Wasaga Beach is a town of 21,000 people (2016) in Central Ontario on the shores of southern Georgian Bay. It is a popular summer tourist destination, featuring the world's longest freshwater beach. Over two million people visit Wasaga Beach every summer.
Visitor Information Centre, 550 River Road West, +1 705-429-2247 or +1-866-292-7242 (toll-free).
Wasaga Beach and the surrounding area was inhabited by the Huron (Wyandot) people for centuries before they were dispersed in 1650 by the French-allied Algonquin people. The word Nottawasaga is of Algonquin origin. Nottawa means "Iroquois" and saga means "mouth of the river"; the word "Nottawasaga" was used by Algonquin scouts as a warning if they saw Iroquois raiding parties approaching their villages.
In the early 1800s, Upper Canada was drawn into a struggle between Great Britain and the United States. Wasaga Beach evolved into a strategic location in the War of 1812 when the schooner HMS Nancy was sunk at her moorings in an effort by the Americans to cut the supply line to Fort Michilimackinac and points to the north and west. Lumbering was the main industry for the remainder of the 19th century. Logs crowded the river and the bay, floating down to feed local saw mills.
Wasaga Beach's unsuitable sandy soil contributed to the late European settlement of the area, as the lack of suitable farming land made it unattractive to settlers. In the 1820s the first sign of settlement in the area began as John Goessman surveyed Flos Township. Though unsuitable for farming, the Wasaga Beach area had an abundance of trees. In the late 1830s and throughout the rest of the century the logging industry would play an important role in the development of the area.
During the 1900s, families began to discover the beauty of the area and the beach gradually became a place for family picnics and holidays during the summer months. During the 1940s, while stationed at a nearby military base, servicemen from across Canada visited Wasaga Beach's amusement park, and they made Wasaga Beach known across the country. After the war, Wasaga Beach continued to be a popular place for cottages and day trips.
In 1934, the first overseas flight from mainland Canada, across the Atlantic to England and in a plane called the "Trail of the Caribou", used Wasaga Beach's long flat sandy beach as a take off strip.
In November, 2007, a major fire destroyed 90 per cent of the buildings along the street mall in the Beach One area. About 17 seasonal businesses were said to have been affected, including bikini shops, ice cream parlours, a restaurant, a motel and an arcade.
Wasaga Beach is about 90 minutes north of Toronto. Usually accessed by taking Hwy 400 North and exiting at Hwy 26 in Barrie. Take a right at Sunnidale Corners. The next main road is Mosley St. take a right or left and it will take you parallel to Nottawasaga Bay. Right goes to the "main end".
- Wasaga Beach Transit. Two routes run in a loop from the Wasaga Stars Arena in the east to the Real Canadian Superstore in the west every hour M-Sa 7AM-9PM and Su 7AM-7PM. Adult $2; senior (60+), student (20+ with ID), youth (6-19) $1.50; children free.
- Teddy Bears Taxi, +1 705-444-4444
- Wasaga Taxi, +1 705-429-5611
The 18-km white sand beach is the place to be. Depending on when you go there may be a lot of people there. One excellent thing to do is to go on the beach at night when everything is closed - very relaxing. Watch the sun set over the bay.
The beach is divided into sections, with the beaches numbered 1 to 6 from east to west, with off-beach public park areas, mostly with parking and all with toilet facilities. Beaches 2-4 benefit from shade trees, a bike trail and a playground. Beach 1 is the most touristy, with bars, beach-themed shops and fast food restaurants, attracting primarily young adults. Beach areas 3 to 6 have many seasonal waterfront cottages between the park areas; Shore Lane Rd. is used for jogging, biking and roller blading. There are two additional beaches nearby, New Wasaga Beach and Allenwood Beach that are cut off from the 1-6 areas by the river; these also have seasonal residents. The town publishes a map of all of these areas.
In the summer months it is a very popular place for beach volleyball and sunbathing. A boardwalk runs most of the way along Beach 1 and 2. Beach 1 draws the largest crowds, with the popularity of the beaches decreasing further west. East of the town limits, the beach continues east and north into Tiny Beaches, nearly as far as the tip of the Penetang peninsula. The beach in these areas is also fronted by many cottages and homes, but unlike in Wasaga Beach, the beaches are mostly private property.
The beach's position on the waters of Nottawasaga Bay means that summer temperatures are moderated somewhat by the water, so summer days can be quite comfortable especially when there is a breeze off Georgian Bay.
- The Nancy Museum, off Mosley Street, +1 705-429-2728, houses the preserved hull of the British schooner HMS Nancy, which was sunk by a lucky shot by the Americans from the bay to the river during the War of 1812. Open late May - early October.
- There is an arcade open during the summer months.
- Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, 11-22nd Street North, . The main beaches are part of the park. Walk the boardwalk or the beach or hike along the trails. Have a family picnic. Make sand castles. The beach is great for swimming. You can walk out a long way and the water remains warm and shallow. The beaches are numbered 1 to 6 from east to west. Beaches 1 & 2 are the liveliest and most beach events take place there. The other beaches are quieter and some offer better amenities for families (beaches 3-5 have family picnic areas and beaches 4 & 5 have playgrounds). Each beach has washrooms and changing facilities. In the winter, there is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the park's trails.
- There are many recreational trails that are used for hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The Nottawasaga River offers game fishing and canoe routes.
- In the winter, there are many miles of fresh groomed trails for snowmobiling thanks to the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs and in part to the purchasers of the trail passes.
There are several shops open along the beach selling souvenirs, including t-shirts.
- Georgian Circle Family Steak & Seafood Restaurant, 1441 Mosley Street, ☏ .
- Mr. Norm's Nephew, 1004 Mosley Street, ☏ . Frozen yoghurt and ice cream
- Wasaga Dairy, 1056 Mosley Street, ☏ . Ice cream, waffles, frozen yoghurt (Seasonal)
- Dardanella Beach Club (The Dard), 13 First Street (at Beachfront), ☏ . Daily noon-2AM. Wasaga Beach's historic beachfront bar. Since 1918.
There are many cottages, motels and campgrounds to stay at. For the teenage/early twenty year-olds, there's Sunshine Camp about 2 miles from the beach. It is an easy walk or even easier bike ride.
- Saga Resort, 88 Main St S., ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. A 3-minute walk to Beach Area One. Motel rooms, Jacuzzi suites, mini condos and chalets include daily housekeeping, towel service, full kitchens, 4 piece bathrooms, cable TV and air-conditioning. 1 – 4 bedroom cottages have 3 or 4 piece bathrooms, cable TV and air-conditioning. They do not include towels or housekeeping, however, there are coin laundry facilities on site and all your linens are provided. Shared and private BBQs, playground and heated pool. From $100.
- Lakeview Motel, 44 Mosley St, ☏ . In the heart of Beach Area One. Outdoor heated pool, Wi-Fi high speed internet, daily maid service. From $85.
- J&J Motel, 201 Main St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Air-conditioning, colour cable TV, microwaves, fridges, ceiling fans and clean showers. BBQs are available, free continental breakfast. From $80.
To the west, the town of Collingwood is located at the foot of Ontario's highest ski hill and offers lots of outdoor recreational possibilities, including hiking and golf. It also hosts an annual summer Elvis Festival.
The town of Midland is a 30-minute drive north. Midland features Martyr's Shrine, the only national shrine outside of Quebec, and Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a recreated 17th century French Jesuit mission headquarters.
The quaint town of Creemore, home of the Creemore Springs Brewery, is a 20-minute drive southwest via County Road 9 and Airport Road. Brewery tours are available.