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Ours to Discover

Ours to Discover: Southampton, A beachy getaway

In need of a fix of sun and sand? Spend a weekend in this community on the shore of Lake Huron

By Karen Kwan Wheels.ca

May 21, 2022 6 min. read

Article was updated a month ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”

That blissful beach getaway you’ve been yearning for is much closer than you realize. Historically a busy trading post, Southampton, just a three-hour drive northwest from Toronto, features a sandy beach along Lake Huron, a community full of beautiful homes, more good food than you’ll have time to enjoy and an award-winning craft beer. Visit this hideaway to discover the best Mother Nature has to offer in Ontario.

DAY ONE

In the morning

Have breakfast at home before you hit the road as you’ll want to be fueled for the drive ahead as well as a morning hike along your way to Southampton. Follow Highway 400 northward and then west on Highway 9 toward Mono Cliffs Provincial for your first adventure of the day.

The Niagara Escarpment runs the length of this park near Orangeville, and you’ll want to hike the Clifftop Side Trail, which is part of the Bruce Trail, for a moderate two-hour trek. When you reach a set of metal stairs, take them down to a wooden walkway to see Jacob’s Ladder, a natural cleft in the mossy rocks. With the cool outcrops towering alongside and above you, you almost forget you’re just an hour from the city.

Once you complete your hike, head back to your car and drive north and west along Highway 10 followed by Highway 21 to Southampton.

In the afternoon

You’ll be famished for lunch when you arrive in Southampton so make Smoky Cactus your first stop. This casual spot incorporates smoked BBQ ingredients into Mexican fare, and also features a patio so you’ll waste no time enjoying the sunshine.

From its Mexican poutine (think classic French fries covered in cheese curds, Pico de Gallo, queso and Mexican crema) to the delectable tacos (the chicken tinga and smoked brisket are the stars here), it’s the ultimate beachy fare. Don’t forget to enjoy a margarita with your lunch – your driving is done for the day, after all.

After lunch, walk off that full belly feeling by exploring Southampton’s downtown. Southampton Olive Oil Company offers more than 60 olive oils and balsamic vinegars – an ideal gift for friends back home. Over at Lac Boutique, you’ll find women’s contemporary fashions, including printed overalls and summer dresses, perfect for elevating your style after a couple of years living in sweatpants.

Cross the street to pick up some award-winning craft beer from Outlaw Brew Co. The brewery is housed in the former Southampton Hotel, which dates back to 1867. Finally, satisfy your sweet tooth by picking up some treats at Offshore Bakery. Try its Bruce Potato, a custard-filled doughnut that’s been rolled in cinnamon sugar. It is a local culinary rite of passage.

By now, your room will be ready at the new The Beach Motel. From the moment you sip its welcome drink, a refreshing Madagascar vanilla bean iced tea, the serene atmosphere of the accommodation will have you feeling instantly relaxed.

Ours to Discover: Southampton

While the beach may beckon, you may not want to leave the cozy room with its soothing seaside tones, chic beach-house decor and Chromecast-enabled TV. Decompress before you get ready for dinner by catching up on some reading in the hanging egg chair outside your room or by enjoying a glass of wine at the motel’s upstairs patio.

In the evening

For dinner, take it easy and have a bite at The Beach Motel’s Sandbar Restaurant. Start with a half dozen oysters by the half shell and then enjoy the substantial cheese and charcuterie board – the lamb sausage is sublime. After dinner, stroll outside to enjoy the stellar Southampton sunset. One of the best spots to take it in is by Millard Boulevard at the west end of High Street.

DAY TWO

In the morning

Enjoy the complimentary breakfast at The Beach Motel. You’ll find croissants, English muffins, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, granola and yogurt in the Sandbar Restaurant, along with coffee, tea and orange juice. Dress for the beach, check out of your room and make your way to the sand and water.

Although Lake Huron can be a tad chilly early in the season, the picturesque shoreline of powdery sand is a stunner. Beautiful dunes line the beach; home to flora and fauna and planted with specific grasses to prevent erosion. It is also one of the few natural dune ecosystems in the province.

Across the water, about one kilometre away and only accessible by tour boat, you’ll see Chantry Island and its lighthouse, which dates back to 1859. This cut limestone and granite tower was built when shipping traffic was soaring on the Great Lakes between Canada and the U.S.

In the afternoon

Head to the Lighthouse Restaurant for lunch. Choose between diner favourites like juicy burgers made from beef ground in-house or the popular all-day breakfast menu, which includes eggs benedict, pancakes and smoothie bowls.

Post-lunch, drive 30 minutes east toward Owen Sound to the Inglis Falls Conservation Area. From the viewing platform by the parking lot, you can take in an impressive 18-metre-high cascade waterfall. The falls tend to steal the show, but make sure to take advantage of the more than seven kilometres of trails, which also provide access to the longer Bruce Trail. In the conservation area you will also find more than 20 species of ferns, great bird-watching opportunities, geological potholes and the remains of a historic grist mill.

Ours to Discover Southampton

In the late afternoon

Follow Highway 10 back to the Toronto area. If you’d like to stop for dinner along the way, try The Bicycle Cafe in the small town of Flesherton. This charming spot serves comfort fare, including  vegetarian coconut curry bowls and apfelwurst, an apple and pork sausage.

For the drive

Get a true appreciation for the Bruce Trail hikes you’ll be doing by listening to The Shakeout Podcast episode titled “Karen Holland on Breaking the Overall Bruce Trail FKT.” Holland is the first person to complete the  Bruce Trail’s 890 kilometres from Tobermory to Niagara in less than nine days. It’s available through Apple Podcasts.

COVID-19 need to know

Southamptonis following Ontario’s COVID-19 guidelines. Some businesses may request you wear a mask. Contact individual businesses to find out how they’re currently operating.

Drive guide

Day One

  • 8 a.m. Leave Toronto

  • 9 a.m. Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

  • 1 p.m. Smoky Cactus

  • 2:30 p.m. Downtown Southampton

  • 4 p.m. The Beach Motel

  • 7 p.m. Sandbar Restaurant


Day Two

  • 9:30 a.m. Southampton Beach

  • 12:30 p.m. Lighthouse Restaurant

  • 2 p.m. Inglis Falls Conservation Area

  • 4 p.m. Drive back to Toronto

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