DESTINATION: Fishing, Flyboarding, And Family Fun In The Grand Bend Area, Ontario
Published: Monday, February 18, 2019
By: Emily Baillie
One of Canada’s best beach towns is offering more watersports and outdoor activities than ever before, right on the pristine shores of Lake Huron. Located in the lakeside community of Lambton Shores, the village of Grand Bend brims with happy sun-seekers in warmer months and is anchored by its main beach – Grand Bend Beach, a long sandy stretch of clean shoreline that has earned it a world-renowned “Blue Flag” designation. Since 2009, the Main Beach has held uninterrupted Blue Flag status, an international designation awarded to beaches for cleanliness, safety, and consistent swimmable water quality.
The Grand Bend area offers everything from forest hiking and cycling trails, kayaking, and canoeing in Pinery Provincial Park, to salmon and trout fishing aboard a charter fishing boat, to parasailing, wakeboarding, and flyboarding at the Main Beach. Since the 1870s, the area has been a summer playground for people of all ages. In the 1920s, the Ford Motor Company held its annual company picnics here. There are endless outdoor activities to enjoy – not to mention lots of shopping, dining, and live professional theatre!
Located northwest of Michigan’s Port Huron and south of Ontario’s Goderich, Lambton Shores features small towns and villages with populations of less than 2,500 that swell to an estimated 50,000 tourists and cottagers drawn from across Ontario and the northern U.S. throughout the summer. Some arrive by car, others arrive by water! To accommodate boaters and sailors, there are several municipally-run local marinas, including Grand Bend Marina, Port Franks Marina, and nearby Bayfield Marina, plus many private marinas. With multiple landing options, finding a spot to drop anchor and explore has never been easier.
Fly like a superhero on jet water boots in one of the newest high adrenaline sports to hit the water. This futuristic-looking activity is powered by pressurized streams of water that propel the rider high into the air or dive headlong through water. Xtreme Watersports in Grand Bend has certified instructors who provide a quick coaching lesson on how to fly high, and they’ll be by your side through the whole experience. If you dare, you can try to perform aerial flips and spins. Optional wetsuits are included with half hour or full hour sessions.
The deep blue waters of Lake Huron are ripe for reeling in Chinook salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and walleye. Two top-rated fishing charters, both kitted out with top-of-the-line fishing equipment and expert fishing guides, can ensure a perfect time to make memories with friends and family, whether you are new to fishing or a seasoned master angler.
Grand Bend Fishing Charters, a father and son fishing team, offer fishing charters May to October out of Grand Bend and actively scout out several different fishing holes prior to charters, keeping a close eye on the thermocline or temperature breaks in the water column. Fish venture into the cooler, denser layer of water nearer to the lake bed to feed, but due to lower oxygen levels in that layer will rise towards the warmer surface layer again. Knowledgeable fishers can leverage thermocline to improve their catch. Grand Bend Fishing Charters will also clean and bag your catch on board at no additional charge.
Blue Line Fishing Charters runs fishing charters out of Grand Bend and Port Franks from April to October. They use top-of-the-line equipment to reel in heavyweight catches. When you sign up for a fishing charter with Blue Line, the Captain gives you his guarantees that fish will be caught!
Fly up to 1,000 feet high on an unforgettable beach-side parasailing adventure. You’ll get a bird's-eye view above the Main Beach, enjoying an exhilarating perspective of beach, village, and forested shoreline scenery while sailing through the air on your own, as a pair, or even as a trio of riders.
The qualified and licensed instructors of Grand Bend Parasail take you out on their boat, snap you into a comfortable harness, tow you behind the boat, and have you soaring into the air in no time! For extra special views, time your flight during one of the area's famous sunsets. Smiles and squeals of delight are practically guaranteed! Complete the experience with a dip in the lake near the end of the tour.
Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, Waverunners & Water Trampoline
Regardless of the label – jet ski, sea-doo, waverunner – the thrill of barreling across the lake on a summer's day is not soon forgotten. Several companies – Xtreme Water Sports, Grand Bend Watersports, Grand Bend Sea-Doo Rentals – offer a variety of models to rent, from single, double or three-person watercraft.
But wait – there's more. Watersport activities in Grand Bend include tubing, wakeboarding, water skiing, kneeboarding, or sending a friend to the moon from a 20-foot water trampoline. Your kids will go wild for this experience! You can also hire a personal captain and charter a jet boat with up to nine of your nearest and dearest.
WindMill Lake Wake & Eco Park
A unique outdoor recreation park with a 40-acre private lake nestled within 200 acres of a natural forest setting is just a 15-minute drive north of Grand Bend or a seven-minute drive from Bayfield's Marina. Boasting a Canadian-first, the park features a Sesitec Cable Wakeboarding System, which is virtually silent and causes no air or water pollution. The bi-level wakeboarding system enables beginner wakeboarders of any age to get started and facilitates experienced wakeboarders to push their skills with rails, siders, and stairs. Lessons and rentals are available for wakeboarding, paddleboarding, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) yoga, canoeing, kayaking and pedal boating. The park is staffed by enthusiastic young experts who are able to train and assist those new to watersports.
Feel like staying on dry land? No problem! Windmill Lake has several scenic walking trails to explore. The park got its name from the Folmar Windmill built by the previous owner of the property, who also created the lake – Frank (Folkert) DeJong. It's an important part of local Dutch heritage and much of the family still lives nearby. It is the only wind-driven saw and grist mill in North America and is currently being restored for generations to come.
‘Forest Bathing’ in Pinery Provincial Park
The Japanese term ‘forest bathing’ refers to spending time in natural forests to experience health benefits such as lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and overall wellness. The 2532-hectare Pinery Provincial Park features rare and fragile Oak Savannah and coastal dune ecosystems, and is the perfect place to relax and try ‘forest bathing’ for yourself.
Hike, cycle, or paddle your way among stunning pine, juniper, and oak woodlands, while communing with 300 species of birds and 800 species of vascular plants. Enjoy more than six miles of natural sandy beaches that are all kid-friendly, as well as two dog-friendly beach areas.
After an active day, enjoy a meal looking out at the lake from The Growling Gator or Willie's Beach Bar or Smackwater Jack's Taphouse & Grill, or taste-explore local favourites like Midori Sushi and F.I.N.E. A Restaurant – both in Grand Bend, or The Black Dog Village Pub, the Little Inn, The Docks, or The Ashwood Bourbon Bar in Bayfield, or Grog's Pub & Grill in Port Franks. Pick up a local visitor guide from the Welcome Centre in Grand Bend for full ‘Taste Explorer’ restaurant listings.
Plan to stay a little longer so you can take in live professional theatre at Huron Country Playhouse, located in Grand Bend just six minutes from the marina. June through August, Huron Country Playhouse stages 205 performances of eight productions on its main stage (600-seats) and Playhouse II (300-seats) auditoriums.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to bring your camera during your visit. Sunsets on this stretch of Lake Huron are ranked by National Geographic as among the “Top 10 Best in the World.”
To plan your trip and find out more information, visit www.grandbendtourism.com today!
This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.