The Best Beach In Ontario Is A Matter Of Perspective
From time to time I read articles in the newspaper which try to list the best beaches in Ontario. The lists are usually pretty predictable. Sauble, Grand Bend, Wasaga Beach. But which of these is really the best?
The answer isn't really that simple. When you buy something, let's say a piece of software for your computer, the first thing you need to ask yourself is "what do I want from this purchase?" When you figure that out then you can usually make better choices. I have lived here nearly 20 years. I have been to Grand Bend, Port Elgin, Southhampton and Haliburton. I have been to many other beaches as well; Kew Beach (Toronto), the shoreline of Hamilton, some U.S. beaches. I've even braved the freezing cold water of northern beaches in places like Massey and North Bay. I enjoyed them all and I couldn't say that any of them were not good. They all had their charm, and they were all different.
Some are simply unaffordable now. As a child I used to visit Lake Rosseau, Lake of Bays, Huntsville, and Peninsula Lake in Muskoka. I have many fond memories of that area but today I just couldn't afford to take a vacation there. It has become a playground for wealthy hockey players and movie stars.
Articles which attempt to label any place a "favourite" are just silly. How can they possibly know what you want? They can only tell you what they like. I am always suspicious of such journalism and wonder if the advertisers factor into the equation.
I think the best way to learn about a place is to understand why locals like it. Maybe it's quieter than other places, or the water is green instead of blue. Maybe the list maker prefers lively, crowded places where he/she can do some people watching. One can't begin to guess what makes one place popular and another not. Frankly, I prefer to keep my options open. I enjoy visiting a variety of places; each with their own charm and character.
I received a phone call today from a reader who has never been to Wasaga Beach. The questions she asked were enlightening. As a mother she wanted some assurances that the water was clean and safe. For her, that is what makes a good beach. A surfer might want a beach where the waves are large and unpredictable but for a mother with small children that would be a terrible feature. As I described our beach I realized that my affection for this area was evident.
I can't begin to talk about the beach until I address some of the common complaints. I've heard people complain about sediment which washes up periodically along the shoreline, or rocks that jut out from the water. I've also heard people complain that visitors leave too much garbage in their wake. Some people say the water is too shallow, while others wonder if it is clean enough. Let me address all of these comments while adding a few of my own.
The sediment which washes up now and then is called "beach muck". I'm sure it has a more scientific name but it's a natural event. Plant matter which falls from trees or blows into the lake will decompose and wash up on the beach. It doesn't happen too often but sometimes it can leave quite a mess. It's safe. I wouldn't let kids play in it because it's a little yucky but it's not harmful. Wasaga Beach residents and business owners are ferocious about water quality. In fact we have managed to maintain our Blue Flag status for several years now. Poor water quality would affect our economy and if there is even a hint of a problem I can assure you that we are right on it. You have never seen any community become so political as they did when there was a proposed garbage dump (Site 41) which threatened to change our water quality. It made the news and was turned into a documentary.! Even David Suzuki weighed in on the issue. I was extremely proud of the people in this community (and surrounding communities) who fought so hard to make sure politicians listened. The message was "don't mess with our water!"
Our shoreline is 14 km long. It is mostly golden sand and shallow water. Because the water is so shallow it's soupy warm. The further you walk out it becomes less warm and a little deeper but you have to walk a fair distance to find water that is over your head. This is a benefit to parents with young children. They can play in the water without worrying about a quick drop, or a fierce undertow, and blue lips are not an issue unless it's a cold day. Some adults complain that it doesn't make for great swimming but I disagree. I don't mind walking through the shallow water to find a deeper spot. The benefit is that there is no sudden drop where you could find yourself in danger without warning. I can't tell you how many times I have surprised myself while swimming in a lake or river. The shallow water has been an advantage in my view.
I heard one woman complain about rocks in the water. I haven't been to many places where natural structures; rocks, trees, drops, large waves etc., weren't a part of the overall experience. As a child I would have sought out those rocks to play on. I have neighbours who have given a name to a rock which can be found in Beach Area 6. They call it "Little Whale" and they have mapped it out so that they can swim out there to claim the rock as their own and sit upon it to catch the sun's rays. I guess it's a matter of perspective. Some folks want to remove any natural element which gets in their way while others enjoy them as part of the landscape and character of a place. The truth is that rocks are a very small part of our landscape. It does get rockier in the west end but it has never hampered the fun for those who enjoy the area.
This leaves the last complaint which is a human one; garbage. I have no idea why people would visit a beautiful beach to enjoy the landscape only to leave their garbage behind - especially when receptacles can be found at various locations along the beach, but this is a problem everywhere you go. I have to give kudos to the people who clean it all up though. Every day they comb the beach to remove all of the debris that was left behind by a few thoughtless people. The long weekends can get quite busy and these are the days when it is the worst but most visitors are not litterbugs. Still, when you have a hundred thousand people visiting your town on a weekend, expect garbage.
In reality there are few complaints about the beach and the water. When I hear any complaint I tend to wonder what they expected? Would they walk through the woods and complain about falling acorns? Or, visit a farm and complain that the animals smell organic? It's a Lake - but a pretty darn nice one if you ask me. It's truly a wonderful place to call home.
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