Southampton is a lovely beachside community which is part of the town of Saugeen Shores, Ontario, along with Port Elgin and Saugeen Township. It is located along beautiful Lake Huron, roughly where Bruce Country roads 3 and 21 intersect.
With a permanent population of 3678 (as of 2017) year round, the population of Southampton grows significantly in the summer time when both tourists and summer residents arrive along with the nicer weather to shop, relax, and spend time with family. The highlight I think most visitors would agree is the long, sandy beaches, and the water, which is great for swimming.
The community of Southampton was founded by Captain John Spence of Scotland, who was born in 1814 and came to the area looking for fish in Lake Huron in 1848 when the area was still known as Saugeen. I took some pictures that are located along the beach, which can explain the whole story…
If you are a new resident to Ontario, Southampton makes a great daytrip destination, being approximately 225 km from Toronto, 192 km from London, and 154 km from Waterloo. The atmosphere of Southampton has always been warm and welcoming, and if you are coming up for the day, there’s plenty to do!
One spot people love to visit when they come to Southampton is the harbour, which can be found where the Saugeen River meeting up with Lake Huron. You will probably see it as you pass over the bridge that leads into town, if you look to your right. The sunsets at this location are particularly spectacular. The beach in this area is more rocky, and there are a few things worth noting if you visit the harbour. I made a video about it – take a look!
If you are interested in renting a cottage in Southampton, now I would say it is easier than ever with websites like AirBnB, which provide listings for numerous cottages for rent in Southampton to vacation seekers. In fact, I’m writing this article in one such cottage, and it couldn’t be much nicer!
Of course, there are other options as well for renting cottages (just Google it, there are lots of options), so I would say “seek and ye shall find”.
Because of the way Southampton is laid out, most cottages are either on the water or close to it, with most of them offering some degree of privacy and coziness.
These days, plenty of folks are willing to rent out their cottage to you, so long as you leave it in the same shape you found it.
In Southampton, with the spirit of the community being so warm and inviting, renting from someone you don’t know is often just as nice as if you stayed at a family member’s cottage. The people here are friendly, and many cottages are artistically decorated and there’s certainly no lack of charm with some of them.
If you are visiting Southampton, or Saugeen Shores in general, you will probably notice there are trolley stops here and there…
This is because S.S. Trolley is transporting sight-seeing enthusiasts around the area from 10am until 7pm, 7 days a week from July 2nd to September 3rd. So, rather than see busses making their usual rounds, Southampton has trolleys and the summer populace seem to love them. They have been in operation for the past couple of years and they’re back again by popular demand.
These trolleys run all day long and travel along a designated route, with 8 stops. Admission is 2 dollars and it’s a great way to see the area. Highly recommended as a way to get around Saugeen Shores and see some of the sights, and save money doing it.
Bars & Restaurants
Each of these places has their own distinct charm. For instance, The Walker House has been in business since 1915, and so everyone in town has been going there for the past century. Outlaw brews their own in-house, handcrafted beer and is located where the Southampton Hotel used to be (also historic). Forge and Thistle features Scottish food and is, as they say, quite wee (intimate)!
In terms of Southampon’s selection of restaurants, there are lots of options featuring a wide variety of foods, from pizza, to pub food, to delicious meals of all kinds. For example, you can sit in and have a delicious meal at The Walker House, or you can grab a pizza at Roberto’s Pizzeria to go.
Some of our other favorite Southampton Restaurants include Armen’s Café, which is a small but charming little spot with both veggie and gluten-free options, as well as international fare. In fact, I was in there today and it was packed (lunch rush) so I took some tacos to go. Delicious!
If you want something a little more along the lines of beach grub, there’s always Gerry’s Fast Food, which is a beachside spot where you can get poutine, a giant hot dog, or some fries. Sometimes, that’s the kind of food you need at the beach and Gerry’s is the place to get it!
If you are looking for fish and chips, Duffy’s is the place to go. You can’t miss it, because it’s right on the main drag (High Street) just up from the giant flag. In fact, I stumbled in there a few hours ago (around 11pm) and there was a wild karaoke party going on, so you should know that Duffy’s Famous Fish and Chips is there for your night time needs as well!
There are many, many options in Southampton for restaurants, and those are but a few of them I thought I’d mention.
If you are in town for a few days and you want to do what many of us like to do, eg. BBQ on an open flame, you simply have to visit Southampton Meat Market. This place features a wide selection of meats and if you are a meat eater, you walk in the door and your mouth begins to water. They have more than just meats, of course, but meats are indeed their specialty.
