AT THE EDGE OF LAKE ONTARIO
Exploring Presqu’ile Provincial Park
There is a reason why people come from far and wide to visit Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Even amongst the large selection of wonderful parks we have here in Ontario, Presqu’ile stands out, with a plethora of stunning landscapes and things to do in this 9 square km park that juts out into Lake Ontario.
On the day we visited it was sunny and warm. We purchased a day pass at the entry gate ($11.25 per vehicle) and drove in, parking at the first of the 3 beaches. From here it was short walk through the lovely sand dunes to the beach and lake. The 3 beaches are actually 3 separate parking areas, with washroom facilities, along a single 2.5 km long stretch of sandy beach.
The beach itself is one of the gems of this provincial park, very wide and clean, with soft yellow sand. The beach gently slopes off into the water so that you can walk quite a ways out, making it safe for families to swim and play. The best part about this beach is that it is quiet and peaceful. The beach is so long and so wide that even on a busy holiday weekend, you can stake out a great spot and spend a peaceful day without being crammed together with other beach goers.
Beware of the seagulls on the beach though; they are bold and will happily steal your food if you leave it alone for even a minute. If you feed one of them, you will be sorry you did, and will quickly be at the centre of a seagull storm. Having been here a few times and having “tested” the offerings, I can tell you that in my esteemed opinion, the best beach (with the best washroom facilities) is Beach #3. The beach is level and clean with picnic tables, and the washroom facilities are clean and more modernized than at the other beaches. The bathroom stalls are also large enough to change into or out of a swimsuit, which can be important.
After walking the beach for a while, Sara and I got back in the car and drove a couple of kilometres farther into the park to explore the Marsh Boardwalk Trail. This is a spectacular wooden boardwalk through the largest protected marsh on the north side of Lake Ontario, with scenically situated raised lookouts, where you can admire the unique landscape and spot shore birds including egrets, cormorants and swans. In fact, Presqu’ile is something of a migratory bird hotspot in spring and fall, so if that’s your thing, you should definitely check it out.
While we were on the marsh boardwalk, there were a number of other visitors who appeared to be serious birders, sporting Tilley hats and Bushnell binoculars while hauling cameras with giant telephoto lenses and tripods, in which to capture photographs of elusive birds they might see. We spoke with a friendly group of them, and they were kind enough to point out some of the more common birds to us.
Due to a late winter and recent heavy rains, the water level was very high, coming up just to the top decking of the boardwalk. Sara took this as an opportunity to jump up and down on the nearly submerged boardwalk in an attempt to sink it. However, much to her chagrin, she was unable to.
At times the marsh reeds grew so high on either side of the boardwalk that we were unable to see over the tops of them. It is a unique and beautiful landscape. At other times, we had to hop through slightly submerged sections to of the boardwalk to progress along it, deeper into the marsh. It is anticipated that water levels will recede in the next few weeks.
Our final stop was the Presqu’ile Lighthouse, several more kilometres down the park road. This magnificent lighthouse was built in 1840 to aid sailing ships into the sheltered waters of Presqu’ile harbour during rough weather. Clad in white cedar shakes, with a red cap, it towers over the landscape and is a striking image against the blue waters of Lake Ontario. The waters off Presqu’ile are notoriously stormy in late fall, and even with the lighthouse, there are almost a dozen shipwrecks in the Lake Ontario waters within sight of the lighthouse.
This provincial park is packed with things to do while you are there. There are more than 16km of hiking trails throughout the park – both paved and off road through wooded areas. With level terrain, Presqu’ile is also ideal for cycling, and it has more than 8km of dedicated bike trails. There are two visitor centres and daily interpretive programs in the summer, and of course the great beach going and swimming (note there are no lifeguards on duty at Presq’uile). If you want to
stay longer than a day, there are also more than 300 camping spots within the park - both wooded and by the beach. You could probably spend several days exploring this beautiful park, and you still would not see it all. We are already making plans to pack a picnic lunch, don our sunscreen and spend some more time exploring it ourselves this spring and summer.
PRESQU'ILE PROVINCIAL PARK
328 PRESQU'ILE PARKWAY
BRIGHTON, ONTARIO K0K 1H0
TEL: (613) 475- 4324