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The best beaches in & near Calgary, AB

by Karen Ung

When the mercury rises, cool off at one of these beaches in or near Calgary!

On a hot day, there’s no better place to be than near water… or in it! Whether you want to sunbathe, wade, swim, or paddle, you’ll find a suitable beach spot here. We’ve rounded up the best public beaches in Calgary as well as the best beaches near Calgary. Go early to get parking and have a backup plan in case your favorite beach is full.

Calgary Beaches

Calgary’s best beaches – manmade, sandy beaches – are at private lake communities with the exception of Sikome Lake (fees in effect as of 2016; facility closed for 2021), but there are several gravel beaches worth visiting if you just want to wade and sunbathe. Some gravel beaches along the Bow River, Elbow River, and Fish Creek include the following:

  • Edworthy Park is a fun place to play on a hot day if you don’t want to drive too far. The gravel beach is across the bridge from Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream (4105 Montgomery View NW). Grab an ice cream or coffee, throw rocks in the river and wade, then hike the forested Douglas Fir Trail to the lookout (2.2 km return) or bike the Bow River Pathway (east to downtown, or west to Shouldice Park). There are several picnic areas in the park, but reservations are recommended on the weekend. Dial 311 to reserve (for a fee). The river flows fast here, so keep kids close to shore!
  • Mission/Roxboro has a gravel beach on the Elbow River near 25 Ave SW and Erlton Street. Pick up coffee at Phil & Sebastian on 4th Street or try the amazing pastries at Yann Haute Patisserie at 329 23 Ave SW.
  • Sandy Beach Park does not have a sandy beach, but is a fun place to sunbathe, wade, or pop a raft in (you can float the Elbow River to Mission/Roxboro). Nearby Brown’s Socialhouse Brittania is highly recommended for elegant pubfare.
  • Trout Beach, St. Patrick’s Island – bike here from East Village, Calgary Curling Club or the Calgary Zoo; visit the Bloom Art Installation and George C. King Bridge; let the kids burn off stome steam at the St Patrick’s Island or East Village playgrounds; dine at the Simmon’s Building (Phil & Sebastian Coffee, Sidewalk Citizen Artisan Bakery, or Charbar boutique eatery). You could also bike to Chinatown for dimsum!
  • Prince’s Island Park –  Lounge by the lagoon and watch the birds, splash in the Eau Claire Plaza Spray Park across the bridge (closed for 2021), throw a frisbee in the field, or bike the Bow River Pathway. River Café, located on the island, is a romantic spot for a meal.
  • Bowness Park has a few spots where you can access the Bow River (heading west from the parking lot), but the river runs swiftly by here, so we prefer paddling at the lagoon (not suitable for swimming) or playing at the spray park. Paddleboat and canoe rentals and a Mini Train Ride are also available. When you get hungry, picnic at one of many shaded picnic sites or get coffee, ice cream or takeout from Seasons of Bowness Park (waterside dining also available).
  • Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary’s largest park, has a few options (see the Fish Creek map here):
    • From Bow Valley Ranche parking lot, head south and then turn right just before the bridge to access the creek and a small waterfall. Fun place to splash on a hot day.
    • From Bebo Grove parking, head SW for river access. There is a great network of trails, a picnic area, and plenty of shade.
    • Shannon Terrace also has beach access and a picnic area.
    • After exploring Fish Creek Park, visit Pattiserie du Soleil Bakery & Cafe in Woodbine for delectable treats, breakfast and lunch!

Safety Note: There have been e-coli advisories on the Elbow River for the past few years, so swimming is not advised.

City Spray Parks, Wading Pools, and Outdoor Pools

City spray parks, wading pools, and outdoor pools open in mid-June. For hours of operation, please visit Calgary Parks.

Beaches Near Calgary (~1 hr drive)

  • Anniversary Park & Beach, Chestermere: This sandy beach is only 20 minutes east of Calgary! Swim, paddle, or sunbathe, but note there is a lot of motorized boat traffic so paddling is best early or late in the day. Beach Fees are in effect as of 2020. Visit https://www.chestermere.ca/beaches for more information.
  • Quarry Lake, Canmore: With a small sandy beach and spectacular mountain views, this is a hot spot in the summer. Nearby hikes include Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak. There’s lots of good mountain biking at Canmore Nordic Centre too. After some outdoor fun, get ice cream at the school bus in downtown Canmore, or dinner at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. Parking fees in effect as of 2021.
  • Barrier Lake Day Use (NOT Barrier Dam), Kananaskis: Summer 2021 update: Barrier Lake Day Use is closed for construction until further notice. The water is icy cold, but the sand is perfect for building sand castles and there are shaded picnic sites near the lake. If it isn’t too windy, you can paddle here too! Nearby hikes include Mount Lorette Ponds (wheelchair-accessible trail, fishing ponds, and picnic area), Troll Falls & Upper Falls, and Prairie View & Yates Mountain.
  • Johnson Lake, Banff: Swim, paddle, picnic, or hike at this picturesque little lake. Search for the old hermit cabin built in 1910 if you have time. There are picnic tables east of the beach, but if you prefer to stay close to the water, bring a picnic blanket. If Johnson Lake’s parking lot is full, you can picnic and paddle at Cascade Ponds.

Going Further (Sandy beaches within 2 hours of Calgary)

The following provincial parks have swimming lakes with sandy beaches.

  • Aspen Beach Provincial Park (180 km north of Calgary) – Alberta’s oldest provincial park, near Lacombe, has a long sandy beach and warm, shallow water in the “swimming” area at Ebeling Day Use (too shallow for swimming but fun for splashing/wading!). Gull Lake’s newest beach – Sandy Point – is a great alternative and can be less busy. Be sure to check out nearby Kraay Family Farm and Lacombe Corn Maze!
  • Sylvan Provincial Park (160 km N of Calgary) – Sylvan Lake’s beach off Lakeshore Boulevard has a happening beach feel. Swim, paddle, sail, jetski, or play some beach volleyball. If you’d like to stay a while, camp at nearby Jarvis Bay Provincial Park. Calgary Playground Review has a great writeup on Water Fun in Red Deer here.
  • Little Bow Provincial Park (166 km SE of Calgary) has a lovely pebble beach with trees around it, and well-serviced campground (playground, concession, camp store, canoe/stand up paddleboard rentals). The little bay’s calm water is perfect for wading or learning to stand-up paddleboard. There’s also a boat launch if you’d like to get out on the Travers Reservoir and do some fishing/exploring. See our camping trip report here.
  • Kinbrook Island Provincial Park (207 km SE of Calgary) is a desirable camping and beach destination. On long weekends, parks staff turn away 1,000-1,500 vehicles! Plan to camp here so you can enjoy the sandy beach, swimming area, 4.5 km wetland interpretive trail, and paddling/boating. See our story: Camping at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park for more info.

Bonus: Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (360 km SE of Calgary) has lovely sandy beaches, warm water, paddling, and free mini golf! There are also great hiking and mountain biking trails in the park.

The best beaches in and near Calgary
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