Hamilton Harbour Bayfront Park
Bayfront Park, Pier 4 Park and the Waterfront Trail opened in 1993. The land was previously a landfill made up of industrial waste and rubble. The City of Hamilton removed approximately 20,000 tonnes of industrial waste and contaminated soil. Read more here.
Free parking! There is a smaller parking lot beside the launch ramp that is mostly reserved for boat trailers (May 1 to Oct 1) but there are car parking spots on the perimeter of the lot that are optimal to get. If this lot is full then there is a large parking lot 1-minute walking distance across Bayfront Park’s Harbour Front Dr located beside the washrooms.
Multiple floating docks and a boat ramp.
The marina is further east but the ramp can get busy in the summer with load-in and load-out boat traffic.
The floating docks close to the boat launch are available to use but I’d suggest using the plastic floating dock away from the boat ramp. It has a small ramp down to the dock from the park and is a good distance away from the boat ramp. This plastic floating dock is big enough to launch multiple people from both sides (be careful, it gets slippery when wet!). See top photo.
Boat ramp and docks. The plastic floating dock is to the left bridging from the park.
This is a great spot if winds are too strong from the west making Princess Point an unfriendly paddle. The Waterfront Trail and railway on the west side of the launch act as protection to westerly winds. Be sure to stick close to the west side (Waterfront Trail and railway) when you get out into the bay. The water’s surface is visibly different where the wind picks up. Learn to read the wind for paddleboarding.
It’s pretty rare to be able to get out into the bay unless you’re comfortable with wind and chop. If you’re lucky enough to get a flat calm day there are lots of places to explore across the bay. When paddling east around Bayfront Park and Pier 4 Park be careful of westerly winds as the paddle back will be difficult and you could get taken out into the bay. Further past Pier 4 Park is the marina, Pier 8 is under development but currently has cafes serving ice cream, coffee and other food & drinks and the HMCS Haida National Historic Site (Tribal class destroyer that served in the Second World War, the Korean Conflict and the Cold War). And now Theodore TOO tugboat new home base! Keep in mind Theodore isn’t always docked as he is an ambassador for the Great Lakes. Beyond the destroyer and Theodore, Pier 8 gets very industrial.
The best route is to follow the Waterfront Trail on the west side to the York St and HWY 403 bridges. You can paddle under the bridges very close to the trail (watch for fishers). Typically you can safely paddle this route with <20 kph westerly winds.
There is a fishway (designed to keep invasive Common Carp out of Cootes Paradise but allows water and native fish to move between the two bodies of water) between the bay and into Princess Point and Cootes Paradise but there is a short portage. Portage entry and exit are muddy and rocky. See bottom photo from Princess Point blog post. See Cootes Paradise blog here.
- The washroom is located beside the larger parking lot. *closed November to April. Additional washrooms beside Pier 4 Park and Pier 8.
- Bring an extra pair of clothes and a bag for your dirty clothes. Lots of goose poo in the park and on the dock.
- Plastic dock gets slippery when wet
- Non-paddle friends can join you by walking along the Waterfront Trail. You won’t be close enough to talk but you will be able to see them. There are also trolley tours that start at Pier 8
- Photoshoot? It’s easy for someone to follow along onshore to take your photo either from the Waterfront Trail or Bayfront & Pier 4 Parks!
- Going under York St and 403 bridges is super cool!
- Be on the lookout for wildlife. Turtles, beavers (nocturnal) and lots of swans, ducks and other birds.
- Bring money if you’re planning to head west and stop at Pier 8 for food or drink.
- The park has lots of paved trails, picnic tables, playgrounds and more. Perfect for an Après Paddle.
- If you plan to swim or are worried about the water quality check it before you go here. E.coli levels can be high in the summertime. I personally don’t mind paddling when the water quality is low as I’m not planning to swim in it and I wash down my board after each use. Some people tend to avoid the water altogether. Make the decision that’s best for you!
Out in the bay beside the Waterfront Trail
Sunrise paddle crossing the bay. The only day I’ve seen it calm enough to do so.
- Great spot for beginners. Easy access from the parking lot and an accessible launch.
- Lots of space – free parking, walking paths and picnic spots!
- The perfect spot that’s sheltered from westerly winds and that is usually when Princess Point is too windy so this location makes a great alternative.
Washrooms beside the large parking lot.
Middle parking for boat trailers and view of the boat ramp.
Getting ready to launch. Boat ramp behind me.