We can’t believe it’s been over a month since our soul-fueling family getaway to Lambton Shores, Ontario – just 1.5 hours’ drive from Toronto and a fantastic spot to kick-start Summer break. With it’s Blue Flag beaches, world renowned Lake Huron sunsets, vibrant culinary scene, hike n’ bike trails, parks and attractions, a getaway to Lambton Shores is a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of destination and we’re sharing our favourite places to stay, eat & explore along Ontario’s Blue Coast! Our suggested Lambton Shores Family Getaway itinerary is based on a 3-days (2-nights) stay.
NOTE: at the time of our visit to Lambton Shores, COVID-19 protocols remained in place and are ever-changing given Provincial regulation updates. Please consult Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen as well as the individual websites for each destination/shop/activity prior to visiting.
Disclosure: This post contains tourism partnerships – meaning we have or may earn income/complimentary admissions from our recommendations & links that are used to keep our blog running & facilitate our reviews. As always, opinions are our own and reflect our authentic experience. View our Disclosure for more information.*
Family Getaway to Lambton Shores – Where to Stay
Lambton Shores is a municipality in Lambton County, Ontario, resting on the southern shores of Lake Huron. The town of Forest, and the villages of Thedford, Arkona, Ipperwash, Port Franks, Ravenswood and Grand Bend form the Lambton Shores we know today.
Being a highly sought after area to visit in the Summer with its blue coast allure, there are tons of fabulous properties to accommodate families of all sizes in the Lambton Shores area – hotels, resorts, camping grounds, cottages and country homes. The gem we found was just on the outskirts in Dashwood, ON.
We wanted to be near a beach with the added benefits of seclusion, privacy and spacious “home away from home” accommodations, making The Grand Bend Getaway property an excellent choice for our big family. We booked our getaway with ease on Airbnb.
What we loved about The Grand Bend Getaway:
- The rural country home-style property set along 26-acres of open land with farm field views in the front, and pond & hiking trail views in the back;
- 3 Bedrooms (Two with 2 single beds, 1 with a King) meant every one in our family had a comfortable place to crash. There is also a pull-out couch for added sleep options for bigger groups/families;
- A Fully-appointed kitchen, including a full-size fridge, stove, oven & microwave for some homemade meals;
- A screened-in back porch to enjoy your morning coffee with a view or family meals outdoors;
- A spacious living area to watch a family flick at night together (*Note: there’s no cable, so bring a device you can stream your favourite shows from or DVDs to play from a laptop*); and
- The property being just a 10-minute drive to Grand Bend Beach & some of the other great amenities of the Huron County region.
- *NOTE: at the time of our June 2021 visit, the basement was closed off to renovations & the pool table was not available for use. Also, the property is used by guests hosting events & we did notice some debris + litter not cleaned up from previous guests. The inside of the cottage was well-cleaned, decor is basic, and heavy cooking is not encouraged. Entry is keyless & code will be sent with your itinerary by the hosts within 48 hours of your stay.
Family Itinerary for Lambton Shores: Where to Explore
Grand Bend Beach Area
Once we checked into our country home rental, it was straight to the beautiful and bustling blue water beach of Grand Bend (“The Bend”). There is ample parking hugging the beach core, and depending on how long you plan to stay, the cost per car is between $6 for a few hours up to $25 for the whole day. While a highly popular beach for families to visit, there still felt like lots of space to lounge, even for our big family.
Families will appreciate accessible washrooms and beach access, lifeguards on-duty, rinsing stations, a splash waterpark and a plethora of food and leisure amenities a short jaunt from the shore, including lots of shops to purchase beach umbrellas and gear you may have forgotten at home. Head up to the outdoor viewing deck for a panorama view of the beach & bust out your selfie stick for a great family photo opp! Bring a volley ball for a family game on the beach (*nets are set up*).
- The Main Beach is bustling & usually quite busy. For a quieter experience, head to Grand Bend’s South Beach area (*Secret access tip – you can get to it from the path at the end of River Road*). Check the live beach cams before you visit to gauge crowd-volumes.
- Beach tents and overly large umbrellas (bigger than 8 feet diameter) are not allowed – visit Grand Bend Beach Rules for more details.
- Pets are not permitted on the main beach; they are allowed South & North Beaches during specific times of day. Visit the Rules above for more info.
