I was 11 years old the first time I saw the ocean, and I had to go all the way to Virginia Beach in the USA to see it (though that was just a happy byproduct of attending my uncle’s wedding, not even for the ocean itself).
I say this as a way of explaining that the Montreal area is pretty landlocked. To go to a beach means to go to a lake, not the sea. Lakes are a big thing in Canada. We have a lot of land and a lot of bodies of water within that: The Great Lakes are only a minute fingernail fraction of how many lakes we have, and Manitoba might as well be considered just water for its land-lake ratio.
That said, I haven’t visited a ton of lakes here in Quebec, having spent much of my childhood camping out in Ontario at magical provincial parks like Bon Echo. Thus, even though it’s only an hour and a bit’s drive away, this summer was my first time appreciating what Oka Beach has to offer.
Before I get all keen, Oka isn’t a glamorous lake by any means. In fact, if you’re going specifically to swim, it’s kinda gross. The water is so shallow, you reach the buoy limits and the water’s only at your chest. Also seaweed. *shudders*
What it does have is a really kickass environment in which to chill. The beach itself spans a few miles and has picnic tables, volleyball nets, and loads of rentable things like sand bikes, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Also the bathrooms are surprisingly decent. Always a plus.
I went twice this year with Andrea. Both times, it was a blast. She and I rented a double kayak (though promptly realized how poorly coordinated we are), and basically spent as much time soaking up the sun as we could without a care in the world.
On the first trip, though, we noticed that there were a bunch of portable grills around.
Though they themselves looked pretty worse for wear, it gave Andrea’s family the idea to put to use a grill of their own that had as of yet not been used. Best idea ever. In fact, it ended up being such a fantastic addition to our beach activities that the next post is going to specifically be about how to make a perfect beach burger. (Yes. It was that good that I’m giving it its own spotlight.)
Entry was about $10/person, and parking was something like $7.50. Rentals were fairly standard prices (for a kayak, around $16.50/hour and maybe $8 for every supplementary hour). I hate paying for beach access personally, but I suck it up knowing that it goes towards maintaining the provincial parks, and yay nature!
Should you venture beyond the beach, there’s so much more to Oka Park as well. Whatever outdoorsy thing you want, you got it: camping, hiking, rock climbing, boating, zipining, fishing, hunting…it’s everything wilderness you could want from Canada in a nutshell.
In all, definitely worth checking out! Certainly if you’re craving nature within the Montreal radius.