This is another place that was on our summer to-do list, and since school is starting next week (gulp!), I figured we’d better take advantage of the hot late-August day and do a beach trip. We were visiting my parents in eastern Ontario, so it only took us about 30 minutes before we sunk our toes in the sand; from Montreal’s West Island it’s just over an hour.
Mille Roches Beach is the largest public beach of the St. Lawrence Parks and is on a quiet bay with a view of the Adirondack mountains across the water. The beach and picnic area features water sport rentals including kayaks, paddle boats, stand-up paddle boards, and canoes; food concession; washrooms & change rooms; a boat launch; beach volleyball; a great playground, and tons and tons of shaded picnic tables with charcoal bbqs available for use. The 214 campgrounds of Mille Roches are spread over two islands and are set within mature trees with 63 waterfront sites. The Long Sault Parkway also has the Woodlands and McLaren campsites making for a total of 600 sites from which to choose.
What’s the Long Sault Parkway? It’s a series of 11 small islands connected by causeways and bridges. These islands were once hilltops of the surrounding land (the Lost Villages), which was flooded in 1958 for the International Seaway and Power Dam project. After we were done at the beach, we actually went to visit the Lost Villages Museum (you can read that post HERE).
It’s easy to find the beach. Take the Long Sault Parkway (there’s a massive “Parks of the St. Lawrence” sign right at the entrance), and then there’s another giant sign for the beach. Stop at the little hut to pay your entrance fee, and tada! Lots of parking available in a couple of different lots, and all are close to the beach. We parked closest to the playground, and it was an easy 50-foot walk to the water.
The playground itself is great, with new equipment from Landscape Structures including their Evos® climber with rings and spinners and slides. And there’s also one of our favourite toddler products which is the Weevos® climber with an easy-to-cross mini bridge, slide, and ground-level playthings like chimes, drums, and a crawl tunnel. There are also 2 big and 2 baby swings.
Then, throw your cooler, towels, snacks, extra snacks, third snacks, second breakfast, and flip flops on a picnic table and run down to the water!
We were some of the first people there, and even at 1pm when we left, it was pretty quiet. Now this might just be because it was a Tuesday morning, or because summer is slowly winding down, but whatever, we enjoyed the quiet. But I’ll bet it’s much more….raucous on July weekends!
This summer we also visited nearby Charlottenburgh Beach, and Glengarry Beach, and we much preferred this one. The sand was freshly raked and there wasn’t the overpowering piles of goose poop like at the other two beaches. It’s also much larger so there’s plenty of room for people to spread out. But while the sand was raked, it isn’t necessarily the softest sand around and it was pretty hard to walk on since it was all churned up. (Let’s take a moment to reminisce about Caribbean beaches …… Mmmmmmm…..and piña coladas….Oh God…..Ok, I’m done now!)
Note that there are NO lifeguards, so swimming is at your own risk. My toddler was comfortable along the water’s edge and collected pebbles for his “rock collection” while my older son set out to see just how far he could walk while keeping his head above water. (It was far, almost to the buoy line.) There are small rocks right along the entrance to the clear water, and it then changes to soft sand. After a couple of hours playing and snacking and wading, we walked up past the (closed) food concession building (which also houses the washrooms) and right to the eastern tip of the beach, where we rented a pedal boat.
And where it took me about 17 seconds to remember why I hate pedal boats. HATE.
The nice attendant let us take a 2-person boat, instead of paying for the 4-person boat, which meant I had a 35-pound toddler on my legs while trying to pedal. And the two of them bickering over who was going to steer. Also, it was windy, which meant we had to pedal furiously to get anywhere.
A very long 30 minutes later and I pulled the damn boat back onto the shore and collapsed, while the boys asked “WHAT’S NEXT???”
What’s next was more snacks (they never stop eating!), and then rinsing them off under the only water tap we could find (which was attached to a water fountain), and then packing them into the car.
We drove along the Long Sault Parkway (“We’re on an island, now we’re off the island, we’re on an island, now we’re off!”), came out at Ingleside, drove along highway 2, grabbed some lunch at the chip stand in Long Sault, and then ate at the picnic tables at the Lost Villages Museum. If you’re looking for a leisurely drive back to Montreal, stay on Highway 2 for a while and you’ll go through some cute towns, through Cornwall, and come out at Lancaster. We’ve been to some parks and beaches along the way, which you can check out on the “Search by Map” page.
Important Note! While lying on the sand and staring at the opposite shore, I noticed two giant square contraptions on stilts that looked suspiciously like the aliens from War of the Worlds. So I kept a close eye on them our entire trip, because there’s nothing quite like lounging on the beach, and then having visitors from outer space attack and ruin your day. “Don’t worry boys, nothing to see!”
Because while it was probably some shipping container cranes, you just never know.
THINGS TO NOTE:
-Dates of Operation for 2019:
Mille Roches Beach is open weekends and holidays May 18th to June 16th and daily from June 21st to September 1st, 2019.
The gate attendant told me that the beach is open as of 9am.
-Info links are below, but know that kids 12 and under are FREE and there is a Maximum Vehicle Charge (excluding buses) of $16.81! That’s a pretty good price for a day’s excursion!