Grand Bend: 33 Best Things to Do + Ultimate Beach Guide (2022)
Anyone in search of the best beaches in Ontario should add a visit to Grand Bend and its close-by Pinery Provincial Park on their summer bucket list!
If you’re looking for the perfect beach town vibes this summer, keep reading so you can start planning your trip to the incredible Lake Huron gem of Grand Bend.
What is Grand Bend known for?
Grand Bend is one of Ontario’s most popular beach towns, and rightfully so. The Grand Bend Main Beach boasts the coveted Blue Flag Beach status and offers million-dollar sunset views. Steps away from the shore, the town’s Main Strip is lined with boutique shops, live-music, restaurants and exciting things to do. Grand Bend is easily the ultimate Ontario beach town.
Is Grand Bend worth visiting?
If you are looking for a busy Ontario beach with a laid-back, party vibe, you will likely find that Grand Bend easily exceeds your expectations. Conveniently located on the sunny southeastern shores of the blue Lake Huron waters, Grand Bend is just an hour from London and about 3 hours west of Toronto, making it the perfect day or weekend trip for most Ontarians.
Grand Bend & Pinery Provincial Park
Almost equally popular as Grand Bend itself is its neighbouring Pinery Provincial Park.
Affectionately called “The Pinery”, this park appeals to campers from around Ontario both for its access to Lake Huron’s shores and the Old Ausable Channel, as well as its abundance of campsites, all within less than 10 km from Grand Bend.
The Pinery is a huge provincial park, attracting thousands of visitors each season. It offers lots of exciting things to do near Grand Bend.
33 Best Things to Do in Grand Bend
After our recent trip to Grand Bend it became very apparent to us that there is something for everyone in this bustling beach town. From water sports to motorsports, day spas to antique shopping, farmers markets to wineries, and camping grounds to luxury hotels, Grand Bend has it all.
We can’t wait to share our ideas of the best activities, sites, and things to do in and around Grand Bend, Ontario!
Outdoor Activities in Grand Bend
1. Swim in Lake Huron
Pretty self-explanatory, swimming in the refreshing waters of Grand Bend is a must-do summer activity for all visitors.
Because of Grand Bend’s “Blue Flag Beach” status, you can rest assured that the waters you are wading in are under strict quality and safety standards.
You can also be sure that the sandy beach is well-maintained by the municipality. These are some of the measures used to award Blue Flag Beach status, which is limited to a select few beaches in Ontario.
Because of Lake Huron’s deep waters, it can take the better part of summer for these waters to really warm up. That doesn’t seem to stop visitors, though. Between the hot Ontario summer rays and the crowded shorelines, it’s pretty easy to be convinced to head neck-deep into the waves!
2. Rent Watersport Equipment
If swimming isn’t enough of an adventure for you, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place.
Grand Bend draws the right crowd to attract watersport rental and tour companies, which means you have some of the most well-loved and also most extreme watersport options available to you here.
We’ve done our research to find that customers are consistently satisfied with a few companies in particular. Since watersport rentals can be in high demand, there’s absolute value in having multiple trusted companies to choose from.
River Adventures offers some of your most sought-after water sport equipment: electric and gas powered inflatable boats (dinghy), kayaks, tandem kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs).
They also offer beginner SUP and kayak lessons, and some pretty cool specialty adventures like Glow Kayaking at night!
We’ve got to say that our favourite thing about River Adventures is that they offer accessible rentals, allowing people with mobility aids like wheelchairs the same amazing experience on the water. They also welcome dogs on flat-bottomed boats!
We love the accommodating approach and fantastic track record of service found at River Adventures.
Another reputable company offering water sport equipment at Grand Bend beach is Xtreme Watersports.
They’ve got a 20 year track record of positive customer experience and offer some of the most popular equipment rentals you might be looking for – and then some you’ve probably never even considered!
If you’re looking for the thrill of Jet Ski or Seadoo rentals, or the favourite summer party attraction of a Water Trampoline rental, Xtreme Watersports has you covered.
They also offer Speed Boat Charters that come with all of the favourite watersport equipment (wakeboards, water skis, kneeboards, tubes), and best yet, they even offer flyboarding rentals + lesson. (If you’ve never heard of flyboarding, keep reading as we explain this below!)
Offering the most sought-after rentals, Splash Watersports is another trusted company that takes customer service and safety very seriously.
They specialize in Jetski and Pontoon rentals, and also offer Boat Charters with tubes, water skis, and wakeboards for you to enjoy.
With these three great companies as well as others you may come across in your stay, there are some amazing watersport options for you to make unforgettable memories at the beach!
3. Flyboard at Grand Bend
If you have no idea what flyboarding is, you’re definitely not alone. Up until a couple years ago, flyboarding wasn’t that well known, but it’s quickly increased in popularity among extreme watersports fans.
