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On Lake Huron in western Ontario, the Saugeen Shores region offers visitors broad stretches of sand up and down the lakeshore, making time on the beach the primary focus here. You can even go surfing — or try stand-up paddleboard surfing — in the lake’s waves. For other outdoor experiences, walk or cycle the Saugeen Rail Trail, hike through Sauble Falls Provincial Park to watch the waters cascading over the rocks, or head north to Bruce Peninsula National Park for hiking, snorkelling, and more beach time in one of Ontario’s most geographically distinctive regions. There’s also plenty of culture to be had in Saugeen Shores, which comprises Port Elgin, Southampton, and Saugeen Township, with several museums and heritage sights. If you’re interested in local marine history, plan a mini road trip to visit several lighthouses that still stand along the lake, including Kincardine Lighthouse, Chantry Island Lighthouse (accessible by boat tour only), and several more beacons along the Bruce Peninsula.
It’s a 2.5-hour drive northwest to Saugeen Shores from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ), the region’s main air hub. An airport shuttle bus makes several trips a day between YYZ and Port Elgin or Southampton. Flying into Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is an option if you’re travelling from the United States, but allow at least four hours for the drive, depending on traffic at the border. From downtown Toronto, regular buses run to Port Elgin, which is close to a five-hour trip. While it’s possible to get to Saugeen Shores without a car, you’ll need a vehicle to get around the area, unless you’re staying right by the lake in town or are able to explore by bicycle.
Both spring and fall can be pleasant in Saugeen Shores, particularly in autumn as the foliage takes on its vivid colors. But the region really comes alive in the summer, when the beaches are busy, the weather is warm for hiking and cycling, and all the area’s attractions — some of which operate only between summer and fall — are open. Weekends are always busier than midweek, especially in the summer and fall, so consider Sunday through Thursday stays if you’d like to avoid the crowds. To attend an Indigenous powwow, plan your visit in August for the Saugeen First Nation’s powwow near Southampton or the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation’s annual festivities at Cape Croker Park on the Bruce Peninsula. In winter, when the snow falls, much of the Saugeen Shores area seems to hibernate.
With plenty of interactive exhibits, the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton offers engaging ways to learn about the culture and heritage of the Lake Huron region, from its agricultural and nautical roots to stories of local life.
Another regional heritage center, the Grey Roots Museum in Owen Sound, 45 minutes from Saugeen Shores, has a pioneer village that can be fun for kids to explore, as well as well-designed exhibitions about the area’s Black history, Indigenous culture, and notable women.
Spend at least a day exploring these two Parks Canada-run parklands: Bruce Peninsula National Park at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, and Fathom Five National Marine Park in the waters just offshore. Hike along the limestone cliffs and turquoise bays, or head for Flowerpot Island, with the unique rock formations that give the island its name. You can also snorkel or scuba dive to see the more than 20 shipwrecks that lie beneath Georgian Bay. The headquarters and visitor centers for these parks is in the town of Tobermory, 90 minutes north of Saugeen Shores, if you’re looking for more information to help get you oriented.