Secrets of Sandbanks: Everything About the Provincial Park

Secrets of Sandbanks: Everything About the Provincial Park
Secrets of Sandbanks: Everything About the Provincial Park

Tucked away in the picturesque landscape of Prince Edward County, Ontario, Sandbanks Provincial Park stands as a natural gem, offering many outdoor activities and breathtaking scenery. Located on Lake Ontario, the provincial park is considered one of the best sandy beaches in Ontario and contains the largest bay-mouth barrier dune formation in the world. 

With its pristine beaches, well-maintained campgrounds, and opportunities for biking and hiking adventures, this provincial park has become a cherished destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers alike.

Things to Do in Sandbanks

Sandbanks Provincial Park Beaches

Sandbanks Provincial Park is best known for its stunning beaches, a highlight of any visit. The park features three main beaches: Outlet Beach, Sandbanks (Lakeshore) Beach, and Dunes Beach. On either beach, Lake Ontario’s soft, golden sand and crystal-clear waters create a paradise for sunbathers, swimmers, and beachcombers. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, build sandcastles with the family, or take a refreshing dip, Sandbanks beaches offer the perfect setting.

The park welcomes over 750,000 visitors per year. Reservations are needed to access the park during the summer. Daily vehicle permits become available at 7:00 a.m., five days in advance of your arrival date. You can print off your advance daily vehicle permit at home and display it on your vehicle’s dashboard to bypass the line to check in at our Main gate or West Lake gate.

Got your permit booked? You’re guaranteed park access regardless of your arrival time. However, if you want a spot in your preferred area of the park or beach, arrive early. The park is busiest between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., especially on hot summer days.

During the summer, Sandbanks is open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

What is the best beach in Sandbanks?

Outlet Beach stands out as the park’s most renowned destination. Its vast, two-kilometer-long shoreline, characterized by soft, white sand and gentle, rolling waves, attracts thousands of visitors every summer.

Are dogs allowed at Sandbanks?

Yes! However, pups should be leashed (no longer than 2 meters) unless in special sections. The mouth of Outlet River and on Lakeshore Beach near the Lakeshore Lodge site allow dogs to be off leash and in the waters.

Sandbanks Provincial Park Camping

Sandbanks Provincial Park offers a range of camping options for those who wish to extend their stay and immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty. Visitors can take advantage of Sandbanks overnight camping from April to October (day use is available all year round).

The park has over 600 campsites (over 260 with electricity) in five campground areas: Outlet River A & B, Cedars in the East Lake sector, Richardson’s in the West Lake sector, and the Woodlands Campground located between the East and West Lake sectors of the park. Sandbanks Campgrounds provides both car and RV camping facilities and more secluded walk-in campsites for those seeking a more rustic experience. 

Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak summer season, to secure your spot in this sought-after camping destination. We recommend booking months in advance if you want to come during the summer months. The park’s online reservation system opens at 7 a.m., five months in advance before the first date of your trip.

What is the best site at Sandbanks Provincial Park?

The Outlet River A campground at Sandbanks is one of the most popular waterfront sites. However, the campsites are in close proximity to each other and it is a busy area. The waterfront sites are 6 to 18, 20, 21, 23, 24 to 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, and 39.

Can I bring a barbecue?

Barbecues are allowed, but they must be self-contained.

  • Propane BBQs are allowed
  • Charcoal BBQs are NOT allowed on the beach or day-use area (they are permitted on registered campsites)

Biking and Hiking

Biking and hiking enthusiasts will find plenty to explore within Sandbanks Provincial Park. The park offers well-maintained trails that wind through forests, wetlands, and dunes. These trails provide an excellent opportunity to observe local wildlife and enjoy the park’s diverse ecosystems. Cyclists of all skill levels can find suitable routes, whether a leisurely ride through the woods or a more challenging trek that takes you to the heart of the dunes.

What trails should I hike at Sandbanks?

Walk along the shores of the Outlet River and stop at the two lookouts providing scenic views of the marsh. This is an interpretive trail with 12 stops. Trail guides are available at the trailhead or the Friends of Sandbanks Gift Shop.

Can I rent a picnic shelter?

Yes, picnic shelters can be rented online.

Boating at the Sandbanks

Boating and canoeing in the tranquil waters of Sandbanks Provincial Park is a serene and immersive experience. With access to Lake Ontario and several smaller bodies of water within the park, visitors can paddle their way through its scenic beauty.

Bring your own canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, or rent them while you’re here. Powerboat rentals are also available! Please note that powerboating is permitted on Lake Ontario and East and West Lake but not near the swimming or beach areas. Rentals go quickly in the summer, so get there early to secure some.

Exploring the Dunes

The park’s most distinctive feature is its towering sand dunes, a geological wonder and a sight to behold. The dunes were formed by glaciers 12,500 years ago. These ever-shifting dunes are a testament to the power of wind and water, and visitors can explore them on foot via designated trails. Some dunes can even reach 25 meters high! Climbing the dunes offers panoramic views of Lake Ontario and the surrounding landscape, making it a memorable adventure.

Tip: The Dunes are often less busy than the Outlet Beach during the summer!

What kind of accessibility does the park provide?

In summer, Mobi Mats are laid out, creating an accessible pathway from the Park Store that extends onto the Outlet Beach. These mats enhance beach accessibility for individuals using assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.

Birdwatching and Nature Trails

Sandbanks Provincial Park is a haven for birdwatchers, with its diverse bird population and wetlands that attract various avian species. The park features several nature trails and birdwatching blinds where you can observe these feathered inhabitants in their natural habitat. Bring your binoculars and a field guide to enjoy this birdwatching paradise. Watch out for swans, Canada geese, long-tailed ducks, buffleheads, and more!

At the park, you’ll find six trails ready for exploring. The Cedar Sands Nature Trail is a 2-kilometer loop that follows the shores of Lake Ontario and includes two scenic lookouts.

Sandbanks Provincial Park Fishing

Not only is the birdwatching amazing, but fishing in the Sandbanks is a big hit. Look for largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow pickerel, and northern pike, among other fish. Join a fishing charter and get the opportunity to cast for larger fish like Atlantic salmon, bluegill sunfish, brook trout, channel catfish, and more.

The fishing season in Lake Ontario is open all year, but there are some rules to follow before you cast your line.

Exploring Prince Edward County

While Sandbanks Provincial Park is a destination in its own right, the surrounding Prince Edward County offers additional attractions. The County is known for its wineries, farm-to-table dining, and charming small towns. Exploring the local culture and cuisine can complement your outdoor adventures in the park, providing a well-rounded vacation experience. Try visiting Picton, Bloomfield, Wellington, and Milford to get the most out of your stay!

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