Ontario's most popular provincial park with the world's longest freshwater beach
While only 1844 hectares (4556 acres) in size Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is annually the most visited provincial park in the province with almost double the amount of visitors as the huge Algonquin Provincial Park.
This is attributed to the fact that the park encompasses almost 100% of the world’s largest freshwater beach. This 14 kilometres (8.7 mile) stretch of beautiful white sand is Ontario’s #1 beach destination and being located only 2 hours north of Toronto it has become the weekend getaway of choice.
The small town of Wasaga Beach has grown tremendously in the last 30 years and now completely encircles the parks protected areas.
A day use recreational park only it does however include more attractions than just the beach and a day trip in the summer up to Wasaga will be an experience unlike any other in the Province for more information visit: Ontario Parks
Location of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
Getting to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park:
Wasaga Beach video:
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Attractions and Activities
This is why almost every visitor makes the trip to this small town. One of THE party destinations in the entire province it is especially popular with the younger generation and a trip to Wasaga on a long weekend is almost like a right of passage.
People are attracted to the beach but make no doubt about it, this is a party town and whether camping or at a cottage the booze is flowing and the music is loud.
In many places you can drive your vehicle right to the beach’s edge, pop your trunk, turn on your music and enjoy the sun. Water and land activities abound and the park really is the centre of attention.
The beach is broken into 8 sections which are divided by the Nottawsaga River that flows through the park and empties into Nottawsaga Bay at its mouth.
East of the river lays:
- New Wasaga Beach
Nice stretch of sand it is quieter than the other main beaches, basic facilities are available
- Allenwood Beach
Small beach with OK sand it has become more of a destination for windsurfers than swimming. Basic facilities are available.
To the west lays the main beach divided into six sections.
- Beaches # 1 and 2
Laying directly west of the Nottawasaga’s mouth these are by far the two most popular beaches in Wasaga and with a wide expanse of beautiful sand and a gradually sloping sandy bottom it is easy to see why.
On a hot summer day the sunbathing and swimming conditions seem perfect, beach volleyball games are everywhere and the water is filled with bathers and watercraft of all shapes and sizes.
A boardwalk along the edge of the beach signals it end and makes for a great place to stroll and eat an ice cream or watch an amazing sunset.
If you are visiting Wasaga Beach for the first time then a day spent on either beach #1 or beach #2 is definitely the place for you.
Picnic tables and full facilities are available.
- Beach #3
While not as popular as the first two beaches with swimmers, sunbathers and partiers the sand and swimming conditions are still good but most visitors who make it to Beach #3 will at least be visiting the Nancy Island Historic Site.
Picnic tables and full facilities are available.
- Beach #4
Quieter than the main beaches but just as nice sand and swimming with limited facilities are available. If you are looking for a quieter beach experience than this is the beach for you.
Picnic tables and limited facilities are available.
- Beach #5
Even quieter than Beach #4 the beach has however been designated as available for kiteboarders and windsurfers so swimmers should always take care.
The sand and swimming conditions start to get slightly worse but not by much.
Picnic tables and limited facilities are available.
- Beach #6
Located the furthest from town most sunbathers and swimmers don’t head to the beach out here but the conditions are still fine.
The area is however very popular especially amongst locals as it is the sight of their main recreation centre, the Oakview Woods Recreation Complex (RexPlex ).
Full facilities are available at the centre but picnic tables and limited facilities are available at the beach.
Nancy Island Historic Site
A National Historic Site located within Wasaga Beach Provincial Park boundaries Nancy Island marks the spot where the HMS Nancy was sunk during the final days of the War of 1812.
The Nancy was an 80-foot schooner originally launched in 1789 that had come under the service of his Majesty as a cargo ship after the war began.
When the English were utterly defeated at the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 the Nancy was left as the largest British ship on the Upper Great Lakes.
By the summer of 1814 the Nottawasaga River canoe route had become the main English supply line to posts further afield including strategic Fort Mackinac in present day Michigan.
