Some places are worth coming back to again and again.
- Transit: You pretty much have to drive. In theory you could take take transit across highway 48 and bike or hike the rest of the way, but that would probably take ages.
- Cost: Parking is not unreasonable, especially given the monopoly they have on it.
- Crowds: The patch of grass by the beach gets wall-to-wall crowded. There’s so much room in the water, though, that people are pretty well dispersed.
- Attractions: Fun. Playing in the water, getting sun, swimming, being silly.
- Accessibility: There are no sidewalks, and not much by way of paths from the road to the beach that I saw. There’s a stony section as you enter the water. Waves tend to be muted.
- Warning: The beach can get super crowded, and you may end up way too far out to see your belongings. Leave anything valuable in your vehicle.
- Click here for map.
Driving up to the beach at Holmes Point Conservation Area, I have the same thought I always do: “It doesn’t look like much of a beach, and parking is a nightmare.” Both of these things are true, too. It’s a weekend and finding parking anywhere around here is bonkers, and the parking lot is often full. And the beach, from the road, looks like a patch of lawn next to the water. It’s not hard to look at, but one wonders why the parking lot is so full.
It can be easy to turn away, frustrated, on busy days. And that would be a monumental mistake.
I get across the road and suddenly notice a pretty cosmopolitan vibe, not at all what I’d expect in this part of the province. I hear lots of languages, Portuguese, Hindi, Russian, Cantonese and others alongside English. I’ve never seen Holmes Point in travel or tourism material, but it’s clearly attracting people who’ve driven a while from the city to get here.
That reminds me that I’ve driven from the city, too. I came back for a reason. Once again, I see people playing in the water at an incredible distance out. How’d they do that?
At the mouth of the Pefferlaw River, which has been depositing fine sand there for who knows how many thousands of years, the beach starts off as a generic-looking patch of turf, yes. I reach the water’s edge, and it becomes a nothing-to-write-home-about stretch of sand, smooth rocks, and small pebbles in between. And then…
And then I wade into a shallow shelf of perfect beach sand that stretches for hundreds of metres into Lake Simcoe. It’s hard to tell how far it goes, really. After a while, and without any landmarks in the water to help me guesstimate, it becomes impossible to get a good handle on just how distant the shore is.
But that impossibly huge field of submerged, gorgeous beach sand? Oh, that’s not all. Because it and the summer sun conspire to heat up the blanket of clear water that covers it.
As I walk further that warm, calm freshwater comes up to my knees, and after much wading, my hips, then back down to my knees again, and then hips once more. There are fine ripples beneath the surface, but there must also be higher-order, enormous sand bars that I’m walking across beneath the surface.
It becomes deep enough for shallow duck-diving. People jump and splash into the lake like whales breaching. Others wrestle to throw each other in the water. I notice myself smiling. Laughing.
Further out, water from deep in the lake forms a cool layer under the blanket of warm. I’m finally chest-deep. I look back and shore seems ridiculously distant. Out here is where the most persistent, most adventurous are – swimming underwater, splashing, shouting, snapping shots with waterproof cameras.
Holmes Point beach isn’t so much a beach, it strikes me, as a playground. People don’t come here to tan or walk the sand (not that there’s anything wrong with that); they come here to have fun.
I do more smiling here than at any other beach I’ve ever been to. At most beaches I feel contented, calm, relaxed. Here I also feel adventurous, excited. I want to play. I take video after video of me spinning in the water like a top.
I’ve found that when people say “Oh, it’s such a beautiful beach” they often mean the shore is broad and sandy and there are plenty of places to spread out – it’s picturesque. Meanwhile, the conditions in the water are a crap-shoot. Some of the most photogenic beaches I’ve ever seen are lacklustre in the water.
Holmes Point’s beach flips that on its head.
Grown-ups are playing, behaving like kids. And that’s why I come back.
Holmes Point Beach is fun.