Take a young dog to the beach in December, and you learn a few things. For one, walking on a slightly snow-covered sand in heavy winter boots is kind of cool because you don’t end up with sand in your socks.
Also, the slight winter winds create some awesome photogenic waves along the crimped edge of the lighthouse pier. Finally, there are a lot of sticks on the beach in winter.
So many sticks. The shores of Lake Huron in Grand Bend proved to be my dog’s treasure trove – so many sticks of all sizes, so many smells of degrees I can only imagine, and so much sand easily dug up … especially if there was a stick to uncover. My dog loves sticks.
The Grand Bend beach, a Grand Bend beach hotel, and a dog-friendly provincial park beach proved collectively to be the antidote to a stressful season even if very few amenities were actually open. My dog didn’t seem to notice.
Winter Beachcombing With the Dog
December isn’t usually beach month in Canada, even in Southern Ontario. But the close of 2021 wasn’t a usual year. First, vacation towns like Grand Bend in Lambton Shores almost shut down for the winter at the best of times. Second, tourist towns like Grand Bend are reeling from pandemic fallout. Third, late December in 2021 was unseasonably warm in Southern Ontario and proved an ideal time to be outside, on the beach, taking in a long dog-walk along the shores of Lake Huron.
Extra! Extra! Dogs allowed on Grand Bend Beach
The week between Christmas and New Years Eve 2021 proved to be a perfect dog-friendly retreat for those like my crazy Sprocker puppy who want to walk, walk, and well, run too far given the chance. And unfortunately, I gave her the chance, which I won’t exactly do again.
Other than spending 30-minutes in a well-treed neighbourhood yelling for her to come back to me and stay (she loved running past me and disappearing again), we had a great on-leash, quiet, off-season getaway in Grand Bend, Lambton County, Ontario.
To be clear, the Grand Bend main beach that runs for miles from the iconic lighthouse to the beachfront accessible from the Oakwood Resort is not dog-friendly in the summer. In fact, dogs are one of the items on a long list of prohibited fun posted.
However, off-season in the middle of winter, no one seemed to care – especially because early morning on the Grand Bend Beach was primarily the domain of fellow dog walkers … and canine stick scouts.
Summer when the beaches are crowded with lakeside tourists would be a different experience – even though I plan to come back with my pooch and take in some warm and sunny dog-friendly adventures not open this round.
But this year, Winter 2021, it was the dog-friendly Oakwood Resort that drew us here.
Dog-friendly Oakwood Resort
Despite being a beach town, there aren’t many Grand Bend beach hotels – hotels along the waterfront with beach access a short walking distance from the accommodation’s front door. Fortunately, there’s one: The Oakwood Resort, Grand Bend. It’s reasonably expansive, offering rooms, suites, and cabin-sized accommodations in a wooded cottage atmosphere.
For some people, the big feature is The Oakwood Resort’s golf course and golf-course adjacent pub.
Those people are likely not visiting with their dogs.
The best feature at The Oakwood Resort is the dog-friendly policy. Yes, you can bring your dog and stay in select rooms in the main lodge building. However, there’s a fee – $50 for the first night and $25 for each additional night – which is steep. There’s also a dog size limit of up to 30 pounds, so we’ll give this a three out of five stars on the truly pet-friendly scale.
The rooms in The Oakwood Resort are as advertised: cottage comfort, so boutique hotel this hotel is not (yet you will be charged an additional seven percent resort fee – even when no services are open). The dog-friendly rooms are in the main lodge’s lower level, which is ideal because those rooms face the golf course and the sliding patio door leads directly outside, perfect for pee pee time – my dog, not me.
Also, the patio doors served as my dog’s entertainment as she watched squirrels – so many squirrels – scamper about the golf course while I read Olive, Mabel, and Me. Adventure of Two Very Good Dogs, which I highly recommend especially on an adventure with your pup. (affiliate link)
Normally, the resort has an operational golf course, pub, formal dining room, spa, hot tub, and indoor swimming pool. None of these things were open when we visited (yet the seven percent resort fee was added to our stay, along with the pet fee). However, walking around the well-treed resort is easy and good for dogs, and there’s a gate that leads down a quiet residential street directly to the sandy beach.
Dog-friendly Grand Bend Amenities
While our stay in Grand Bend was just what was needed in the depths of winter, I plan to return in the bloom of summer because that’s when this beach town really shines. However, it will also be crowded and more restrictive about where I can take the dog – especially along Lake Huron’s shoreline either on the beach or at the Pinery Provincial Park. Up next on dogtrotting.net….. Pinery Provincial Park.
Guide to the Grand Bend Ontario dog-friendly places we hope to experience next summer:
1. The Grand Bend Drive-in
The Grand Bend drive-in, actually named The Starlite Drive-in in Grand Bend. The best thing about watching a movie from your car – you can take the dog with you. I took my previous pup to a drive-in, see here, years ago and he wondered why we were sitting in the car so long. But he got a hot dog. Also, the drive-in near Hamilton, Ontario has a dog-walking zone, so I’m hoping The Starlite Drive-in in Grand Bend is the same. And yes, Victoria will get a hot dog.
2. The Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company
Situated near The Oakwood Resort, The Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company welcomes well-behaved dogs into the brewery. Maybe by the time we pull up a stool there, my dog will be one of those.
Located at 36 Ontario Street in Grand Bend, Ontario, The Brewster’s Mill doesn’t serve food (other than bowls of bar snacks like popcorn). Like similar breweries, Brewster’s skirts the Southern Ontario no dogs inside regulations. The brewery has three signature beers: River Pigs IPA, Sand in My Thong Honey Blonde Ale, and Cold Waters cream ale – and I’m up for trying all three. Victoria might have to walk me back to the beach-side hotel.
3. The Grand Bend Beach
Although, dogs are not permitted on the beach May 1 to September 30, leashed dogs (which no-recall Victoria will remain for now) can be on the North and South Beaches from 6 to 8 am and 8 to 11 pm. Evening is the ideal time to get some great photos of the dog along the pier, anyway. Plus, there’s no doubt plenty of sticks still there, even after sunset.
4. The Pinery Provincial Park
Definitely, the dog-friendly highlight of a trip to Grand Bend, Ontario is the Pinery Provincial Park, open all year. Plan to spend at least an afternoon. In fact, the ecology, Pinery Provincial Park camping opportunities, and dog-friendly beaches – two! – are so interesting, it’s worth another post.
NEXT UP on dogtrotting.net – Dogs Allowed at The Pinery Provincial Park dog beach article complete with snowy pics and plenty of Pinery Provincial Park info. Yes, we went in the winter, and yes, it was worth it. During the summer, Pinery Provincial Park camping with the dog is possible and likely. Check it out!
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