Ontario’s West Coast

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach

 

While many visitors to Ontario head north to the Muskoka and Kawartha Lakes for relaxation and recreation, Ontario’s West Coast areas are an absolute must-see for those looking for sandy shores, quaint village shopping, and an eclectic mix of eateries for every taste and budget. After all, the beaches along Lake Huron’s shores are second to none, and Grand Bend’s bustling summer tourist attractions make it one of the best spots to visit for families and individuals of all ages.

 

Long the summer draw of the younger, twenty plus set, Grand Bend is starting to grow up, but maintains it’s fun, exciting outlook. Three years ago the township undertook a major revamping of Main Street, along what is familiarly known as ‘The Strip” down to the beach. New sidewalks and roadway were installed, along with welcome park benches to entice visitors to sit a while and people-watch. A beach front child-friendly splash pad and playground down at the water’s edge is ideal for very young children, and beach volley ball nets beckon the young and young-at-heart to indulge in exercise and competition. Along Main Street, beautiful overhead floral baskets drape from light poles, while the Welcome sign stretching across Main Street’s entrance reminds guests and residents alike that they are indeed, welcome to Grand Bend.

 

The bars and eateries lining Grand Bend’s Main Street are a must to sample, from fully licensed eat-in restaurants, to fries, hot dogs, and ice cream shops lining the road down to the beach. A quick skip across the bridge to River Road provides some of the best fish and chips around at Purdy’s. Nothing beats a basket of the fresh catch of the day while sitting outdoors alongside the river and watching the pleasure boats cruise by. For those looking for something offering a little more, next door to Purdy’s you’ll find Smackwater Jack’s. This is one of Grand Bend’s newest eateries, and features excellent food, a full bar, and outside patio that graces the river’s edge, for a truly memorable eating experience. Of course no trip to Grand Bend is complete until you’ve walked with an ice cream cone along the beach’s boardwalk to the pier that juts into the lake. An ideal spot for fishing, it’s also one of the best places to watch incredible sunsets at the end of a perfect summer day.

 

Just five minutes south of the village of Grand Bend is The Pinery Park, one of Ontario’s finest provincial parks. Famous for its beach sunsets, incredible fall foliage of the encompassing Carolinian Forest, and extensive campgrounds, The Pinery comprises several acres of walking trails, boardwalks, and is truly a nature-lovers paradise.

Main Street, Bayfield

Main Street, Bayfield

A little further north up the coastline from busy Grand Bend, and you’ll encounter the enchanting village of Bayfield, with it’s many lovely boutiques and shops, eateries and outside patio restaurants reminiscent of old Europe. Sit outside and eat a meal al fresco at the Black Dog Inn and watch the pedestrians wander by, or step inside the quiet interior of The Little Inn on Bayfield’s Main Street, for a delightful retreat from the outside world. With its old world charm, antiquity, and incredible menu, this is one of the best places to stay and dine in the area. A short drive along Bayfield’s Main Street past rows of gingerbread houses leads down toward the water, beach, and river front, where ships of all shapes and sizes come and go. For those who enjoy the arts, each year, Bayfield hosts a variety of summer art and literary festivals, drawing visitors from far and wide, and has well earned the self-proclaimed title “One of Ontario’s Prettiest Towns”. If you’re looking for a good book to read, you really must stop and browse at Bayfield’s The Village Bookshop!

 

Goderich Boardwalk

Goderich Boardwalk

 

Just thirty minutes north of Bayfield is the thriving town of Goderich, Ontario, whose town centre roundabout was all but destroyed approximately three years ago during a devastating tornado that touched down and practically wiped the town off the map. Driving around Goderich now, you’ll see everything has been lovingly restored, while the town “square” that was completely levelled, is now bigger and better than ever. Again, nestled along the shores of Lake Huron, Goderich plays host to ships of every make and size, from pleasure craft to large fishing barges, and an extensive boardwalk that stretches for miles along the lakeshore.

 

Bluewater Bridge

Bluewater Bridge

Whether for a day trip or longer stay, Ontario’s West Coast has so much to offer and is well worth the drive. Grand Bend, Ontario is located just forty-five minutes from either London or Sarnia, Ontario, and the Bluewater Customs Bridge that spans the river between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. It’s also an easy approximately two hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, so is a must-visit for anyone who loves sun, sand, cottaging, camping, shopping, great food, and good family fun!

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