Exploring Ontario – Sandbanks Provincial Park – Outlet Beach

Those of you who have read my previous blog post on Dunes Beach at the same location will know that I was rather suspicious of the charms of Outlet Beach due to its name. However, having seen the beach itself from a distance on the drive out from the park on our first day, we decided to put our preconceived ideas to one side and brave whatever Outlet Beach had to offer us.

From the car, it looked attractive, a long stretch of pale yellow sand, reaching into the distance like a slim crescent, bordered by trees on one side and of course, the vast freshwater expanse of the lake on the other. Its appearance was more traditionally beach like: long, plenty of sand to pitch up on and full of people. Everything looked clean, bright and not at all like a depository for unsanitary items. It all boded well.

Our outing to Outlet began with the journey from Belleville where we had managed to have a good night’s sleep and a continental breakfast, deposited in a brown paper bag by an unenthusiastic hotel staff member to take back to the room where we littered the floor with muffin crumbs, as plates seem to be lacking in a kitchenette. Hopefully, the cleaner had a good vacuum.

When we got to the entrance to the park, another long queue stretched before us and we were told that the wait would be an hour (although it was probably more like 45 minutes). It passed quickly, despite the fact that we all needed the bathroom which in normal circumstances would mean that our entry was bound to be delayed: there is nothing like a stressed bladder to make time move more slowly. But luckily, the queue kept moving and before we knew it, we were once more on our way to some beach side rest and relaxation Lake Ontario-style.

Parking was easy as there was an abundance of different areas so we ditched the car and headed off to the beach. All the paraphernalia was left behind as we decided to explore before settling for the day.

I was impressed. There’s no other way of putting it. I never know what to expect from beaches in Canada on lakes. Sometimes they are the size of a large postage stamp; sometimes they are more grit than sand; and sometimes they surpass your expectations completely.

In preparation for the terrain, I am wearing my sturdy walking shoes whilst everyone else is in slides or, um, feet

This was a time for expectations to be completely blown out of the water. Waves lapped the shore and the water was a clear blue, inviting and refreshing. I have read that the waves at Sandbanks have “boomed” against the sand and perhaps on rougher days this is the case but today, they were landing with a small tempting swish like a whisper that was persuading you to dip your toe in, just to try it and feel the cool liquid engulf your foot. Heaven.

As someone who has grown up with the sea literally on her doorstep – the farm where I spent my childhood stretched down to a beautiful beach – I have a longing for the sea, in Welsh known as hiraeth, which I usually keep under control by visiting the ocean at least twice a year, coming away from these encounters with a recharged sense of calm. Must be something about the ozone maybe, or the whole landscape or the noise? Whatever it is, and I can’t pinpoint it, I love it.

Getting to the end of Outlet Beach

And whilst this wasn’t the ocean, it was damn near close. It was great to feel the sand under your feet. The day was warm, just the right side of summer with the wind reminding you that cooler weather was around the corner but not taking away the sun’s warmth from your skin.

It’s not like me to want to swim unless it’s so hot that you feel there really is no other option but the waters of Lake Ontario were tempting me so badly that there was a high chance that I would take the plunge. I wanted to feel that swell, bob up and down in the water, float without purpose – it might be my last chance before it really did get too cold to do it and as the ocean was out of the question…

We decided to explore a little and have a stroll up the beach. Despite the copious amounts of other Ontarians on the beach and a few Quebecers too, I’ll wager, whose presence required our path to meander a little to avoid collisions, it was bliss. We dodged the castles with moats, all with an optimistic channel winding to the lake; the toddlers with buckets of water determinedly trying to fill the hole they’d dug next to their parents’ towels; the people walking their dogs and chatting to other dog lovers. We ambled, taking our time, the boys and my husband choosing the shallow water to paddle in.

Once we’d done the full length of the beach, we were relieved to note that there was not a sewage pipe in sight, the outlet of Outlet Beach being a river called, unimaginatively, Outlet River. We noticed the trailers and tents in the trees at the farthest end and made a note that we would drive around the campsite before we left the park to get a feel for it for future camping trips. From what we had seen so far, it looked like a good prospect. Having sold our trailer in Alberta before traversing Canada for Ottawa, we were missing our excursions into nature and were looking forward to planning future trips.

My youngest enjoying the waves

But after all this walking, it was time to have a spot of lunch and take the plunge and immerse ourselves in the Great Lake. We headed back to the car to get our food and beach stuff and decided that as there were queues for the changing rooms to go in and a rather large puddle coming out, it was time to negotiate the clothes’ change in the car.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to do this but I have never found this that difficult. However, both of my kids managed to moon the passers-by as a result of their contortions as they tried to get into their swimmers. My youngest had particular trouble as the trunks that I had packed were marginally too small for him now and whilst he had previously been slim of hip and buttock, it was now obvious that some definite expansion had occurred. Add to that the fact that the trunks were still a bit damp from the day before and you had a manoeuvering within a confined space that would have rivalled Houdini’s escapology, although in this case, my son was definitely trying to stop things from escaping.

The job done, we headed out onto the beach and found ourselves a suitable position to savour the sunshine and soak up the warmth.

One of those dots in the distance is me!

And yes, there was no way I could resist a dip and it was so good that I went back in again a little later. It was a wonderful day spent in an ideal location with the people I love the most. It just doesn’t get better than this. Especially when it was topped off with another trip into Picton to grab a cone from Slickers. It was our holiday, after all.

I would recommend this beach to anyone and I imagine that, come the summer of 2021, you may find this blogger sitting on the same sands, watching the waves and recharging her sense of calm courtesy of Lake Ontario, hopefully having spent the night in her trailer/caravan on a pitch bordering the sands. Here’s hoping.

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