So, what is this craziness, you might ask? Quite simply, a jet-pack that is propelled by pressurized water that travels through hoses connected to your board, that thrust you up into the air and allow you to dive and flip through the air and water.
Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
It is definitely a thrill, but for some people it’s also not that easy. We’ve had our hand at it ourselves and I can attest that it does take some getting used to. Regardless of skill level, it was actually so much fun and definitely worth trying at least once in your life!
We recommend renting with Xtreme Watersports Grand Bend as they’ve been a major watersports operator in Grand Bend for over two decades and have a solid track record of satisfied customers.
Rest assured that flyboard rentals will come with an instructor who will teach you how to maneuver the board so that you can find yourself meters above the water, diving in and out of the water like a dolphin (actually!).
4. Skydive Grand Bend
Very few experiences can beat the thrill of jumping out of a plane, 8000 feet in the air. For adrenaline seekers, skydiving is the perfect antidote to a lazy day at the beach.
At Skydive Grand Bend you will experience the amazing commitment of your instructors to ensuring that you are well-prepared, trained and confident to make your jump.
Divers consistently attest to the professional and friendly service of the staff, and the high degree of comfort and confidence they felt when making their jump.
Opposed to tandem jumps that many schools offer for first-time skydivers, Skydive Grand Bend takes their commitment to your experience one step further by training you to jump solo – your very first time!
Instructors hold your harness when you jump, and once the parachute is up, you are on your own, confidently sailing through the open skies.
5. Grand Bend Motorplex
One of the most unique attractions in Grand Bend has got to be Grand Bend Motorplex. If the growling sound of an engine gets you going, then there’s a good chance you’ll want to check this place out on a race day.
The Grand Bend Motorplex is no small-town track. It is home to Ontario’s largest drag racing events as well as raceway events for cars, motorbikes and go-karts. Attracting racers from around the province, this track is well used and certainly offers an exciting night out during your stay in Grand Bend!
6. Starlight Drive-In Movie Theatre
Step back in time for a memorable outing to Starlight Drive-In Movie Theatre, just outside of Grand Bend.
Open from May-October, Starlight Drive-In shows classic movies at an affordable price, making it an easy, fun, and exciting ‘win’ for the whole family! Craving that movie popcorn? No worries there either, as they sell your favourite movie snacks and refreshments, too.
With only a handful of drive-in movie theatres left in southwestern Ontario, Starlight is a must-do evening outing for all ages!
7. Play a Round of Golf
Whether you’re at the beach with your favourite buddies, or spending some good quality family time with the in-laws, throwing in a round of golf is always a great addition to a summer weekend out of town.
In Grand Bend, the Oakwood Resort Golf Course offers an 18 hole, par 70 course, situated on a beautiful beachside property. Located right in the town of Grand Bend, Oakwood Resort also offers a luxurious hotel and dining experience and the popular Lakeside Spa (for the non-golfers in the group).
Consider simplifying your plans by making Oakwood Resort your hotel of choice during your stay in Grand Bend, and be conveniently located right next to this amazing course.
8. Putt Around at Grand Bend Mini Golf
Who doesn’t love a good round of mini golf to kill some time by the beach? For a super fun outdoor course, get ready to tee off at Grand Bend Mini Golf, conveniently located right on the busy main street, just steps from the shore.
Grand Bend Mini Golf is very affordable, costing about $8 per person, and it has consistently excellent customer reviews.
Free Things to Do in Grand Bend
9. Watch the Sunset
Plain and simple, Grand Bend Sunsets are absolutely spectacular. With its wide, west-facing shoreline, you get the perfect view of the setting sun no matter the season.
While you can’t go wrong catching the view anywhere along the beach, two of the best spots to view the sunset are at the lighthouse and from the elevated observation deck.
Watching the sunset at Grand Bend is definitely a must-do activity, and of course, it’s completely free! Don’t miss it!
10. Walk the Grand Bend Pier & Lighthouse
The Grand Bend pier and lighthouse is located at the end of the main beach area, at the mouth of the Ausable River. The lighthouse is always a favourite for photos, especially as it happens to be one of the best spots to watch the sunset.
Lots of people enjoy walking out on the pier to watch the waves crash up against the cement foundation, and to catch a special view of the sun behind the lighthouse.
Because there is no railing along the pier, be very cautious as the waters are deep and vicious, and are not at all worth testing!
11. Walk the Grand Bend Main Strip
The Grand Bend Main Strip (or Main Street) is really what makes Grand Bend the hopping beach town that it is.
Sure, the beach is amazing on its own, but in our opinion, the busy and bustling core that surrounds it is what gives it that vibrant, energized atmosphere that screams “its summer and we are here for a good time!”
At just over half a kilometer long, the Grand Bend main street is lined with popular shops, restaurants, attractions, adventure companies, and nightlife venues. In the heat of summer, the streets and sidewalks are packed, and parking is definitely hard to come by!
