California? The Caribbean? When it comes to sand, surf and sun, Canada has the world's beaches beat in both volume and variety. Here are 10 of our favourite spots to soak up the rays in Canada. Don't forget the sunblock!
Long Beach, B.C.
It takes some time to get to this stunning Canadian beach (approximately three hours west of Nanaimo), but it's definitely worth the drive. Situated inside the majestic natural splendour of the Pacific Rim National Park, this flat-out beautiful stretch of sand is always in a state of flux due to the constant pounding it receives from mighty Pacific currents. Whether your outdoor adventure of choice is surfing, kayaking, hiking or pure beach-bound relaxation, Long Beach delivers in style.
Located about 40 minutes east of Halifax, Lawrencetown's frequently foggy weather may not make it the preferred beach for sun worshippers, but for surfers, it's a little slice of heaven. The rough tide and strong currents at this 1.5 kilometre-long strip mark it as one of the top surfing spots in Canada, with swells topping four metres on particularly blustery days.
Basin Head Provincial Park, P.E.I.
A one-hour drive east of Charlottetown, near the town of Souris, the most striking feature of Basin Head is its gorgeous white sand beach. Part of the scenic Points East Coastal Drive touring region, it's one of the most picturesque spots in an already highly photogenic region.
Kelly's Beach, N.B.
Situated within Kouchibouguac (pronounced kou-she-boo-gwack) National Park (about an hour southeast of Miramichi) and accessible via a 1.2 kilometre boardwalk, Kelly's Beach is one of the most popular destinations in New Brunswick. The warm waters in the lagoon sometimes exceed the 20C mark, so a swimsuit is a definite must. Bring a bike, too; the park boasts 50 kilometres of fantastic cycling routes.
Iles de la Madeleine, Que.
One of the most popular getaway destinations in Quebec, the Iles de la Madeleine's beaches are beautiful, plentiful, and easy to get to. The bays and lagoons here usually hit their highest temperatures (often over 20C) in late summer, but make sure to only swim in the supervised areas; the currents can grow deceptively strong on windy days.
Sandbanks Provincial Park, Ont.
While there are plenty of great Canadian beaches along Georgian Bay, the golden sands of Sandbanks Provincial Park – located just south of Belleville on the shores of Lake Ontario – should not be overlooked. Enormous sand dunes form two of the world's largest freshwater baymouth sandbars, and the park itself offers a wealth of recreational activities.
Grand Beach Provincial Park, Man.
Considered by many to be one of the best beaches in North America (and a top contender for best inland beach), Grand Beach is the place where Manitobans get their tan on. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg and boasting beautiful white sands and 12 metre-high dunes, it's easy to forget you're several thousand kilometres from the nearest ocean.
Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park, Sask.
This Canadian beach, about 30 minutes northwest of Yorkton, is a haven for vacationers and nature lovers alike. The shallow shores at the south end of the lake are perfect for young or inexperienced swimmers, and the surrounding area offers plenty of attractions and amenities for families, including everything from camping facilities to 18 holes of mini-putt.
Sylvan Lake, Alta.
A great destination at any time of the year, Sylvan Lake shines its brightest in the summer. Located about 16 kilometres west of Red Deer, Alberta's premier sunbathing spot also plays host to the annual 1913 Days celebrations in June (celebrating the birth of the town of Sylvan Lake), a big Canada Day party, the Trauma Tour (a wakeboarding and music festival), the Jazz at the Lake Festival, beach volleyball tournaments, and the always colourful dragon boat races.