Road trip Ontario: Summer crowds flock to Grand Bend’s beaches, gardens and sunsets

You will pass through the a colourful strip to reach the main beach in Grand Bend. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

With several lengthy beaches along the shores of Lake Huron, Grand Bend has long been a popular vacation destination for sun lovers.

The village, which was amalgamated into Lambton Shores in 2001, has a population of around 2,000 in the winter months. The population balloons to as high as 50,000 on weekends, Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber said.

Two or three times a week mayor Bill Weber will head out to the pier to take in the sunset. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

Aside from the beaches, Weber says the picturesque area is also known for some of the most spectacular sunsets across Ontario.

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Weber said he “will go down to the pier two to three times per week to meet with people who are out taking photos of the sunset.”

READ MORE: Road trip Ontario: Merrickville offers scenic shopping in the summertime

He explained: “It’s good to hear from people from around the world.”

People from across North America have cottages in Grand Bend, including former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose father built a cottage in the area for the family in the 1950s.

While the lakeside community also offers a myriad of activities, including camping, cycling, golfing and a host of beachfront activities, the mayor is also proud to point out the community’s successful history in the Communities in Bloom competition.

Grand Bend Beach. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

The international competition pits various towns and cities against one another in a friendly beautification contest.

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Lambton Shores was a national champion in 2012 and a Grand Champion in 2013. It is looking to regain its Grand Champion crown in 2018.

Getting there

Grand Bend is nestled on the shoreline of Lake Huron west of Kitchener and northwest of London.

From Kitchener, it is about a 90-minute drive to Grand Bend. You can follow Highway 7/8 through New Hamburg until you get right into the heart of Stratford. From there, your scenic journey will take you through Tavistock, Saint Paul’s Station, Exeter and Dashwood.

READ MORE: Road trip Ontario: Collingwood region ideal spot for those who want active getaway

From London, it is about an hour long drive to Grand Bend. The journey can be pretty straightforward as you head north through Elginfield to Lucan and then County Road 24 to Grand Bend Rd/County Road 81.

Where to stop on the way

If you are heading to Grand Bend from Toronto or Hamilton, an ideal place to visit along the way would be Stratford.

Known for the Stratford Festival, the city also boasts a wide variety of restaurants with a range of culinary choices.

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This fun sign will greet you when you arrive in Grand Bend from London. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

If you want to just stretch your legs in the middle of your trip, a walk along the Avon River allows for a peaceful opportunity to admire some spectacular homes.

READ MORE: Road trip Ontario: Let’s all go to the drive-in

Another option which will take you a little off your trail would be a visit to the quaint town of St. Mary’s where you will find some terrific places to eat and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Where to shop

As you head down Main Street heading to the main beach in Grand Bend, there are a host of shops along the strip where you can find tchotchkes and clothing, including Archie’s and Sea Jewels.

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You will pass through the colourful strip to reach the main beach in Grand Bend. Kevin Nielsen / Global News

Archie’s sells surf clothing and local mementos while Sea Jewels offers jewelry, home décor and clothing.

If you are looking for something a little more off the beaten path, try Dale’s Antique Market & Mennonite Furniture.

READ MORE: Road trip Ontario: Ditch the car and experience scenic Niagara by bike

The store offers a host of antique and vintage items to decorate your home and is also an antique flea market on Sundays.

Just a little further down the Lakeshore Road you will find the Pinery Market, an open-air flea market which has been around since the 1960s.

Where to visit

Given that the beaches in Grand Bend have long been a mecca for tourists, Grand Bend has plenty of sights to see.

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If you are interested in art, Canada 151: Better Late Than Sorry is currently being performed at the Huron Country Playhouse while Out of Order is being performed at Playhouse 2.

Switching gears, the Grand Bend Motorplex offers a wide variety of motor racing options. It will host the Mopar Nationals the August long weekend.

Another option for adults would be a winery tour at Dark Horse Estate.

Back on the water, there are plenty of fishing charters that can be booked or you can check out the bandshell on the beach on Sundays for a free concert. (Mondays on a long weekend.)

The nearby Arkona Lions Museum offers a look at Devonian Era fossils and aboriginal artifacts.

Where to stay

There are literally dozens of cottages to rent along the shores of Lake Huron and one can also camp in several different trailer parks or at Pinery Provincial Park.

The top ranked motels in town according to Trip Advisor are:

Blue Water Motel

Pine Dale Motor Inn

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Oakwood Resort

Village Inn Motel

In addition, there are also several bed and breakfast options, according to Trip Advisor:

A Grand Hideaway Bed & Breakfast

Bee ‘n Bee Bed ‘n Breakfast

By The Old River Bed & Breakfast

Green Acres Bed & Breakfast

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