While the main street is hard to miss on your way to the beach, you may want to try to avoid it by car, as the traffic can be very slow moving. Consider taking some side residential streets to skirt around this busy road to get to beachfront parking (more on parking later).
You won’t want to pass up the opportunity to stroll along the main street in Grand Bend during your time at the beach. See for yourself what transforms this small town from just another amazing beach to one of the most popular summer getaway destinations in all of Ontario!
12. Go Fishing
If you haven’t skipped right past this heading, we trust you are at least mildly interested in investing a couple hours of your vacation sitting patiently in front of the open water, waiting for a something to tug at your line.
Fishing doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, we beg to differ that it could be one of the most thrilling parts of your vacation.
If you’re ready to take your fishing experience to a new level of excitement, we highly recommend booking a Fishing Charter out of Grand Bend or its surrounding communities.
There are 3 highly rated Fishing Charter companies in and around Grand Bend that we recommend: Grand Bend Fishing Charters, and Blue Line Fishing Charters, and Copper Blues Fishing.
Each one of these companies has numerous and consistent 5-star reviews, and guests of each company boast of the professional, caring approach of the captains and guides of each charter. Many share stories of the captains helping to fillet and clean their catch, provide recipes, and even pair up with restaurants that will prepare your catch for an evening dinner!
Without a doubt, hiring a Fishing Charter is the way to go if you want to catch something to remember, as you will be equipped with the best equipment, led by knowledgeable guides, and led to the best spots to let in your lines.
Common species to catch in the open waters of Lake Huron are Walleye/Pickerel, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Lake Trout, bass, King (Chinook) Salmon, and Coho Salmon.
Tip: The April-October Charter Fishing season books up fast! Consider booking up to a year in advance for maximum availability.
Passionate and knowledgeable father-son team, Rob and Ryan, offer an excellent charter fishing experience, perfect for the whole family (even kids). Their well-stocked boat with top-quality equipment perfectly compliments their friendly and fun approach, making for a highly memorable day for all!
With departures out of Grand Bend and Port Franks, Blue Line Fishing Charters offers over 35 years of fishing experience on the Great Lakes. Captain Fred is professional, experienced and very friendly, aiming to serve his guests with a well-equipped boat and invaluable insight and expertise!
Captain Dave offers professional, knowledgeable, and patient care to all his guests. His well-equipped boat and helpful insight help you to feel well-prepared and relaxed during the entire excursion. Located in Kettle Point, just 20 minutes from Grand Bend, Copper Blues Fishing Charter will not disappoint!
Tip: We suggest taking Gravol before you board the boat so you have the best experience, especially if you are prone to nausea. Waiting until you are feeling sick is often too late!
Grand Bend Pier Fishing
Fishing can also be cheap and simple: bring your rods, buy some bait, and cast your lines off a dock or off the shore. Fishing off of the Grand Bend pier (lighthouse) is a perfect spot for this kind of fishing. Casting in the Old Ausable Channel (running through Grand Bend and Pinery Provincial Park) is another great option, especially if you prefer to fish by canoe.
Note: If you’re 18 years old or older, you must have a fishing license to fish in Ontario. If you don’t have a seasonal license, you can purchase a one-day sport fishing license. Read more on the Ontario provincial website.
13. Grand Bend Farmer’s Market
Adding in a trip to a local farmer’s market is always a fun way to see the local culture of a new place. For visitors to Grand Bend between late May and early October, consider spending a few hours roaming around the Grand Bend Farmer’s Market.
The market is currently scheduled to run Wednesday mornings from 8am-1pm at the Lambton Heritage Museum, located just outside of Pinery Provincial Park.
The farmer’s market is the perfect place to pick up fresh-grown veggies and fruits, and locally sourced meats, maple syrup, honey, beers, and of course freshly made treats.
Lots of local artisans also use the market to sell their unique handmade products and crafts, which makes shopping local and eco-friendly all the more enjoyable!
14. Pinery Market
Consider spending the day roaming around at the Pinery Market, open Sundays from 9am-4pm between May-October.
The Pinery Market is a well-rounded combination of antique flea market and farmer’s market. Vendors include local (antique) pickers, producers, farmers and artisans, as well as local coffee roasters and restaurants selling hot foods.
If you’ve never scavenged the finds at a flea market, you may be surprised by how entertaining it really can be, as you never know what you may come across!
Admission is $2 and parking is free at the market venue along Lakeshore Road.
15. Hike the Lambton Shores Nature Trails
The forested sand dunes and river areas running along Lambton Shores (the municipality along Lake Huron’s coast between the towns of Forest and Grand Bend) are home to a unique set of hiking trails.
We recommend referring to the Lambton Shores Nature Trail Blazers website for detailed guides and maps of each trail option.
