4 min

The pleasures and possible pitfalls of Canada’s nude beaches

The 10 most visited nude beaches in Canada

As if it were yesterday, I remember my first visit to a nude beach. I was 21, a fresh-faced and very naive university alumnus. I had decided to visit my best friend from college, who had taken a summer job in Vancouver. We had met at university in Halifax (he was from Montreal), and for three years, I harboured a major crush on this ladies’ man who seemed to like me — he really liked me! It was my first taste of unrequited love, but that’s another odyssey for another time.

He suggested we spend an afternoon at Wreck Beach, beneath the University of British Columbia, which I had heard about only vaguely back then in 1979. Yes, I am dating myself, but the visit turned into a pivotal experience of my life. Who knew that such an initially stressful day would precipitate a writing career that started in 1994 and is ongoing? 

If memory serves, we clamoured down a rather steep hill that opened to a beautiful expanse of beach and the Pacific Ocean. People of all ages, colours and sizes were nude everywhere, doing the most mundane things, like playing Frisbee and swimming, sun tanning, eating and talking. It wasn’t complete bedlam and debauchery (was I hoping?), and its normalcy was both reassuring and a tad disappointing.

When one goes to a nude beach, one is expected to disrobe with everyone else. The people who do not tend to be treated with anything from thinly disguised pity to outright disdain. The worst “textiles” are the ones who walk up and down the beach, fully clothed and with dark glasses, staring from behind their masks. Demerit points also go to those clothed who carry cameras (still, video and phone) and have the gall to try to use them.

Let’s say your first experience is at a nude beach that is relatively quiet (as many are), and there is no threat of errant textilers with cameras lurking about. And let’s say you are accompanied by someone you are fond of (or madly infatuated with or crazily lusting for) . . . what happens if you physically, but uncontrollably, show your companion how excited you are to be with him?

That was my biggest fear on my first visit to a nude beach. I couldn’t let my straight friend know I was attracted to him when seeing him for the first time in the nude. What about his horror if I became erect? His potential rejection of my friendship? (I was 21, okay?)

We sat down on towels on the sand. He stripped while I stared straight ahead at a seagull as if I had never seen one before. He ran into the ocean, the only bare thing on display his very pale rear. My breath froze; my heart pounded. What would happen when he emerged from his swim to walk back to our spot on the beach?

I was fully dressed but had promised I would be nude by the time he got back. I was already self-conscious about being in a tiny minority, since everyone else was naked.

And then, like a voice from the gods, I started thinking of — the Vietnamese boat people. (Between 1975 and 1994, about 800,000 Vietnamese people left their country for other, non-Communist countries, often in decrepit boats.)

Needless to say, with thoughts of their struggle for survival foremost in my brain, the state of my physical arousal remained quite dormant. My friend was safe!

Overall, that first nude beach experience was quite pleasant. There is something truly liberating about being unimpeded by a wet bathing suit (where sand collects in unfortunate crevices), by drying off naturally in a sunny breeze, and by simply socializing with others who are likeminded and also nude.

Since that time, I have visited and written about nude beaches and resorts around the world and have only once seen an obvious erection, and that fellow was an exhibitionist who had attached an entire shelf of hardware from Home Depot to his genitals. My only thought at the time was that he must have incredible muscles in his penis to support not only a woody, but at least a kilo of steel hanging from it and his scrotum. Live and let live, I say. (But ouch!)

While on the topic, however, keep in mind that legal nude beaches (and those that are tolerated by local communities) have arrived in Canada, thanks to those who came before us who fought against being prosecuted for inoffensive public nudity.

The Federation of Canadian Naturists states on its website, “Canada has many beaches where nude sunbathing and swimming is accepted. Wreck Beach, Vancouver, BC, is the best known and visited by thousands of nudists every year. Hanlan’s Point in Toronto is Canada’s only other ‘official’ clothing-optional beach. The smaller Crystal Crescent Beach, near Halifax, NS, established by the Bluenose Club, while not ‘official,’ also sees many regular and visiting nudists. A similar stretch of beach in Quebec at Oka Park (west of Montreal) is similarly unofficial but well known as a clothing-optional beach.”

The bottom line is, when at a nude beach, behave as you would at a clothed beach: respect others around you and don’t engage in sexual acts you wouldn’t normally perform in public. The mantra from card-carrying nudists or naturists is “Nude doesn’t equal lewd” — because who wants to be arrested?

Noteworthy, police officers will watch over Wreck Beach almost every day from the May 19, 2014 long weekend until Labour Day, according to a new RCMP plan.

In order of hassle-free usage, the FCN lists the 10 most visited nude beaches in Canada:

  1. Wreck Beach, Vancouver
  2. Hanlan’s Point, Toronto
  3. Crystal Crescent Beach, near Halifax
  4. Oka Park, west of Montreal
  5. Blooming Point, northeastern PEI
  6. Lac des Toutes Nues, northwest of Montreal
  7. Patricia Beach, near Winnipeg
  8. Paradise Beach, near Saskatoon
  9. Chilliwack Lake, near Vancouver
  10. Kelly’s Beach, Kouchibouguac National Park, NB

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Gay Nudist Gatherings 2014

International Men Enjoying Naturism
July 13–20, 2014
20th anniversary celebration near Baltimore, MD.

Gay Naturists International
Aug 2–9, 2014
Gathering will be held in northern Maryland.


Pacific-Canadian Association of Nudists 
PCAN is a Vancouver nudist organization for gay and bisexual men. 

Totally Naked Toronto! Men Enjoying Nudity
TNT!Men holds monthly events in Toronto.

Domaine Emeraude
Gay naturist resort and campground near Montreal.