Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

Length of stay1 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.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

42 thoughts on “Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Isn’t it great to have a place in nature all to yourself? I have oftn heard of Wasaga Beach, but never been there. It looks like an interesting and historical area. Thanks for sharing. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Having the trail to yourself is a rarity these days. Wasaga Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Ontario. It’s nice that there are so many beach areas for people to spread out, but this place is usually packed in the summer. Last year Wasaga Beach had to close a few times due to too many visitors. Thanks for reading. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ab says:

    Wasaga Beach is a wonderful treat close to Toronto. It does get quite super busy during the summer so it was interesting to see your write up and photos of it being so empty. I didn’t even realize there were trails until your visit.

    Good luck with the packing and upcoming move!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Growing up we used to either go to Grand Bend or Long Point for camping or a beach day so I’m less familiar with the Wasaga Beach area. This was my first time checking out the trail system. This place seems like it would be great to visit in the winter to go snowshoeing.

      I am counting down the days until we move (just under two weeks)! There are boxes everywhere in my apartment to the point where they are starting to become a tripping hazard. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You bet. I’ve never been a fan of crowded places. We will definitely be avoiding this area and the other popular beach areas like Grand Bend, Sandbanks, and Sauble Beach this summer. I can’t wait to head back to Northern Ontario and (hopefully) not have to worry about the crowds as much.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. alisendopf says:

    I love how this gets used year round with the skiing, and winter biking. I can imagine how popular that is in the middle of summer.

    Again, great geological history lesson on how that gorgeous beach was formed. Thanks for sharing.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s great how some parks try to accommodate visitors in every season. I would love to return here in the winter to see what the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is like. I bet the beach would be super scenic with all the frozen ice formations along the shore. Thanks for reading. Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      If there was an Ontario themed trivia, I would certainly crush the geology and nature-related questions thanks to visiting so many of Ontario’s provincial parks this past year! It’s been a great way to combine education and exercise!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There certainly are plenty of cottages and houses scattered along the shoreline. Thanks to the pandemic more people have moved here and now stay year-round. I’m glad that this beach hasn’t been developed and exists for all to enjoy. The Nordic & Trail Centre is located a few kilometres away from the beach so most visitors don’t even know that there are trails to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      My brother-in-law lives in Owen Sound so we’ve driven through Markdale a number of times over the years. I haven’t spent too much time in Wasaga Beach. Growing up we usually went camping and swimming at Grand Bend or Long Point. I’m glad we visited during the spring as I am not a fan of the crowds. And thanks, we’re mostly packed. Now it’s just a matter of taking apart some of our furniture and trying to eat as much food out of our freezer and cupboards as we can.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s been neat learning all these little fun facts about Ontario’s history from our visits to all the various provincial parks. I had no idea that this area also played a role in the war of 1812. The beach itself is beautiful. I can see why it’s so popular in the summer. I’m glad we explored it during the spring when we had the boardwalk mostly all to ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can easily see why this is one of the most popular beaches in Ontario. It’s great that this stretch of shoreline has been protected. Even with eight beach areas, it’s usually crowded during the summer. Last year they had to shut down the beach a few times due to overcrowding and the pandemic. Hopefully they come up with a better system for this summer.

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  4. carolinehelbig says:

    I’ve only been to Wasaga in summer. It’s so nice seeing it in the off season without the crowds on the beaches. I had forgotten about its status as the world’s longest freshwater beach, and I’m sure I didn’t previously know about its War of 1812 history. Interesting stuff!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I haven’t spent too much time at Wasaga Beach as we would usually go to Grand Bend for a beach day while growing up. It looks like a lovely area to go swimming and I can easily see why it’s one of the most popular beaches in Ontario. I had no idea this place had so much history either. It’s too bad that the Welcome Centre and Nancy Island Historic Site were closed as I’m sure there are other fun facts there. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to return someday post-pandemic.

      Like

  5. Vanessa says:

    Interesting read! I’m planning to stay in the area later this summer, and was wondering about the hiking options at the park. Interesting to know about the history too!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I had no idea that Wasaga Beach PP has such an extensive trail network until I started to do some more research about this park. We only hiked along the one trail, but it was very well signed and there were maps at some of the major junctions so navigation was pretty straightforward. It would be neat to return in the winter to do some cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Enjoy your visit later this summer, hopefully it won’t be too busy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lookoom says:

    I had no idea Wasaga Beach was a provincial park. Again, this is the way to preserve public access to the shoreline, further on it is just private property. When I see the summer crowds, it reminds me of all the ugly sides of European beaches in the summer where people are more crowded than in the cities they left to breathe.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Wasaga Beach isn’t as well signed as a provincial park as many of the other parks and it’s only a day-use park. And yes, I’m glad that this stretch along the shoreline hasn’t been converted into more cottages (there seem to be no shortage of them these days!) and has been protected as a park for all to enjoy. It tends to get crowded during the summer. Last year they had to close down a few times because there were too many visitors.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Georgian Bay is gorgeous. It’s nice that Ontario borders four of the five Great Lakes and sometimes these lakes certainly feel like the ocean. We had such fabulous weather to go for a stroll along the boardwalk and forest. The main reason we decided to hike the Blueberry Trail was actually because of its name!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. usfman says:

    I’m a history buff. So thanks for the info. about the 1st Canadian non stop flight across the ocean to England in 1934. That’s seven years after Lindbergh’s successful flight as you probably know.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. I’ve come to enjoy learning more about Ontario’s history through our parks adventures. Wasaga Beach is reputed to be one of the nicest beaches in Ontario. It would be nice to return here when the weather is warmer to go for a swim.

      Liked by 1 person

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