Since beginning this website in the late 1990's, I have answered a lot of emails and phone calls by people looking for specific answers to questions about Wasaga Beach. They are usually predictable questions like "are dogs allowed?" or "can I bbq on the beach?" or "how much is parking?" These questions are usually easy to answer and if you check the FAQ section of this site, you will see that these and other common questions are covered there. Still, from time to time someone calls and stumps me with a question I don't know how to answer. Today was one of those days.
A woman phoned to ask about the beach areas but instead of saying "which beach area is best?" as people so often do, she worded her question in a way that caused me to have one of those "a-ha!" moments. When you live in an area for as long as I've been living here, it's easy to forget that other people know very little about a place before they visit. In this internet age we can sometimes think that all information is but a click away. Her questions helped me to think about Wasaga Beach from an entirely new perspective.
The woman on the phone seemed to be confused about how and why the beach areas are separated into numbered sections. When I stopped to think about that for a moment I realized that the term "beach area" sounds like Wasaga Beach is comprised of several separate and unique beaches. When I got off the phone I thought that it might be a good idea to write a first-timers guide to the beach areas.
Wasaga Beach 101 - A Primer for Beginners
I will first begin by explaining that Wasaga Beach is not just a beach - it's an entire town. Think of Miami Beach, Fl., but on a much smaller scale. Approximately 17,000 people call this place home. The population explodes in the summer as many of the cottages which are vacant during the off-season are occupied by families who return year after year. For people like myself who live in one of these mainly seasonal areas, it is not unusual to have just 4 or 5 full-time neighbours. Our seasonal neighbours are typically from places like Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph but there are some who have lived as far away as Montreal. The Town of Wasaga Beach is not really sure how many people return to Wasaga Beach every year as many of these cottages are passed down through the generations.
The beach is 14 kilometres long. If you were to look at Google's Satellite image of this town, you would see the long narrow strip of sand, a main roadway, and the neighborhoods which are for the most part walking distance from the beach. Although the beach is popular today, the first residents of this area did not see the value of owning a home overlooking Nottawasaga Bay. The oldest homes, built around 1870 were located along Golf Course Road, Mosley Street and River Road East out of reach of the harsh winter winds and blowing sand. It wasn't until trains became a popular mode of transportation that hotels and cottages began to spring up on beachfront lands and Wasaga Beach became the popular destination for visitors we know today.
The Beach Areas
In the late 1960's, the Province of Ontario expropriated many of the
properties which lined the beachfront and turned the entire strip into
one long provincial park. Despite the confusing term "beach areas", the
sandy beach is one long strip of parkland. There are parking lots and change-rooms/washrooms at the entrances of each beach area and signs
which help visitors to remember where they happen to be located. Each
beach area, although connected to each other do have some features which
may be uniquely suited for vacationers.
- For example, Beach 1, the most
famous area of Wasaga Beach is where you would find some nightclubs,
souvenir stores, beachwear and restaurants.
- There is a boardwalk which goes from beach 1 - 2. Nancy Island Museum is located at beach 2. You can explore the lighthouse, learn about Wasaga Beach's role in the War of 1812 and watch the boats as they pass by. It is free to enter Nancy Island and the museum.
- Beach 3 has bike paths and an area for dogs. (dogs must be leashed)
- Beach 4 is centrally located has a nice playground for the kids and some lovely treed picnic
- Beaches 5 and 6 are located at Wasaga Beach's west end. They are areas which are mainly populated by private family cottages and permanent residents. This might appeal to people who want to enjoy Wasaga Beach from the perspective of a local.
- New Wasaga and Allenwood Beach in the east end of Wasaga Beach are separated from the other beach areas due to their being cut off by the mouth of the Nottawasaga River. These areas feel very seasonal and private.
If you enjoy a challenge you could walk from beach area 6 to beach 1 without ever stepping onto private property. That in my mind is the most appealing thing about Wasaga Beach. While other beachfront municipalities struggle with private ownership of waterfront lands and the desire by residents to be allowed reasonable access the beach, Wasaga Beach is one big provincial park attached to a warm, friendly town. It is a town which has been welcoming visitors for as long as people have been mobile.
One question I hear a lot is "is there a charge to use the beach". To someone who lives here, that question sounds absurd. It's like asking if there is a charge to walk on the sidewalk. But again, you have to step back and think about Wasaga Beach from the point of view of someone who has never been here. The beach is free. As in any town, parking will cost you. In 2012, parking at the Provincial Park lots would cost you about $20 for the day. You can buy a season pass if you want to enjoy the beach more often.
The beach areas are operated by the
Provincial Government. This can be a little tricky for residents
sometimes because it means that the Town Council has very little control
over how the beach is managed. This always becomes an issue during
elections as even many candidates are not aware of which services are
controlled by the town, and which services are out of their hands. For
example, if there is a complaint about litter on the beach residents will complain to a council member when this is the jurisdiction of the Province. Even for locals it can get confusing.
While I am always happy to help if I can, I cannot say often enough that Wasaga.com is a website which is not connected with any official entity. Any information you find here on this website is from the perspective of a local citizen. Much of it is opinion and although I work hard to keep things up-to-date, sometimes older information isn't removed or changed quickly enough. When you read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages on this site, the best way to tell if the information is current is by looking at the "Last Revised" date. If it is older than one year, you may want to contact me for more current info, or call the sources who would know that information directly. If you are not sure who to ask, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact the Town of Wasaga Beach at 705-429-3844 or the Provincial Park at 705-429-2516.
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