Great summer weather, golden sandy beaches, brilliant sunshine, people frolicking under sun umbrellas... Could this be the Caribbean? Nope, it's Montréal!

The beaches may be river beaches rather than the balmy Caribbean, but Montréal and the surrounding area offer blissful summer beaches at a fraction of the cost of a tropical getaway. Okay, we concede that the beaches can be covered in ice through the winter, but for a few months every summer they become a paradise. Wintery walks on the beaches are a rewarding activity as well, although you’ll want to leave the bikini at home.

Here's a guide to the best strips of sand near Montréal.

Man playing with his dog at a city beach in Montreal
When the sun shines, residents of Montréal hit the sand © Shutterstock / Vincent JIANG

Verdun Beach

Imagine having a beach getaway in the middle of Montréal? At Verdun Beach, you can! This little slice of summer can be accessed via the De l’Église metro station and two different bus routes, making it easy to hit the sand. Depending on water conditions, you can swim here too, thanks to a man-made rock dike by the sparkly, golden sand. In the cooler months, head to pretty Bar Verdun Beach, a Parisian-inspired guinguette (suburban drinking hole) with a beachy vibe.

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Jean-Doré Beach

Easily accessible on the Montréal metro, Jean-Doré Beach in Parc Jean-Doré has an absolutely massive swimming area that is regularly cleaned, so it’s great for water babies and activity-inclined grown-ups. As well as swimming in 15,000 sq feet of calm water, you can play beach volleyball, rent a paddleboard or kayak, or perhaps bounce on the floating inflatable obstacle course at Aquazilla.

Clock Tower Beach

Located in the Old Port of Montréal, this easy-to-reach artificial beach is a welcome respite from the hot, sunny days of summer. Littered with adorable blue parasols, it’s the perfect place to tan and browse a novel without ever leaving the city center. Although the water here is not suitable for swimmable, you can complete the beach experience at "beachside" restaurants and refreshment stands nearby. It's a great vantage point for watching Montréal's regular firework shows, and the beach also hosts some popping adults-only DJ nights, as well as morning yoga sessions to help the hangover.

Saint-Zotique Beach

Less than an hour from Montréal is stunning, straw umbrella-dotted Saint-Zotique Beach. A destination for relaxing sunbathers and aquatic adventurers, Saint-Zotique Beach is an unexpected (almost tropical) gem in Quebec. Bounce on the floating waterpark of Eau Défi, swim in the wading pool, rent a pedalo, hike along the riverbanks, or rent a charcoal BBQ and picnic table for a post-sun dinner. In the winter kids can go hunting for elves on the beach as part of the Christmas celebrations. This beach is accessed by paid reservation, so be sure to book your entry beforehand.

Oka Beach

Located in the Parc National d'Oka less than an hour drive from Montréal (in a town famous for being the hometown of Oka cheese) Oka Beach nestles on the edge of the Ottawa River. The contrast of the gray-blue waters, soft yellowy sand and backdrop of thick forest is beautiful in every season. Sometimes on summer nights you can gather around bonfires and watch performances, and in warm weather, you can indulge in the usual assortment of beach activities, including a popular floating water obstacle course.

Morning sun on Oka beach, Quebec
Oka beach, quietly waiting for the morning sun-seekers to arrive © Shutterstock / Sandra Cunningham

Pointe-Calumet Beach

Swimming, waterslides, wakeboarding, volleyball, inflatable castles, treasure hunts, foam parties, dunk’s almost like being in Miami, except you’re just a 45-minute drive from downtown Montréal. Pointe-Calumet Beach is also great for adult partying, the Beachclub is considered one of Montréal’s best clubbing venues, it offers a massive outdoor concert and DJ space, as well as multiple summer events where you can dance in and out of the water.

St Timothée Islands Regional Park Beach

Sitting majestically in the St Lawrence River, the St Timothée Islands are located less than an hour from Montréal. What makes these beaches so special (other than the soft sand and crystal clear waters) is the network of surrounding hiking trails. After a morning of working up a sweat tramping in the forest, you can take a leisurely swim and sunbathe on the beaches after. In the winter a covered outdoor ice rink opens up.

People in the sun on a river beach near Montreal
Beaches dot the St Lawrence River all around Montréal © Christian Ouellet / Getty Images

Lac-Saint-Joseph Beach

Don’t pinch yourself! Those coconut trees dotting Lac-Saint-Joseph Beach are authentic (although definitely imported). The lake is almost 3 hours southwest of Montréal, but despite the trek to get here, the wondrous presence of coconut trees in Canada makes the trip worthwhile. This is one of the region’s largest lakes, and it makes a great family escape.

If you’re too tired to drive back, there are plenty of campgrounds available for overnight stays. With certified lifeguards manning the shoreline, you don’t have to worry when jumping off the floating trampoline, but there is a charge to access the beach – $40 for a family pass, but this drops to $15, or $6 per person, after 5pm.

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