Sandbanks beach offers camping and activities along a scenic stretch of Lake Ontario. I love visiting the beaches and wineries in Prince Edward County during spring and summer for a much-needed vacation in nature. Are you looking for things to do in South Eastern Ontario?
From swimming, cycling, hiking, paddling, and camping, to fishing, boating, and canoeing, you’ll quickly find activities to keep your family busy during an Ontario day trip to the Sandbanks Provincial Park.
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Sandbanks Provincial Park
The Sandbanks Provincial Park and Sandbanks beach, has three beaches and is the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation. The expansive white sand beaches are exquisite and are often considered the best in Canada.
Established in 1970, it covers 1550.87 ha and offers visitors a natural environment to relax and soak up some sunshine. Between 10:00 and 17:00, you can visit the Discovery Centre to learn more about the park, its habitats, history, plants, and animals. The Park Store, open from 9:00 until 21:00, is the perfect place to visit if you need snacks.
Sandbanks Provincial Park Camping Fees & Park Hours
During the summer, Sandbanks Provincial Park is open from 8:00 to 22:00. Day visitors pay $21 per vehicle. I recommend you book your permit for camping at Sandbanks in advance. Outlet A, B, and Cedars Campground cost $42, while Woodlands and Westlake cost $47.50 and Richardson’s cost $40.75. I recommend you book your permit for camping at Sandbanks in advance.
Note: Lifeguards do not monitor swim with caution as the beaches in Sandbanks Provincial Park.
Sandbanks Camping Options
Sandbanks campgrounds offer over 500 car-friendly campsites across five areas. Choose from Outlet River A & B, Cedars in the Lake sector, Richardson’s in the West Lake sector, and the Woodlands Campground located between East and West Lake sections of the park.
Alternatively, book six nights in one of the roofed accommodations. The Jacques Cottage is located on the shore of Lake Ontario and can accommodate four persons. The Maple Rest Heritage House, close to Dunes Beach, is a four-bedroom Victorian home furnished with antiques that can sleep up to eight.
The following campsites range from tents only to large trailers. The amenities offered include water taps, comfort stations, and laundry facilities close by.
Outlet River A & B
Outlet River A & B are the most popular with campers and offer some great waterfront sites. However, only a few of the sites provide electricity. Outlet River B offers a bit more privacy with some sites located along the river.
Cedars is a family-orientated campground offering sheltered, private campsites and is near to the beach.
You can find both shady and sunny sites here, making it a favourite during the colder months. All the sites offer electricity, and the visitor center is only a short distance away.
While only 19 of the sites here offer electricity, there is an excellent mix of sunny and shady areas.
Are you travelling with lots of friends? Sandbanks offer two group campsites 1km away from Outlet beach that can accommodate 30 to 50 people.
Where To Stay Near Sandbanks in Ontario
While you can happily visit Sandbanks National Park during a day trip, it is worth staying overnight in a nearby B&B. The options range from the quaint Owl’s Nest Suites tucked amongst the trees or the relaxing Rose Spa Holistic Healing Centre, close to the restaurants in Picton.
Exploring the Trails at Sandbanks
While walking the trails, keep an eye out for orchids, sea rockets, and the blossoming sand cherry. During spring, try to spot the small yet striking purple gerardia, Kalm’s lobelia, and silverweed. Other notable prairie species are the hoary puccoon and butterfly weed.
The routes below take you through dunes, wetlands, and cedar forest. While on the natural trails and wooden boardwalks, you can enjoy the shade of the white cedar, eastern hemlock, sugar maple, balsam fir, and white spruce trees.
Cedar Sands Trail
This 1.9km trail is a moderate walk that covers an elevation gain of 13 meters. The route features many shaded areas and a few lookout points alongside the Outlet River, so keep an eye out for beavers.
Set off on this 6km loop trail for a moderate hike or leisurely cycle. Dogs, if kept on a leash, are allowed on this route. It is a reasonably flat route only covering 12 meters in elevation. Travel through the wooded areas and meadows while keeping your eye out for woodpeckers.
This scenic and moderate hike provides views of Lake Ontario. You’ll need roughly an hour and a quarter to complete the 5km route over 21 meters of elevation. With beach access points, this is a great walking or cycling route to find a quiet area near the water.
