Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (2024)

In Canada, a visit to the beach doesn't just mean ice cream, basking in the sun and a bracing dip in the ocean.

If you're lucky, it might also include a bear encounter, a windswept walk amid driftwood and a chance to lob a snowball rather than a pebble into the surf.

Depending on where you are, the incoming ocean tide won't necessarily destroy your sandcastles. With only six of Canada's 13provinces and territories enjoying ice-free access to open ocean, many of the nation's sandiest beaches abut large freshwater lakes.

Narrow down your waterside options with our guide to the best beaches across Canada.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (1)

1. San Josef Bay, British Columbia

Best beach for wilderness

With a reputation for tempestuous weather and tricky access, northern Vancouver Islandin British Columbia excels in wild, lonesome beaches. The 1.6-mile (2.5km) trail to San Josef Bay starts at the end of a 43-mile (70km) unpaved logging road from Port Hardy. When the forest finally parts, you'll be delivered onto a windswept expanse of crashing surf and forested sea stacks where bushes and trees have been contorted by fierce Pacific storms.

Planning tip: Bring a tent and binoculars. You can camp right on the smooth sandy beach and spy on the resident wildlife, including eagles and ospreys.

Wondering where locals go in Canada? Check out some of our writers' favorite spots.

2. Stanhope Beach, Prince Edward Island

Best beach for avoiding the crowds

The huge, dune-rimmed beach at Stanhope, on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, sees far fewer tourists than neighbors like Cavendish Beach. For a quiet ramble, free of bustle and bounding dogs, head to the boardwalk that traverses the park's marram-grass dunes, an important nesting site for the piping plover.

Continue west, and you'll encounter the Covehead Harbour Lighthouse, a white clapboard structure that exudes PEI charm. Track east, and you'll end up at Dalvay by the Sea, a handsome Queen Anne revival-style hotel built in 1895.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (2)

3. Wasaga Beach, Ontario

Best beach for swimming

Canada may be less known for its beaches than for its stupendousnational parks or cosmopolitan cities, but it can legitimately claim to possess the longest freshwater beach in the world.

Wasaga Beach, in the Ontario town of the same name, is an 8.7-mile-long (14km) expanse of soft sand that kisses the shores of Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. The beach is part of a provincial park, meaning it's equipped with trails and opportunities to spot owls and woodpeckers. Since this is the closest full-fledged beach resort to Toronto,thousands of visitors pile in every summer, and the elongated strip can get rowdy.

Planning tip: The sand is split into six zones. Areas 1 and 2 are the most heavily trafficked, 5 is best for families, and 6 is the one to go to if you are looking for some space. All have warm, shallow water that's safe for swimming.

4. Chesterman Beach, British Columbia

Best beach for surfing

Choosing your favorite beach in Canada's surfing capital, Tofino, is like choosing your favorite deluxe sports car: they're all ridiculously good. Most surveys list Long Beach at No. 1 because it's, well, long – but many Tofitians (locals) rank the surfer's hub of Chesterman as the most complete scimitar of sand.Ringed by rock pools, islets and a narrow sand spit, it's beautiful in both early-morning mist and fiery orange-ripple sunset. The surfing, of course, is sublime.

Planning tip: Unlike Long Beach, Chesterman is close enough to town to reach by bike (with your surfboard clipped to a special bike rack) and firm enough to cycle on if you need some leg exercise before cresting the Pacific waves.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (3)

5. Kitsilano, British Columbia

Best urban beach

Kitsilanois arguably Vancouver's(and Canada's) best urban beach and feels like a freewheeling nugget of Southern California transported 1000 miles north. Backed by cool cafes and an attractive park, Kits (as the locals call it) exudes a sporty, laid-back vibe, especially in summer.

Beach volleyball is the game of choice, although there are also enough grassy expanses to spread out and toss a frisbee or football. The yellow arc of sand is sugary and clean, with views across the water toward Vancouver's glass skyscrapers and the North Shore mountains opposite.