After making three journeys to re-supply the fort the Nancy sat in the just upriver from the rivers mouth waiting to be loaded when on August 14, 1814 three American ships sent out to destroy her discovered her. After a short firefight she was set ablaze and sank to the bottom.
After the war the Nottawasaga route became redundant and the area was virtually abandoned. As time passed by the burnt wreckage of the ship began to be covered in silt and sand. Within a few years most remnants were covered and the ship was forgotten about.
Eventually an Island formed in the middle of the river completely engulfing the wreckage and over time it was thought to be a natural feature of the river.
In 1911 a student that was researching the War of 1812 became interested and began to poke around the Island and quickly discovered the remains.
On August 14th 1928 the remains of the HMS Nancy were put on display in a museum and in 1968 a theatre and replica lighthouse were added to the attraction and in 1978 it became part of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.
Located right in the middle of the town where the Nottawasaga winds its way to its mouth.
Thousands of years of wind driving the sands to the far south of Georgian Bay has created what some consider the best beach in Canada.
It has also created a huge dune system behind the beach area that is in fact the largest parabolic dune system in the province.
These “u” shaped formations occur with the loose vegetation trying to hold back to stem of time. The park has almost 7 hectares (17 acres) of this unique habitat protected.
When visiting, don’t expect to see Sahara sized dunes though as most of the terrain will be covered by sparse vegetation so they are only of limited interest visually.
They are however the home to a few endangered species including the Piping Plover. The areas they inhabit are clearly marked and the fragile dune system must not be disturbed for them to survive.
These birds are an absolute delight to watch scurrying across the sand and care should be taken when trying to get a photo.
With over 700 species of plants identified the park also contains one of the last stands of south Georgian Bay’s shoreline forest at Oakview Woods and with the Nottawasga River and its mouth winding through Wasaga Beach Provincial Park there are ample opportunities to see wildlife including:
- Over 230 species of birds
- White tailed deer
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is for day use only and there is no camping, for those that wish to camp in a provincial park nearby Awenda Provincial Park and Craigleith Provincial Park are the camping alternatives.
First Nations Peoples used the Nottawasaga River as a major trade and transportation route for millennia and today is remains a popular paddling destination but for recreational purposes only.
While the river itself snakes its way for 121 kilomtres (72.6 miles) north towards Georgian Bay the canoe route usually only includes the last 75 kilometres (45 miles) from the hamlet of Nicolston to Schooner Town historic site in Wasaga Beach.
Suitable for paddlers of any experience this is one of the best canoe routes in Southern Ontario. Get more information on my Nottawasaga River Canoe Route page.
Whether you prefer deep water or river fishing the Wasaga area offers excellent fishing opportunities. The waters of Nottawasga Bay/Georgian Bay and the Nottawasaga River provide excellent fishing for:
A boat launch is available in the Beach# 1 area right downtown and numerous private companies also offer rentals. For on-shore fisherman the river’s mouth is known as one of the best fishing spots on Georgian Bay and the river itself from its headwaters to its mouth is known as one of the best rivers to fish in the Province.
The sports of Wind and Kite surfing have grown in popularity very quickly and areas at two beaches have been designated for participants.
Both Allenwood and Beach #5 have areas clearly marked for boarders off limits to swimmers.
Boating in the waters just offshore from the beaches is a huge summertime activity in the area. There is a public boat launch located at Beach #1 and on any given summer day you will see hundreds of watercraft from jet skis to large cruisers.
Marina facilities are limited and private so prior arrangements should be made but most offer boat rentals of some sort or another.
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park offers some great hiking opportunities and its various trails take you past some vastly different landscapes such as:
- Ancient dunes
- Thick pine/oak forests
In all there are a combined network of 29 kilometres (17.4 miles) of trails of varying length and difficulties for participants to complete.