Most of these trails will require driving outside of Grand Bend into neighbouring communities. For a fun walk accessible within the town of Grand Bend, consider hitting the Grand Bend Rotary Nature Trail (keep reading below!).
Note: Remember to always do a quick check for ticks after hiking in Southern Ontario!
16. Walk or Bike the Grand Bend Rotary Nature Trail
Pick your transportation mode of choice and hit the Grand Bend Rotary Trail!
This awesome connector trail runs parallel to Highway 21/Lakeshore Road for 9 km, all the way from Grand Bend to the entrance of Pinery Provincial Park. It’s the perfect means for active visitors to check out both locations – completely car-free!
The Grand Bend Rotary Trail is fully paved and is mostly flat, meaning it’s incredibly accessible for people of all fitness levels. It can be accessed from anywhere along the stretch of highway between both The Pinery and Grand Bend.
If you’re staying in The Pinery and want to rent bikes, you can do so at The Pinery Park Store.
17. Take In a Free Concert
Grand Bend’s beachfront concert stage is home to the Summer Sunset Sounds concert series each summer. If you are in town during a concert night, definitely swing by the stage (right by the lookout platform at the main beach) to enjoy the lively summer vibes of the music and crowd.
Thanks to the generous donation of local business sponsors, the Summer Sunset Sounds concerts are completely free to the public.
We happened to visit in 2021 during one of the summer concerts and have to say that enjoying live music while watching the spectacular sunset was such a treat and made our evening that much more memorable!
Things to Do at Pinery Provincial Park
Pinery Provincial Park (The Pinery) is Lambton County’s camping and wilderness gem. With a huge selection of camping sites (tent, group, RV, cabin and yurt), over 10 km of Lake Huron shoreline for swimming, 10 different hiking trails, an extensive bike path, fantastic cross-country ski trails, and a beautiful water channel, its easy to see why The Pinery is an incredibly popular destination all year around.
18. Camp at Pinery Provincial Park
The Pinery’s assortment of campsites is huge! There are seemingly endless campsites, and yet many (though not all) of the sites feel surprisingly spacious and private.
We had the chance to tent camp at The Pinery over Labour Day weekend, and while it was certainly busy, we also had a good, quiet night’s sleep and felt no evidence of any possibly partying neighbours.
Car & RV Camping
For camping sites that are car and RV friendly, check out the following campgrounds within the Pinery.
Riverside Campground has a variety of sites, including those for tent (car) camping and pull-through (RV) camping. There are electrical and non-electrical sites, toilet stations, comfort stations, drinking water taps, laundry facilities.
We stayed at Riverside Campground and liked that it was a short walk to the Park Store (and ice cream shop!) and the Canoe and Bike Rental station.
One downside is that Riverside is the furthest campground from the beach, but the bike path creates a shortcut to Dunes Beach.
Note: One section of Riverside Campground is open year-round. For visitors looking to camp past Labour Day, this is the only location within The Pinery open for camping between September-May.
Burley Campground is located right next to Burley Beach along the Lake Huron shore. Camp sites at Burley are designed for tent (car) camping and do not offer electrical service.
Dunes Campground is very close to Dunes Beach and offers a variety of sites for both tent (car) camping and pull-through (RV) camping. There are electrical and non-electrical sites. Dunes Campground is closest to the Visitor’s Centre, amphitheater, and the Friends of Pinery Nature Store.
There are 10 group campsites within the day use area of The Pinery. They are all within a short walking distance to the beach and washroom facilities (with running water!).
In our opinion, The Pinery is an awesome location for organizations to book for group camping, as it offers a variety of in-park nature activities and is so close to Grand Bend. There is always something to do and explore during the day, and proximity to the lake makes for comparatively mild nights for sleeping.
Small groups or families, or those with conditions that make sleeping on the ground less appealing, might find the Pinery’s cabin or yurts to be the perfect way to get the excitement of camping without the hassle of tent camping.
Cabin and Yurt rentals are available year-round and are located in the Riverside Campground.
The Pinery has one cabin available for booking. It sleeps up to 5 people, and offers the convenience of a small kitchenette (with appliances), indoor and outdoor tables, BBQ and firepit, and an indoor fireplace.
With similar comfortable amenities to the park cabin, soft-shelter yurts sleep 5-6 people. The Pinery offers 12 regular yurts and one deluxe yurt.
Note: For more information on what each campground and shelter option entails, visit the Pinery website.
19. Day Trip to Pinery Provincial Park
A great alternate to camping at The Pinery is to purchase a day pass to access the recreational activities and beachfront at the park. The park is divided into a day use area and overnight area, so while some of the park is off-limits for day pass holders, much of it remains fully accessible.
Hiking & Biking Trails at Pinery Provincial Park
There are 10 hiking trails within the park, each ranging in length from 0.8 km to 3 km. About half of these trails are in the day use area.