- BBQs, Alcohol & glass prohibited.
Main Street Grand Bend Beach
If you’re looking for some dry-land family fun, Main Street has some great options for kids (and big kids) of all ages – mini golf, and some primitive family competition at Chachi’s Axe Throwing Field were our top picks. Cost ranges $8-10 per person. As we visited on a weekday during off-peak times, we had no trouble accessing these activities immediately, but if visiting on weekends or weekday evenings, advanced booking is recommended.
Ausable River Grand Bend
Head down River Road (appropriately named as it’s adjacent to the Ausable River which divides Grand Bend’s North & South beaches) on the flip side of the beach core for an eco-friendly family water experience at River Adventures! A visit to Ontario’s Blue Coast wouldn’t be complete without a watercraft experience – electric Dinghy Boats, Canoes, SUP boards and Kayaks can be rented here. We enjoyed a family river kayak escapade on a combination of tandem and single kayaks to accommodate our family of six (younger kids can ride with parents). The cost is $30 (single kayak)- 50 (tandem 2-3 person) per hour. The staff are super friendly and, after a quick on-land demonstration, and an easy-peasy load & launch from the launch pad, we all had an enjoyable adventure and waterway shopping our future dream boats docked along the way.
NOTE: River Adventures is an inclusive facility and happy to accommodate exceptional needs for members of your family/group. Contact a member of their staff pre-arrival to discuss details. COVID-19 protocols are in place and advance bookings required HERE. TIP: E-sign your waivers ahead of time via email to save time upon arrival.
Also popular along ‘The Bend’ River are soaking in views of the lighthouse-themed Yacht Club and/or dropping a fishing line at the end of the marina pier right beside it.
Hike, Bike & Swim Pinery Provincial Park
About a 15 minute drive from Grand Bend Beach, immerse your family in the natural wonder of Pinery Provincial Park‘s protected Oak Savanna and freshwater coastal dune ecosystems – one of the largest in Ontario.
Hike one of their family-friendly nature trails, rent bikes or a canoe near the park resto/shop area, and/or swim a less crowded stretch of Lake Huron along the Lambton shoes.
If you time your visit for the evening as we did, you may be privilege to one of the spectacular Lake Huron sunsets – ranked among the “Top 10 Sunsets in the World” by NatGeo. Yeah, she’s a stunning beauty. There are separate areas of the 10 km stretch of beach depending on whether you’re visiting as Campers versus Day Use. We visited under “Day Use” and parked at lots P1 & P3.
Tips & Know Before You-Gos – Pinery Provincial Park
- Pre-booking a vehicle permit for Day Use is required & reservations can be made up to 5 days in advance of your visit via the Ontario Parks booking system. Because we visited on weekdays, there was no cost, but you’ll still need to make a vehicle reservation to access the park (Open for Day Use between 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
- There are no lifeguards at Pinery Park beaches and water safety is the responsibility of each visitor. The water at Pinery beach is more active compared to the calm, still waters along Grand Bend beach, we found. Our kids ages 5 – 13 years loved the small waves here.
- P1 – P9 Beach Parking lots are for Day Use visitors, while Burley Beach and Dunes Beach are in the areas of the park reserved for Campers.
- There are public washrooms & washing stations just off the parking area.
- Access to the beach area either via a wooden stairway or climbing down the dunes. This may present accessibility challenges for some visitors.
- The 2.5 km Heritage Trail is accessible
- Pack a family picnic (or pizza party!) – lots of spots to eat within the park grounds including some covered shelters, lookout benches or along the beach like we did. Garbage disposal bins are well dispersed, so don’t forget to leave the park without a trace by throwing away your litter & respecting the natural environment.
Great Spots to Take Unique & Colourful Photos in Grand Bend
- The Rainbow Walk and “Hello Sunshine” sign – in the traffic round-about in front of The Growling Gator. Definitely do not attempt this when traffic is busy.
2. The Blue Bike outside of The Cottage Cafe – being hailed The Bend’s newest “HOT SPOT with killer views of the marina”.
