Sandbanks Provincial Park

 
Sandbanks, the name says it all. An extensive dunes system with endless sandy beaches. Of course, the whole region is well know for its birding and unusual flora and fauna, but it's still the beaches that are the main attraction. A nice bonus is that the East Lake section, being almost completely enclosed warms up earlier in the season than the rest of the areas waters, allowing you to hit the beaches a little earlier than usual. This is a great campers park for families and anybody who loves the water.  
 
The park is located on the shores of Lake Ontario on Quinte Isle. The area is well known as a vacation destination, quaint villages, an interesting history and exceptional nature observationl are all a big part of the attraction. Of course, its the beaches of Sandbanks along with the excellent camping, which provide people with a great reason for returning year after year.

If you can haul yourself out of the water for a while you'll find there is a lot more to the park than just sand castles. The park has great canoeing and sea kayaking, the latter only now being developed. There are bicycle paths and cycling routes along the nearby country roads as well as an excellent mountain biking area just a short distance away at Macaulay Mountain. You can also hike the trails at Beaver Meadow, Little Bluff and Massassaga Point Conservation Areas, Macaulay Mountain or choose from one of the trails within the park .

Nearest Towns: Picton and Wellington, while the nearest major center is Belleville.

|Season: All year-round.

Associations: Friends of Sandbanks - Ontario Provincial Parks - MNR Ontario

 
The Dunes
  Location: The park is located in South Central Ontario in Prince Edward County (Quinte Isle) just to the west of the town of Picton. From Ottawa take the 416 south to the 16 then head west on the 401. Take the 49 south to Picton then follow the 32 and the 12 into the park. From Montreal take the 20 (or the 40 to the 20) west which turns into the 401 in Ontario. Take the 49 into Picton and then follow the directions above.

From Toronto take the 401 east to Trenton then head south on the 33. Pick up the 32 south just passed Wellington then follow the 12 into the park. The park is about 3 hours from Ottawa, 4 hours from Montreal and about 2-2.5hrs from Toronto.

 
Flora and Fauna
The park is an excellent area for birding during Spring and Fall migration. Just nearby you'll find Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area and Presqu'ile Provincial Park which are world famous for their exceptional nature observation. In addition the parks dunes provide a a unique habitat, which shelters some very unusual species, not normally found in the area. These include plants with some very interesting names such as, the hoary puccoon, the sand spurge and sea rockets, along with the more mundane species such as, maple, hemlock, pine and juniper trees.

There are over 240 species of birds (a checklist is available from the park) that have been observed in the park and over 300 in the area of Quinte Isle. During migration redheaded woodpeckers, black turns and least bitterns can be observed, as well as other rarely seen passers through. Watch for jays, pileated woodpeckers, orioles and kinglets. There are also a number of interesting reptiles and amphibians including several types of (harmless) snakes and the very rare musk turtle..

Front Country Camping: The park has four campgrounds accessible by car, two in the East Lake area and two in the West Lake sector. There are over 500 campsites in the park located in Richardsons, Woodland, Cedars and Outlet River campgrounds. The Woodland area has 140 service sites with electricity.  
The Dunes from Across the Bay
 
Campground B in the Outlet River area has sites that are just above the Camper's Beach, while Cedars sites are are just across the road from Outlet Beach.

The park has showers (except Richardsons campground) and flush toilets, a park store, several boat launches and a trailer dump station. The park accepts reservations, which are just about essential from July 1 to Labour Day (1-888- 668-7275). There is also group camping in the park for qualified groups, reservations are required, contact the park for details.

Backcountry Camping: The park doesn't have any backcountry sites but there are several parks within a few hours drive which offer backpacking and canoe camping. These include Bon Echo, Frontenac, and Charleston Lake.

Group Camping: The group area is just above Outlet River campground A along East Lake. Reservations are available for qualified groups, contact the park for details.

Other Accommodations

The park has a cottage and rooms available in the Maple Rest Heritage house for non-campers. Inquire with the park staff for details and rates.

Hiking

Woodland Trail - 5km, Easy. from Outlet Beach to Dunes Beach. The trail will take you about 2hrs to hike.

Cedar Sands Trial - 2km, Easy, this is an interpretive trail with two viewing platforms. The trail should take you about an hour to complete.

Nearby

Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area - There are over 20km of shared use trails in the conservation area. In the winter the trails are used for cross country skiing and in the summer mountain biking and hiking. The escarpment is forested and you'll find hickory, ash, oak and maple. This is a great birding area frequented by ovenbirds, grosbeaks, woodthrushes and many, many more. So don't forget your binoculars. Some of the trails are extremely steep rising over 40 metres, good footwear is required. From Picton the Conservation Area is a short distance along route #8.

Massassauga Point Conservation Area - There are several hiking trails which take you into the Bur Oak Grove and the old Quarry through red cedar forests. You'll also find a cobblestone beach. Watch for raptors, including the ever present red tailed hawk. From Picton take the 4 to the 62, then take the 28 south just before the bridge. From the 28 take Marsh Road a short ways to Davidson, then follow Tops Line and Sunrise. Watch for the sign.

Beaver Meadow Wildlife Conservation Area - The conservation area has hiking trails which will take you through swamp, meadows and forested areas. From Picton take the 10 to the 11, the Conservation Area is on your left a short distance from where you pick up the 11.

Little Bluff Conservation Area - a natural area along the shore, with cliffs that fall off into the bay providing a nice overlook. There are hiking trails or you can just walk the rocky beach. The area is frequented by birders. Take country road 8 from Picton to the where it branches onto the 17, follow the 17 to the "T" intersection and turn right (east) along the 16. Follow it for a short distance to the next "T", where you take the 13 to the right (south). Follow the 13 a short distance passed the intersection with the 10 and you'll find the Conservation Area on your left.