The trails offer a great opportunity to see the flora and fauna of the park, including over 300 species of birds (whoa!) and other wildlife that thrive in the unique ecosystems of The Pinery’s sand dunes.
A 14-km long bike path (Savannah Trail) also runs throughout the park, weaving in and out of forests and along the park roads. The trail includes both paved and unpaved sections.
Bicycle rentals are available right next to the Park Store.
Check out the Pinery Provincial Park map for all trail locations and information.
Water Sports on the Old Ausable Channel
The beautiful Old Ausable Channel not only plays a role of environmental significance, but it also offers a fun place to get out on the water without having to contend with the waves at the lake!
Water Sport equipment rentals are available right next to the Park Store, adjacent to the dock at the Old Ausable Channel. Rental equipment includes canoes, Corcls, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), and single and double kayaks. Motorized boats are not allowed on the water.
Visitors looking to fish can cast in almost anywhere along the channel. Remember that an Ontario fishing license is required to legally fish even within the park.
About half of the 10 km long shoreline falls within in the park’s day use area. Parking lots and comfort stations are plentiful by the water.
Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards on park beaches, so pay attention to the wave conditions and swim at your own risk.
Winter Sports in The Pinery
Winter time in The Pinery is absolutely magical! The Pinery boasts over 40 km of ski trails (across 5 separate trails), two walking trails, snowshoe trails, an ice rink and sledding hill.
A day trip to The Pinery in the winter is the perfect antidote to the long winter season as you get that heart rate up and feel the burn (and release those endorphins)!
If you’re planning on camping overnight during the winter, you’ll be staying that the centrally-located Riverside Campground, which is within decent walking distance of the Park Store. The park’s cabin and yurts are located in this campground.
Cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals are available at the Park Store.
Check out “Things to Do in Grand Bend in the Winter” below for more details on The Pinery’s winter activities!
The Park Store
The Pinery’s Park Store is where you will find camping supplies, souvenirs and gifts, groceries, beach toys, bike and water sport rentals, and of course, the park’s freshly scooped ice cream. (Helloooo, ice cream!) There is also a small restaurant on site for those lazy camping days when a grilled cheese not made over a campfire is just way too appealing.
The best opportunity to make the most of your outdoor experience at The Pinery is to check out the park’s extensive Discovery Program. You can take part in guided hikes and bike outings with a park naturalist, kids can participate in youth programming, and curious visitors can learn about the many species living in the Old Ausable Channel.
Things to Do in Grand Bend on a Rainy Day
A rainy day at the beach doesn’t have to put a damper on your vacation. With these next few items on our list of things to do in Grand Bend, you’ll be as happy as the kids puddle jumping outside.
20. Relax at Lakeside Spa
If you ever needed an excuse to go to the spa, a rainy day at Grand Bend is a good one!
Located within the popular Oakwood Resort, Lakeside Spa offers fantastic massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Choose from a variety of specialty, signature, and aromatherapy options to make your spa day catered uniquely to you.
Lakeside has consistently positive reviews of professional and friendly service, and we are confident that you will enjoy your day here. After your treatment, head back to the beach feeling relaxed and restored, just like you should when on vacation.
21. Lambton Heritage Museum
Local history buffs will enjoy a trip to the Lambton Heritage Museum, where the rich history of Lambton County is preserved and studied.
The museum houses over 35,000 artifacts and photographs, and has recently expanded to include the acquisition of the nearly 200 year old Canatara Cabin. The cabin is being rebuilt and restored after moving from its former location, becoming the sixth historic building featured at the museum.
Current museum admission prices are $5 for adults, $3 for kids (over 3 years old), $4 for seniors, or $15 per family. Hours are 11am-4pm Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 11am-8:30pm on Thursdays.
22. Hunt for Antiques
On the lookout for that perfect antique to take centre stage on your dining room table? Or maybe you just like a good bargain hunt through one-of-a-kind items that are so typical to find in small-town Ontario. No matter your motive, hunting for antiques can be a lot of fun, and rewarding, too!
In Grand Bend, one place sticks out from the rest when it comes to antique shopping: Dale’s Antiques and Mennonite Furniture.
Their chic wooden cabin containing endless bargains and unique finds is a delight to explore and will keep you occupied for hours. They also sell amazing, top of the line Mennonite furniture to help you turn your home into a rustic paradise, all while supporting local, sustainable businesses!
23. Huron County Playhouse
Catch a show at Huron County Playhouse and see local live performance theatre at its finest! Just 5 minutes from downtown Grand Bend, this theatre has two playhouses (650-seat and 300-seat) built within a beautiful, rustic building on expansive country grounds.
Attracting spectators from around the province, productions at the Huron County Playhouse are top-notch and do not disappoint. Plan ahead and book early for an exciting and entertaining night out at the show!
