Exploring Sandbanks Provincial Park [Tips + Our Experience]

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Everything You Need To Know To Experience Sandbanks Provincial Park!

Searching for some of the best beaches and natural beauty in Ontario? Sandbanks Provincial Park has got you covered.

Located in Prince Edward County, the rolling sand dunes and endless lakeshore views make Sandbanks an easy sell for visitors.

We’ve been to Sandbanks many times in different seasons. Each time we visit, we’re always discovering something new.

Of course, the beaches and campsites make visiting Sandbanks Provincial Park one of the top things to do in Ontario in summer.

As a result, Sandbanks can be busy in the summertime. However, with the right planning, you can have a lovely experience visiting Sandbanks any time of the year.

So, this detailed guide is packed with our experience and what you need to know to plan your Sandbanks visit – whether going for day-use or camping overnight!

Land Acknowledgement: Prince Edward County is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee Peoples and sits close to the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) community of Tyendinaga.

About Sandbanks Provincial Park

sandy dunes with rolling grass and dead sticks underneath
Sandy dunes and beaches at Sandbanks – as advertised!

Established in 1970, Sandbanks Provincial Park is located towards the southwestern tip of Prince Edward County. Nestled along the snaking shores of Lake Ontario, Sandbanks boasts the world’s largest bay-mouth barrier dune formation.

The unique and natural sandy landscape makes it one of the most popular parks in all of Ontario (the proximity to Toronto, Ottawa, and Kingston doesn’t hurt, either).

Sandbanks has three beach areas, hundreds of car-camping campsites, some walking trails, and other activities and services like a boat launch, onsite restaurants, watercraft rentals, programming for kids, and even roofed accommodations which can be enjoyed in winter.

Of course, the natural beauty of Sandbanks is what draws in visitors year after year. The wetland and dune formations are home to many species as well as a stop for annual bird migration. You can check out a map of Sandbanks Provincial Park here.

How to Get to Sandbanks Provincial Park

wooden entrance sign to sandbanks provincial park with green trees behind
You know you’re at Sandbanks once you see one of the wooden signs!

Depending on where you are coming from, there are several ways to get into The County to then get to Sandbanks. One thing is for sure: You will need a car to get to Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Prince Edward County can be a great day trip from Toronto or Ontario weekend trip – depending on where you are coming from.

Since The County is a large landmass that extends into Lake Ontario, there are only so many ways to get onto the island. Here’s how to get to Sandbanks from various areas around Ontario:

From Toronto to Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks is located in Prince Edward County. Prince Edward County is located about 2 hours east of Toronto (very much depending on traffic).

A major route (from Toronto) would be to take Highway 401 east towards Trenton. Then take exit #522 south into County Road 40.

This turns into County Road 33 which then intersects with County Road 12 around Bloomfield. Follow 12 south right to the Dunes Beach/Day-Use Area parking/West Lake Gatehouse.

Address for West Lake Gatehouse: 2109 County Rd 12, Prince Edward, ON K0K 2T0

You might also skip the Trenton exit and head for Belleville. Then take exit 543A and head south on Highway 62.

You’ll cross over a large bridge (The Bay Bridge) into The County and follow this to Bloomfield where it basically turns into County Road 12. Follow 12 to Sandbanks.

From Kingston/Ottawa to Sandbanks

From Kingston, Sandbanks is just over an hour and 15 minutes total driving. Simply drive Highway 401 westbound and get off exit #566 and head south on County Road 49 over the Quinte Skyway bridge into Picton.

Jog through downtown Picton to County Road 10. Turn onto County Road 11 and you’ll end up right at the Main Permit Office.

Address for Main Gatehouse: 3004 County Rd. 12 RR#1, Picton, K0K 2T0

You can also choose the more adventurous option and take the Glenora Ferry into the County from Loyalist Parkway/Highway 33 from Kingston along the waterfront. You’d end up in Picton and follow the same directions as above.

How to Visit Sandbanks Provincial Park

Before you hop in the car, you’ll want to think about how you intend to visit Sandbanks. This will dictate the planning involved to have a great day trip or overnight experience.

