Wasaga Beach thrives as a tourist destination, hosting several million international visitors and day trippers each balmy season. They come for the longest freshwater beach in the world, frolicking in the bay's shallow, warm water, to toss a football, walk beside the gentle waves, escape the city's frenetic stress and to feel sand between their toes and often, in other places too.
The nostalgic atmosphere interests me. I suspect some see Wasaga as Coney Island meets Florida retirement community, but I've seen something quite different. I've pitched a tent, drank cold beer by campfire in one of those vintage cottage courts and rented a riverside cabin. It's kitschy for certain, but owns what I call Canada Cool.
There are a few key things to know about this beach town. They have the biggest blue skies with the fluffiest white clouds that perform endlessly. Sand collects and blows by curbs and over sidewalks, bats come out at night, plus there's a stellar view of Blue Mountain and six amazing beaches. Flip flops, thirsty beach towels and binoculars to watch the endangered and protected Plovers are all mandatory beach bag items. There's a faded boardwalk that creaks when you walk on it.
Locals sit outside the Tim Horton's after dinner on lawn chairs. They stroll, roll and bicycle in droves along Shore Lane gathering as is tradition with their evening coffee or cleverly concealed cocktail every night to watch the sun set together. I was lucky to lease a beach house near the water's edge and enjoyed a waterfront that seemed at times, deserted and private. Impossibly amazing this close to the big city, but true.
Coming for a short visit to Wasaga Beach? I'd recommend these activities:
- Try your putting skills at the brand new mini-golf course Skull Island. It's complete with pirate ship and moat. A short walk to Beach 1, is the beloved landmark souvenir shack, Pedro's and Nancy Island, a War of 1812 historical site.
- Opt for a light lunch making a quick jaunt towards Beach 5 and drool over Fiona's Bakery and Tearoom lemon tarts and date squares. You can inhale them. Trust me. For dessert (two desserts is completely acceptable here) you must taste a creamy soft serve cone from Lorna Dune's located near Beach 6.
- For dinner, I would suggest Catch 22. This Fresh Market Grill, near Beach 3 is all about the food. Inspired by the abundance of locally farmed ingredients that are readily available, Chef Bob fosters an atmosphere in the kitchen that promotes carefree creativity, resulting in amazing tastes that end up on your plate.
- Morning walks on the beach are magical. I love the calm lake as the sun rises and driftwood treasures usually await me. It feels open and fresh up here. I have a lot more resting ground to cover yet; miles of beach, acres of trails and hectares of dunes. I'll get to it. That's the summer freedom I'm living and there's no rush.
To say life here, a bustling two hour drive north of Toronto to southern Georgian Bay, is laid-back with obvious contrasts between mid-week abandoned streets and youthful, hedonistic weekends is an understatement. It takes a few years to slow down to its pace. It's been a great place to live and love. I watch others repeatedly return to unwind, clear their mind and experience our summer freedom. I wonder if they have it in them to survive our Siberian winters? Bravery required.