Did you know Ottawa has four sandy public beaches on the shores of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers? They’re beautiful spots for swimming, barbecuing, picnicking or simply relaxing on a summer day. All are easily accessible by car or bike, feature washrooms and other facilities, and have daytime lifeguards during peak season (generally, June to late August). You can even borrow a beach wheelchair at no charge. Grab the sunscreen and towels, and hit the sand at one of these four riverside gems!
Ottawa’s most westerly public beach has been drawing families and sunseekers for over a century. In 1900, a streetcar line opened to bring weary downtown dwellers to what was then the rural village of Britannia, to enjoy waterfront amusements like a pier and a carousel.
Those early amusements are long gone, but a pleasant beach overlooking a wide stretch of the Ottawa River—technically, a lake called Lac Deschênes—remains. The water is often dotted with sailboats from two nearby sailing clubs.
Access: The streetcar line was repurposed as part of the multi-use recreational pathway network, which makes the beach easy to reach on foot or by bike. OC Transpo also provides bus service to the park. To drive there from downtown, take Highway 417 west to the Pinecrest Road exit, then follow Pinecrest Road to the beach.
Amenities: Snack bar, picnic tables, barbecue pits (in the surrounding park), play structures, beach volleyball net and standup paddleboard rentals, washrooms (including an accessible washroom), lifeguards, free parking
This compact beach is located at the north end of a trendy neighbourhood. The on-site Westboro Beach Café offers casual meals (such as burgers and pizza), alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a patio overlooking the river, and live music. The café and the nearby Kitchissippi Lookout are popular places to watch the sun set.
Note: A new beach pavilion, scheduled to open in 2022, will feature a café, solar-heated outdoor showers, accessible washrooms and other facilities.
Access: Get there by car via the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, or on foot or by bike via the multi-use recreational pathway along the Ottawa River. In addition, OC Transpo bus stops along Churchill Avenue North, Scott Street and Richmond Road are within walking distance.
Nearby: You’ll find many shops and eateries within a 15-minute walk of the beach in Westboro Village.
Amenities: Snack bar with patio, picnic tables, washrooms, lifeguards, free parking
Petrie Island Beach
Petrie Island in the east-end suburb of Orléans has three beaches: the North Beach looks toward the Quebec shore, the East Bay Beach looks downriver toward Cumberland and a third small beach is geared toward families with young children.
There’s lots to do at Petrie Island besides swimming. Ozile’s Marina, near the park entrance, rents canoes and kayaks, while speed seekers can rent from Jetski Ottawa. You can explore hiking trails, check out a turtle pond and a wildflower garden, or fish (in certain areas). The Friends of Petrie Island group organizes public activities from spring through fall, such as nature walks and children’s events, and maintains a small nature interpretation centre.
Access: The island is a 20-kilometre bike ride from downtown, primarily along the Ottawa River Pathway multi-use pathway. Alternatively, you can take an OC Transpo bus to the Trim Road park-and-ride station, which is a 20-minute walk from the beach. In summer, OC Transpo may also offer a shuttle service to the island from the Trim Road and Place d’Orléans stations. If you’re driving, take Highway 417 east and then Highway 174 to the Trim Road exit, then follow Trim Road north to the beach.
Amenities: Snack bar, picnic tables, washrooms, lifeguards, beach volleyball net rentals, paid parking
Mooney’s Bay Beach
Ottawa’s only public beach on the Rideau River, Mooney’s Bay offers a large, sandy expanse that’s great for sunbathers and sandcastle builders. The beach is surrounded by a large park that hosts a number of lively summer events, including the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June) and the HOPE Volleyball SummerFest (July).
Young families will likely enjoy the park’s large Giver 150 Playground, an accessible, Canada-themed site that children helped design. In addition, an interactive theatre attraction called Pirate Life invites you aboard a pirate-style ship that sails around the bay.
Access: The multi-use recreational path along the eastern side of the Rideau Canal takes you south from downtown to Mooney’s Bay, and there are several OC Transpo bus routes within a few minutes’ walk. To drive from downtown, take Bronson Avenue south to Riverside Drive, then follow Riverside Drive south to the beach.
Nearby: A 10-minute walk north brings you to photogenic Hogs Back Falls and spacious Vincent Massey Park, bordering the Rideau River.
Amenities: Snack bar, barbecue pits (in the park), picnic tables, washrooms, lifeguards, beach volleyball net and standup paddleboard rentals, paid parking