Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: May 2021
Located along the sandy shore of Georgian Bay, Wasaga Beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world and spans across 14km of the shoreline. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is a day-use park that is open for most of the year. It features 8 beach areas and contains over 50km of trails that are used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking for the remainder of the year.
We’ve been busy packing for the past couple of weekends, so with nice weather on the forecast for today, we decided to take a break and get some fresh air. We rolled into the park, or rather along the first beach area, just after 11a.m. We parked at the Welcome Centre and Nancy Island Historic Site. Unfortunately both were still closed due to COVID-19.
We walked along the grounds which contain a plaque that provides more information about the plane located here. On August 8, 1934, J.R. Ayling and L.G. Reid flew “The Trail of the Caribou”, which took off from Wasaga Beach and headed for Baghdad. However an icing problem resulted in termination of the flight at Heston Airfield in London, England. Despite failure in their main objective, the aviators had accomplished the first non-stop flight from the mainland of Canada to England.
From the other side of the Welcome Centre, we could see the Nancy Island Historic Site. This island has an interesting history that dates back to the War of 1812. On August 13, 1814, three American warships arrived at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River in the hopes of capturing the British supply ship HMS Nancy, which was crucial in the supply chain for For Mackinac. The British decided to destroy the Nancy rather than allow her to fall into enemy hands. During the preparations for blowing up the schooner, she was accidentally set afire, burned and sank. The British managed to escape into the forest without pursuit. The borders of Canada are a direct result of the struggles of the Nancy and her crew. The island houses the charred hull and artifacts of the HMS Nancy. Unfortunately the boardwalk to get to the island was blocked off. Instead we walked down the road until we could get a better view of the lighthouse on the island.
We then hopped back in the car and drove to the beach. The park is divided into eight beach areas each with its own parking lot. We checked out the sandy shores and walked along the boardwalk, which connects a few of these beach areas.
At the end of the last Ice Age, water levels in the Great Lakes rose and fell repeatedly. These cycles of submerging and emerging land resulted in huge amounts of sand being deposited at what is now the southern end of Georgian Bay. Over the last 5,000 years, the water levels in the lakes dropped, exposing the sand. Prevailing winds and water currents shaped it into dunes and beaches. Around 2,500 years ago, the Nottawasaga River cut through the dunes, reaching Georgian Bay and creating the sand spit that is now Wasaga Beach. Behind the beach area are a series of low dunes, and beyond them, higher parabolic, U-shaped dunes that are unique in Ontario.
Wasaga Beach also contains a Nordic & Trail Centre that offers 24km of groomed trails and 10km of snowshoe trails in the winter. When there isn’t snow, the trails are often used for hiking. The Nordic & Trail Centre is located off of Blueberry Trail and contains a large parking lot to accommodate visitors. The Centre itself was closed, but there was a map of the various trails located on the side of the building.
The network of trails winds through the dunes area of the park. We decided to hike along the Blueberry Trail (4km, rated easy), which doubles as a winter bike trail in the winter. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any bikers along the trail today.
The trail loops through the forest and over gentle ridges which represent an old shoreline. The path is quite wide so we could easily walk side-by-side. Around the mid-way point, the trail passes a covered shelter with two benches and a fire pit, which is likely used as a warm-up station during the winter months.
The trail is well signed with red markers with a bike symbol. Since many of the trails are interconnected, there was a map of the trail at some of the intersections and larger posts that clearly label each trail to assist with navigation.
The trail loops back to the Nordic & Trail Centre. We hopped in the car and started the drive back to Toronto. While it would have been nice to visit Wasaga Beach during the summer to go for a swim, we’re glad we came during the off-season when the park was nearly empty.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here