In short, there are two main ways to visit Sandbanks: day-use and overnight camping.

Sandbanks Provincial Park Day-Use

man walking on trail through grassland and forest
There are lots of marked walking trails around Sandbanks PP.

Day-use at Sandbanks Provincial Park is where you show up for just the day. You might hike around or enjoy a beach or two but then head home at the day’s end.

Day-use visitors can access many of the park amenities except for the ones available to specific campgrounds and overnight guests.

There are many day-use areas with parking: each of the three beaches (Lakeshore, Outlet, and Dunes) are technically day-use and each has larger parking lots to accommodate day visitors in their cars.

You can also head for Lakeland Lodge or Lakeshore Lodge Day-Use/Picnic Areas. These spots offer parking and lake views but are not right on one of the main beaches.

For day-use, it’s typical to reserve a Daily Vehicle Permit (DVP) in advance to ensure you have a spot in the park that day (at any one of the parking lots).

Again, in the summer months, it’s highly recommended and basically mandatory that you book a DVP in advance to avoid disappointment.

If you don’t book a DVP in advance and you drive there on a summer weekend, there is a good chance you will not get into the Park because they will reach capacity. This has happed in past summers.

man standing on sandy beach near shoreline with tree beside
We started our wander at beautiful Lakeshore Beach.

When we visited recently in the fall, we started parking near the Dunes Beach Day-Use area for most of the day. We hiked to Lakeshore Beach and hiked the Dunes Trail. We then drove to Outlet Beach parking for another walkabout.

We went online and reserved our DVP, printed it out at home, and then placed it on the dashboard of the car so the barcode was scannable through the windshield. Easy peasy!

Do I need a day pass for Sandbanks?

Yes, if you intend to visit Sandbanks for the day. Even on the “free day-pass” days in 2021, you still needed to go online and reserve (up to 5 days in advance) your Daily Vehicle Pass to ensure you had a spot when you visited. This helps the park manage visitor numbers.

Overnight Camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park

blue sign indicating campgrounds with trees behind in sandbanks provincial park
Follow the signage in the Park – it’s pretty good to help you navigate!

If you aren’t heading to Sandbanks for just the day, you’re planning on camping. Sandbanks has five campgrounds with over 500 car-camping sites available to reserve.

However, in the summer months, these campsites get booked up in advance so it’s important to plan and book yours when you know your dates.

There are many differences between the campgrounds like access to electricity, proximity to beaches, trailer access/full-through, and other differences in amenities. You can learn more about camping at Sandbanks in the camping section down below.

Sandbank Provincial Park Fees

Of course, how you visit Sandbanks (and for how long) will dictate the fees and costs associated. Day-use is generally cheaper while reserving a campsite is a little more expensive.

You should check the official source for Ontario Parks Fees for day-use and the Ontario Parks Fees for camping reservations.

These are helpful guidelines but the best way to gauge the costs for you and your specific trip will be to head to Ontario Parks Reservation System.

Here, you can enter your dates, pick “Sandbanks”, and choose a campsite or Daily Vehicle Permit to see the exact costs for your trip. This will answer your question about how much it costs to get into Sandbanks.

Last year (2021), Ontario Parks came out with a new initiative to buy DVPs in advance online at 17 of their most popular Provincial Parks (Sandbanks included). Having one of these guarantees your entrance for the day you choose.

Is Sandbanks Provincial Park free?

It depends on when you visit. For months in 2021, Ontario Parks were free for day-use between Monday and Thursday only. This included their most popular parks (Sandbanks, Algonquin, Forks of the Credit, etc.) We will see if this initiative is carried forward into 2022!

Parking at Sandbanks Provincial Park

wooded parking lot with signs and roadway through at sandbanks outlet beach
The parking lots at Outlet Beach are huge but numbered!

Parking at Sandbanks Provincial Park is kind of dependent on how you intend to visit.

If you are visiting Sandbanks as a day-use visitor, you can park at any of the available beach parking areas (like Outlet Beach, shown above).

