Report by Vacay.ca staff
One of Canada's best-kept secrets is that it is full of beaches. In a country with a world-leading 265,523 kilometres of coastline -- nearly twice as much as the United States, the No. 2 nation in the category -- the wealth of sand and seashells shouldn't be a surprise. Some of Canada's beaches are so outstanding, in fact, that any ardent beach-goer would readily categorize them as world class. At Vacay.ca, we have spent recent months combing the sandy spots of the nation, determining which beaches are the absolute finest and deserving of a visit from you this summer.
The criteria for our choices included rating the beaches on their quality of warm and clean water, amenities, accessibility, swimming and water sports options, safety, sense of place, relaxation, and facilities.
Some terrific beaches did not make the list. Among the notable omissions are Bennett Beach (Yukon), Devonshire Beach (Alberta), Kellys Beach (New Brunswick), Parksville Beach (British Columbia), Sauble (Ontario), and Carter's Beach (Nova Scotia). As always when Vacay.ca's travel experts produce one of our lists, we welcome public opinion. Send us an email at email@example.com to let us know your favourite beach in Canada -- after you've perused our list.
Here are the Vacay.ca Top Beaches in Canada for 2013:
1. Singing Sands, Basin Head Provincial Park, Souris, PEI
Location: 93 kilometres east of Charlottetown
Interesting Facts: For reasons scientists are still trying to figure out, this beach makes a strange swishing sound whenever the wind swirls or when a visitor walks on it. Tourism officials on Prince Edward Island suggest the reason may be because of the texture and consistency of the quartz sand. Nevertheless, the sound is a unique feature of a beach that has some of the warmest waters north of Florida. In summer, the water temperature will top 21 Celsius degrees (70 Fahrenheit) at Singing Sands and other sandy spots on PEI, which has more than 800 kilometres of beaches to explore.
Why This Beach Rocks: Some of the warmest waters in the northern hemisphere. The supervised beach is in a day-use (summer) park that has a play area, food, washroom, shower facilities, and the Basin Head Fisheries Museum.
2. Wasaga Beach, Ontario
Location: 134 kilometres north of Toronto
Interesting Facts: In 2007, a major fire ripped through the main street pedestrian mall of this beach town in the Georgian Bay region. The blaze destroyed several businesses and damaged the lucrative tourism industry. It was a difficult time for the community but Wasaga Beach has hardly missed a beat since renovations were completed. Wasaga Beach is uniquely situated. The bustling beach city, which may be the closest thing Canada has to anything resembling Daytona Beach or Fort Lauderdale, is located between two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves -- the Georgian Bay Littoral and Niagara Escarpment.
Why This Beach Rocks: For high school students from the surrounding areas, Wasaga is the ultimate hangout and the place to go for good times. Wasaga is the world's longest freshwater beach (14 km). The provincial park that bears its name has eight beach areas. Great events throughout the year include the Wasaga Beach Fest (June 22-23), Wasaga Beach Short Film Festival (May 21 to October 15), and Wasaga Beach Blues Fest (September 13-15).
3. Brady's Beach, Bamfield, British Columbia
Location: 174 km west of Nanaimo and 130 km south of Tofino
Interesting Facts: An Alberta investor named Jack Purdy is working on a $60-million plan to boost Bamfield's tourism infrastructure, meaning this mostly unknown gem of a community is likely to be very well known in a few years. Brady's Beach is a secluded place on the Pacific Ocean, accessible only by ferry, float plane or an unpaved logging road. Intrigued to visit this beach? Aim to be there from July 6-14, when the Music By The Sea festival takes place.
Why This Beach Rocks: Surrounded by the Pacific Rim National Park, the ocean, government-owned land and First Nations territory, Bamfield is about as enclosed and intimate a community as you will find in Canada. Brady's Beach benefits from that topography and political structure. It features rugged coastline, fresh water, and scuba diving, and is close to the Barkley Sound islands, populated by sea lions and bald eagles.
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: "Brady's Beach in Bamfield, a funny little place that Garrison Keillor or Richard Russo could go to town with, is a British Columbian beauty with many of the hallmarks of the legendary beach-to-end-all-beaches: It's hard to reach and nearly unheard of; has not one café, chain hotel, Starbucks or McDonald's near it; and possesses the ability to put your mind in a place you might only be able to reach with hard drugs."
4. Ingonish Beach, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Location: 127 km north of Sydney, Cape Breton's largest city
Interesting Facts: A natural barrier at this beach separates the salt water from the Atlantic and the fresh water streaming in from rivers on the island, allowing swimmers the unusual choice of dipping into either the ocean or a lake. The beach is extremely popular with Nova Scotians because of the warm water and its spaciousness.
Why This Beach Rocks: Scenic cruises and whale watching are also available. Along with the variety of swimming options, the area on the Cabot Trail also offers both salt-water and fresh-water fishing.
Read about how to spend a Great Canadian Weekend on the Cabot Trail -- including a stop at Ingonish Beach.
5. Long Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
Location: 189 km west of Nanaimo on Highway 4
Interesting Facts: 20,000 grey whales migrate up this coast each spring and summer. Whale-watching tours operate from Tofino and nearby Ucluelet. Word of warning though -- this area gets lots of rain, as it is in a temperate rainforest. July to September are the best months to arrive.
Why This Beach Rocks: Storm watching, whale watching ... this beach has all kinds of thrills, whether you're in the water or not. The longest sandy beach on Vancouver Island, with 16.6 km of pristine sand washed by a cool pounding surf, Long Beach offers eye-popping scenic views. Long Beach is in a stunning environment, running alongside the Pacific Rim National Park and in sight of the enchanting Wickaninnish Inn.
Vacay.ca West Coast Sports Editor Miguel Strother says: "Surfing in the Pacific on the Canadian west coast, as cold as it sounds, might just be one of the most beautiful things to do anywhere in the world."
To Read the Rest of the Top 10 Beaches in Canada, Visit Vacay.ca.
Known as Halifax’s formal nude ocean beach, Crystal Crescent is located in the aptly-named Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park which is close to Sambro, Nova Scotia. The beach offers great scenery and can get quite busy on weekends with up to 300 visitors. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigtzr45/" target="_blank">bigtzr45</a>
Referred to locally as Okapulco, this beach is on the shore of the Lac des Deux Montagnes, and is one of the best known nude beaches in Quebec. The beach offers a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere naturists have frequented the area for over 20 years.
Located on the Toronto Island, the southern portion of Hanlan’s Beach has been officially designated as a sandy, clothing-optional beach for 14 years. The beach is maintained by the City of Toronto’s Parks Department and rules are enforced so that only a designated beach portion is clothing-optional and clothes must be worn everywhere else.
On the southeastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, you will find Beaconia Beach. The beach is often visited by clothed families, so it is recommended that naturists walk about 15 minutes south of the parking lot prior to undressing.
This beach is located within a provincial park, and is recognized as a clothing optional beach on both weekdays and weekends. That being said, tourists are recommended to walk further north on weekends to avoid commotion with local residents or the RCMP.
Located on the Saskatchewan River, Paradise Beach is a well recognized clothing-optional beach despite does not have an association to advocate for naturalists. Also worth noting is the beach is patrolled by local police to maintain the family-friendly atmosphere. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdnboyfotos/" target="_blank">BFRE</a>
As the second largest clothing-optional beach in North America, Wreck Beach receives over 100,000 annual visitors. The beach is located in Pacific Spirit Regional Park on the shore of the Georgia Strait and the north arm of the Fraser River.
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