Rolling prairie, Rocky Mountains and… sandy beaches? Oh yes, Alberta’s got more than a few sandy-shored lakes. From swimming to paddling, camping to fishing, there are more than a few ways to spend a day at the beach in Alberta. Here are some spots in sunny northeast Alberta where you can make it happen.
This lake came by its name honestly; it’s 120 metres (400 feet) deep and that keeps it pretty refreshing. Cold Lake is wildly popular. Its beaches are beloved, both in town near the splash park and restaurants, and in the provincial park alongside camping and forested trails.
At Cold Lake Provincial Park, Lund’s Point beach is a go-to. White sand and crystal-clear water is a prime combo for beach day. If you arrive early in the day before the lake has warmed up to your liking, pick up a bird-watching checklist from the Alberta Parks kiosk near the campground and take a hike around Hall’s Lagoon. You might see pelicans, loons, cormorants and grebes—and plenty of dragonflies. After your hike, that cool swim in the lake (or picnic on the beach) is going to be perfect. There are plenty of campsites in the park, and if you’d like a little extra nature, book one of the 12 walk-in tenting sites that is just a short stroll from the beach. Bring your own canoe for the best chance to see a moose while it’s swimming.
In the town of Cold Lake, head for Kinosoo Beach. Swim in the marked areas where it doesn’t get too deep. Bring your own stand-up paddleboard (SUP), or look for the trailer parked on the beach and rent an SUP, kayak, or pedal boat from Wicked Watersport Rentals by the hour. If you’re feeling brave, book ahead to get a Flyboard lesson. Wicked is the only spot in the province where you can learn to ride the water-powered hoverboard. Oh, and don’t worry if you see a CF-18 fighter jet overhead—that’s just the Canadian military training at the nearby base.
Even Alberta lifers might not know they can camp on an island in this province. At Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park—a pair of islands in Lac La Biche covered in a 300-year-old forest—you can totally do that. Choose between tenting, comfort camping in a cozy cabin or tipi, or just hanging out for the day. There are sandy beaches for lounging and swimming, plus docks where you can head out in a kayak, canoe or SUP, which you can rent in the park. The forested trails around the island are plentiful. So get exploring on foot or by bicycle to find your favourite beach. There’s also a one-kilometre trail that’s accessible to campers who use wheelchairs.
A tip from park staff: The sunset is particularly ah-mazing from Boardwalk Beach, so dig your toes into the sand and watch the sky light up in pink and orange. Or, even better, plan your stand-up paddleboarding for sundown.
On your way to the beach at Elk Island National Park, you may see a bison (or four) wander across the highway. The park is home to about 700 plains and wood bison and the chances of a bison traffic jam as you enter the park are pretty good.
The beach at Astotin Lake is less than an hour’s drive from Edmonton. In other words—super handy when the capital is your starting point. Throw down your beach towel or grab a picnic table and take a dip while watching for pelicans, beavers and, if you’re lucky, trumpeter swans.
Haskin Canoe is right on the beach. Check it out to rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs by the hour. Nearby High Island is a popular spot for paddlers, plus it’s a handy shelter on a windy day. If you’re vising in autumn, book a sunset paddle tour with Haskin, scheduled around the full moon and the new moon.
If you want to stick around these parts for more days on the water (and you do), book a site at Astotin Lake Campground or a tent-cabin hybrid called an oTENTik. This area is all part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, which means there’s minimal light pollution and the view of the stars is particularly fantastic. Make sure you wriggle out of your sleeping bag for a look once the stars are out.