Each of the lots intended for Sandbanks beach parking is very large (especially Outlet Beach, with numerous numbered parking lots).

When we visited in the late fall, two of the official parking areas were closed for the seasons so we ended up parking at Outlet Beach.

There is also day-use parking (it’s limited but exists) at the day-use picnic areas – Lakeland Lodge or Lakeshore Lodge.

gravel road through parking area at sandbanks provincial park
The parking lot at Lakeshore Beach.

With a day-use reservation, you’re guaranteed entry for that day but your desired parking area near your intended beach might be full. To avoid disappointment, arrive early on weekends in the summer months of July and August.

It’s also good to have a backup plan: The three beaches are lovely in their own ways so if Outlet Beach is too busy, change it up for the day!

If you are camping at Sandbanks, parking is easy since you are paying for a campsite. Simply park your car at your reserved campsite at the right campground (or the designated additional parking areas nearby) and away you go exploring!

How much does it cost to park at Sandbanks?

The fee to park at Sandbanks Provincial Park is included in both the day-use admission fee and/or your camping site reservation fee. These fees vary depending on how long you visit. So, you can check out the day-use fees for Ontario Parks and the camping fees here.

Overall, it’s important to follow parking signage. If you park on a County Road, there’s a good chance you’ll be fined or towed. Additionally, you might block the main roads into and out of the Park – and that’s just annoying for everyone.

Beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park

Of course, it should come as no surprise that people visit Sandbanks for the famous beaches! There are actually three main beaches in Sandbanks Provincial Park: Outlet Beach, Dunes Beach, and Lakeshore Beach.

We have visited all of them (and swam at two of them) so we will tell you all about our experience and the differences between them!

Outlet Beach

sandy pathway with dune grass beside ad blue sky above
One of the many picturesque entrances to Outlet Beach.

Starting strong we have Outlet Beach. Arguably the most popular beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park, this beach is named after the Outlet River which bisects the beach connecting Lake Ontario to the interior lake known as East Lake.

We call Outlet the most popular because of its proximity to numerous campsites at two campgrounds (Outlet River A&B and Cedars) as well as its proximity to the main park gatehouse/office.

In addition, the available amenities like the boat launch, watercraft rentals/lifejacket (personal flotation devices) loans, Grill and Café, Park Store, and Pet-Designated Area make Outlet a sought-after beach.

Outlet Beach is a beautiful long beach with a gentle curve to its shape. This means that you can see the entire beach – although far – from point to point.

long sandy beach with blue shallow water and blue sky above
There’s a view of all of Outlet Beach… still pretty far!

Running behind basically the entire length of Outlook Beach is an extremely large parking area subdivided into 12 smaller numbered parking lots. This makes it easier to remember where you parked your car.

From these parking lots, you can enter the beach through many pathways that snake through the trees and wind-swept dune grass. Always stick to the footpaths or else you’ll harm the dune.

large informational sign with trees behind at outlet beach
Be sure to read the signs – you’ll learn something at Sandbanks!

As for swimming at Outlet Beach, the sand gently slopes into the water and there is a large designated swimming area on both sides of where the Outlet River interrupts the beachfront. This makes Outlet Beach a great beach for families with young kids as well as weaker swimmers.

Keep in mind, however, that there are no lifeguards on duty anywhere at Sandbanks Provincial Park so swimming is always at one’s own risk. Follow the instructions and signage for wind/water conditions when you visit.

Dunes Beach

large sand dune with trees on top and blue water behind
The views from Dunes Beach are beautiful.

If you want to walk on the sand dunes, then a stop at Dunes Beach is for you. Dunes Beach is another beach area that often shows up in photographs. It’s often what people imagine when they think of visiting Sandbanks Provincial Park.

The Dunes Beach area is set atop these beautiful rolling dunes which separate Lake Ontario and some wetland habitat from West Lake.

Dunes Beach – and the Dunes Beach Day-Use area, in particular – make for a very unique experience.

The endless sand, native vegetation, and blue water of West Lake can make you feel like you are on a different planet.

sandy dune with trees behind and blue lake water
Looking back towards the parking area/swimming area/play area at Dunes Beach.

