A Quiet Day on Cobourg’s Waterfront

The Saturday of the first weekend in August is usually Cobourg’s busiest day of the year – especially if it’s hot.  Well this year, the weather was hot but the main beach was closed and there was no Sandcastle Festival.  There is usually also a Sidewalk sale on the same weekend but this year there was just a closed main street with no entertainment and much smaller crowds.  See the Links below to see what the Festival was like in 2019 and 2018.  The water level was not unusually high like it was in 2017 and 2019 but this just made the beach more inviting albeit empty. I visited the West Beach, the West Harbour, the Marina and the Main Beach and recorded this in a video and a collection of photos.


  • The Parking lots were not full although the Marina lot came close.  
  • The Boat launch was busy
  • Access to swimming in the West Harbour was fenced off due to a high e-coli reading – It’s never a good place to swim anyway
  • Many forgot that parking on the waterfront is no longer free so did not get a Pay and Display.  This meant the Bylaw officers were busy. 
  • The Marina was busy but not full
  • The Trailer Park was close to full but had some empty spots
  • The Splashpad was “policed” by a YMCA summer student
  • The Canteen was closed
  • Washrooms were closed but there were quite a number of Porta-Potties supplied by “Just in Time”.  They disinfect twice a day – I was told that there are 40 between East of Grafton and the Marina so the cleaning guys are busy all day.
  • I noticed a good number of strolling couples, young and old
  • Some families had picnics in the park
  • Everyone seemed to be observing social distancing and some even had masks on outdoors when this is not strictly required.
  • The Breaker’s Motel Private Beach was open but limited to guests.

See the video below and below that some photos.


Addendum – 7 August 2020

The Town of Cobourg issued the following announcement::

(Issued August 7, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. EST) – The Town of Cobourg would like to advise citizens that a Water Quality Forecast sign has been erected at the West Harbour to inform residents and visitors of the E. coli bacteria count and if the water is safe for swimming and other recreational activities.

Last week, due to higher levels of E. coli bacteria present in the West Harbour, the HKPR District Health Unit directed the Town of Cobourg to fence off the West Harbour and to post signs immediately in an effort to alert users of the high E. Coli bacteria readings found in the water.

From June to the fall season, the Town of Cobourg is committed to taking weekly water samples from the West Harbour to test for E. coli bacteria. The purpose of the Water Quality Forecast sign will be to show a risk level from low to high and to advise what recreational activities are safe and what are not recommended in accordance with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit’s direction.

Levels of E. coli bacteria are measured in colony forming units (cfu). The Water Quality Forecast sign showcases a range of low, medium and high risk:

  • At Low Risk (0-199 cfu) all recreational activities including swimming are considered safe.
  • At Medium Risk (200-999 cfu) some activities are not recommended including swimming.
  • At High Risk (1,000+ cfu) all recreational activities including swimming and non-propelled watercraft (kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, etc.) are not recommended.

According to SGS Canada Inc., a leading provider of comprehensive water quality testing that meets all provincial and national regulatory requirements, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the latest beach and harbour water quality report sampled today (August 7, 2020) showed bacteria levels at 1,195 E.coli which exceeds the provincial standard of 200 E. coli and puts the Water Quality Forecast at High Risk.

West Harbour users are asked to seek out the Water Quality Forecast sign, the current level of risk as reported on the sign, what recreational activities including swimming that may not be recommended and to always proceed with caution.

If you have been swimming in West Harbour and experience such symptoms as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea please seek medical attention.

The sign makes it clear that it’s not just swimming that’s unsafe if E-Coli levels are high.  Users of paddle-boards, canoes, Kayaks and even small sail-boats could well be in the water at some point.


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Wally Keeler
9 August 2020 8:09 pm

Back in that summer of love, 1967, I recall a bunch of hippies gathering on the beach after dark, bringing blankets, a couple doobies, and laying back to watch the cosmic show, The Perseid Meteor Showers. There was much less light pollution in those days to wash out the beauty of the show. https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1320185/Perseid-meteor-shower-2020-NASA-perseids-meteors

Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas
2 August 2020 3:25 pm

I used the “Honk” parking app, (in parking lot at end of Division street South), so there was no ticket to be displayed on my window/dash. Maybe others did too?

2 August 2020 1:30 pm

What is the source(s) of the e-coli contamination and can something be done about it? Can not be the birds or other wildlife… so many humans in the area this year. The birds seemed to have moved to the main east beach and other places. And, boaters not allowed to dump sewage into fresh water within a certain distance from shore.

Reply to  jimq
2 August 2020 2:08 pm

Yuck! That has to be stopped inside the harbour if it still allowed! Thank your for the info link.

Reply to  MiriamM
2 August 2020 5:35 pm

It’s simply not allowed in any Canadian waters and is monitored very closely by OPP and the Coast Guard. Any boat with the ability to dump black water overboard must have they system closed and securely locked so it cannot be used by anyone. If your boat is found without the locked security system in place and fastened, the fines are extremely high.

