Pinery Provincial Park has my favourite beach in the Ontario Parks system. Although the beach is the main draw, there are plenty of other activities at The Pinery. Here is a summary of what this park has to offer:
Environment: The Pinery is located in southwestern Ontario, near Grand Bend. It was established in 1957 and opened to the public in 1959. The park is 25 square kilometres, and the beach and sand dunes in the park follow the Lake Huron shoreline. It has the largest Oak Savanna (lightly forested grassland) in Ontario. The Old Ausable Channel also flows through the park. It is the second busiest provincial park (after Algonquin) in Ontario, receiving about 625,000 visitors in 2009.
Beach: The Pinery has a ten-kilometre long beach with beautiful fine sand and colourful stones scattered throughout the sand. The water is quite shallow at the beach and is excellent for children. Please note that the beach is not buoyed and children must be supervised at all times. The water can get quite wavy and this is when younger and less experienced swimmers need to be closely supervised.
Biking: The Pinery Bike Trail is ten kilometres long and the terrain is very flat and easy to ride. The Bike Trail can be accessed near the park store and bike rentals are available at the store. Much of the trail is paved and follows along the Old Ausauble River. There are lots of campground roads to bike on as well.
Camping: There are approximately 1,000 campsites that are split among three campgrounds (Riverside, Burley and Dunes). Only Algonquin Park has more car accessible campsites in the Ontario Parks system. There are also 12 yurts that are situated in the Riverside campground. If you want to be near the beach, then reserve a campsite at the Burley or Dunes campgrounds. If you want to be near the Old Ausauble River, then book a campsite at the Riverside campground.
Canoeing & Boating: Canoeing is available along the ten-kilometre Ausauble Channel that flows through the park. Canoes and kayaks are also available for rent across from the park store. Lake Huron is very popular for sailing and power boating.
Fishing: With Lake Huron and the Ausauble River, there are plenty of fishing opportunities. Grab a copy of The Pinery Information Guide for more details.
Hiking: There are ten easy hiking trails scattered throughout the park, which are between 0.8-3.0 kilometres. The terrain at The Pinery is mostly flat with sand, dunes, savannas and forests. The Cedar Trail is worth hiking because you will hike through an Oak Savanna. The Riverside Trail follows the Ausauble River and the Lookout Trail takes you to the top of the largest sand dune in the park. When I camp at parks with great beaches, my favourite hike is always along the beach. But don’t make the same mistake as I did and attempt to hike the ten-kilometre long beach on a hot sunny day in July.
Shopping: Camping supplies, books and souvenirs are available at the park store, which is located in the centre of the park, along the Old Ausauble River. There is also shopping just outside the park boundary along highway 21. Grand Bend is located a short drive east of the park along highway 21.
The Amphitheatre: The Amphitheatre is large and evening shows happen throughout the summer.
The Visitor Centre: The Pinery has a visitor centre.
Winter Activities: Camping with hook-ups is available through the winter at the Riverside campground. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available along with equipment rentals. There is also a toboggan hill in the park.
In Conclusion: The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was 94%, and only Sandbanks had a higher occupancy rate at 95%. If your goal is to see the best beaches in Ontario, The Pinery should be near the top of your list. You can easily spend a week at The Pinery in the summer, as there is a lot to do. The Pinery is definitely one of my favourite parks in the province.
My Park Rating: 5 out of 5