The towns and ports along the Lake Huron shoreline are collectively referred to as Ontario’s West Coast. Stand on the shore of any one of the beautiful and sprawling beaches, look due west, and you may believe that the water simply goes on forever. There is no far shore, the water meets the horizon and that’s it. It’s really one of the unique attractions of this, the second largest Great Lake, with a surface area spanning 23,010 square miles, approximately the size of the state of West Virgina, and a 6,157 kilometre long shoreline. For boaters, that adds up to an invitation to go exploring.
What you’ll find when you visit is a series of welcoming communities sprinkled through an otherwise uninhabited coastline on the west side of the Bruce Peninsula.
Beginning at the north end of Lake Huron, the town of Tobermory is home to the Fathom Five National Marine Park famous for fresh water diving. The town itself is situated around two natural bays – “Big Tub” and “Little Tub” – and boasts a full complement of amenities for the visiting boater. Be sure to gas up and check the weather before heading south as there are no full-service marinas until you reach Sauble Beach some 60 kilometers to the south.
“Sauble Beach offers eco-rated marinas and another unique town famous for having the number one beach in Ontario and one of the top 10 beaches in Canada.”
You’ll cruise in the shadow of the huge limestone peninsula, and amidst the archipelago of rocky island and shoals known as the Fishing Islands. This area offers some of the best sightseeing topography and perhaps the best bass fishing in North America. The many islands and bays are boating friendly as long as you watch your chart – stop for a picnic and a dip in the warm shallow blue water. Isolated government operated lighthouses and gas pumps at fishing lodges from Stokes Bay to Cape Hurd are available in emergencies.
Sauble Beach offers eco-rated marinas and another unique town famous for having the number one beach in Ontario and one of the top 10 beaches in Canada. Stores for reprovisioning or restaurants to enjoy a meal on-shore are only a short walk away.
Cruising further south, you’ll arrive at the amalgamated communities of Port Elgin, Southampton and Saugeen Township. If you visit Port Elgin during the tourist season, the community operates a miniature steam train that can take you on a two kilometer ride from the waterfront to the town site. The local marina offers countless slips as well as several services including laundry, transient docking, ice/water, gas/diesel and shorepower.
This area is also a terrific fishing district as Saugeen Shores is known for its Chinook, Coho and Pink Salmon, Trout, Walleye, and Whitefish. The Chantry Chinook Classic fishing derby, is run by the Lake Huron Fishing Club volunteers, who also operate the Chinook salmon hatchery in Port Elgin.
Just south of Port Elgin, you’ll cruise past Macgregor Point and Inverhuron Provincial Parks and on to Kincardine. Acclaimed for stunning sunsets that attract photographers and painters all summer long, the town also offers three beaches, a vibrant downtown, plus many things to see including a wooden lighthouse built in 1881, the mysterious Madisons Haunted Inn plus the Flea and Market in Victoria Park. The marina lies inside the protected harbour well distinguished by the two large breakwaters that extend well out into Lake Huron.
Goderich is just a short days cruise south past Point Farms Provincial Park and the Goderich Municipal airport. Known as the “prettiest town in Canada” after winning many “Communities in Bloom” awards, Goderich offers two marinas (only one of which offers transient docking) and several marine services. The town itself has a great historical jail and museum, excellent restaurants and be sure to ask a local about how to see two sunsets in one day: one down on the large sandy beach, and if you are quick enough to get to the top of the bluff’s, another from the top.
Reaching the southern part of Lake Huron, boaters will love the village of Bayfield with its seven marine facilities within town limits and there are more slips (about 450) than there are people it seems. The downtown district is just a short walk from the waterfront. In addition to the quaint hotels and inns, Bayfield is known for its first-class shopping with its numerous boutiques, shops, and galleries. If it’s dining you’re after, there are several restaurants never too far away.
Bayfield is also known for its spectacular summer theatre scene with the acclaimed Stratford Festival, the Blyth Festival or the Huron Country Playhouse.
Anglers, too, will find excitement. At almost every drop of the line, a relentless fight is almost guaranteed by chinook salmon, bass, pike, or catfish. Remember to schedule into your travel plans some time for further exploring, go off Huron’s beaten’ path and check out the numerous rivers that can be accessed by either canoe or kayak.
Continue south to Grand Bend, situated just north of London, Ontario. “The sun surf fun capital of Ontario” is a boater-friendly destination that boasts modern marinas that can accommodate even the largest power or sailboat, while campgrounds, resorts, motels and bed and breakfasts are never too far away. In addition to the endless activities and festivals, local volleyball tournaments and several plays are also held throughout the summer. For nature lovers, Grand Bend is abundant with wildlife and it’s common to spot rare, exotic birds, free roaming deer and even world famous butterflies, all inhabiting the sand dunes of the Pinery Provincial Park.
The west shore of Lake Huron becomes more prevalent as your cruise south past Ipperwash Provincial Park and onto the city of Sarnia. The city offers numerous marine facilities and also plays host each summer to the native “AAMJIWNAANG” PowWow, a rib festival, a Greek festival, a Hobby show and a summer kidsfest.
Starting a journey on Lake Huron in your trailerable boat from any of these communities is a great way to begin to explore the area, while cruising boaters will want to spend the winter exploring the charts and planning an adventure to this incredible waterfront playground.
~ Brad Roberts