Take a moderate hike along this 4.3km trail through old pine plantations. The route covers an elevation gain of 35m and can be completed in an hour and 10 minutes.
This easy trail is 1.5km long and bisects the fields and forest at the centre of the park to connect visitors to the east and west of County Road 12.
Walk along the Dunes Nature Trail on a 2.4km loop. This easy route is pretty flat and only changes in elevation by 17 meters. While sections do have boardwalks, consider open-toed shoes as much of the trail is on the sand. The trail is marked by signs in a clockwise direction and has limited shade, so make sure you pack your cap.
Walk the Endless Beach
With sandbanks that tend to move, the endless beaches are a changing landscape. When the water levels are lower, there is more beach to enjoy. Walk far enough, and you’ll find a handful of restricted areas as some parts of the beach were privately bought before the designation of this area as a provincial park.
Are you inclined to sun-bath in the nude? Naturalists can find privacy in the area’s many coves.
Activities Available at Sandbanks Beach
Hiking, cycling, boating, canoeing, and swimming are all popular outdoor activities. With the right conditions, you can enjoy kitesurfing at Sandbanks too. Outlet Beach is family-friendly and has shallow waters with a gentle drop-off.
Take your family to experience the dunes and wetland habitats on the walking trails or join the daily interpretive programming hosted during summer.
The wetlands located behind the dunes are stunning and provide excellent bird-watching, so bring your binoculars. Alongside Caspian terns, ring-billed gulls, and common grackle bird species, you can see cave and barn swallows. If you enjoy fishing, you can cast a line for large and smallmouth bass, yellow pickerel, and northern pike.
FAQ – Common Questions About Sandbanks Beach
The following questions are often raised about Sandbanks Beach and may be of use to you.
How Do You Reach Sandbanks Beach in Ontario?
If you are travelling by car, you can reach Sandbanks from Toronto in just over 3 hours. If you’re travelling from Ottawa, it will take a similar amount of time, while Kingston is only an hour and a half’s drive away.
You can punch in the park’s main entrance for your GPS location, using the name Sandbanks Provincial Park. Alternatively, you can enter the West Lake Gatehouse to reach the dunes.
If you are approaching Sandbanks from the West, a scenic route will only add 10 minutes. You can travel alongside apple trees and Lake Ontario on Highway 2. From Brighton, continue along Highway 64 to reach Fort Kente Road. Continue on Highway 33, where you can stop at antique stores or various wineries for a tasting.
Plan your route to the surrounding area on your own, or join a full-day private tour of Prince Edward County.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Sandbanks Beach?
The Sandbanks Campsite opens on April 30 and typically closes on October 31. Spring is a great time to visit; you can walk amongst the flowers and enjoy time in the water. Summer offers the warmest weather and is typically the busiest time of year, with campsites often reaching full capacity.
Consider visiting in spring and fall if you like birding. The location, jutting out into Lake Ontario, means the park is a bird migration hotspot during these periods.
What Is Sandbanks Water Temperature?
The water temperature at Sandbanks Beach ranges from 42.7F (5.9C) in February up to 63.1F (17.3C) in August. The lake is most appealing for water activities in late summer.
Is There Food To Eat at Sandbanks?
The Sandbanks provincial park has two restaurants where you can grab simple meals, like grilled food, pizza, salad, and dessert. There are a handful of high-quality restaurants located a short drive from the park. Visit nearby Picton for a fresh oyster, seafood, and barbeque on the weekend.
Is Sandbanks Beach Pet-Friendly?
Yes, dogs are allowed at the Sandbanks Provincial Park. You will, however, need to keep them on a lead when outside of the campground.
The only dog-friendly beaches are Lakeshore and the far-south end of Outlet Beach (the river’s mouth). The easiest access to Outlet Beach is from parking lot number twelve.
Is Sandbanks Park Wheelchair Accessible?
Yes, the park aims to accommodate differently-abled persons as best they can. During the summer months, paths are created to allow wheelchairs and walkers to access the beach from the Park Store easily.
Head Off on Your Sandbanks Beach Adventure
A trip to the Sandbanks Provincial Park is easily one of the best weekend getaways in Ontario. With various activities on offer, three beaches, and six great trails to walk, this provincial park in Prince Edward County is an excellent destination for you, your family, and even your four-legged friend.
Have you spent time exploring Sandbanks Beach? Share your experience with us below.