Avoid The Crowds At These Under-The-Radar Canadian Beaches & Parks

Photographed by Poppy Thorpe.
The Canada Day crowds at Wasaga Beach got so crazy that the town shut down its most popular tourist attraction. The all-night raves at Cherry Beach caused the city of Toronto to issue a parking-lot curfew. Wabamun Beach in Alberta has been waaaaaay overcrowded. And who could forget the OG Canadian COVIDiots at Vancouver’s English Bay Beach or Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods park? ICYMI: The pandemic plus the warm weather is bringing out the badly behaved frat boy in a lot of people, but you don’t have to be one of them.
That’s right, people: It is possible to get outside and enjoy that holy trinity of sun/sand/surf without flouting social-distancing orders and endangering the entire population. (“There are other beaches to go to,” is how Toronto mayor John Tory put it while pleading with Torontonians to put an end to the pandemic-prolonging mosh pits at a few key gathering spots.) But which are the best beach and park alternatives in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and beyond? Where are they? And what do you need to know before going? Read on for a guide to safe* outdoor spaces. 
(*We can’t predict which places might get packed in the future. Along with sunscreen and hand sani, don’t forget to back your common sense!!!) 
Instead of… Trinity Bellwoods Park  (Toronto)
Try… Bickford Park, 400 Grace Street
This chiller, less-aggressively hip version of the park that put Toronto on the global COVIDiot map has a lot of the same pros: A central west side location; sprawling green space, and view of the CN Tower for that perfect #SummerInTheCity backdrop. 
Can I bring my pooch? Yup. There’s a fenced-in area for off-leash fun.
Can I bring my hooch? Not legally. While even Toronto’s mayor has called drinking in parks a “fact of life,” consuming alcohol in the park (or any other public area) is against the rules. That said, Bickford is plopped in the middle of Little Italy, which means plenty of patios (and bathrooms) in the vicinity.
Instead of… Cherry Beach (Toronto)
Try… Sir Casimir Gzowski Park, 2001 Lakeshore Boulevard West
Because presumably you’re not interested in getting arrested. And also because Sunnyside Beach — another popular west side swimming perch — recently tested high for e-coli. Which leaves Sir Casimir Gzowski (named after an engineer best known for his work on a wide variety of Canadian railways, ICYWW). It’s not as big as the aforementioned beaches, but it’s also not as well-known. Shhhhh….
Can I bring my pooch? Sure can. There’s a dog park towards the west side.
Can I bring my hooch? Nope, it's still not legal. Grab a blender drink on the patio at the Sunnyside Pavilion Café.
Instead of… Woodbine Beach (Toronto)
Try… Kew Balmy Beach, 1 Beech Avenue
Just a breezy boardwalk stroll east from the scene Ontario premier Doug Ford compared to South Beach Miami, this lesser-known 1.2 km stretch has been called “Toronto’s underrated sandy getaway.” Rent a kayak or standup paddleboard and grab a gelato at Beaches 'N Cream.   
Can I bring my pooch? Yes!
Can I bring my hooch? Sigh, still no. But the Balmy Beach Club deck is a great place for a cocktail.
Instead of… Wasaga Beach (Simcoe County)
Try… North Beach Provincial Park, 440 North Beach Rd (Prince Edward County)
With Wasaga’s main beach area now shut down indefinitely, it’s probably best to find another out-of-city escape. The pros of North Beach include two-for-one waterfront real estate (it’s a narrow strip with Lake Ontario on one side and North Bay on the other). Nearby Prince Edward County provides plenty of options for (responsible) post-Beach revelry. 
Can I bring my pooch? No. Leave Rover at home.
Can I bring my hooch? Still Ontario. Still no. But plenty of wineries in PEC.
Instead of… English Bay Beach (aka First Beach) (Vancouver)
Try… Second Beach, Stanley Park Drive
Way back in March, the crowds at Vancouver’s most popular coastline party place were part of what prompted that early “enough is enough” scolding from the Prime Minister. To escape the masses just continue along the water to Second Beach — an oceanside oasis that could sub in for Hawaii. The nearby (and giant) Second Beach Swimming Pool recently reopened, but you’ll have to book in advance. 
Can I bring my pooch? Stanley Park Dog Park is nearby (and offers pups-only swimming area).
Can I bring my hooch? Maybe soon. But for now, check out the Stanley Park brewpub nearby.
Instead of… Mount Royal Park (Montreal)
Try… Parc Jean-Drapeau, 1 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 
Known as “Tam Tams” by the locals, Mount Royal Park continues to attract crowds for the weekly drum circles. So maybe give it (and your ears) a rest. The recently reopened watering hole at Jean-Drapeau promises plenty of space for socially distant towel-lounging thanks to a reservation system. (Don’t forget to book before you go.) 
Can I bring my pooch? Pups are welcome at the park, but not on the beach.
Can I bring some hooch? Mais non. But there is a bar nearby.
Instead of… Prince’s Island Park (Calgary)
Try… Bowness Park, 8900 48 Ave NW
Following the Toronto Trinity Bellwoods debacle, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi had a message for his Cowtown constituents: “Don’t be like Toronto.” Social-distancing has been an issue at the popular Prince’s Island Park, but not at this alternate oasis where the (socially distanced!) picnic tables are plenty and the giant wading pool recently re-opened.
Can I bring my pooch? Yes, including designated off-leash areas.
Can I bring my hooch? YESSSSSSSS!!!!! Alberta rescinded the law banning open liquor in parks back in February. 
Instead of… Northern Bay Sands (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Try… Lumsden North Park, 63 Lumsden North Road
This lesser-known maritime paradise, about a four-hour drive from St. John's, is probably the closest thing you’ll be getting to the Caribbean for a while. 
Can I bring my pooch? If you want too, but keep Fido on a leash — it’s the rules.
Can I bring my hooch? Well you definitely don’t want to be this guy. Open alcohol on the beach is prohibited.

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