There’s something special about lake towns, or in Barrie’s case, a lake city. There’s a unique connection to the water that skews everyone’s internal compass just a little bit. Suddenly you’re not giving directions based on north/south but instead based around the lake.
Travelling to Beaverton is no longer a 2-hour trip, but can instead be a straight shot across the lake by boat or snowmobile. The idea of travelling to cottage country doesn’t hold as much appeal when you can simply set out into Lake Simcoe for the day, or laze away on the sand of one of our many beautiful beaches, or get back to nature in our waterfront parks. The green space that curves around the shores of Kempenfelt Bay is something we take pride in, and the ability to escape the concrete for an afternoon isn’t taken for granted.
Being active suddenly has so many more options than before, from waterskiing to paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, kitesurfing or even running a marathon. Even a simple walk or bike is made into a much more enjoyable experience by exploring the 6.7km Waterfront Trail that runs the full length of the lakeshore.
Barrie’s waterfront has a number of local restaurants with amazing views of Kempenfelt Bay. Take a walk and find a patio to enjoy a beverage and food in the sun. Throughout the year there are a variety of festivals and events that take place in the numerous waterfront parks, no matter what park or time of year there’s always something happening.
Barrie’s waterfront has always been a vital part of the city and has been an important historical site over the years. Read more to learn about the Barrie waterfront, Barrie beaches and everything they have to offer!
Barrie Beaches & Barrie Parks
There are 4 main beaches along the edges of Kempenfelt Bay, 11 waterfront parks and a number of trails that connect them all. We’ll start our Barrie waterfront journey at Johnson’s Beach on the north end of the Waterfront Trail and make our way south to Wilkin’s Park.
The first on our list of Barrie beaches can be found at the north end of Barrie’s waterfront. Johnson’s Beach is a 2-acre green space with a wide swath of sandy beach and lovely views of the city skyline. Johnson’s Beach is a little distance from downtown and thus one of the more private and less populated beach options. The far end of the beach arcs out into the lake, creating a fairly sheltered small cove that’s ideal for launching kayaks or paddleboards.
Access the beach from the end of Johnson Street by walking down a long flight of wooden steps. Parking is limited in this location, but street parking may be available. A washroom is available, but no other amenities. Next door sits the Barrie Yacht Club, a non-profit volunteer-based organization that is open to those interested in joining.
This long and narrow park in the city’s east end sits between the lake and Kempenfelt Drive. This is a nice spot to sit and relax while walking along the Waterfront Trail and even has play equipment for the kids, if you’re driving, there is street parking available.
Sam Cancilla Park
Formerly, Bayview Park, this parkette was renamed Sam Cancilla Park in 2015 after the alderman who worked to keep it from being developed. This green space sits at the north end of Heritage Park, right on Dunlop street. Parking is available nearby, and some swings provide entertainment for the kids. The park also offers great views of the lake and the playground from its hilltop gazebo.
One of the favourites along the Barrie waterfront, Heritage Park is a wonderful spot to sit and relax with views of Kempenfelt Bay and the Spirit Catcher. Take a walk through the winding paths and gardens, over the small bridge by the lagoon, or sit by the gazebos and read a book. This park is home to a number of seasonal festivals throughout the year including the popular Jazz and Blues Festival.
This space is easily accessible by car with plenty of parking, or by foot via the Waterfront Trail.
Centennial Park | Centennial Beach
The next stop on our southbound Barrie waterfront crawl lies the most popular of Barrie’s waterfront beach options – Centennial Beach. This long stretch of soft sand can get crowded on summer weekends, but it’s the most popular of Barrie’s beaches for many reasons.
Next door to the beach sits the City Marina, which offers plenty of boat watching diversions while you suntan the day away. The JC Morrison/Rotary fountain is also beautiful for sightseeing from the beach or nearby park.
If you’re looking for a picnic area or just want to get away from the sun, Centennial Park has plenty of space for the whole family. Grab some snacks at the Centennial Beach Concession, at Scoops & Cones ice cream hut or some take-out from one of the nearby waterfront restaurants.
The SplashON Wibit Water Park is located just off the shore of Centennial Park and day passes are available from $15 for those older than 5. Wibit is a British Columbian company whose unique water parks are enormously popular and a fantastic way for children of all ages to have an active, fun, time while staying cool.
Other nearby companies include Northern Stand Up Paddle who offers SUP rentals and classes from the north side of the beach, and Happy Paddling who provides SUP, kayak and canoe rentals from the southern end of the beach. Beach volleyball nets are available to use, and depending on the season the Community Ice Rink can either be used for ice sports, or as a basketball court.
Allandale Station Park
Home to one of Barrie’s two Go train Stations, this park is a continuation of the green space that circles the bottom of Kempenfelt Bay. An expansive 11 acres, this park holds the Southshore Community Center, the Kiwanis Pavillion and the Military Heritage Park.
The Military Heritage Park opened October 2017 and features a number of installations that reflect on Barrie and Simcoe County’s connection to the military.
Minet’s Point Park | Minet’s Point Beach
A short walk from the end of the Waterfront Trail, this beach is more private and often less crowded than some of the more downtown Barrie waterfront spots. The park is a lovely combination of beach, tree-shaded areas, open sunny grass, and a playground area.
The park has a day-use picnic area, washrooms and plenty of parking. There is no lifeguard on duty at this Barrie beach. Minet’s Point Ice Cream Shoppe on White Oaks Road is a favourite spot for locals and you’ll find plenty of beachgoers grabbing a cone from 26 Kawartha Dairy flavour options.
Accessed through Tollendale Mill Road, Gables Park or The Gables as it is sometimes referred, is a 42 acre, mainly wooded, space with the Tollendale Loop Trail, picnic areas, and a small, natural, beach. This nature preserve space has been removed from future development and will remain on the Barrie waterfront as it is for nature lovers and bird watchers.
The old-growth forest creates a sheltered and shaded space for walking, cycling or exercising dogs. The Tollendale Loop Trail is 1.4 kilometres and can be completed as a loop through the park in 40 minutes to an hour.
Down the street from The Gables is Tollendal Woods, a small neighbourhood park with a playground, volleyball net, dock and rocky water access. This space has a nice mix of open sunny grass and a tree-shaded area.
Tyndale Park | Tollendale Beach
Tyndale Park and beach have been reviewed as the best kept Barrie waterfront secret, and we can’t argue. This lovely park has plenty of parking, a couple of areas for larger gatherings, beach volleyball nets, a good-sized soft sand beach, a playground, and washrooms.
This gem of a Barrie beach will usually be quiet, with some weekend exceptions. Note that there is no lifeguard on site, no dogs or smoking are permitted on the beach either.
Wilkins Beach | Hewitt’s Creek Ravine
The last of Kempenfelt Bay’s beaches, Wilkins is a small secluded sandy beach with a large park that leads into Hewitt’s Creek Ravine. The ravine’s walking trail, Wilkin’s Walk, runs from the lakeshore down south of Big Bay Point.
Note that there is no lifeguard on site, no dogs or smoking are permitted on the beach either, and there are no washrooms available.
It’s easy to forget how many wonderful options this city has to escape the summer heat and cool off. Grab a picnic basket and a friend and head out to explore some of these lovely parks and beach options – see how many you can get to in one summer! Tag us on Instagram – @barrieuncovered