Things to Do in Grand Bend in the Winter
Strap on those clunkers and get your sweat on this winter snowshoeing some amazing trails in Grand Bend! There are three prime snowshoeing locations we want to highlight that we think you will love to explore!
The Pinery offers plenty of snowshoeing opportunities, both on the hiking trails, unplowed roadways, and across other flat areas of the park. Because of the vulnerable sand dune ecosystems within the park, authorities ask visitors to simply avoid areas marked as environmentally sensitive. Snowshoe rentals are available at the Park Store.
Tip: Ask the park gate staff where the best snowshoeing trails are currently for the inside scoop!
Oakwood’s snowshoe trails are open to the public and are completely free to access! Snowshoe rentals are available in the Pro Shop. Stop by the resort’s restaurants after your outing, or consider extending your stay by booking a night in one of their luxurious rooms.
The Lambton Heritage Museum offers a 1 km snowshoe (or hiking) trail through their oak savannah forest. Snowshoe rentals are available through the museum and are complimentary with the purchase of museum admission!
The trail also includes a photo scavenger hunt as well as information panels describing the indigenous history and environment of the area.
The flat, 9 km-long Rotary Nature Trail connecting the town of Grand Bend to Pinery Provincial Park is the perfect (albeit long) spot for snowshoeing along predictable terrain. The point-to-point trail runs next to Highway 21/Lakeshore Road, and can be entered/exited anywhere along the highway.
25. Cross Country Skiing in Pinery Provincial Park
When it comes to cross country skiing near Grand Bend, look no further than the extensive trails at Pinery Provincial Park.
With 40 km of ski trails, there is enough to keep both the beginner and veteran cross country skier active and entertained for days. The park has four trails groomed for cross country skiing (Ausable Trail, Dune Ridge Trail, Chickadee Trail, and Huron Trail) as well as one specifically groomed for skate skiing (Skate Ski Trail).
Trails are marked as “Easy”, “More Difficult” and “Most Difficult” to help you to plan your outing wisely.
As these trails are long and the sun sets early in winter (not to mention that Grand Bend is in Ontario’s snow belt), always take extra precautions and prepare for the unexpected. Inform someone before you go out, pack a few extra supplies in case of emergencies, and head out early in the day for maximum daylight hours.
Check out The Pinery’s winter map with trail details and relevant park information to plan ahead.
26. Yurt Camping in Pinery Provincial Park
Immerse yourself in The Pinery’s winter wonderland by camping overnight in their popular yurt accommodations (soft-sided shelters)!
While these yurts aren’t exactly the kind you can expect to find in Mongolia (home of the original yurts), they will give you a fun and rustic way to experience the Canadian winter.
Yurts are heated and come with beds (bring your own bedding), and simple kitchen amenities. Toilets are located nearby but do require exiting the yurt (and braving the cold!). We recommend packing an octopus plug power bar if you wish to bring any additional appliances, just in case the outlet situation isn’t sufficient for your needs.
Of course, during your days in the park, you can take advantage of the park’s trails, tobogganing hill and ice rink before heading back to your yurt for some hot cocoa and cozy lounging! What a fun way to make memories this winter!
Things to Do Near Grand Bend
One of our favourite things to do wherever we go is to drive around the area and see the surrounding sites. When it comes to Grand Bend, you literally have hours and hours of Lake Huron shoreline (also called the Blue Coast) and surrounding communities to explore! Keep reading to see our local recommendations!
27. Day Trip to Sarnia
When it comes to exploring the Blue Coast, you can’t go wrong heading southeast to Sarnia. The drive itself will only take an hour, but while you’re out, we recommend checking out some of the best sites along the way.
Recommended stops between Grand Bend and Sarnia (1 hour drive)
– Port Franks Beach
– Grog’s Pub and Grill (along Hwy 21/Lakeshore Road outside of Port Franks)
– Ipperwash Beach
– Canatara Beach and Park
– Sarnia’s Waterfront Park (at the Blue Water Bridge to the USA)
28. Day Trip to Bayfield & Goderich
In the opposite direction of Sarnia you will find two picturesque Ontario small towns along the coast: Bayfield and Goderich. Both are well worth the visit and can be reached in under an hour.
Oh yeah, and in case you have your doubts, consider that Queen Elizabeth II named Goderich the “prettiest town in Canada”. Now, I bet you believe it will be worth your time.
Recommended stops between Grand Bend and Goderich (45 minute drive)
– Hessenland Inn & Shantz Winery
– Town of Bayfield (excellent for boutique shopping)
– Bayfield Berry Farm
– Town of Goderich (walk the quaint downtown)
– Walk the scenic Goderich Waterfront Boardwalk from Goderich Main Beach to Rotary Cove Beach
– Walk the Menesetung Bridge
29. Take a Wine Tour
Looking for an adults-only thing to do near Grand Bend? Helloooo, wine tasting! I don’t know about you, but I can hardly think of a better way to relax and indulge with good company than to sip on a glass of vino and look out across a beautiful vineyard.
