little Towns

Kincardine Lighthouse

The Lake Huron coastline is dotted with charming towns and villages. Goderich, one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, is probably the most well known and its a wonderful destination for a summer family vacation. The downtown is easy to navigate, the beach is wide and welcoming and the town is full of wonderful shops. There is also a strong theatre community in Goderich with the Goderich Little Theatre and the Huron County Playhouse both offering great shows.

Kincardine, which we visit quite often because it is located close to our family, is also a lovely seaside town with some good eateries and a cool lighthouse. Grand Bend, Port Elgin and Parry Sound each offer their own charms. There are many more that we have yet to explore and one of our favourite things to do on a free summer weekend is to pick a new spot to visit (we are lucky to live within a couple hours drive of the lake).

But if you ask me for my top recommendation for a seaside town on Lake Huron, it is hands down Bayfield. I have a soft spot for Bayfield — it holds many amazing summer memories for me, especially as I’ve watched my family grow. In fact, it was the first trip we took as a family of five, when our youngest was only a few weeks old.

What I love about Bayfield is that when you visit in the summer, it really feels like a seaside holiday. The beach is spectacular, of course, but it is the unique shops, delicious restaurants and friendly vibe that keeps us coming back. On Fridays, the market square (Clangregor Square) hosts a farmers’ market, there is also a great playground and splash pad where the kids can play for a few hours while the parents enjoy a cup of coffee and most things are easily walkable.

Reason #5: The Parks

Photo by Rob Stimpson/Ontario Parks

Beach vacations can get expensive and what I love about Lake Huron is that it is home to many provincial and national parks that make it accessible for families to camp.

We have made use of Ontario Parks all along the Lake Huron shore, including MacGregor Point, Awenda, Killbear and the Pinery. The convenience of being near the beautiful Lake Huron beaches (and sunsets) while enjoying camping make these parks some of the most popular in the province. Check out Ontario Parks for a full list of parks on this Great Lake (including Inverhuron and Point Farms).

Canada Parks also operates Bruce Peninsula National Park in Tobermory — famous for its Grotto and turquoise waters — as well as the Fathom Five National Marine Park next door. On the Georgian Bay side of Lake Huron, Parks Canada also operates the Georgian Bay Islands National Park, which is water access only.

Even if you are not a camper, these parks offer access to the shoreline with amenities for day tripping, such as washroom facilities and parking.

Do you have a favourite spot on Lake Huron?

Category: Ontario