Close to Dunes Beach and its designated swimming area in West Lake, there’s a large parking lot and some amenities like picnic shelters, a playground, a food option, and bathroom amenities.

The Dunes Beach parking lot – and the sand dunes themselves – also back onto the Dunes Trail which is one of the most popular walking trails in the entire park.

wooden bench with sandy dunes and light forest behind
Here’s the Dunes Trail basically becoming the Dunes Beach Area.

Truthfully, we really enjoyed Dunes Beach simply because it is so different from anything that you might be used to experiencing here in Ontario.

Don’t get us wrong, the Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon are cool, but the windswept dunes at Dunes Beach are also otherworldly.

Swimming at Dunes Beach is a little different compared to the other two beaches. This is because the taller sand dune drops off more steeply after you’re in the water just a few metres.

This makes it slightly more dangerous for children/weaker swimmers and extra caution should be taken if you swim in West Lake at Dunes Beach.

Lakeshore Beach

long sandy beach with small trees and lake waterfront beside
Walking along Lakeshore Beach with peace and quiet.

Last, but certainly not least, we have Lakeshore Beach. Lakeshore Beach gets its name from the fact that it runs along the shore of Lake Ontario. This beach is immensely long – stretching as far as the eye can see without end.

In fact, this sand bar – the one separating West Lake from Lake Ontario – is around 8 kilometres long… making it the longest of its kind in the world!

tree with fall colours standing alone on sandy beach
The dunes have loads of vegetation that keep them from eroding/moving.

Behind the beach, there is a large parking area that also features a dog-specific area and limited amenities like outhouses and garbage facilities.

Similar to Outlet Beach, from the parking lot you walk through natural valleys in the sand dunes to pop out onto the white sandy beachfront.

When we visited in the fall, we had the pleasure of walking a very long way north up the beach. We basically had the beach to ourselves and with the sun shining, it made for a beautiful day by the lake.

gated entrance between sand dunes with trees behind
One of the many “entrances” to Lakeshore Beach from the parking lot.

Although the designated swimming area doesn’t run the entire length of the beach, the beach lends itself to spreading out and finding your own spot on the sand.

As for swimming here, it is similar to Outlet Beach. The sand gently slopes into the water making it a good beach option for weaker swimmers or families with younger children.

Camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park

If you’re not visiting for the day, it sounds like you’re planning on camping at sandbanks provincial park. Luckily, sandbanks has over 500 campsites spread out across fine unique campground areas for you to choose from.

Sandbanks offers mostly car camping – a style of camping which you can read more about in our guide to camping in Ontario.

Full disclosure: We have never camped at Sandbanks before. We’ve camped at Presqu’ile Provincial Park nearby, but never at Sandbanks.

However, we’ve explored the park enough to know about the different campgrounds and have had friends camp at Sandbanks – all with very positive experiences.

Can I camp at Sandbanks?

Yes, you can! To camp at Sandbanks, you’ll need to book/reserve a camping site at a campground.

Where can I sleep at Sandbanks Provincial Park?

To stay overnight at Sandbanks Provincial Park, there are 5 official campground areas with over 500 car-camping sites available (and a limited number best-suited for RVs). Sandbanks also has two roofed accommodations – Jacques Cottage and Maple Rest Heritage House.

How to Book a Campsite at Sandbanks Provincial Park

Because Sandbanks is such a popular provincial park- especially in the summer – it is absolutely imperative that you book your campsite at your preferred campground well in advance.

You can actually go online and look at campsites at any time. However, you can only reserve a campsite as early as 5 months ahead of your intended date of reservation.

Additionally, Sandbanks Provincial Park camping (outdoor, not their roofed accommodations) is only open from April 29, 2022 to October 31, 2022.

To make a Sandbanks Provincial Park camping reservation, you can book a campsite through the Ontario Parks Online Reservation System or call 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).