There are a few fantastic vineyards to visit near Grand Bend that we recommend:
Dark Horse Estate Winery
Located just 5 minutes from Grand Bend, right next to the Huron County Playhouse, Dark Horse Estate Winery is a spectacular site to see. The winery’s bold, confident presence in the midst of neighbouring vineyards and fields oozes a sense of luxury and class.
Its modern, state-of-the-art conference and event space and outdoor patio pair perfectly with its identity as Huron County’s first fully operating estate winery. Enjoy wine tasting and food pairing while watching the breath-taking sunsets across the fields.
Schatz Winery at Hessenland Inn
Shantz Winery and Hessenland Inn are the perfect relaxing addition to your vacation in Grand Bend. Functioning as a luxurious boutique inn, winery, restaurant and event space only 10 minutes from Grand Bend, Hessenland is a stop worth making on your local wine tour.
We especially love how they offer unique experiences for guests, including a “wine and dine” experience out in the vineyard, and a “vineyard exploration experience” where couples can enjoy wine tasting and bring their kids along for a scavenger hunt through the vineyard and gardens.
Alton Farms Estate Winery
Alton Farms Estate Winery has an inviting, friendly atmosphere where guests can experience and taste authentic, hand-crafted wines in a small-scale winery.
Set on a beautiful vineyard surrounded by farmland just 30 minutes from Grand Bend, you can enjoy wine tasting and food on the outdoor patio, and shop their selection of wines and wine vinegars in store.
Check the Alton Farms website or call 519-381-1112 to check for seasonal hours.
Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery
Set 20 minutes south of Grand Bend is the beautiful site of Shale Ridge Estate Winery and Cidery. Offering a spacious country backdrop to enjoy while tasting their hand made wines and ciders, there is no reason not to relax here.
We also love how they use their beautiful grounds to host special events, like trail rides and alpaca walks, holiday markets and live entertainment.
30. Raise a Pint at a Local Brewery
Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company
Sip on a refreshing brew at Grand Bend’s first and only craft brewery, Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company, located right on Grand Bend’s main strip!
Enjoy your drink on site or pick up a pack as a souvenir to enjoy later. Either way, feel good knowing you’re supporting a local business that believes in sustainable, local production, without compromising taste.
Bad Apple Brewing Company
Located just 10 minutes north of Grand Bend along Highway 21 is Bad Apple Brewing Craft Brewery.
Growing their own fruit on site for some of their brews, and offering a wide open beer garden perfect for refreshing after a long day at the beach, Bad Apple Brewery is worth the short drive from Grand Bend. Get a real country feel in their converted century barn turned tap house and brewery!
31. Visit a Cidery
Twin Pines Orchards and Cider House
Looking for a fun place to retreat for a refreshingly cold drink that you can actually feel good about having?
Come visit the family farm of Twin Pines Orchards and Cider House just 20 minutes south of Grand Bend, where the fruit you see growing around you is as beautiful as the cider is delicious. Enjoy a fresh pint in their Tasting Bar and shop around for some fun flavours to take home!
What we love most about Twin Pines is that they practice Integrated Pest Management, meaning they use as little pesticides as possible by only using on an as-needed basis. They also grow and sell a variety of pesticide and herbicide-free fruits and vegetables that you can purchase in their cute country store!
They even offer their very own non-alcoholic ciders and apple wines!
32. Rock Glen Falls
One of southwestern Ontario’s best kept secrets is the incredible historic and natural landmark of the Rock Glen Falls, tucked away in Arkona’s Rock Glen Conservation Area, just half an hour from Grand Bend.
In addition to the beautiful 10.7 meter tall waterfall that visitors can enjoy up close, this site is rich with Devonian Era fossils and First Nations artifacts, and is easily an enjoyable outing for the whole family.
Check out our full post Rock Glen Conservation Area: Falls, Fossils, and Family Fun for everything you need to know about planning your visit!
33. Ausable River Cut Conservation Area
One of the most popular and unique hiking spots close to Grand Bend is the Ausable River Cut Conservation Area, a mere 10 minute drive away.
With sand dunes, lightly forested areas and Ontario’s unique Carolinian forest, Ausable River Cut is a great place to go for short and moderate length hikes close to Grand Bend.
Trails take you along the Ausable River, offering great views and excellent spots to stop for a picnic. If you’re up for a real adventure, put in your kayaks or canoes in the conservation area and make your way towards either Grand Bend or Port Franks for the day.
The trails at Ausable River Cut Conservation Area range from easy (accessible paved trail) to moderate and difficult trails, and range in length from 0.5-2km long. There is also an accessible lookout platform over the river, a Children’s Story Walk trail, and public washrooms on site.
