Swimming at St. Mary's

Five amazing natural swimming holes to stay cool near Toronto this summer

Yes, the city of Toronto is located on a lake, and yes there are times when one could even try swimming. But, it’s cold, and in the summer it’s downright crowded at the best beaches. Near the city, there are plenty of awesome natural swimming holes that make for a great road trip and a splendid day splashing around the water with friends. Herewith, our five favourite wild swimming spots near Toronto.

DeCew Falls, St. Catharines

This lovely conservation area features swimming at the base of a beautiful waterfall. The DeCew Falls site sits on the Twelve Mile Creek and is on the Niagara Escarpment. There are hiking trails through a lush forest, and two waterfalls to check out while there as well as an old mill that has been restored to working order. Enjoy the hike on the way in until arriving at the stunning 72-foot waterfall that drops into a turquoise pool. Keep in mind, there are not a lot of places to swim under a waterfall in Ontario, so DeCew does draw crowds, especially on weekends. The ideal time to visit is a weekday during late spring. And it’s free!

How to get there: Located in St. Catharines, Ontario, the site is located on Decew Falls Road, and has a small parking lot that can fit about 20 cars. To get there, use Morningstar Mill in Google Maps or your GPS.

Elora Quarry, Elora

Sure, it’s not entirely natural. Humans dug the gigantic pit in Elora for a long-running quarry site, but now it has filled in with water to create one of the best swimming spots around. The Elora Quarry Conservation Area is stunning with dramatic limestone cliffs, sandy beach and forests surrounding a massive two-acre natural pool. In addition to swimming, there is also a one-kilometre hiking loop through a cedar forest. Hard to beat this place. The quarry also links up to the Elora Cataract Trailway — a 47 kilometre trail linking the Grand and Credit river watersheds. The site is run by the Grand River Conservation Authority and there is a charge of $10.50 per person to enter. No alcohol or dogs are permitted.

How to get there: The Elora Quarry Conservation Area is located about 90 minutes northwest of Toronto on Wellington County Rd 18.

St. Mary’s Quarry

Looking for the largest swimming area in the entire province? It’s a couple hours away from Toronto in the charming small town of St. Mary’s. People have been cannonballing into this particular swimming hole for more than 80 years. It was converted to a pool ini the 1940s after the quarry closed down in 1920. St. Mary’s has the distinction of being not only the largest freshwater pool in Ontario, but the entire country. And there is another quarry across the road that is ideal for fishing. It helps the road trip prospects that St Mary’s is a stunning town with historic limestone architecture, a cute trestle bridge, and plenty of charming shops and cafés.

How to get there: Head west on Hwy. 401 to Hwy. 8 towards Stratford.

Kelso Conservation Area

Located in nearby Milton, under the majestic Niagara Escarpment sits the Kelso Conservation Area complete with a fantastic 35-hectare reservoir that is decked out for a day’s swim. This is also a good spot to practice those paddeboarding skills, stroll along the boardwalk, or try fishing.

Head west on Hwy. 401 to Milton and follow the signs to Kelso.

The Cove at Canatara Beach

This Blue Flag Beach is located on Lake Huron near the mouth of the St. Clair River, and it is lovely. In addition to the warm Lake Huron waters there is also an awesome swimming hole behind a small peninsula at the western end of the beach. The views are a wonder, especially at sunset. When swim time is over, heard back over to Canatara for something to eat and relax.

Head west on Hwy. 401 to Hwy. 402 and head towards Sarnia.

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