The Pinery Provincial Park in Grand Bend, Ontario, has been on my dog trip bucket list for years for two reasons: it’s about a two-hour drive from home, and it has two dog beaches. Yes, two! I don’t know why it took me so long to take the dog there – but I finally did, December 2021.
At the Pinery, there are technically nine public day-use beaches and two beaches adjacent to campsite areas. But what we strolled along during our early winter holiday is really one 10-kilometer long scenic sandy shoreline hugging Lake Huron in Ontario.
From the shores of Lake Huron, you’ll see an expansive view of water, almost sea-like with no end in sight. Staring across this gently waving water is meditative, especially in the crisp air of winter. I’ve heard good things about Pinery Provincial Park and wasn’t disappointed, even during an unseasonable warm December afternoon.
Dog-friendly Grand Bend, Ontario
Yes, my dog and I spent the early afternoon strolling this Canadian beach in December. In fact, Grand Bend was a relaxing location during the 2021 holiday season, thanks to the dog-friendly Oakwood Resort. (Check out our Grand Bend beach hotel experience).
The Pinery Provincial Park is open daily 8 am to 10 pm all year and is home to the largest remaining tract of Oak Savanna in Ontario. But the star feature – even in December – is the longest freshwater coastal dune ecosystems in the province. The wispy dry grasses are protected and off limits to both scampering dogs and people, but do make beautiful frames in photos of happy pups enjoying the sand. And enjoying the sticks. So many sticks. I had no idea until my dog found them all (or so it seemed).
The Pinery is also full of hiking trails – ten in total varying from one to 2.6 kilometres in length all circling back to a starting point. Some trails are open for cross-country skiing in the snowy winter, and water rental equipment like kayaks are available during the summer – canoes too, if your pup will jump into one. (I haven’t tried with my dog, yet).
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Pinery Provincial Park Dog Beaches
Two of the day beach zones along the 10-kilometre Lake Huron shoreline at the Pinery Provincial Park are designated dog-friendly – P1 and P2 – at the furthest east end of the lakeshore. However, according to the rules, these aren’t leash-free beaches – dogs must be on a controlled leash less than two-metres long. The good news: these beaches are expansive and part of the main beach – rather than small gravelly less-desirable areas like many other dog beaches sometimes are.
During the summer, dogs aren’t allowed on the other day-use beaches – really an extension of one long shoreline. But that wasn’t the case in late December. Because the park closed the road to the dog beaches, the entire beach area was open to both pups and people.
We parked near the west end of the public beaches and followed the boardwalk up, over, and through the sandy dunes to the beach. Thanks to winter, the entire stretch of shoreline was accessible to my pup.
And she loved it. Wide beaches, so much drift wood for chewing, soft sand for her young paws to dig in, and choppy waves that, fortunately, didn’t invite swimming but caution from my curious canine who jumped back with every surge.
It took about half an hour to walk from P9 beach to P8 – we walked slowly of course, because sniffing noses demanded it. My point is the ‘beaches’ are long; therefore, there’s a lot of space between beaches P1 and P2 where dogs must remain in the summer.
Above the dunes, there’s a walkway extending from the viewing dock at beach P7 to the parking lot above beach P9 ideal for leashed dog walking, yet still providing full view of the lake. The Pinery Provincial Park is very popular with dog lovers, for so many reasons.
Pinery Provincial Park Camping
This park is large, and it’s a long winding drive through the park past three campsite areas: Burley, Riverside and Dunes. There are about 1000 individual campsites, including 400 with electricity. Pets are permitted at all but one area in Dunes Campground. The Dunes campground is a mix of pop-trailer and tent sites, while other campsites are primarily tent sites.
The best feature, however, is the dog-friendly yurt. Glamping sites are a relatively new addition to Ontario provincial parks, and allowing dogs in select yurts is even more recent. (Check out the list). Yurt 480C is dog-friendly, but book well in advance. In fact, booking spots at most Ontario provincial parks, especially one as popular as the Pinery, requires a lot of advanced planning and reservations.
However, even though December 2021 was surprisingly warm, winter Pinery Provincial Park camping is not for me. I found the Oakwood Resort far more comfortable – and my pup loved the sliding glass doors providing her a view of all the birds and squirrels … so many squirrels … scampering across the golf course surrounding the resort.
Grand Bend and the Pinery is back on the list, next time for a summer visit.
Pinery Provincial Park At A Glance
- 2 Pinery Provincial Park dog beaches
- 10 km of beach along Lake Huron
- Protected grass-covered sand dunes
- 10 walking trails
- 14 km of bike trails
- 38 km of groomed ski trails in winter
- Canoe, hydro bike, paddleboat, and single or double kayaks available for rental in the summer
- Impressive sunsets according to National Geographic
- 12 Yurts available for ‘glamping’ – Yurt 480C is dog-friendly (but not other yurts)
- 1 camp cabin, but it does not permit pets
- Three car campground areas with sites that allow dogs (except one area) available May to September
- Area 1 in Riverside campground is open year-round, if you’re game for winter camping