Getting a bit of waterfront in Calgary to tinkle your toes in the sand is a challenge.
Calgary is home to many lakes with long stretches of soft sand, pathways, and waterfront to play in except most all of it is private.
Expectations sufficiently set aside, here are the 5 best beaches in Calgary. You can get to most of them easily, and some you’ll need an invite behind an exclusive velvet rope.
1. Edworthy Park
Location: 5050 Spruce Dr. S.W.
On the banks of the Bow River, Edworthy Park is a popular place for picnicking. There are playgrounds and hiking trails in the park and, under the pedestrian bridge to cross the Bow River, you’ll find a small stony beach that people will gather on to dip in the water, toss rocks, and cool off.
There’s enough room here to bring some beach chairs, a mini cooler and bbq to spend an afternoon at “the beach” but it’s really not a beach, at all. Still, we take what we can get. Be careful when you go in the river, especially earlier in the summer season. Water levels can be high, the Bow River is quick, and the water is very cold.
2. Bowness Park
Location: 8900 48 Ave. N.W.
Further upstream from Edworthy is Bowness Park. Again, the definition of beach is simply a few small areas where the river bank is shallow and you have access to the waterfront. As with Edworthy, Bowness is a very popular picnic grounds and has a few playgrounds for the kids to play in as well.
Bowness Park is a popular launch point for summer Bow River rafters. People will drop their inflatables in here and then pull out at Edworthy, downtown, or near the Calgary Zoo. If you’re rafting, make sure everyone has a life jacket, is wearing it, and there’s no alcohol in your boat.
3. Sandy Beach Park
Location: 4500 14A St. S.W.
This might be the best named beach in town. While there is some sand along the banks of the meandering Elbow River at Sandy Beach Park, there’s not a lot of it.
Popular with dogs, toddlers, and rafters, Sandy Beach is actually more pebbly than sandy, but it’s on a quiet riverbank that can be crowded with rafters on the weekend.
4. Sikome Lake
Location: Bow Bottom Trail S.E.
Sikome Lake the best public lake and beach in the city, hands down, but for those who grew up in Calgary, it has a bit of a reputation.
In 1991, and again in 1999, Sikome was closed because of contamination from bird droppings. Even now, 15 years later, those who live in the surrounding lake communities will snub their nose and scoff a bit at Calgary’s only public beach. Really though? It’s a beautiful place and the only true beach that every Calgarian has access to. It’s all we’ve got, and it’s the best in town. (Note admission fees were added in summer 2016)
5. Lake Communities
Really, though, the best beaches in Calgary are found along the shores of the Lake Communities. Lake Sundance, Midnapore Lake, Lake Bonavista, Auburn Bay, Arbour Lake, Mahogany Lake, McKenzie Lake, Lake Chapparral, and Coral Springs are the absolute gems in the city. The lakes are beautiful, the beaches soft and diggable, the areas a complete oasis from the city.
And you can’t get in unless you know someone. The residents of lake communities pay a few hundred dollars a year in community association fees for access to the lake and only members, or friends get in. It’s a shame, really, because they are wonderful. So meet someone in a lake community and try and swing yourself an invite. Instead of tip toeing across a rocky river shore, a day at one of the best beaches in Calgary awaits.
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