Monday, October 7, 2013

Everybody loves Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks, Sandbanks, Sandbanks, who loves Sandbanks?  To be completely honest, and I don't want to exaggerate, but every person I have ever talked to in my life about provincial parks love this place.  No exaggeration.  The beach is boffo, the hikes are stunning (mostly boardwalk to protect the dunes), and you can take little trips outside the park to various wineries in Prince Edward County.  It sounds too good to be true and it is.  Nestled on the west coast of PEC, Sandbanks Provincial Park has the world's largest fresh water sand bar (nothing to do with alcohol) and dune system (nothing to do with Frank Herbert).

Straight off the site to the left.

Straight off the site to the right.

Straight off the site to the straight.

What is funny about Sandbanks Provincial Park is that it was unintentionally created.  In the 1850's farmers cut down many up to 200 year old trees near the lake to create more grazing land for their cattle.  The cattle then had free reign to eat the plants on the dunes and the dunes began to move without the plants to hold them in place.  By the 1880's the western road next to the dunes needed to be moved three times.  But on the environmental bright side, now Sandbanks is rated one of the best fresh water beaches in Canada, maybe even the world. Yeah Farmers!

This is where the road originally was!
If you go to Sandbanks you are going to swim, everything else is, in my opinion, choose your own adventure.  Sandbanks has 549 campsites with 174 electrical sites. The best sites are the ones closest to the beach, (sites 6 to 18, 20, 21, 23, even numbers from 24 to 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, and 39 in Outlet A campground) but very few of these sites have any privacy. Site 39 in Outlet A Campground is the best site for privacy and access to the beach.  Sandbanks is the first park that does a great job of describing their different Campgrounds on the Ontario Parks website.  As well, Sandbanks also runs Jacques Cottage which will sleep six and Maple Rest Heritage House filled with antiques which sleeps 8 in 4 separate bedrooms each with their own bathroom -- both of these non traditional camping options have all the amenities of home including satellite television, all you have to bring is a beach towel and all consumable items and I imagine your wallet.  We stayed at site #7 back in 2011 which is:

Private from the front.

Just through the trees to the beach.
But from the left you can see everything.

Sandbanks offers three trails, all slightly different.  It seemed to me that if one was going to stay at a good site on Campers Beach and they wanted to hike, they could do them all at one time because of how they are situated one right after another.  Cedar Sands Nature Trail (2 km) is a nice relaxing trail in between the Cedars and Outlet campgrounds and is a good trail for the whole family to be introduced to the dunes.

Dunes meet family, Family meet dunes.

Then maybe go for a swim at Outlet Beach.  The next trail is the Woodland Trail (3.5 km) which begins at the Main Gate, then goes through the Woodlands Campground to the Dunes Day Use Area.  This is a fairly flat trail through a Carolinian forest and a beautiful walk. Then while you are there you can go for a swim at the Dunes Beach Day Use Area.  Dunes Nature Trail (2.5 km) is a duney trail with many ups and downs as you walk from dunes to marsh to forest.  On this trail you really get a feeling for how dunes are formed and how massive they can become.  Then why not go for a swim.

Beverley looking at the forest next to the marsh next to the Dunes, oh my.
Now these are the trails that Sandbanks promotes but there is a trail to the Richardsons Campground where you might as well go for a swim at the Sandbanks Beach Day Use Area.  Then there is West Point Trail (approximately 1.5 km) which doesn't necessarily show you anything new but it is still nice and then you can possibly go for a swim at the Lakeshore Lodge Day Use Area.  From here you just follow the road back to the main gates and back to your site.  This is a great day, but I recommend bringing a lunch or a snack because this crazy hiking swimming day could take 5 or 6 hours.

Beverley photo-bomb's Rob's selfie.

Sandbanks is a gem of the Ontario Provincial Park system with likely the best beach of them all. One beach to rule them all! With that in mind and, how everyone I've ever talked to feels about the place, my number may seem a little high but remember all these number are subject to change.

Site Cleanliness: Great.  All the sites were immaculate, but then again the sand could have covered all the garbage.

Privacy: There are private sites like #74, but it is not close to the water.  Whereas anything near the water is not private so one must choose what is more important. A Kobayashi Maru for sure.

Hiking and Activities: I think the hiking was great and if you don't want to do all the hikes at once you could do one a day.  There is fishing, swimming, park organized activities, and right outside the park -- wineries

Fire Pit and Amenities:  Fire Pit and picnic table were great as usual and the ground was soft as sand with a unusually high number of washrooms.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: The best beach in Canada.  See Privacy for answer to the second part of the question -- although to note it would have been easy to get to the beach from all the campsites.

Recommended Length of Stay: This is a new category I thought I should add after the most recent trip.  Some Provincial Parks just need a weekend and some a lifetime and a good length for Sandbanks is 5 days. I would choose a week during the dog days of summer and leave the weekends for the turkeys.

Overall Impression: I really enjoyed Sandbanks and cannot wait to go back even if it is just for one night on the way to another park.  Next time with more swimming.

Rating out of 107: Sandbanks is going to sit at #19 because I'm comparing it to all the rest.  The swimming was great, but the privacy was not.  This park is good for kids and adults so why not the number of the age of majority.

Step on the sand, kill the dune land? Not my best rhyme. 

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Wakami Lake
#29 Pancake Bay
#101 Turkey Point