Wasaga Beach is no Jackson Hole (thank god)

Our little piece of Wasaga, Beach 4

WASAGA BEACH – I totally get why people holiday in places like Pigeon Forge – they’re overstimulating like cheap street drugs. I don’t get why people go to places like Jackson Hole, which doesn’t have much going for it outside ski season besides too many tourists and the fact that Harrison Ford lives nearby.

So if I sighed deeply when Melani told me we’d be staying in Wasaga Beach, I sighed with all the power of those prejudices. Great, I thought, a tourist trap within spitting
distance of Toronto. Drunken college kids and overpriced surf shops. Yeah, I can’t wait. I hadn’t met Elena yet, so I hadn’t been reminded of the folly of prejudging.

And let me say this: There’s a lot of traffic on the main strip, Mosley St., and there appear to be plenty of overpriced shops and not a few hooligans (I’m 40, so I can call
them hooligans, especially when I’m shaking my cane and yelling at them to get outta my yard). But. But.

Melani and Baby J. (21 weeks)

We’re in a little strip of quiet and just a short walk from the bay, and the secret to loving Wasaga is to wander down to the longest freshwater beach in the world. It’s not
the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen – there are no rocky outcrops where we are and there are precious few shells or other treasures to hunt. But the water! When we dipped our feet into the water on the first night, it was with the trepidation of any traveller who has sunk their toes into an ocean or Great Lake.

Yet the water here is warm. Summer-afternoon-puddle warm. Not the deceptive warm your feet are okay with but sneaks above your knees to make you shriek with chill. We walked easily along the sandbar, now up to our thighs, now our midsections, knees, then shoulder deep and up again. We walked in the bay and watched the sun set and tried not to use cliches like “warm as bathwater.” We fought the waves or rode with them and laughed till we were in danger of cramping up and going under.

This. This is why people come here. I get it now.

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Things aren’t always as they seem

Birch Haven by the Beach, Wasaga Beach

WASAGA BEACH – Elena says sometimes first-time guests at her Birch Haven by the Beach cottages are disappointed when they arrive.

“They have an image in their mind, maybe, and it’s not what they thought it would be.” Elena is bright and sunny and guests’ discomfort hits close to home.

Seen from the road, the prefab cottages look like a motel, perhaps, or a series of trailers all stuck together. They’re not woodsy log cabins, but this is Wasaga Beach, not the wilds of Georgia, and the cottages are roomy, efficient, comfortable and spotlessly clean. There is a gazebo in the common area, and a small playground. More than half the guests here are return visitors.

Elena talks about the hundreds of people she’s met while running Birch Haven, but she could as well be talking to future guests.

“There is one lesson I have learned, and that is not to judge. You can’t tell right away what the people will be like. You just can’t tell, and you just shouldn’t judge.”