If you can, we’d advise using the online system. Once you search for Sandbanks and put in your dates, you can actually click on individual campsites to see photos and gather additional information before you reserve, e.g.:

  • Allowed Equipment – vehicle size and type permitted on site
  • Pull-Through Availability – can you drive an RV in/through the site
  • Maximum Capacity – number of people allowed to stay
  • Electricity – whether the site has access to a plug (and the distance to that plug)
  • Campsite Size – length and width
  • Shade – how much sunshine/shade the site receives
  • Overall Quality – poor/average/good
  • Conditions – like whether poison ivy is close by, etc.
  • Ground Type and Slope – soil, grass, sand, etc.
  • Privacy Level – how visible the site is to adjacent sites
  • Parking Availability – both on and off-campsite
  • Accessibility – whether the site is barrier-free or not

You can also see on the interactive campground map whether the campsite is close to amenities like comfort/shower stations, laundry, water taps, additional parking, garbage/recycling facilities, and more.

Once you reserve and pay (your campsite is held in your online cart for 15 minutes total), be sure to keep the confirmation emails and/or print out the online confirmation pages for faster processing when you arrive at Sandbanks.

How do I book a campsite at Sandbanks?

To make a Sandbanks Provincial Park camping reservation, you can book a campsite through the Ontario Parks Online Reservation System or call 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).

How much does it cost to camp at Sandbanks Provincial Park?

The fees to camp at an Ontario Park are based on a tiered system of how popular/good the specific site is and whether it has access to electricity or not. You can find the camping fees for Ontario Parks (and thus Sandbanks) at the 2022 Fees Page.

Sandbanks Provincial Park Campgrounds

As for the five campgrounds at Sandbanks Provincial Park, we’ll briefly outline them below. It may help to open up the Sandbanks Provincial Park Campgrounds Map and cross-reference this with the camping reservation site when you go reserve.

  • Outlet River Campgrounds A & B – Between West Land Lake Ontario, close to part of Outlet Beach and the busier areas of the park near the Outlet River. Offers some waterfront campsites with lots of sand. Group camping is also available in this area.
  • Cedars Campgrounds – Sandwiched between East Lake and Outlet Beach. Offers more shaded sites walkable to Outlet Beach and many park amenities. Better for families with a bit less traffic.
  • Richardson’s Campground – Located in the West Lake area of the park. Close to Lakeshore Beach and the Richardson Trail which snakes through the area. Offers both sunny and shaded spots given the mix of open sand and tree cover.
  • Woodlands Campground – Located sort of in between the two lakes – East and West Lake – and therefore Dunes Beach and Outlet Beach. Has a mix of open field sites with no shade and shaded forest sites. Electricity at each site with generally less traffic. Walking trails connect the grounds to other areas of the park.
  • West Lake Campground – Located across from the Dunes Beach Day-Use parking area. This campground is pet-free. Most of the sites here have electricity and are suitable for RVS as they are pull-through. It’s also close to the West Lake Gatehouse/Discovery Centre/Friends Gift Shop.

Each of the Sandbanks Provincial Park campgrounds has its own pros and cons so be sure to think about what each offers and your group’s unique needs before booking.

You can learn a bit more about each campground and Sandbanks Provincial Park camping, in general, at the official camping page.

The Trails at Sandbanks Provincial Park

pine tree with various coloured trail marking arrows and path behind
Sometimes the Sandbanks trails are well marked, sometimes a tad confusing!

Whether you’re visiting for the day or camping overnight, there are many trails at Sandbanks Provincial Park for you to enjoy.

Some of the trails are simple loops while others are long and wind along the lakefront, over sandy dunes, and through dense forests.

Once you’re at Sandbanks, the trails make for a great way to explore and get around on foot. This way, you do not have to constantly move your car once it is parked.

Admittedly, the trails are most used by day visitors and many are accessible from the day-use areas/beach parking lots.

Also, none of the trails are rated as very difficult or overly long which makes them more accessible to a wide range of visitors.

tall pine trees and blue sky with walking trail through
Part of the reforested area on Richardson’s Trail.

The Sandbanks Provincial Park trails are actually possible because of the “Friends of Sandbanks”.

This is a not-for-profit charitable organization that you can donate to help keep the trails awesome for years to come. You can learn more at the Discovery Centre and the Friends Gift Shop.