Planning tip: If swimming in boat-filled English Bay doesn't entice you, Kits also has an enormous nearly 450ft (137m)-long saltwater pool, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

6. Shallow Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Best beach for kayaking

The bay is shallow, the beach long and the sunsets spectacular. This gentle swathe of sand protected within the boundary of Newfoundland'sGros Morne National Parkhas a mellow Caribbean feel – at least until you dip your toes in the 59ºF (15ºC) waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Kayaking is a popular activity here. You can cast off from the beach and navigate the sheltered waters of Belldowns Islands, where arctic terns nest before undertaking their marathon migration south. Whales can sometimes be spotted out at sea, and when the weather turns chilly, beachside paths turn into cross-country skiing trails.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (4)

7. Annette Lake, Alberta

Best beach for wildlife

Landlocked Albertarelies on its lakes to entertain summer beachcombers. While the province has plenty of watery escapes to lure the sand-starved, few are as perfect as tiny Annette Lake in Jasper National Park, with its forested shoreline, dramatic mountain backdrop and invigoratingly cold glacial waters. Short and narrow, Annette's patch of sand is barely the length of a frisbee throw – yet this makes for some special quirks.

Planning tip:This is one of those rare beaches where you might want to pack some bear spray alongside your blow-up raft: grizzlies are sometimes spotted in the area. Elk and mule deer provide more innocuous company.

8. Plage de la Grande Échouerie, Québec

Best beach for kitesurfing

Administratively, the Îles de la Madeleine archipelago is in Québec; geographically, it's much closer to the Maritimes. Possessing an astounding 217 miles (350km) of beaches juxtaposed with iron-rich red cliffs, its pièce de la résistance is this 6-mile (10km) sweep of pale sand on the Anglophone island of Grosse Île.

Extending northeast from Pointe Old Harry into the wetlands of the 1690-acre (684-hectare) East Point National Wildlife Reserve, Grande Échouerie invites hours of uninterrupted meditation amid tufted dunes frequented by horned grebe and piping plover.

Planning tip: The archipelago's stiff winds make it one of the best places in Canada for kitesurfing or, for the less athletically inclined, kite-flying.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (5)

9. Dunes Beach, Ontario

Best beach for dunes

The aptly named Sandbanks Provincial Park, a 2.5-hour drive east of Toronto, juts into eastern Lake Ontario, forming the world's largest bay-mouth barrier dune formation. There are three fabulous beaches here.

The two most popular, Outlet and Lakeshore, face west onto the main body of Lake Ontario. A little quieter and a lot more interesting is Dunes Beach, which abuts the cleaner, calmer waters of sheltered West Lake. Here, giant dunes dotted with trees and bushes rise steeply from the shore. While most beaches invite rest and relaxation, Dunes tempts you to indulge in short, sharp hill climbs before tumbling at full pelt back down into the lake.

10. Parlee Beach, New Brunswick

Best beach for families

With the warmest sea water in Canada and International Blue Flag certification proclaiming its safety, accessibility and environmental credentials, Parleeis far and away New Brunswick'sfinest beach, its ribbon of sand soft and golden and the water shallow and positively balmy. In high summer, lifeguards patrol at all hours, making it a favorite among families. Commercialization is kept to a minimum, and grassy dunes buffer a manicured strip of showers, change rooms and poutine-plying spots to eat.The Beach Boys once played a concert at Parlee, which is still reflected in the beach's carefree rock' n' roll spirit today.

Planning tip: Locals in the know save their appetites for the nearby lobster capital of Shediac.

Canada’s 10 best beaches: city shores and remote bays (2024)

FAQs

Which city has most beaches in Canada? ›

Vancouver's public beaches and waterfront access make it among the most liveable cities in the world. Our nine beaches – eight by the ocean, one by a freshwater lake – offer 18 km of beautiful outdoor space to sunbathe, swim, play sports, and picnic.

What are the nicest beaches in Canada? ›

Canada's best beaches
  • Wasaga Beach - Ontario.
  • Sombrio Beach - British Columbia.
  • Grand Beach - Manitoba.
  • Magdalen Islands - Quebec.
  • Basin Head Beach - Prince Edward Island.
  • Parlee Beach - New Brunswick.
  • Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park - Nova Scotia.
  • Sylvan Lake Provincial Park - Alberta.

