We’ve been homebound (like so many) since the start of the pandemic. But after living and working from home for the last 18 months, we wanted to escape our home for a week before our daughter started school in September. We decided to try a beach vacation close to home. After researching the beaches of Ontario, we landed on Crystal Beach, which is a 1.5-hour drive from where we live in South Etobicoke.
- The population of Crystal Beach is 8524 (2016 cencus)
- Known as the South Coast of Canada
- Named for the crystal clear water conditions present when it was founded
- The village of Crystal Beach was incorporated in 1921 – Happy 100th Anniversary!
- There are over 90 recycled bicycles that have been painted and mounted to hydro poles around the Crystal Beach area. Started in 2014 by the Crystal Beach Beautification Committee, the trend continues to be popular among residents who also use bicycles as decoration in their private yards.
Where is Crystal Beach located?
Crystal Beach is a neighbourhood in Fort Erie located in Southern Ontario. It is home to the once-famous Bay Beach (a.k.a. Crystal Beach) which many have claimed to be the Caribbean of the North. The beach is nestled on the North-East shores of Lake Erie on the Canadian side close to the Niagara/Buffalo border. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing, beach getaway in Canada, this is one place to consider.
Where to stay in Crystal Beach?
Since we are still living through a pandemic, we felt most comfortable renting an entire house. We found many options on Airbnb. Also available on Airbnb are rooms within homes and Bread and Breakfasts.
We stayed at Janet’s Beach Retreat on Cambridge. We highly recommend staying here if you are a small family (we are 3 and a dog) or if you are 2 couples. The home sleeps 5 in 2 bedrooms and has a small living/dining room, kitchen, and 1 bathroom. Having a private backyard was important for us as we brought the dog and have a four-year-old.
We’ve noticed a few cottage rental places while exploring the town as well as Bread & Breakfasts advertised throughout. In the warmer months, camping is also an option.
What is there to do in Crystal Beach?
1. Bay Beach (a.k.a as Crystal Beach)
Bay Beach is the main attraction during the warmer months. The beach is maintained by the local municipality and is in pristine condition. The water is crystal clear with a clean sandy bottom, it is pretty shallow for adults within the swim boundary. The water is calm, with minimal small waves from nearly passing motorized boats. Water temperature peaks in August when it can reach 24 – 26 degrees Celsius (75 – 78 Fahrenheit). Overall, it was a great swimming experience.
As of the 2021 season, access to the beach is limited to 2,000 beachgoers on a first-come basis. Access requires a beach pass, which can be purchased on-site for $5 per person over the age of 11 (10 and under are free). You can get live updates on beach capacity and view a live cam between 9 am to 6 pm here.
2. Local Shops and Restaurants
There are 2 main clusters of restaurants that are worth mentioning. The first being on Erie Road which is parallel to the Beach. Here you will find a variety of options, some notables are San Vito’s Italian restaurant, Casa Hugo Mexican Eatery & Tequileria, the Chill Shack specializing in ice cream, Sneakers Beach Tavern, and Mabel’s Gourmet Pizza, and The Beach House Restaurant. The second cluster is a 2-minute drive east of the Beach strip up Ridge Road South. Here you will find Brimstone Brewing Company, the Chip Shack, Trailside Bar & Grill, a cute little ice cream shop down Ice Cream Alley and The Big Easy, Cookshack and Creamery.
3. Friendship Trail
Friendship Trail is a family-friendly walking trail that spans 16 km across Fort Erie. It starts in Port Colborne and runs east to just shy of Waverly Beach in Fort Erie. The trail was made over an abandoned railway, and according to the Fort Erie towns website, it is the “southerly link of the Greater Niagara Circle Route, a 150-km multi-use trail system in various stages of completion at the east end of the Niagara Peninsula. The Friendship Trail is also part of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail – connecting to Trenton, Ontario, and the 17,000 km Trans-Canada Trail – connecting to Victoria, British Columbia, St. John, Newfoundland, and Tuktyuktuk.”
Having a 4-year-old in the family means we visit many playgrounds and parks and the parks in Crystal Beach did not disappoint. There are 17 playgrounds in Fort Erie with unique themes, 2 of which are in Crystal Beach. The Bay Beach Playground has a sea theme and was made position by a donation from the Ridgeway Lions Club. The Corporal Albert Storm Playground in Crystal Beach Waterfront Park has a Firefighters theme and was created by a donation from the Crystal Beach Firefighters Association.
A short drive from Crystal Beach
Feeling adventurous? There is so much more to explore in just a few minutes by car.
5. Old Fort Erie
A short 15-minute drive east of Crystal Beach is where you will find Old Fort Erie. You can tour the Fort freely with your admission or you can join a guided tour and learn the history of what life was like living at the fort and about the 1812 war. If you like history, I highly recommend it. Even my 4-year-old enjoyed exploring the fort.
6. Live Horse Racing
Located about 20-minutes from Crystal Beach, the Fort Erie Race Track is where you can experience the excitement of live horse racing. Make it a day and book a reservation at the Turfside Dining Room!
Is it worth the trip?
Overall I think Crystal Beach, Fort Erie is worth the visit. It’s a small quaint town, that is fairly sleepy during the week (at least when we were there). It does open more from Thursday to Saturday as tourists enter the area. The beach alone is definitely worth the trip to Crystal Beach. We found the residents and other tourists there to be very friendly.
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Check out my Travel page for other posts on places to visit in Ontario!