Montreal isn't exactly known for its beaches—swim-friendly waterfronts are not as common as public swimming pools—but there is still a quartet of sandy spots where you can have a beach day. The best part? Most of them are located within city limits and three are accessible by public transit, so it's an easy afternoon trip to the waterfront on a sunny day. While Montreal doesn't have many beaches, you'll still be able to choose among urban oases and relatively remote stretches of sand.
Located on Île Notre-Dame, Plage Doré du Parc Jean-Drapeau is one of two man-made islands that make up Montreal's versatile Parc Jean-Drapeau. This strip of golden sand on the southern end of Île Notre-Dame really does the trick on a hot and humid day. It's also one of the easiest beaches to get to in Montreal, being only 5 minutes from downtown via car, subway, or bike. Most locals go to plage Doré after an active summer day of walking, picnicking, dancing, rollercoastering, gambling, and sight-seeing around the multi-purpose park. The 15,000-square-meter swimming area also features plenty of waterfront activities like beach volleyball, inflatable slides, kayak rentals, and stand-up paddleboards.
The Clock Tower Beach
Opened in 2012 Montreal Clock Tower Beach is one of the latest additions to Montreal's handful of beaches. With 1.3 hectares (3.2 acres) of urban getaway in Old Montreal's Old Port, it's a place where locals and visitors can cool themselves off by the misting stations and then lounge in the sun or under a parasol in the comfort of a long chair. You'll also be able to see excellent views of Montreal's skyline. While there is sand, Clock Tower is more a place for tanning as swimming is strictly prohibited. During the summer season, it costs $2 to enjoy the beach or $15 for a season pass (from June to September). On evenings when Montreal's Old Port has firework displays, it costs $5 to enter (starting at 7 p.m.).
Cap St. Jacques
Cap St. Jacques is Montreal's largest park, a whopping 288 hectares (712 acres) of silver birch and maple woods, fields, and farmland with a sliver of beachfront. That sliver of beach is perhaps best known as the other Montreal beach. As far as city beaches go, Cap St. Jacques doesn't feel remotely urban, making it a suitable antidote for weary city-dwellers without cars in dire need of refuge. Just be ready to sacrifice anywhere from 45 minutes to one-and-a-half hours traveling on the subway and bus plus about 20 minutes of walking on a dirt road to get there. And try to make it on a weekday to beat the crowds because people tend to pile up on that patch of sand. The commute may be long, but it's worth it for the relaxation that awaits.
Bois-de-l'Île-Bizard is a haven, and a local favorite place to be in all of Montreal. But getting to this idyllic beach without a car of your own requires a trek and then some. Factor in two hours of public transit followed by a 40-minute hike—or bike—just to get to the park. But once you're on the boardwalk, taking in the cattails and marshland, you tend to forget the trouble you went through to make it to the small island sandwiched between Montreal and its northern metropolitan cousin, Laval. The beach itself is a natural sight for sore, urban-weary eyes, making it the ideal staycation destination. Unfortunately, that staycation will have to end when the sun sets as that's when the park closes for the day.