In Montreal, ‘swimless beach’ offers respite from buzz of the city

MONTREAL – It sounded funny at first – a beach at Montreal’s Old Port where there’s no swimming.

But the scene is actually quite striking. Visitors can bury their feet in soft white sand as they gaze out at city landmarks and a parade of boats going up and down the St. Lawrence River.

Within view are the towering old Molson brewery, the steel trusses of Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and La Ronde, the city’s offshore amusement park.

The river’s strong current ruled out the possibility of making the beach open to swimming, and the closest sunbathers can get to water are the mist showers.

So far, though, the new Clock Tower Beach has been a hit.

“I never thought it would be nice like this,” said 65-year-old Pauline Angers, who lives just outside Montreal, as she sipped a juice under a parasol.

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“It’s lovely. There are so many places with pools, but you don’t see this everywhere.”

Located on a quay at the city’s Old Port, the beach is named after the giant clock tower that stands at the water’s edge, alongside a marina filled with motorboats and yachts.

It opened in mid-June, joining dozens of other nearby attractions at what has long been the city’s tourist headquarters.

Visitors can amble along the boardwalk or turn into Old Montreal, where outdoor patio restaurants and artists showcasing their works line the cobblestone streets.

There are so many things to do and see – boat cruises, caleche rides, a kid-friendly science centre, a Cirque du soleil performance – that the beach may get passed over by many visitors.

That’s not the case for nearby resident Jessica Diano, who decided to get a season’s pass.

“I love it,” said Diano, 30, as she sunbathed with three friends. “At first it was weird to not have the option to swim, but I don’t mind.”

In the evening, there’s a refreshment stand at the beach offering food and drinks, providing a prime spot to watch fireworks during the summer months.

The space may be a little less welcoming to children.

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On a recent weekend afternoon, there were a few dozen people at the beach, but only a handful of kids. Without a pool, there’s little for them to do but play with sand toys and cool off in the mist showers.

“I think if someone makes a trip specifically for this, I’m not sure if it’s worth it,” said Marco Quirion, who had biked to the beach from a Montreal suburb with his partner and two kids.

Angers disagrees.

She has already made several trips to the beach since it opened and plans to return. She said it’s a great place to find a quiet haven just steps from the buzz of the city.

“Normally, you have to travel to find sand like this,” she said.


If you go: The Clock Tower Beach is located at Montreal’s Old Port at the Quai de l’Horloge, which begins at the end of Bonsecours Street, near de la Commune Street.

It’s open every day until Sept. 2, between 10.30 a.m. and 7.30 p.m. On fireworks night and special events, it closes at 11 p.m.

Daily Admission:

5 years old and younger, free; 6 to 12 years old, $3; 13 to 59 years old, $6; 60 years and older, $5. Family rates are also available.

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