Reply to  jimq
2 August 2020 3:29 pm

It is illegal in Canada. The article quoted above is from a US source. Legal in the states. Our boats are inspected and if you are found to have a “Y” valve you will get fined.

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  MiriamM
2 August 2020 3:22 pm

Boaters should never be allowed to dump sewage into our waterways regardless of distance from shore. They should be required to use pumping stations.

Just Wondering
Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
4 August 2020 8:42 am

Why not? If the sewage is properly treated prior to discharge (as per the linked article), how is this different from what many municipalities along the lakefront do?

Reply to  Just Wondering
4 August 2020 9:11 am

Why not? – because it’s simply the wrong thing to do and completely illegal – coast to coast to coast. All the boats in the harbour (not the small runabouts) are inspected by the Canadian Power Squadron each year for safety equipment and locked blackwater systems. You are then issued a certificate of compliance which you mount on the boat side windscreen to display to the Coast Guard or OPP if ever stopped. Port-a-potties are also illegal on a boat.

Reply to  jimq
4 August 2020 9:57 am

jimg, do you happen to know if composting toilets are legal/illegal?

Reply to  Frenchy
4 August 2020 10:10 am

Composting toilets are legal on vessels, but no discharge allowed until at a proper pumping station – “Transport Canada has ruled that porta-potties and composting toilets can qualify as “temporary storage devices” as long as the vessel is less than 15 gross tons and carries fewer than 15 people. And they may not be emptied overboard. But it is no longer permitted to use portable buckets that can be emptied on shore’.

beach lover
2 August 2020 11:43 am

Your photos don’t show how the water at West Beach ( not the west harbour) has been green and putrid at the most easterly end for the past several days.There are also warning signs posted. It’s sad that it’s the only option for swimming for local kids and families without cars. With the province in stage 3, many municipalities have opened their beaches midweek or evenings to allow people to access the beaches. They’re not experiencing crowding. It’s sad that the only people able to enjoy Victoria Beach are out of towners who scored a room at The Breakers. I was at Sharbot Lake beach yesterday and people were socially distancing and using the beach responsibly.

Reply to  beach lover
2 August 2020 12:56 pm

It’s sad that the only people able to enjoy Victoria Beach are out of towners who scored a room at The Breakers.
How do out-of-towners get to use Victoria Beach? I thought that Breakers had a private beach. Unless Breakers is fully booked, “scoring a room” just requires making a reservation.

beach lover
Reply to  Dubious
2 August 2020 1:05 pm

Rooms are booked a year or more in advance. People can put their names on the waiting list but I know several people who have been on the list but never been called.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  beach lover
2 August 2020 3:05 pm

That’s life. Same goes with many popular resorts in our country.

Reply to  Dubious
2 August 2020 1:23 pm

You’re right – the Breakers has a private beach, and not the Victoria Beach which is closed.

beach lover
Reply to  jimq
2 August 2020 1:38 pm

You are 100% technically correct. However, it is one long stretch of sand of which the “private” stretch and swimming is open to people staying at the Breakers while access from the east (via the stairs) and from the west (from the sand) is closed to everyone else. I don’t see how it would be too expensive or dangerous to open the beach in the evenings. It’s certainly safer than swimming at West Beach.

Fact Checker
Reply to  beach lover
5 August 2020 11:25 am

Beach Lover:
The Harbour Beach is closed due to contamination. There is nothing wrong with the West Beach

beach lover
Reply to  Fact Checker
5 August 2020 4:22 pm

There are several signs warning about the dangerous undertow, no lifeguards and that the water quality is not tested at West Beach. Over the past few weeks, the east end of West Beach ( not the harbour) has had a film of green-grey scum extending for 25 feet along the shoreline. In addition to being a Blue Flag Beach, Victoria Beach is a much safer option for children and teens.

Reply to  Dubious
2 August 2020 2:11 pm

There you go blaming the “out of towners” again. Cobourg people have a facination of blaming ” the out of towners” for everything. The “out of towners” spend money and help keep your shops and restaurants afloat. Soon you won’t have them again as they will take their businesses else ware.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Conor
2 August 2020 3:09 pm

Beach tourists contribute no economic benefits. Just costs that Cobourg taxpayers have to cover.

Reply to  Conor
2 August 2020 6:22 pm

There is little to no economic benefit. The upkeep and expense to operate our beach far outweights any economic benefits. There should be time to get a handle on this by next summer. Lets not wait. Fee for use. Lots of time to iron out the details. Our downtown struggles because we think beach tourism has always been the answer when its not.

Last edited 10 days ago by Informed
beach lover
Reply to  Informed
5 August 2020 10:37 am

Something definitely needs to be done if the best Cobourg can come up with is to shut down the beach completely for everyone — including the people who live here – whenever there are crowds.

