A quiet beach destination
with world famous sunsets
Southampton Ontario is a small port and beach community of just over 3000 people located at the mouth of the Saugeen River on the eastern shore of Lake Huron.
Located between Sauble Beach and Port Elgin it also features a nice beach and has been a long time summer destination for those seeking a quieter atmosphere than its more famed neighbours.
The oldest port on the Bruce it was originally known as Saugeen and has now in fact merged with the communities of Saugeen and Port Elgin to form the Municipality of Saugeen Shores.
Long known for its iconic lighthouse sitting just offshore on nearby Chantry Island, the historic boardwalk that parallels Lake Huron and its sunsets this small town makes for a perfect summer getaway.
Location of Southampton Ontario
Getting to Southampton Ontario:
Isolated on the shores of Lake Huron the town is still within easy driving distance of the major population centres. Expect to take:
- 3.5 hours from Toronto
- 3.5 hours from Niagara Falls
- 3 hours from London
- 5 hours from Windsor
- 6 hours from Sudbury
- 7 hours from Ottawa
Depending upon your starting point you will be navigating to reach Southampton Ontario by traveling on either Highway #10, #6, #21.
By Public Transport
Air transport to Southampton Ontario is not an option.
Rail transport to Southampton Ontario is not an option
Public bus service does not extend to the town itself but services are available to Port Elgin. Visit: http://www.can-arcoach.com
for more information.
Southampton Ontario Attractions and Activities
One of the most popular activities in the area is to take a tour of this small island located just 1 kilometre (.6 miles) off the town's main beach.
The site of a lighthouse since 1858 it is now a bird sanctuary and plays an important role in the annual migrations.
At one time connected to the shore by two docks it is now accessible by tour boat only and the 81-hectare (200 acre) island is only a 15-minute boat ride from the town's historic docks. From the island you get magnificent views of the town, beach and Lake Huron waterfront.
During the tour the Chantry Island lighthouse and museum also becomes accessible and you are able to climb the 106 steps to the top, giving one even more impressive sweeping views. See why the lighthouse played such a vital role in maritime navigation as the shallow rocky shoals guarding the entrance to the port quickly become visible from this vantage point. In all, there are 50 known shipwrecks lying in the waters surrounding the island.
The small lighthouse keeper's cottage museum is also open and is furnished with items and artifacts from the mid to late 1800's.
For bird watchers the island is the regular home to a number of species and also to a multitude of others who utilize it as a stopping point during spring and fall migrations. Species that can regularly be seen include:
The entire tour lasts about 2 hours and makes for a great way to spend a part of your day. Note that the tours are only available during the busy summer season and are limited and book up very quickly. For more information visit: http://www.chantryisland.com
or contact: 1-866-797-5862 or 519-797-5862.
The lighthouse and island have been the symbol of the town almost since its inception and a visit would not be complete without a quick stop on Chantry Island.
Bruce Grey Museum
This beautiful little museum sits right downtown in a redesigned schoolhouse right across from Fairy Lake Park. It is also the home to the county archives.
Officially known as the Bruce Grey Museum and Cultural Centre there is also an attached 110- seat theatre that hosts many local cultural events.
Exhibits inside explore the rich history of the region from the ice age through the first nations period through to the modern age. A particular emphasis is placed of the regions rich maritime history and the highlight of the museum is undoubtedly relics from the shipwrecked General Hunter that were recently uncovered under the sands of Southampton Ontario's main beach.
There is also a replica of a tall ship that has been reconstructed that allows you to hop on board and get a feel for what it was like for sailors of this era. A virtual game also allows you to line up the cannons and attempt to sink a hostile enemy ship.
Also on site is:
- a historic range light that once stood in Stoker's Bay
- mid 1800's log cabin
- late 1800's homestead
A great place to stop in for 30 minutes – 1 hour to escape the hot summer sun this museum is one of the best in the area. Open year round, for more information visit: www.brucemuseum.ca
or phone: 1-866-318-8889.
The town's beaches stretch for 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) along Huron's shoreline and are composed of some of the whitest and softest sand found in the region. Offshore the water is a little deeper and colder, and the bottom a little more rockier than nearby Sauble Beach resulting in throngs of people flocking to Sauble while leaving Southampton with a very quiet atmosphere. Swimming is still commonplace though as the beaches are still wonderful albeit very tranquil.
The main beach is right downtown starting near Pioneer Park which is located where the Saugeen River flows into lake Huron. South of this is Long Dock Beach and further south of town lays "South Beach". At South Beach swimming conditions are a bit better as the water is shallower and the bottom a little sandier.
Facilities are limited at all beaches but public washrooms are available beside the Long Dock fast food outlet and near Pioneer Park.
Parts of the beach are also composed of fragile dune systems that support rare grasses and birds and care must be taken in posted areas.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Located at the terminus of one of Southern Ontario's best canoe routes the town makes for a great base for avid paddlers of any experience.
The Saugeen River Canoe Route stretches for 102 kilometres (61 miles) from the Town of Hanover to Denny's Dam Conservation area in Southampton Ontario. The upper reaches past Hanover are also available but include a number of rapids more suitable to very experienced paddlers only.
Access points are available at a number of points downstream for those wishing a shorter excursion.
Equipment rentals and excursions are available at: http://www.thorncrestoutfitters.com
Welcome to fishing heaven as the town makes for a great place for anglers to enjoy some of the best fishing in the province. In addition to great Lake Huron deepwater fishing the pier at Southampton makes for one of the best onshore fishing spots on the entire west coast of Ontario.