As for the trails, you can get an overview with this Sandbanks Provincial Park trails map. There are six main trails, each with a different length, difficulty, and purpose.

Some are loops for enjoying nature while others kind of serve as a way to get from one area of the park to another.

  • Cedar Sands Nature Trail – A 2 kilometre loop close to Outlet River with scenic views of the marshland. Includes information at different stops.
  • Woodlands Trail – An easy 3.5 kilometre trail (one way) connecting the Woodlands Campground to Dunes Beach and Outlet Beach.
  • Sandbanks Dunes Trail – A 2.5 kilometre loop that is easy to moderate. Accessible from the Dunes Beach Day-Use Area. More on this specific trail below.
  • Lakeview Trail – A 2.4 kilometre trail (one way) that connects the Lakeshore Lodge Day-Use Area to the middle of the Park at Woodlands Campground via Lakeview Lodge Day-Use Area. Incudes a smaller 1 kilometre trail loop at West Point for lake views.
  • Richardson’s Trail – An easy 1 kilometre forested trail that primarily connects Dunes Beach Area to Richardson’s Campground.
  • MacDonald Trail – A 1.5 kilometre easy trail (one way) that serves as yet another connection trail – this time between the West Lake Campground and the Lakeland Lodge Day Use Area.

You can learn a bit more about the trails at the official activities page for Sandbanks. Since the Dunes Trail is so popular, here are more details about our experience hiking it!

Sandbanks Provincial Park Dunes Trail

small wooden sign board with shingles and forest behind
Here’s the official start of the Dunes Trail – read the sign for the great info!

One of the more popular – if not the most popular- trails at Sandbanks is the Dunes Trail. The entire Dunes Trail is a 2.5-kilometre-long sandy loop trail that snakes through forests, ventures on the edge of the wetland with pools (pannes), and up-and-over the picturesque sand dunes near Dunes beach.

small pond in green marshland with blue sky and clouds above
One of the many pannes – small pools in the wetland between dunes.

We walked the entire Dunes Trail following the well-marked trail markers along the way. You can get an overview of the trail at the trailhead.

The large wooden sign offers a map and some interesting information about the formation of the dunes.

green dunes trail marker on wooden pole with arrow and trees behind
Follow the markers to stay safe and on the right trail!

Along with the varied terrain, the Dunes Trail offers three wooden viewing platforms for you to take in stunning views of the surrounding area.

That said, it’s really important to stay on the trail because there is poison ivy just off-trail and you don’t want to damage the ecosystem in any way.

wooden viewing platform overlooking marsh land at sandbanks park
One of three viewing platforms for a better view!

The Dunes Trail is most easily accessed from the Dunes Beach Day-Use area. However, you could hop on Richardson’s Trail to get back to the Dunes Beach Area (and the official start of the Dunes Trail).

woman in red hat waling on sandy trail with green marker beside
Lisa following the Dunes Trail markers.

There’s also a short and hard-to-find marked trail that leaves the road that leads you to the Lakeshore Beach parking lot. It connects through the wetland and picks up on the Dunes Trail loop.

small trail through grassland with trees beside and sky above
Here’s that trail.. see the yellow tree marking?

If you take this, stay on the path through this fragile ecosystem – it’s marked with yellow tree markers.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a hard-pack 1-kilometre loop near the start of the Dunes Trail. This is considered a barrier-free loop and it’s accessible from the Dunes Beach Day-Use parking lot.

Other Things to Do at Sandbanks Provincial Park

trees with fall colours on other side of lake with cottages close by
There’s more to Sandbanks than just beaches, camping, and hiking trails!

If you’re wondering what is there to do at Sandbanks besides heading to the beach, camping, or hitting the trails, you’re not alone!