See the Ausable River Cut Conservation Area trail map for more details.
Grand Bend Beach
Bustling, enticing and full of adventures, the beach at Grand Bend is the highlight of the town. We want to make sure you have all of the practical details you need in order to have a smooth-sailing trip ahead.
Grand Bend Beach Hours
The Main Beach at Grand Bend is open daily from 6 am-11 pm.
The beach is open year-round, but public washrooms are closed in the winter months.
Grand Bend Beach Parking
There are three main types of parking locations throughout the town of Grand Bend: paid parking lots, street parking, and free parking spots.
Paid Parking Lots
Main Beach Lot, Mid Town Lot, North Beach Lot, and Huron Street Parking Lot charge $4-$5 per hour, or $20-$25 for the day.
Main Street and River Road offer hourly parking at the rate of $3/hour (for a max of 2 hours) during beach season (May 15 – September 15).
Note that these roads can be very busy in season and may not prove to be the best option.
Free Parking Spots
Who doesn’t love the satisfaction of taking a few extra minutes to search for free parking, only to land upon the most perfect, possibly-illegal-but-not-actually-illegal spot. I’m sure you know the feeling.
While we haven’t checked out all of the free parking spots in Grand Bend ourselves, we have done our research and can tell you that there should be a free parking in the following general areas:
- on Municipal Road (near the Legion hall)
- on Gill Road
- on Ontario Street
In addition, when we visited Grand Bend this past summer we found that there was free street parking on the residential street of Village Gate (across from Tim Hortons on Ontario Street). It was a bit of a walk to the beach but we found the savings worth the extra walk!
There are likely other streets like this that are a bit removed from the busy Main Street of Grand Bend that you are likely to stumble upon if you drive around long enough. We found that anything close to the beach (where there are a lot of cottages) did not offer free parking so we suggest looking east of Ontario Street (Hwy 21).
Grand Bend Beach Rules
When visiting public beaches its always wise to know what you can and cannot do.
Are Dogs Allowed on Grand Bend Main Beach?
Dogs are not allowed on the Grand Bend Main Beach at any time during the beach season (beginning of May to end of September). Leashed dogs can be walked on the North and South Beach from May-September between the hours of 6-8am and 8-11pm, daily. Dogs are not permitted on the beach at all other times.
Is smoking or drinking allowed on Grand Bend Main Beach?
Smoking, vaping, and alcohol are not allowed on the beach. Glass bottles are also prohibited.
Are BBQs or fires allowed on the beach?
No, fires and BBQs are not permitted on the beach.
Grand Bend Restaurants
There are many dining options for all budgets and preferences in Grand Bend, most of which can be found on the main strip leading to the beach. To help simplify your decision making, consider checking out one of these popular and well-loved restaurants:
Enjoy your favourite sushi and Asian cuisine in this upscale, newly-renovated establishment. Specializing in sushi, stir frys, salads, and unique turkey burger, Midori Sushi Bar and Restaurant is the perfect place for your night out on the town.
A favourite restaurant for many regulars, The Lake Hound is family-owned and values using fresh and locally-sourced ingredients to make their very popular pub food.
One of the most well-loved casual fine dining restaurants in Grand Bend, F.I.N.E a Restaurant offers a classy dining experience and their Red Seal Chefs bring regional cuisine with a real flare!
Satisfy your cravings for Asian food in a new and exciting way as you check out Manila Cuisine, a small, hidden gem of a restaurant with fantastic cuisine will have you coming back for more!
Looking for a hopping outdoor patio right by the water? The Tipsy Pelican is your ideal bar restaurant for your summer day at the beach, with its large patio and funky beach-décor.
Grand Bend Accommodations
Being a beach town and popular tourist destination, Grand Bend boasts a plethora of cottages and rentals close to the shore, as well as a number of inns, motels and a few luxurious hotels. Of course, many visitors choose to camp at the Pinery Provincial Park given its proximity, which is what we did during our recent trip to Grand Bend.
While we have not stayed in any of the hotels in and around Grand Bend to speak from our own experience, we have done some research and have identified some of the best picks based on customer reviews.
Best Upscale Hotel: Colonial Hotel
Newly-renovated, modern suites in a boutique hotel in the heart of Grand Bend.
Best Budget-Friendly Hotel: Amber Hotel
Newly-renovated, modern rooms only a 20 minute walk from the beach.
Our Wrap Up: 33 Best Things to Do in Grand Bend + Ultimate Beach Guide
Grand Bend is one of the best beach towns in all of Ontario, with so much to do and so many great summer vibes. If you’re up for a more rustic adventure, consider combining your visit with a stay at Pinery Provincial Park. We hope this comprehensive guide and list of the best things to do in Grand Bend (and the Pinery!) will help you to have an amazing adventure in this little corner of the world!