Ottawa Family Fun: A day at Baxter Conservation Area beach

We have always loved going to the beach. Some of my best childhood memories are days spent at Grand Bend or Ipperwash or Port Franks with my family, and my Mom still loves to join us for a day at the beach.

Although they’re a far cry from the spectacular beaches of PEI (yes, I’m still pining for them), there’s a lot to love about Ottawa’s river beaches. Our favourite used to be Britannia Beach, but the beach at Baxter Conservation Area may just be my new fave. It’s a small sandy beach on the Rideau River just south of Kars, tucked inside the southern border of the City of Ottawa on the way to Kemptville. The beach has several picnic tables and leafy trees offer a perfect combination of sun and shade.

Granny made sure the boys were well equipped for water fun!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

An act of generosity that may have come back to haunt her…

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Never underestimate a Granny, though – she’s a fierce competitor!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

I watched Tristan creating this intricate world for more than half an hour before it occurred to me that he was simply executing in 3D with sand and water the virtual worlds he has been creating all summer in Minecraft!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

But the very best part of any trip to Baxter Conservation Area in the summer is the Ice Cream Float! This is what happens when you cross an ice cream truck with a boat, and it’s brilliant!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Bruce Deachman wrote a fun feature of Bob Harlow’s Ice Cream Float boat last summer. Harlow just putters about near the beach, serving recreational boaters mid-river and then coming into the shallows every hour or so to serve ice cream to the families on the beach. How brilliant is that for a business model? “I’m just going to float around on my boat all day, scooping ice cream to cover my costs.” No website, no schedule, no obligation… you work when it’s ideal to be out on your boat and go home whenever you feel like it. Hellooooooo retirement plan!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Baxter Conservation Area is a perfect beach for families. Do be aware, though, that although there is a roped-off swim area, there are no lifeguards here. There are no snack bars or concessions other than the ice cream boat. There are clean change rooms, though, and non-flushing toilets.

I used to be a little hesitant about Baxter because I am rather finicky about water quality and always check the water-quality advisory before planning a trip to one of the city’s beaches at Britannia, Mooney’s Bay or Petrie. I didn’t think water quality information was available for the Rideau beaches at Baxter or Rideau Provincial Park, and then yesterday I discovered this AMAZING interactive beach guide: the waterkeeper swim guide. It shows all sorts of local beaches (more than just local, in fact!) and the latest water quality results. While Baxter is only checked bi-weekly instead of daily like the city beaches, it’s nice to see that it has never been closed for poor water quality.

If you get restless with the beach, Baxter Conservation Area also boasts more than five kilometres of trails through wetlands, conifer plantations, mixed forest, alder thickets, nut groves and a solar energy display.

But none of that is as much fun as three waterguns, one Granny, a sandy beach and an ice cream boat! Have you been to Baxter beach? What did you think?

If you go:
Baxter Conservation Area is at 7498 Carter Road, Kars.
Day use admission is $6 per vehicle.
The Ice Cream Float serves up fun after 1 pm most days in summer and weekends through September.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

3 thoughts on “Ottawa Family Fun: A day at Baxter Conservation Area beach”

  1. Awesome report, Dani! I actually hadn’t even ever heard of it. We shy away from the city beaches because I’m always so worried about water quality. This one sounds awesome – it’s going on my list for this week!

  2. Hi Dani,

    Do you know if Bob has a phone number? I would love to reach out to him for a paddling race I’m organizing!


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