There are a number of other things to do at Sandbanks Provincial Park like:

  • Biking – You can bring bikes and use them on the roads through the campgrounds as there are no bike specific trails at Sandbanks. However, one trail – the Woodlands Trail – seems to be marked with a bike icon on this map so check before you ride.
  • Birding – Bird sighting checklists are available at the Visitor Centre. Migration seasons are best to spot birds – we had two blue jays playing peek-a-boo with us from their tree perch and it was awesome.
  • Boating/Canoeing/Kayaking – Watercraft must be used outside the designated swimming areas. The Outlet River (near Campground A) has a boat launch. Canoe/kayak rentals are available at the Woodyard & Rentals (close to Parking Lot 11 for Outlet Beach) but supplies go quickly in the summer season. Outlet River is best for beginner paddlers.
  • Kid’s Programming – In summer, the Discovery program offers educational programming for kids from hikes to learning about local history.
  • Fishing – Lake Ontario (and East and West Lake) are home to common Ontario fish species like small/largemouth bass, pickerel, and pike! You can actually borrow fishing rods and tackle (for free) through a great initiative (subject to restrictions) at the Woodyard. You must also follow Ontario fishing regulations.

You can learn more to plan your visit at the official activities page for Sandbanks.

As for things to do near Sandbanks Provincial Park, you can check out our article on things to do in Prince Edward County for a great overview of attractions, wineries, breweries, and much more to explore in PEC!

Facilities at Sandbanks Provincial Park

garbage dumpster in sandy parking lots with trees behind
Be sure to use the facilities provided.

There are many varied facilities available to all visitors of Sandbanks Provincial Park. Of course, this can change at any time due to restrictions.

There is an abundance of garbage/recycling/waste containers, picnic areas (usually uncovered tables but also rentable covered picnic shelters) and outhouse-style bathrooms at all the day-use beach parking lots.

While we’re talking about garbage: Bin space is limited when there are so many visitors in the summer. So, try your best to practice “pack it in, pack it out” and take your waste with you!

Outlet Beach – being closer to campgrounds – has comfort stations that include flushing toilets and showers for getting sand off you at the end of the day.

Those staying at campsites will have many more amenities available like water taps, comfort stations, laundry facilities, etc.

restaurant building with red flag in front at sandbanks provincial park
The Restaurant at Outlet Beach is also the Park Store!

Those looking for something to eat will find a restaurant behind Outlet Beach and at the Dune Beach Day-Use Area. The building at Outlet Bach doubles as a Park Store with camping supplies available.

If you ever need to get ahold of a staff member, there is a Park Warden’s Office close to Outlet Beach as well.

The Woodyard supplies firewood, boat rentals, fishing tackle, as well as beach wheelchairs and more.

Packing List for Sandbanks

When we visited Sandbanks, we explored in the fall and intended to hike the Dunes Trail and not really spend that much time at the beach.

It was important for us to be bundled with warm layers (plus hats and gloves) and carry our good Northface hiking backpack.

Of course, a packing list for the summer is going to be very different from a fall packing list. Here is a list of items that we had in our backpack or on us:

  • whistles (for wildlife/emergencies)
  • snacks in sealed bag – like granola bars, trail mix, or protein bars.
  • lots of drinking water (a bottle per person)
  • a good hat for sun coverage
  • quick dry towels
  • small first aid kit
  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • rain jackets (if there’s a chance of rain)
  • portable charging pack for small electronics (if you not camping and have an outlet nearby)
  • camera (optional)

Additional summer items might include bug spray if you plan on being thick in the woods as well as any beach items you might need.

Ontario Parks also has a nice list of things that you should and should not pack for Sandbanks – especially if you are heading for the beach in the summer.

These include large beach items like shelters or massive umbrellas. These are hard to use properly when the beaches get super busy in the summer.

Where to Stay Near Sandbanks Provincial Park

old house with veranda hidden by green trees with green grass in front
The Montrose Inn outside Belleville was quiet yet also a short drive to PEC!

For those wondering where can I sleep near Sandbanks, you’re in luck with a number of great accommodation options close by. You can learn all about where to stay in Prince Edward Country here.

In short, you’ll find many hotels, bed and breakfasts, cottages, and even resorts in the County. Some are closer to Sandbanks than others. However, with a car, you are never more than a quick drive from Sandbanks.