Last edited 7 days ago by beach lover
Reply to  beach lover
5 August 2020 10:42 am

A global pandemic is good enough reason in my books. Life goes on without a beach for a year.

Heather K
Reply to  beach lover
5 August 2020 3:46 pm

I agree, outdoor areas like beaches are low risk. Can a better plan such as limiting capacity with timed passes etc not be implemented. For kids this is their main source of summer enjoyment.

2 August 2020 11:08 am

That’s another good thing about the west beach, looks like you can bring your dog there. (1 minute mark)

beach lover
Reply to  Frenchy
2 August 2020 12:04 pm

The bylaw officers don’t seem to leave the boardwalk very often during their patrols so there are often dogs both off-leash and on-leash on West Beach.

Reply to  Frenchy
2 August 2020 6:25 pm

I was being sarcastic here by the way. Might not have come out that way. I definitely do not thinks dogs should be allowed on the beach.

2 August 2020 9:04 am

-Canadians celebrate the error in St Patricks Day warnings of our Health Minister’s that 40% of our population would have Covid19 by August…
-the government stimulus packages have been matched almost dollar-for-dollar by gains in the S&P 500 since March…(up 48%!)
-our GDP working from home in our pajamas is back to 90% of where it was when we used to commute, struggle and attend offices in person…
-the kids are back to school in September..(even if the teachers aren’t..)
-my employer doesn’t want to see me until 2021..
-the Leafs are still in the hunt for Lord Stanleys’ Mug…
-another box of beer and groceries will be arriving by Fedex at my front door today and all i have to do is wave my phone…
nobody’s paid rent in 5 months….our National debt closes in on a trillion $…and a third of our workforce is unemployed…3 Provinces are insolvent….and our most popular political Party has no leader…

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
2 August 2020 9:49 am

Dunkirk, you neglected to cheer the critical reduction in CO2 emissions. According to some reputable sources layoffs, work-from-home and the virtual elimination of tourism has reduced CO2 emissions by 5%. What can we eliminate to get the additional 45% reduction that Justin has promised?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
2 August 2020 1:02 pm

Shocking! Shellenberger’s  book seems disrespectful of world renowned climate experts such as Greta.

Reply to  Dunkirk
3 August 2020 9:06 am

Dunkirk, why did you have to include the last part? I was starting to feel good about the way things are working out. People need to feel productive or useful so a third of our work force is in trouble. According to my brother-in-law governments use ‘magic’ to make money. Maybe the government can keep up the ‘magic’. But what does my brother-in-law really know? The portfolio he was responsible for was only in the billions of dollars not a trillion. Like most people, I do not fully understand monetary policy but debt means interest needs to be paid. The ‘person’ receiving the interest has some control over the person paying. My mortgage payments to the bank for example. Maybe the government can get a bailout from Germany like some European countries have. But then Germany would have some control over our lives. Is there any evidence that Germans would want to take control of the world? You mentioned changes like working from home for some. All those people not paying rent will eventually be evicted and will not have a home to work from. That seems like a huge problem to me. I hope some people have a solution.… Read more »

Donna Wootton
2 August 2020 8:09 am

The closed west beach due to high e-coli readings also limited launching of kayaks and paddleboards.

Reply to  Donna Wootton
2 August 2020 8:30 am

Wrong – closed west harbour beach, the west beach is available.

Last edited 10 days ago by jimq
Reply to  Donna Wootton
2 August 2020 10:58 am

Who would let their kid kayak, canoe or paddleboard in the e-coli infested west basin?

Last edited 10 days ago by Frenchy
Reply to  Frenchy
2 August 2020 11:45 am

Last I heard, the Dragon Boat Canoe Camp for children was still in operation. Cobourg Yacht Club wisely closed their sailing school program for 2020. comment image?itok=a9SBYDKc

beach lover
Reply to  Frenchy
2 August 2020 12:07 pm

They probably consider it a safer alternative to West Beach there’s a strong undertow and steep drop off as well as questionable water quality.

Reply to  beach lover
2 August 2020 6:31 pm

Here’s another option, just don’t do any activities in the polluted west basin and risk your or your children’s health. Life goes on without paddleboarding and kayaking just like it does without baseball, hockey and soccer. Tough it out, use your imagination for other forms of entertainment, suck it up and we’ll try again next year.

Reply to  Frenchy
4 August 2020 6:29 pm


Reply to  Informed
4 August 2020 6:56 pm

Wear a mask, gloves, face shield, hazmat suit and full body condom.

Reply to  Frenchy
8 August 2020 12:11 am

See the addendum above?
Don’t want to be Love to be an “I told you so” guy.
We should have enough brains and shouldn’t have to be told.
Probably the anti-vaxxers and the anti-maskers who send their kids in there.

Last edited 4 days ago by Frenchy
Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
8 August 2020 1:21 pm

also known as maskholes.