A two-hour drive from Toronto, Midland is the place for those who feel likewise about the sun, a sandy beach and diving headfirst into refreshing chilly water.
We discovered the Shamrock Motel in Midland, Ontario last summer. The beauty of this particular motel is that it is family-run and every room sports access to BBQs and picnic tables and has a fridge. There is a playground for the kiddies, and usually a trampoline – I say usually because this time it was broken, silly adults jumping on it no doubt! I happen to know for a “yea, I did that” fact that adults are not allowed to jump on it. Note: it was still fully intact and NOT broken the last time I left it. The Shamrock is located within a five minute drive to downtown Midland and, in the opposite direction, a five minute drive to Balm Beach.
Balm Beach: Huddled in the midst of Georgian Bay this modest public, sandy white swimming spot offers change rooms, washrooms, an arcade, a swim suit shop and a fish & chips /ice cream strip. Wading in, once past the two or so metres of rocky beginnings, you are in knee-deep chilly clean water that stretches out forever. This is some of the best fresh water swimming you’ll find close to Toronto! Diving in makes you catch your breath and is a welcome relief after sitting on a towel dripping in the heat. A buoy five hundred or so metres out tells you where your circumference of safety lies. This beach with all of its ethnic diversity is, in my experience, almost never crammed with people, absolutely delightful, and best of all, it’s only a couple of hours drive from Toronto. Note: no lifeguards were noticed.
What’s this? A twin sister beach? An also fabulous and much-closer-to-my-home impostor? Enter my discovery of Ward Island Beach.
Ward Island: A quick ferry ride from Queens Quay ferry launch at the foot of Bay Street in Toronto (www.toronto.ca/parks/island/ferry-schedule.htm) and a short walk and we were on sandy white Ward Island beach. Toronto Islands – Ferry Schedule.
No chance I was making any dip in Lake Ontario though! Until I saw the water… are you kidding me?? This is a stellar beach with a white sandy run into clear wonderful water that runs for an impressive distance before you are unable to effortlessly touch bottom! The water is cool and clear and amazingly refreshing. This can be attributed in part to the zebra mussels that began to arrive in Lake Ontario around 1985 (for more info please visit www.aquatichabitat.ca/cultural_influences.shtml). I never thought I would be encouraging anyone to slip into Lake Ontario, but I stand mistaken! This beach has never even been remotely busy or crowded (mind you my experiences have all been mid-week) and it seems to attract couples and clusters of friends in their late twenties and up along with a small clustering of children with doting parents. The last time I was there I noticed a few dog-owners helping their canines cool off in a controlled and non-intrusive-to-other-beach-goers manner. Check out Ward Island Beach, it will blow your mind!!! Note: many lifeguards on duty, both on the beach and in the water.