3. Angel Wings by Artist Rich Denomme
(*activity prompt – go on a @denomme signs scavenger hunt & try to find all of his other works scattered throughout Grand Bend’s beach core! HINT – there are others in this list ;)*)
4. Gator Size It Sign
Family Getaway to Lambton Shores – Where to Eat
From casual family eats to gourmet dining, Lambton Shores is a foodie family gastro-hub with lots of fantastic options for even the fussiest of your bunch. Some of our favourite places to eat in Lambton Shores, include:
Family friendly eats, an impressive drink menu, speedy service and the best beach views while you dine are at The Growling Gator’s outdoor patio.
Burgers, Fish n’ Chips, the Fajita Wrap & Nisyrian Salad with Shrimp + Ahi Tuna were hits for our brood, as were the chocolate and strawberry smoothies and Hot Brownie Fantasy sundae all around! Whoa! YUM-aze!
Walk-ins only at The Growling Gator but during our weekday visit we didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes or so. Take out is also available.
Voted “Best Pizza in The Bend”, we grabbed a stack of zah and enjoyed a family pizza party on the beach at Pinery Provincial Park. Other options like panzos, wings, salads and kids combos are available, as are Cauliflower, Gluten-free and Keto friendly crusts! Pre-order by phone & pick up.
A perfect spot to grab a taste of the Islands while you stroll the main strip off of Grand Bend beach, it was Jerk Chicken wraps and Jarritos Jamaica drinks to wash them down all around for our crew!
Ice cream is basically a food group all its own in the Summer, and you can’t miss the prettiest little spot to enjoy it with your family along Main St. Grand Bend. A flavour-FULL menu of soft serve, shakes and scooped ice cream, and a fun way to cool down with your crew after a day at the beach. As the name implies, they also have pizza, as well as hot dogs & fries, which we did not try during our visit. More of our favourite spots to grab ice cream in Ontario HERE!
Make it a Fish n’ Chips family feast at Whitecaps Rivershack for a taste of Lake Huron white freshwater fish. Dine dockside along the river and watch watercraft launch from sister company Xtreme Watersports.
Take a detour from the beach core onto a scenic drive through the countryside and head to Dark Horse Estate Winery – one of 14 stops along the Cheers to the Coast Drink Trail spotlighting award-winning producers in this emerging wine, beer & cider region. Parents can sip from the wine tasting menu while the whole family savours some nibblers from their outdoor patio menu (mainly charcuterie, pizzas and butter tarts) while soaking in the views of the vineyard (*Reservations highly recommended*). Grab some Cab Franc, Riesling or Vidal to gift or stock up at home from the modern meets Western on-site wine boutique.
What to Pack for Your Lambton Shores Family Getaway
- Sun hats and sun glasses
- A waterproof beach mat or blanket
- Water and thermos’ to keep it cold
- Cooler or insulated bag
- A foldable wagon for all your beach cargo
- A beach umbrella (*under 8ft diameter to meet beach regulations*)
- Bug spray and/or portable mosquito repeller
- Water shoes & running shoes
- Collapsible Beach Buckets
- Your sense of wonder!
Tips & Know Before-You-Gos – Lambton Shores
- Check times for each service/activity before visiting. Some activities and shops are closed on certain days of the week.
- Grand Bend is a highly popular destination in warm weather months, but you will find crowds to be less during a early-mid week visit.
- Latest updates, maps & travel guides for visiting the Lambton Shores area can be found HERE.
We hope you found our Lambton Shores recommendations of where to stay, eat and explore helpful for your own family’s summer getaway. If you have any questions, drop them below. It’s a fantastic spot to squeeze the life out of the last bits of Summer!
Finding places to visit that suit the interests of the whole family can be challenging as a big brood. The Lambton Shores and surrounding area along Ontario’s Blue Coast is a destination full of wander-ful fun for families of all ages – tyke to teen. Our gang is already asking when we’re heading back – always a sign of good times had!
Our family travel style is some scheduled fun with lots of loose to leave room for spontaneity, unforced discovery & shifting moods, but if you’re looking for more ideas to stack your family getaway itinerary, this Live, Love, Local Lambton Shores Community Guide or Lakeshore Communities It Starts at The Beach Guide may inspire some additions!
If an overnight is not in the cards, turn a Lambton Shores visit into a Day Trip! More of our favourite places to eat & wander by day in Ontario HERE.
Keep well, travel safely,