Scuba

Prince Edward County is developing a solid reputation for its diving. There are a number of shipwrecks in the area, and some may yet lay undiscovered. There are two areas off the park in Wellington Bay (outside of the West Lake dunes). The best area in Quinte Isle is probably Main Duck Island about 17km off the tip of Prince Edward Point. Closer to shore check out Pleasant Point, Point Petre and Soup Harbour (just south of Sandbanks), along with Beachcroft Point off Wellers Harbour. Some of the wrecks in the area include:

The Annie Falconer
The Olive Branch
The John Randell
The Fabiola

For more information and transportation to the dive sites contact:

Ducks Dive Charters
Point Traverse
RR#3 Picton Ontario
Canada K0K 2T0
613 476 3764

Cross Country Skiing

There are 11km of trails made up of several loops in the park for beginners and intermediates. You'll also find a chalet to warm yourself on the coldest days. Nearby Macauley Mountain Conservation Area's trails are also open to skiers but they are for more advanced skiers than the trails at Sandbanks.

Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing is permitted almost anywhere in the park but stay off the cross country ski trails of course.

 
Paddling the Outlet River
  Canoeing and Sea Kayaking

If you're looking for some easy paddling your first choice might be East Lake and Outlet River (watch out for motor boats). These protected areas are perfect for a newcomer to the art of canoeing. The West Lake and Lake Ontario are more challenging (when the winds up, give up the idea of canoeing on the big lake). Sea Kayakers will love the opportunities presented by the shorelines along the dunes. There are a lot of other possibilities in Prince Edward County many of them as yet undeveloped. The nearby Thousand Islands National Park offers the opportunity for extended sea kayaking trips out to one of many island campsites.

 
Prince Edward Region Conservation Authority  has programs for discovering the area by canoe and kayak, contact them for more information.

Map of Prince Edward County and Surroundings

Note: Lake Ontario is essentially an inland sea and is easily capable of sinking large frieghters when things get rough. The exposed areas are better left to the experts to explore.

Hiking

Woodland Trail - 5km, Easy. Sandbanks, from Outlet Beach to Dunes Beach. The trail will take you about 2hrs to hike.

 
Cedar Sands Trial - 2km, Easy. Sandbanks, this is an interpretive trail with two viewing platforms. The trail should take you about an hour.

Nearby

Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area - There are over 20km of shared use trails in the conservation area. In the winter the trails are used for cross country skiing and in the summer mountain biking and hiking. The escarpment is forested and you'll find hickory, ash, oak and maple. This is an excellent birding area frequented by ovenbirds, grosbeaks, wood thrushes, so don't forget your binoculars. Some of the trails are extremely steep rising over 40 metres.

 
Dead Fall
     
 
Mountain Biking and Cycling

Sandbanks - 5km, Easy. Cycle the Woodland Trail from Outlet Beach to Dunes Beach. There are a number of quiet roadways throughout the park as well.

Road Tours - Routes 1 to 6

Prince Edward County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism has outlined six different bicycle tours.Free pamphlets are available from the tourism office at 116 Main Street in Picton. The pamphlets include maps and descriptions, along with points of interest along route. The tours are of varying lengths. Map

Belleville Bayshore Trail - 4.2 km, The Riverfront Trail is a short, paved path, that follows the shoreline of the Bay of Quinte, along the waterfront in Belleville. Open to cyclists and hikers the trail will soon be linked to the Waterfront and Trans Canada Trails.

     
Nearby

Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area - Intermediate to Expert. The conservation area offers excellent mountain biking, mostly single track, right in the heart of Quinte Isle on the escarpment. While there are some easy sections but the majority of the area is intermediate and expert. The trails are maintained by a local club and you can tell by some of the layout they like challenges. Over all a great area to ride, perhaps its only failing is there isn't more of it. The entrance to the conservation area has a large sign with a map of the trials and indications of there difficulty. You can get your own copy of the map, for a fee from the area office. It's close enough you can ride to it from the park but you might want to save your legs for the hills. From Picton take country road 8 and watch for the conservation area on your right.

 
 
Literature: The park has a free brochure, which provides general information, a map (and location map) and trail descriptions. There is also a newsprint guide with lots more information covering facilities, services and programming, which is printed yearly. There is also a birding list available. Contact the park or pick them up at the park office when you arrive.

Maps: Park Maps
Topographical Map:
1:50,000 - 30 N/14 covers the park.

 

 

Prince Edward County

The park is easily accessed from major centers and the excellent beaches have made it a popular destination in the summer. If you wish to camp or visit during high season make reservations well in advance.

Prince Edward County - The Surrounding Region

Out-There's Prince Edward County - Accommodations, Restaurants and more...

Official Site - Prince Edward County

Map: Park Maps - From Parks Ontario
Topographical Map:
1:50,000 - 30 N/14 covers the park.

Weather: Sandbanks. When the wind comes up across the lake things can get a little chilly, particularly early or late in the season, make sure you bring a sweater or better still a fleece. In the winter, if you plan to ski along the shoreline make sure you dress for it.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

  • Sandbanks - Official Site from Ontario Parks

Ontario Tourism:

 

All web site contents copyright 1995-2004 by White Cat Media

Sandbanks Provincial Park

R.R. 1
Picton, Ontario
Phone: (613)393-3319 Reservations (1-888- 668-7275)

 

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