When I arrived in town yesterday, I went to the LCBO (you can’t see it in the above picture, but it’s across the street), and then I went to the meat market and got a couple of juicy steaks. We BBQ’ed them and let me tell you oh my god these steaks were damn good! A better cut of beef I cannot recall. Today we grabbed some ground beef for burgers and – same thing – to die for!
Ice Cream Cones
Once you’ve filled your gut with all of the delicious food that Southampton has to offer, you can’t leave town without a giant iced cream cone from one of the many confectionary shops that line the streets. Ice cream in Southampton is big business. During the summer, almost everyone can be seen licking a massive cone with one or two scoops mounted on top of a large-sized waffle cone. Oh, and there’s also gelato.
Here’s a video I took at a place called “Fun”, which sells delicious Kawartha ice cream, toys, and, well, FUN stuff!
I mentioned before that there are no shortage of cottages to rent in Southampton. While this is true, there are numerous bed and breakfasts, motels, and inns to check out. Walking around Southampton, you see a whole lot of signs for accommodations everywhere, whether it’s a motel here, a bed and breakfast there, or even a for sale sign on someone’s lawn.
Depending on your budget, it’s basically up to you where you will be staying. The cottages on AirBnB for Southampton range from $50 and up. Many of the bed and breakfast type places I saw looked very luxurious, and of course you get what you pay for in that respect.
For instance, today I walked by The Southampton Inn, which is located right on High Street (again, close to the big flag) and I was marvelling at just how charming it looks from the outside, while speculating how much it might cost to rent a room there. I am already booked in a nearby cottage for the weekend, but maybe next time!
One thing about Southampton you should know is that there is a lovely bike path by the water, which you see people biking on from morning until night. I too brought my bike up to the cottage for exactly this reason. I wanted to bike along the water, and the bike trails are smooth, clearly marked, and snake along the lake between Southampton and Port Elgin, allowing you to see the sights while feeling safe at the same time.
There are two lanes and a median for extra safety, as it should be. You can look at the beautiful trees or the waves lapping the sand as you trek along. Yesterday I particularly enjoyed these bike paths because it was an overcast day and windy, and so the water was green and the sky was dark blue, and the waves were wild! Very dramatic but invigorating. Today was sunny and absolutely perfect for a bike ride.
The thing I like most about Southampton, besides the water and the beach, is the scenery. The trees in this area of Ontario are marvellous, and there are many different varieties. I’m no arborist, so I can’t tell you much about all of the trees here except there are a lot of them, and many of them are large and majestic.
This probably goes for most of Bruce County in general, but Southampton in particular is an area that is replete with unique trees and wild plant life. Most of the character of the land is defined by trees, in fact. Trees and water. I would wager to say that the trees in Southampton are what gives the air that extra bit of magic that we feel when us humans hang around up here. Lots of quality oxygen for us to breathe!
It is a great honour to be among so many nice trees, wouldn’t you agree? Even at this public restroom (pictured below), there are amazing trees, grasses, and flowers that add to the scenery. If you need to stop and rest, you can sit on a bench and look out at the Chantry Island Lighthouse in the distance.
Dune Ecosystem Conservation
When you visit the beach, you’ll also notice that the dunes are lush with vegetation. Much of this vegetation is rare and so you want to tread lightly so as not to disturb it. Up here, the people take their dunes quite seriously, so there are signs everywhere providing information and basically informing people that the dunes are a protected ecological site. Find out more about the sand dunes in this area by reading the following article by UWO.
A Place To Relax
As much as you can satisfy your curiosity and find many things to do in Southampton, Ontario, I think that that best way to spend time in this place is to relax. Whether that means just hanging out with your friends and family, or roaming around by yourself, or literally doing nothing, Southampton provides you with enough comforts to be completely at ease.
A great vacation spot for people of all ages, I must tell you that I have been coming up to this town since I was a kid, and it never fails to put me in the good headspace as I can find the time to unwind here once I’m up here for a day or so.
Here’s a recent video I took while at the beach! It’s party time!
Oh, and I guess I should also be thankful to Bruce Power, since they provide all of the power up here for me to do things like charge up my computer so I can write this article. Because, let’s face it, while it is nice to lay in a hammock and count the stars, or sit by the fire, some of us also like to use the internet, and other modern conveniences.
So, don’t get me wrong, I love all of the natural beauty here in Southampton, but I also love the fact that there’s a Tim Horton’s, a Mac’s convenience store (with a patio, no less), and a 21st century modern clean energy power source that keeps my wifi signal alive and well.
Lastly, I wanted to share with you a few more pictures of Southampton that I took. I wasn’t sure where to include them, so here they are in no particular order.
For much more info, go to: http://visitsouthampton.ca