Ontario, Canada is home to a small community that claims their town sees the best sunsets in the world, and that National Geographic backed that up with an investigative report. Naturally, this is just an inside joke that has stuck around for years now. But even without the ‘World’s Best Sunset’ accolade, this community can brag about an exceedingly attractive stretch of sand known as the Port Elgin Beach.
Unbeknownst to most strangers, Port Elgin is a thing of the past. In the late ‘90s, it merged with Saugeen Township and Southampton to form what is today referred to as the Town of Saugeen Shores. While its name has changed, the world around it remained the same. Lake Huron still stands, vast and stunning, attracting families from all over Canada for a day (or seven) at its gorgeous beaches.
Getting to Port Elgin
Before you can spend an incredible day at one of the beaches in Saugeen Shores, you’ll need to reach the community first.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re in Toronto and need to get to Port Elgin. This is usually where foreigners come from, as they land at Pearson Airport and proceed from there. Obviously, a car is the best option, as you have about 113 miles (182 kilometers) to cover. Whether you’re traveling with your family and have a car, or you’re renting one from a company, you’ll be able to reach Port Elgin in no time. Get on Highway 10 at Brampton and follow it all the way. At Owen Sound, you’ll get on Highway 21 and it will take you to Port Elgin. It will take a bit over 3 hours by car to get from Toronto to Port Elgin.
If you don’t plan on renting a car, there’s Grey-Bruce Airbus. They do routes from the airport to any of the nearby towns. It’s a daunting journey of four and a half hours to Elgin, but you’ll get there. Fare is usually between $60 and $80 for this distance. If you’re not at the airport, head over to the Union Station Bus Terminal and start your journey to Elgin there. There are no trains servicing this route.
Our advice is that you rent a car if you plan on staying for the weekend. The bus is quite expensive, and you’ll have more options in the car. Moreover, the parking is free near the beach, so you can write that expense off.
Port Elgin Main Beach
You’ve arrived at Port Elgin and you’re ready to hit the beach. Yes, the town itself has an abundance of souvenir shops, markets, restaurants, cafes, and all the useful places you can imagine. However, that is not the reason you’re here.
What we refer to as the Port Elgin Beach is actually six beaches lining the great Lake Huron. These lovely beaches make up the coastline of Saugeen Shores community, and most of them are fairly close to one another. But, there is such a thing as the main beach, so we’ll start with that one.
Expanding for almost 2 miles (3 kilometers), the main beach offers all the hospitality of the town, mostly because it’s right next to it and all the venues it exposes. What’s interesting about Port Elgin is that it’s pretty much alive throughout the year, so you can spend your winter holiday here as well. The small community that inhabits it deals in agriculture, fishing, or working at the Bruce nuclear power plant. But, when summer comes, they’re all outside and the beaches can get really crowded.
People that you’ll come across at the beaches here are mostly families with children, enjoying their summer holidays. Why families? Well, it’s because the beaches in this area are lovely, sandy paradises, very gentle on the feet, even in the water. Speaking of which, there’s much good to be said about Lake Huron. First of all, the water temperature during the summer months is more than welcoming, with the average August temperature being 73°F (almost 23°C). In Port Elgin and the rest of Saugeen Shores, waters splashing the beaches are crystal-clear, without a single piece of trash in sight. Finally, the lake is very shallow around these parts, so you can see how all of these elements combine into a spotless getaway for families with children.
At the main beach, there are sunbeds you can rent, if you prefer traveling lightly. However, those who don’t mind dragging all of their own stuff to the beach have plenty of room likewise. Children will light up with joy when they see a playground right next to the beach. There’s a paved walkway tracing the beach, going past the restaurants and up north to Port Elgin harbor and The Station. Trains don’t really go this way anymore… Except for one. The half-scale replica of American steam train travels from The Station to the North Shore Park, a very short distance, but still fun to watch as it’s doing its thing.
Read more: Amazing Photos of Quebec
We’ve mentioned the sunsets over Port Elgin jokingly before, but the truth of the matter is that you can actually spot a gorgeous sunset or two while you’re here. There are several spots for you to try and ambush the sun as the colorful spectacle begins. After all, Saugeen Shores are facing west and have enough good viewing points – the harbor, breakwall, and even the walkway light up with colors at sunset.
Other Beaches Nearby
That’s about all there is to be said about the main beach, that is, the one closest to the town of Port Elgin. However, there are five more beaches nearby that you could give a chance.
North Shore Park Beach
Just above the Port Elgin Harbor, you’ll come across the North Shore Park Beach. Besides the main beach, this is the only one out of six of them to have a playground for children. There are no sunbeds here, it’s completely public (but still well-maintained). Unlike the main beach though, North Shore mostly features pebbles that aren’t as kind to the beachgoers as sand is. Of all the six beaches of Saugeen Shores, this is the only one where dogs are allowed (May 1st to October 1st).
Read more: People of Greenland
The water is equally clean here, and there are trees all around, providing natural shade for those who feel they’ve soaked up too much sunlight.
Even farther up north from our previous entry, you’ll find Miramichi Bay. Since there are very few places to park your car here, it’s much better if you simply walked (or jogged) up the North Park Trail to get here. This trails is actually a paved road that’s regularly maintained and leads to Miramichi Bay.
Now, while you will be able to catch some rays here as well, Miramichi isn’t that great for beaches. Most people that come here do so for bird watching, or simply to enjoy the undeniable beauty of the forests surrounding Lake Huron. While it can be truly educational and magnificent even, it’s not that great for swimming, especially with children.
The rest of the beaches in the area are located south of the main beach. One of them is the Shipley Beach, a completely public space, so you should have most of the beach gear before you arrive. Plenty of trees are nearby, doing their best to provide some shade, so there’s that. Much like at the nearby main beach, fine sand covers Shipley as well, and the water is fairly shallow. Keep in mind there are no washrooms here (or anywhere really, with the exception of the main beach and Gobles Grove). Again, the parking area is limited, so it’s better you go for a stroll from Port Elgin.
Cut off from all the noise and hustle of Port Elgin, Gobles Grove is a peaceful retreat with few things in the way of amenities. You can play a round of beach volleyball if you like, but that’s pretty much it. Washrooms are available here, so you won’t have to go back to Port Elgin just for that.
The beach itself is semi-sandy, with an occasional tuft of grass protruding here and there. It also happens to be child-friendly, so get ready to relax and sunbathe as your young ones are working hard on that sandcastle.
Eidts Grove Beach
Completely out of the way of all the goings-on of Port Elgin, Eidts Grove Beach is the final beach comprising the Saugeen Shores coastline, with several miles to boast.
The first thing that you need to know about this beach is that there is no shade. You’ll have to bring a parasol and all the sunscreen available. The water here is still shallow and the beach sandy, so if you want to get out of Port Elgin and still have it all – come to Eidts Grove Beach. No washrooms are available, so keep that in mind. There’s a small parking lot that you can use for free.
That’s all you need to know about Port Elgin Beach. To sum it all up, it’s exceedingly family-friendly thanks to all the shallow, warm water and sandy beaches with playgrounds (two of them). If you want plenty of amenities and fast-food restaurants at your arm’s length, stay at the main beach. The farther you go from the main beach, the fewer venues there are. Enjoy your vacation at Lake Huron, and trust that it will be an unforgettable one.