You can even stay as far as Belleville and be a short drive into the County to enjoy the park. One time we stayed at Montrose Inn and it was a great location for accessing the County!

Here are a few suggestions for where to stay near Sandbanks Provincial Park:

Also, Sandbanks Provincial Park does have a limited number of their very own roofed accommodations which can be rented year-round.

Jacques Cottage sleeps up to 4 overlooking Lake Ontario while the Maple Rest Heritage House sleeps up to 8 near Dunes Beach. They can be reserved online by choosing “Roofed Accommodations” or by calling in the same way you’d reserve a campsite.

Sandbanks Provincial Park FAQ

With such popularity, there are lots of different questions asked about visiting Sandbanks. You can find a number of the frequently asked questions about Sandbanks Provincial Park (that haven’t already been answered above) here:

Is Sandbanks a real beach?

Presently, there is no “Sandbanks Beach”. Sandbanks Provincial Park has three sandy beaches – Outlet Beach, Lakeshore Beach, and Dunes Beach – none of which are currently called Sandbanks Beach. You can learn more about the different beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park in the beaches section of this guide.

Where is North Beach at Sandbanks?

North Beach Provincial Park is a completely different provincial park than Sandbanks. It is also located in Prince Edward County about 40 minutes driving northwest of Sandbanks. You can learn more about North Beach Provincial Park here – it’s a good alternative if Sandbanks is full.

When is Sandbanks open?

Sandbanks is an operating park that is open between the end of April and the end of October each year. Additionally, Sandbanks is open all year round to rent one of the roofed winter accommodations. You can find out more about visiting Ontario Parks in winter here.

When is the best time to visit Sandbanks Provincial Park?

Assuming it’s open, the best time to visit Sandbanks is in the shoulder seasons around the summer months. May and June might have a few more bugs while September and October have cooler temperatures – but both will have smaller crowds. We personally loved our visit in late fall. The hot summer sun is enjoyable, though, so if you plan and brave the crowds you can get some sunny days in at Sandbanks.

Can anyone visit Sandbanks?

Yes, anyone can visit Sandbanks Provincial Park – so long as you pay for day-use or reserve and pay for a camping site.

Are there bears in Sandbanks?

It is very rare to spot a bear in Sandbanks/around Prince Edward County since this habitat is not prime for black bears. However, it’s not impossible as bears have wandered this far south (Quinte) in the past. If you are worried about bears, carrying a whistle, keeping food packed away when you are not eating, and being with larger groups will minimize the risk.

Can you walk on the beach at Sandbanks?

Yes, you can certainly walk on one of the three beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park. However, since this is a fragile dune ecosystem, it’s important to stay in the designated areas and on pathways to not disturb or destroy any wildlife and nature.

Is Sandbanks Provincial Park accessible?

All comfort stations are barrier-free. There is an accessible loop of the Dunes Trail accessible from the Dunes Beach Day-Use Area. Additionally, Sandbanks uses Mobi Mats on Outlet Beach to make an accessible path for individuals with mobility impairments across the sand from the Park Store/Restaurant to the water.

Visiting Sandbanks Provincial Park with Dogs

large red sign on wooden posts at entrance to sandy beach
The sign at Lakeshore Beach says no dogs.
Are dogs allowed at Sandbanks Provincial Park?

Yes, but they should be on a leash (2 metres or less) at all times.

Can you take a dog to the beach at Sandbanks?

Dogs are not allowed at most of the main beach areas (follow the signs, shown above). However, there are two “dog-friendly” beach areas: the mouth at Outlet River (close to Outlet Beach) and the dog-friendly area at Lakeshore Beach close to the Lakeshore Lodge area.

Related Articles

If you’re heading to Prince Edward County, you might find these other articles useful:

And there you have it – our detailed guide on exploring Sandbanks Provincial Park. Whether you’re heading to Sandbanks for a day at the beach or an overnight camping trip, just be sure to follow the rules and respect other visitors.

If you’re unsure about something, simply ask a staff member or Park Warden – they’re more than happy to help. This will ensure that everyone – despite how packed the Park might be – has a memorable time!

As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
– E&L