The Saugeen River is also a famed destination for anglers worldwide and is known as one of the best fly-fishing destinations in the Province. Loaded with fish, especially during the annual spring and fall salmon and rainbow trout spawning seasons, species to be caught include:
- Rainbow trout
- Brown Trout
- Brook Trout
- Northern Pike
- Chinook Salmon
- Large and Smallmouth Bass
If visiting in the fall head to the waters below Denny's Dam just upstream from the Saugeen's mouth and you'll find one of the rivers best fishing spots.
For those looking for a deep-water lake fishing experience charters are available: Contact: http://www.fishingaction.com
The Lake Huron Fishing Club also hosts the annual Chantry Chinook Classic Salmon Derby every summer and offers over $125,000 in prizes. For more information visit: Chantry Chinook Classic
A true cycling destination the quiet roads and beautiful scenery in the surrounding countryside make for a perfect place to put away the car and explore the region on two wheels.
The small town itself is easily navigated on bike. For those wishing longer excursions two Bruce County cycling routes lead through town.
- #7 Beach Hop Cycling Route
A 22 kilometre (13.2 mile) loop that travels south from Southampton Ontario following the lakeshore past Miramichi Bay into Port Elgin. You then head inland and loop back to Southampton Ontario following the Saugeen River.
Note: This route can be shortened to 17 kilomteres (10.2 miles) by following the rail trail ONLY on the way back to town.
You can also connect to other cycling routes in Port Elgin that can lead you to destinations further afield such as:
- Point Clark
- #6 Little Lakes Cycling Route
A 62 kilometre (37.2 mile) round trip linking Southampton to Sauble Beach while traveling both along Huron's shoreline and inland past a collection of small lakes. An extremely scenic route you finish by following the Saugeen River back into town.
Note that this route can be shortened considerably by traveling to and from Sauble Beach by following the lakeshore road only.
You can also connect to other cycling routes in Sauble that can lead to destinations further afield such as:
- Owen Sound
- Lion's Head
- Cabot Head
For more information on these and other cycling routes in the area visit: www.explorethebruce.com.
The iconic Southampton boardwalk makes for great place to stroll to enjoy the day or night. For over 100 years visitors have walked the planks along Lake Huron and enjoyed the views of Chantry Island and its famous imperial lighthouse. With benches spread intermittently along its path it makes for the perfect place to watch the spectacular sunsets.
A natural trail also winds around Fairy Lake which is located right in the heart of this historic small town. This beautiful green centerpiece of the community makes for a great place to have lunch, hike around the lake and then visit the Bruce Grey Museum across the street and any visit to Southampton Ontario would not be complete without spending at least a few minutes in Fairy Lake Park.
There are also a number of multi-use trails in the area including:
- Saugeen Rail Trail - An 11 kilometre (6.7 mile) level trail that connects Southampton to Port Elgin along the former CN rail line.
As with most communities along the Huron coastline the sunsets are amazing and are definitely a sight to behold. Of course, a great sunset cannot be guaranteed but if you stay more than a night or two, the chances are you will catch at least one are good.
Expect to see vivid purples, pinks, reds and oranges on any given sun fall.
There are a few recommended spots to catch the sunset but really any spot along the coast will do. Popular spots include:
- The beach at the end of High Street
- Pioneer Park
- Miramichi Bay
Every Friday night in the busy summer moths of July and August a bagpiper plays to the sunset at the giant flag at the waters edge of High Street.
Due to the proximity of Chantry Island right offshore Southampton Ontario has long been known as a prime destination amongst bird watchers and over 200 species have been documented in the area. Yet Chantry is a protected bird sanctuary and the only way to reach it is by boat.
More serious bird watchers will visit Chantry Island and also head to nearby MacGregor Point Provincial Park. Yet along the coast off the main highway is little known Miramichi Bay. Here the lake has created mudflats that have become a regular stopping point for migratory birds including the Great Blue Heron.
A truly great spot to snap a photo of a flock of birds against a spectacular sunset this small Bay should not be missed.
The protected dunes in town and the shores of the Saugeen River also provide visitors the opportunity to see:
- Caspian terns
The rail trail connected the town to Port Elgin is also avidly used all winter by skiers and snowshoer's and the town is connected to the greater Ontario snowmobile trail network giving snowmobilers access to 1000's of kilometres of trails.
As soon as you arrive in Southampton Ontario you will see references to the Chantry Island Lighthouse and as soon as you head down to the shoreline you see the landmark and also two range lights at the mouth of the Saugeen River.
Southampton Ontario is synonymous with the lighthouse and no lighthouse tour could be considered complete without a visit to the imperial lighthouse on this small island. From here you can go south to Kincardine or north towards Tobermory. For more information visit: www.brucecoastlighthouses.com
If you are seeking a beach destination with a more relaxed vibe than Southampton Ontario may be the ticket for you. It's low key but beautiful and is within easy distance of many of the Bruce's main attractions.
While generally an afterthought of either Sauble Beach or Port Elgin the town has a charm in its own right and it's thriving downtown is both historic and quaint. The Saugeen River is a huge draw and is well known within the fishing world.
Accommodations are plentiful at both cottages and private campgrounds. A few small motels exist but for the most part getting a place to stay shouldn't be much of a problem except for maybe during the height of the summer.
While maybe not the first place on your list of places to visit the small town is perfectly located and provides a beach experience on its own and many visitors are people that return annually because they enjoy the town and its surroundings. For more information visit: http://www.visitsouthampton.ca
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