I absolutely love about Ontario is that there is so much to explore right in our own beautiful province. Thanks to the Great Lakes, we have a number of fun family beaches to enjoy all summer. Where is a fun family beach in Ontario? If you haven’t visited Ontario’s south west, you are missing out!
Beach vacations, outdoor adventures and foodie escapes all await you in Elgin County near Lake Erie, which is about two hours from Toronto. One great fun family beach in Ontario you need to explore? Port Stanley, a historic fishing village located on the north shore of Lake Erie, south of London, Ontario. With one of the finest stretches of sandy beach on the north shore of Lake Erie, Port Stanley has been a popular tourist destination for decades.
What to do
Port Stanley Beach
We packed a ton of activities in Port Stanley, a popular family beach destination in Elgin County.
Port Stanley’s Main Beach is a long sandy beach on Lake Erie’s north shore, and is one of only 26 in Canada to have earned official Blue Flag status for its commitment to strict water quality and safety criteria. The boys jumped right into the water – no fear of the chilly temps. Lifeguards on duty help make parents feel a little safer. There are long beach mats leading up to near the lake so the beach is accessible to people using wheelchairs or strollers.
Port Stanley Terminal Rail
The train ride is fun for the littles as you can ride the open air car on a slow, scenic routine. The Port Stanley Terminal Rail ride is about a half hour each way; you can get off the train and look at some of the old train cars which all the kids aboard the train seems to enjoy.
Clovermead Adventure Farm
We thought the kids wouldn’t be interested in going to a farm as they’re older, but Clovermead was a pleasant surprise. The boys enjoyed all of the activities at the heritage honey farm in Aylmer, a 20-minute drive from Port Stanley and 20 minutes outside of London. There is an fun playground for kids including jumping bouncers, animal farm, a Bee Discovery Station with Ontario’s Largest Glass Bee Display Hive. Make sure to buy some honey from The Honey Gift Shop, a shop for unique treasures and honey treats.
Surprised to say that this was our first time kayaking ever, and we enjoyed it at the Bridgeview Marina. Bridgeview offers canoe, kayak, and stand up paddle board rentals, as well as some shiny new jetskis for rent! We opted for kayaks for a more relaxing afternoon on the water.
Port Burwell Marine Museum & Lighthouse
Originally built in 1840, renovated in the 1980’s, the Port Burwell lighthouse is one of the oldest wooden lighthouses serving the Great Lakes. The lighthouse has very narrow, steep stairs but only 55 steps so it’s worth the climb. The museum has some cool artifacts from Port Burwell and naval history, and a few hands-on exhibits for the kids.
Port Burwell Provincial Park
We didn’t have a chance to visit Port Burwell Provincial Park on this trip due to the weather and time constraints, but there is a playground for kids, clean bathrooms, campground, sandy beach, dog beach too.
Where to stay
Port Stanley Beach Hotel
If you want to stay right on this beach, the Port Stanley Beach Hotel is the spot! The hotel is steps away from the beach and restaurants, and a 10-minute walk to the downtown area. The room we stayed in had a queen bed and pull-out bed, which works for a family of four. It also offered a small kitchenette with small fridge and sink. All rooms have outside access. Ours opened onto a parking lot that was adjacent to Mackie’s, so there isn’t any privacy but the beach-front makes up for that. Breakfast is included at Buccaneer’s. For a family, the stay is great value for the quality of the accommodation right on the beach and breakfast.
Where to eat
Mackie’s has been serving “good food fast” on the beach in Port Stanley since 1911 as well as Mackie’s Orangeade “The drink that made Port Stanley Famous”. Perch and chips a must here, as well as Mackie’s dipping sauce for the fries. The boys tried the Orangeade and I had to try a sip – was it ever delicious! Sweet orange pop but made with real oranges including the pulp? Not sure what the recipe is but is it ever tasty. I was pleasantly surprised that this good eats spot on the beach has gluten-free options!
GTs Beach Bar & Grill
GTs Beach Bar & Grill is a great spot to be able to enjoy some food and drinks, while looking out at the beach and lake. Because it’s a beach patio, the atmosphere is super casual. Still need to be dressed though, no swimsuits allowed. I ordered the perch tacos wrapped in lettuce; the boys has chicken wings. Because it was super busy we had to wait longer than our server told us; she then gave us 50% off our bill for the long wait! GTs has 8 beach volleyball courts, lounge chairs, full menu, weekday food specials and live entertainment weekends.
That Breakfast Place
Again, pleasantly surprised that this great breakfast and lunch spot in Port Stanley had gluten-free bread – yay! Boys enjoyed their fluffy pancakes and bacon and eggs, and I had a few coffee refills at That Breakfast Place.
The Buccaneer Restaurant
The Buccaneer Restaurant’s dining room and patio serves full breakfast (included if you stay at Port Stanley Beach Hotel), lunch and dinner. They are well known for their Lake Erie Yellow Perch, and ribs and steak dinners. The patio is busy and a great spot to dine outdoors with the breeze from the lake.
Broderick’s Ice Cream Parlour
Broderick’s Ice Cream Parlour is a favourite destination in Port Stanley. It has a cute 1950s vibe. Broderick’s has 30 flavours to choose from, including sugar free & dairy free options. They also have frozen yogurt too. Broderick’s hand-make waffle cones every day on site!
Village Square Coffee House
You can easily see that the Village Square Coffee House is not only a tourist spot, but a local favourite. It’s a cozy coffee shop that reminds me of Perks in Friends! Everyone seemed to know each other. The coffee is delicious, and they have gluten-free goodies too; chocolate banana bread, flourless chocolate muffins and more.
If you drive out to Port Burwell, then you’ll need to have lunch and dessert at Simply Scoops. Their ice cream is delicious, and they serve generous portions.
To help plan your trip, visit Ontario’s Southwest.