Situated in the shadow of the beautiful Oak Ridges Moraine, is the town of Cobourg, population about 18,000. Ontario is rich with small towns and cities each with individual character, history and appeal, but Cobourgís enviable location on the shore of one of the five Great Lakes that ride the border between Canada and the U.S.A., places it in a category all its own.
Because Lake Ontario, in most places, is so wide that you cannot see the other shore, it feels almost like an ocean; being a freshwater lake, it doesnít smell like the ocean. The beach has fine sand, ivory in color, and ocean-like waves that at times softly lick the shore and at other times pound the sand into shapes and ripples.
In the summer, and especially on Canada Day (July 1st), Cobourg Beach is full of people enjoying the southern Ontario heat and sun, and the fireworks at night. Annual art festivals bring artisans from all around the area, and photographers flock here; itís a shooters paradise.
This beach has more going for it than sand and surf. Adjacent to the beach and encircling it is Victoria Park, with its carefully tended gardens, band shell, play and picnic areas, and nearby swimming pool. There is even a campground right at the beach on its western edge, right in the core of Cobourg and in walking distance of shops, galleries and the incredibly beautiful Victorian town hall.
Everything in Cobourg is condensed; a visit there can mean a beach stroll in the morning (there is a very good small motel, The Breakers, located right on the beach at its eastern end), followed by breakfast at one of the restaurants in downtown (a short walk from the beach) and shopping at one of the many unique stores, a picnic lunch on the beach and a walk down the long pier to watch the waves shoot high in the air as they hit the concrete barrier, and then perhaps a stroll around the pretty boats of the marina. Dinner at one of the fine dining establishments, complemented by wines from nearby Prince Edward County, is perfect, sated with a walk around the stunning architecture of the heritage district homes and churches (even the waterfront condominiums are designed with the history of the town in mind), and then a quiet moment watching the sunset on the beach.
Cobourg has the charm of a small town, the amenities of a much larger one, and a lot more besides the beach. There is a Canada Coast Guard station located at the old pier (it used to be the berthing place for the Cobourg, Ontario, to Rochester, New York, ferry service, long defunct), and in season two search-and-rescue boats. When the crewmen arenít busy out on the lake, they are happy to chat about their operations and even some of the dangerous rescues they have made. Two theaters in town afford live plays staged by the Northumberland Players and headline acts in music, comedy, dance and variety.
Go to Cobourg Beach for a day at the beach and stay a week for everything else this lovely town has to offer. The beach is also splendid in off-seasons, a superb place to walk, but outside of summer, take a cozy jacket and be prepared for the wind off Lake Ontario. And then find a coffee shop (there are many, not just the usual chains) to warm up and share stories about your Cobourg experience.