Swim Guide: Beach Finder

Beach Finder beta, Swim Guide, Lake Ontario WaterkeeperEvery summer, those of us without backyard swimming pools, or friends who are kind enough to share, converge on Kingston’s shorelines in search of a safe yet refreshing place to take a dip.  While KFL&A Public Health “regularly” checks the water quality at local beaches, these updates are not always timely nor do they fully outline potential risks at beaches that are widely considered as safe.  In an effort to increase the safe enjoyment and preservation of our local beaches, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has released their long awaited Swim Guide: Beach Finder (beta), which is also available as an app.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been monitoring beach reports via their Swim Guide for over five years, while they’ve consistently expanded the scope and accuracy of this information on an annual basis.  The Swim Guide was established to answer that burning question: is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario?  Today’s guide looks beyond Lake Ontario, providing details for over 800 different beaches located in the Great Lakes, British Columbia, and parts of the United States.  The Swim Guide indicates not only beach locations, but also photographs, historical trends, safety updates (based on pollution and health concerns), and original descriptions.  Descriptions and links to Kingston’s beaches, from east to west, are as follows


  • Arrowhead Beach Park: The Arrowhead Beach Park is a public beach accessed through the CFB Kingston Married Quarters. Enter the base at the McDonald’s restaurant, follow Niagra Park Drive as far as you can. Turn left and take the unpaved road to the right just before the Community Centre. Park next to the Yacht Club. The beach is a great ‘swimming hole’ in front of several acres of well kept grass and mature pines. There is a small playground above the beach. (Summary courtesy http://k7waterfront.org)
  • Richardson’s Beach: Sometimes known as MacDonald’s Beach, this is a rocky beach near the heart of Kingston. In 2008, a group of professors, students, residents, and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper held a mass swim here to rally support for a revitalized public swimming area in downtown Kingston. This event was a catalyst in the push for more and better beach access on Lake Ontario (and part of the reason you are looking at this Guide today)!
  • Collingwood PUC: Collingwood Beach is across the street from Queens University’s Gordon-Brockington Hall residence, making it an ideal destination for university students. The Hall is named for Leonard Brockington, the first Chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Board of Governors and Donald Gordon, the first Secretary of the Bank of Canada.
  • Lake Ontario Hospital: This is a rocky beach close to St. Lawrence College, Kingston campus. Portsmouth Harbour is nearby.
  • Lake Ontario Park: Lake Ontario Park is one of Kingston’s largest waterfront spaces. The City is currently going through a major re-envisioning process, and the area is likely to change dramatically in the next generation. Public surveys found that a beach is one of the most important features that should be in a revitalized Lake Ontario Park.
  • Reddendale Crerar: This beach takes its name from Henry Duncan Graham (Harry) Crerar, former Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada and a field commander in World War II. This sandy beach is located in Kingston’s west end, near a residential community and the city airport.
  • Point Pleasant- Everett: This is one of Kingston’s many beaches, located at the tip of Horsey Bay. Nearby Everett Point is the westernmost point (beginning) of the St. Lawrence River.
  • Lemoines Point: Lemoines Point Conservation Area borders Lake Ontario and Collins Bay. In addition to its stone beach, the Area offers 11 kilometres of trails.
  • Kingston Rotary: In addition to its beach and sand pits, Rotary Park offers picnic grounds, a pavilion, and plenty of open space for the entire family. Collins Bay marina is right next door, making this a great destination for sailors.
  • Collins Bay Pier: Collins Bay is a natural harbour just to the west of Kingston.  Lemoine Point Conservation Area is nearby, and so is the popular marina.

I’ve been trying to find a tool like this for years, and after only a few minutes of playing with the Beach Finder, I can clearly see its potential to enhance my enjoyment of local swimming holes on those hot summer days.  This application is an awesome step in the right direction, and I can’t wait to see it grow as a reputable resource for Kingston and other communities who looking to make the most out of their waterfronts.  Spread the word, and take a look for yourself.  Are their any local beaches missing from the Beach Finder?

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

7 thoughts on “Swim Guide: Beach Finder

  • You omit one crucial fact here, Harvey.

    Our local Health Unit hasn't released any beach reports yet this year so all colour-coded data reported here is from the last report of last summer.

    The next thing to know is, last summer, our lard-ass health unit was the last one in Ontario to report beach quality reports, and this by a large margin. In 2010 we didn't get any beach report at all until July.

    Also good to know: our health unit reports the minimum possible. Open or closed. That's it. No date of test, no information on actual e-coli counts, no info on where exactly the sample was taken.

    Compare that to Toronto where they get daily reports that include dates, e-coli counts, trends, and a percentage of time the beach has been closed in the past.

    Possibly the most troubling aspect of our health unit's data is Kingston's beaches were, on aggregate, declared safe far more often than any other group of beaches around Lake Ontario. A total outlier. This is statistically very suspicious.

    Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's app is fantastic. Unfortunately, for this region, the source of data isn't trustworthy in my opinion.

  • Great point, although I had hoped that folks could ascertain as much from my comment re KFL&A Public Health, it's definitely worth highlighting. So just we're clear, it is also my understanding that the local data used by the Swim Guide is, by and large, provided by KFL&A Public Health. And as you've pointed out KFL&A Public Health provides very basic information, while updates are few and far between.

    What good is a tool such as this without accurate data? In my mind, the guide builds awareness for the waterfront, which will hopefully result in a demand for more info and regular updates from KFL&A Public Health. So as I stated, it's a great step in the right direction, but clearly there is room for improvement, specifically when it comes to data collection/accuracy.

    • Thanks Harvey. And yes…. the tool will help amazing community minded people like Steven improve reporting, monitoring and protection in area by shining a light on any weakness in current situation. As public beaches, the public health officials have a duty to ensure the best information is available to public and that it is accurate.

  • Alwington Park is private property. Only Alwington Place residents may use the park.

  • You're missing some fabulous swim spots. 1. Kingston side of Simcoe Island – you have to sail in and drop anchor, popular spot for motor boats too. 2. Big Sandy Bay – US side of Wolfe Island, big beach, fun on wavy days. 3. Grass Creek Park 4. Golden Lake – very under used sandy beach with jumping rocks for young ones. 5. Frontenac Park -they have a handful of family friendly campsites with sandy beaches.

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