How many beaches does Canada have? ›

There are a total of 267 Beaches in Canada as of April 20, 2024.

Where is the warmest ocean water in Canada? ›

Parlee Beach, New Brunswick. With the warmest sea water in Canada and International Blue Flag certification proclaiming its safety, accessibility and environmental credentials, Parlee is far and away New Brunswick's finest beach, its ribbon of sand soft and golden and the water shallow and positively balmy.

Which city in Canada has beaches? ›

Vancouver, British Columbia: The coastal city has nine beaches, eight of which look out to the ocean. Kitsilano Beach is also home to a saltwater pool that's recognized as the longest saltwater swimming pool in North America, and is also accessible with water wheelchairs available to rent.

What is Canada largest fresh water beach? ›

Wasaga Beach is home to the World's Longest Freshwater Beach and one of Ontario's most unique coastal dune ecosystems. More than 14 kilometers of white sandy coastline welcome millions of visitors from around the world every year.

What part of Canada is the prettiest? ›

Unbelievable beauty in Banff

Canada's first national park, Banff, is home to countless natural wonders. It's also a good place to spot the elusive Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Other attractions include the Bow Falls, Lake Minnewanka and Stewart Canyon.

Where is the bluest water in Canada? ›

Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks within Banff National park, Moraine Lake is often regarded as a gemstone amidst the Canadian Rockies. Its intense blue color, complemented by a ring of snow-capped peaks, makes it a photographer's paradise.

What is the prettiest province in Canada? ›

British Columbia, or BC, is the westernmost province of Canada, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. It is known to be the most beautiful and diverse province in the country.

Are there any white sand beaches in Canada? ›

Cobourg Beach on Lake Ontario

Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario east of Toronto, this scenic white sand beach is the ideal summer hang. With proximity to the charming town of Cobourg, as well as a bustling boardwalk along the beach, there's lots to do beyond the beach.

What was the name of the only Canadian beach? ›

JUNO BEACH stretches from Saint Aubin-sur-Mer to Grey-sur-Mer and Vaux. This beach was assigned to Canada on D-Day. This area was particularly heavily fortified.

Where are the 3 oceans in Canada? ›

It has three ocean borders:
  • the Pacific Ocean in the west.
  • the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
  • the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Jul 24, 2017

Where in Canada has salt water? ›

The northern Great Plains of western Canada contain many saline and hypersaline lakes. Deadmoose and Waldsea Lakes in south-central Saskatchewan are meromictic, with saline Mg-Na-SO4-Cl waters overlying denser brines of similar composition.

Is it too cold to swim in Canada? ›

The Canadian-based group considers cold temperatures to be under 10°C, while cool is 10°C to 20°C, warm or hot is 21°C to 39°C and anything above 40°C is considered scalding. It's safe to say you don't want to swim in waters less than 10°C or anything exceeding 40°C. “Most water in Canada is cold," said Beyers.

Are there any beach towns in Canada? ›

Cavendish is a little seaside town in the smallest Canadian province, ideal for a tranquil getaway complete with a beach and a remote feel. Enjoy a family getaway or a trip through Canada with friends to the famed Cavendish Beach on PEI's north shore with Gulf of St. Lawrence views.

Does Canada have the most beaches? ›

Canada has the longest coastline in the world with a length of 202,080 kilometers. Some of its famous beaches are Long Beach, Manitou Beach and Devonshire Beach. Norway has a coastline of 83,281 km. It has the second-longest coastline in the world.

What province in Canada has the most coastline? ›

Ten of the provinces of this country have a shoreline; the longest of these is found in Newfoundland & Labrador. In total, this province has nearly 18,000 miles of coastline.

Where is the most tropical place in Canada? ›

Parlee Beach Provincial Park, Pointe-du-Chêne, New Brunswick

Parlee Beach is home to the warmest saltwater in Canada so heading to here to get a taste of the tropics (without leaving the country) is the perfect alternative to going further afield.

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