- The Boardwalk and Shore Lane Trail
This is the hike that most visitors will complete To Wasaga Beach Provincial Park will complete at least a portion of.
Stretching along the southern shores of Georgian Bay a year round hiking trail of 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) is possible but at most people only complete the boardwalk sections along Beaches #1 and 2.
Depending upon what section you are walking you have a chance to see some of the unique dune and forest areas. Anywhere along its length also offers hikers to opportunity of seeing some amazing sunsets.
- Central Dune Trail
At 9.7 kilometres (5.9 miles) long this is probably the hardest hike to complete in the park but you do pass through some of the parks most unique ecosystems.
Stroll through the desert like conditions of the dunes before walking along the banks of the Nottawasaga River and seeing some beautiful views of the valley below.
Access to the river is also available for canoe launches along this path.
This trail encompasses most of what the park was set up to protect and it is well worth the effort to complete.
- Schooner Town Trail
A 5.8 kilometre (3.5 mile) side trail accessed from the Central Dune Trail that is of moderate difficulty to complete.
Leading down to the oxbow (loop) of the river offers some awesome views and hikers will also get to pass by some of the dunes system.
- Marl Lake Trail
A 1.4 kilometre (0.9 mile) easy to complete side trail that can only be accessed from the Central Dune Trail it leads to past wetlands to the small Marl Lake.
Though out of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park it is one of the best trails in the area for spotting wildlife especially birds.
- Oakview Woods Trail
This 1.1 kilometre (0.7 mile) trail located in the west end of town away from the main portion of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is very easy to complete but is significant as it will take hikers through one of the last remains stands of a unique pine and oak forest that at one time blanketed the southern shores of Georgian Bay.
A great place to see some forest wildlife in an urban setting it also makes for a nice spot to cool off on a hot summer day.
- Ganaraska Trail
One of Southern Ontario’s premier hiking routes the Ganaraska Trail connects Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario at Port Hope.
At over 500 kilometres (300 miles) in length hikers can connect to other major trails that can lead to almost anywhere inn the country.
A recently completed 17 kilometre (10.2 mile) extension of the trail now connects to the Central Dune Trail and leads hikers through Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.
While within Wasaga Beach Provincial Park itself cycling is restricted to portions of the shoreline trail ( beaches #1 to 5) and the Oakview Woods Trail there is however another dedicated bike route that includes some of the Central Dune Trail.
- Community Bicycle Loop
A dedicated bike lane route at 14.3 kilometres (8.6 miles) in length it passes by some of the most interesting landscapes in the part including the dunes system.
Connecting with other bike routes located in town visit my Wasaga Beach page for more information about further cycling opportunities in the area.
Another one of Ontario’s year round recreational hotspots this small community famed for its Blue Mountains lays just 11 kilometres (7 miles) west of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.
Most visitors to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park also make the short journey to this historic town as it does provide more shopping and entertainment opportunities. Visit my Collingwood page for more information.
While most people think of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park as a summer destination only the Wasaga Nordic and Trail Centre maintains 30 kilomtres of groomed and un-groomed trails within the park boundaries. With 9 trails of varying lengths and difficulty it has become a major winter destination for locals wishing to participate in both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Blueberry Plains Trail – 4 kilometres (2.4 miles) it is very easy to complete
- The Pine Trail – 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) it is of moderate difficulty to complete
- Gill’s Gulch Trail – 1.1 kilometres (0.7 miles) it is of moderate difficulty to complete
- Schrei Ski Trail – 0.4 kilometres (0.2 miles) it is of moderate difficulty to complete
- Monument Hill Trail – 4.5 kilometres (2.7 miles) it is difficult to complete
- High Dunes Hill Trail – 5.8 kilometres (3.5 miles) it is difficult to complete
- There are also 3 skating trails one for each level of difficulty
The Nordic Centre offers refreshments, lessons and equipment rentals and is open from December through March. For more information contact: (705) 429-0943.