Roadtripping: Swimming at Sandbanks

Monday, July 18, 2016

White sand beaches, turquoise water and only 2.5h from Toronto. It seems almost impossible, but it's not. Sandbanks is a truly exceptional place, and the site of one of my very favourite swims of all time.  Sandbanks is the world's largest baymouth barrier dune formation (and as the step-daughter of a geomorphologist who studies sand dunes, it's kind of a big deal), but mostly it's the Caribbean Sea-like water that has my heart.

A step-by-step guide to Sandbanks swimming:

Step 1: Make sure you've got cash. And by cash, I mean $5s, loonies and twoonies (See Step 11!) And if you're as impatient as I am, put your suit on under your clothes. You never know when there'll be a swimming hole along the way.

Step 2: Leave the city as early as possible. No seriously, we left at 2:20pm and *still* got caught in Friday afternoon traffic. Either way, make sure you're stocked with wine gums and if you've been able to get your mom to watch your kid, take advantage of baby seat-free space and revel in all that leg room. Crank the tunes. Google the directions.

Step 3: When you turn into the Sandbanks road, the trees will dapple the road and your windshield. (Note: a day-use permit is $11.25, but I promise it's so, so worth it!)

Step 4: If you don't already have your suit on under your clothes, there are change rooms and washrooms in the parking lots.

Step 5: Make sure you've got your sunscreen, water, post-swim snacks, sun hat, towels, reading material...

Step 6: Climb the sandy hill (a dune!) up from the parking lot. The first glimpse of that white sand and the blue-blue lake will be breathtaking. Pause. Revel. Pinch yourself – yes, you are still in Ontario!

Step 7: Spread out your towel(s). Have some water, some chips, read a few pages of your book/magazine. Get so hot you can't possibly stand the sun any longer. Start wading into the lake.

Step 8: Keep wading. You can walk for 200m and still only be up to your thighs!

Step 9: Dive under. Float. Front crawl. Blow bubbles. Be amazed by how clear the water is. Pinch yourself again, yes, this is Lake Ontario.

Step 10: Repeat steps 7-9 over and over again.

Step 11: Once you've decided it's time to pack up, start scanning the side of the road for honour-system eggs/asparagus/strawberries. Pull over every single time. Be grateful you loaded your pockets with coins.

Step 11.5: Stop at every barn sale and antique shop and yard sale. You never know when you'll find a tupperware container filled with swim badges*

Step 12: Celebrate your lake swim with wine and pizza at Norman Hardie. Toast your stroke with oysters and sparkling rosé (and food truck donuts!) at Rosehall Run.

Step 13: If it's G&T time (and when is it not?) I recommend a gin-tasting at the 66 Gilead Distillery. Say hi to the chickens, and marvel at the antique quilts and coupes and tablecloths. I'd also recommend a swing on the tree swing, your lake-wet hair drying in the breeze. (Note: it closes at 5pm. Happy hour comes early in The County).

Step 14: There are lots of places to stay in The County and staying the night means you get to go back to Sandbanks in the morning... (fuelled by Tall Poppy coffee and/or brunch at The Drake Devonshire).

Step 15: As you drive home, with your hair still smelling like lake, continue to stop at every barn sale/honour-system produce stand. The vintage 10kg sugar sack you will maybe one day will sew into something useful will always remind you of that brilliant turquoise swim.

P.S.: More swim roadtripping: to Harold Quarry!

* Note: I did not find a container full of swim badges, though I wish I had. I did find a jar of Scout badges, but it's not quite the same...

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