empty beach

How to beat the crowds at Sandbanks

Sandbanks Provincial Park is one of the busiest parks in the province, welcoming over 750,000 visitors every summer!

Sandbanks full parking lot signsAt peak times, visitors might wait over two hours just to make it inside the gate. Many weekends, Sandbanks hits capacity and can’t welcome any more visitors until later in the day.

We really hate to turn away visitors, especially knowing many have driven several hours to get here.

Planning a trip to Sandbanks? Check out our top tips for a fun and frustration-free visit:

**IMPORTANT UPDATE**

This year’s high water levels have affected the park. Outlet and Dunes Beaches are open, but the beach is significantly reduced. Lakeshore Beach (as well as the trail leading from Lakeshore Lodge to the beach) is closed due to high lake levels which have caused flooding and unsafe beach, road, and trail conditions. Cedars and Dunes Trails are also closed due to flooding.

For campers and day visitors with pets, please be advised that the dog beach area at Outlet is under water and the Lakeshore Beach dog area is also under water. Our alternate location is Lake Land Day Use Area. You may wish to make alternate arrangements for your pets as there is very limited beach area available at Sandbanks.

Due to the more limited beach area and lack of parking in the Lakeshore Beach area, the park is filling faster than usual this summer.

Please visit our Alerts page for updates to park and beach conditions.

  1. How busy is the park right now?
  2. When is the best/worst time to visit?
  3. How long is the wait on busy days, like summer weekends?
  4. I made a camping reservation? Do I wait in the same line?
  5. The park’s already full / the line’s too long…now what?
  6. Can you recommend a good beach other than Sandbanks?
  7. I made it in the gate, but the main beach is jam-packed. What else can I do?
  8. Where can I get lunch?
  9. What are the park hours?
  10. How much does it cost to get in?
  11. Can I stay overnight?
  12. Where can I park?
  13. What kind of accessibility does the park provide?
  14. Can I rent a canoe or other watercraft?
  15. Can I rent a picnic shelter?
  16. Can I bring my dog?
  17. What should / shouldn’t I pack?
  18. Is your beach safe to swim in?
  19. Does Sandbanks have ticks or poison ivy?

1. How busy is the park right now?

On busy days and weekends, park staff post wait-time updates on Twitter:

You can also tune in to the local radio station County FM 99.3.

2. When is the best/worst time to visit?

One of the best times to visit Sandbanks is during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. Beat the crowds by visiting in May/June or after Labour Day.

Sandbanks no parking
Arriving after 10:00 am on the weekend? You may not find a parking space

If you’re set on a midsummer trip, visit on a weekday, especially Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Summertime weekend or bust? Arrive before 10:00 am or after 3:30 pm. Park staff especially recommend late afternoon / evening visits. The late sunsets and warm temperatures still give beach-goers plenty of time to enjoy the sun and sand.

Sandbanks crowds

The worst time to arrive is between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on summer weekends. When the parking lots fill and the beach gets jammed, the park temporarily closes its gates for safety reasons. This typically happens at midday in the first few weeks of July, and the long weekends in August and September.

3. How long is the wait on busy days, like summer weekends?

cars lined up outside Sandbanks

On busy days, wait times range from 45 minutes to over two hours! If the park is already full, you may be asked to return later.

4. I made a camping reservation? Do I wait in the same line?

If you’re already checked in to your campsite, you can take the bypass lane (County Road 12), but if you’re just arriving, you’ll need to wait in line.

However, if your campsite is in West Lake, Woodlands or Richardson’s Campgrounds, you can proceed directly to the campground office located at 2109 County Road 12.

Please note that on busy days, all roads going into the park can be backed up for hours, so campers arriving at peak times may still face long waits to access these bypass options.

5. The park’s already full / the line’s too long…now what?

If the park’s full, take the opportunity to explore Prince Edward County while you wait for the crowds to clear.

You could:

6. Can you recommend a good beach other than Sandbanks?

Absolutely!

Nearby North Beach Provincial Park boasts the same soft sands and rolling waves.

lawnchairs on beach under tree
North Beach Provincial Park

If you’re coming from the GTA, consider stopping at Presqu’ile or Darlington Provincial Park.

family with kite on Darlington beach
Darlington Provincial Park

7. I made it in the gate, but the main beach is jam-packed. What else can I do?

hikers on sandy trail

Try another beach. Outlet Beach is the busiest, so try Dunes or Lakeshore.

Catch a program. During the summer, park staff offer a variety of fun, interactive educational programs.

Take a hike. Sandbanks’ walking trails let you experience the park’s dune and wetland habitats.

Go for a paddle. Bring your own watercraft, or rent a canoe, kayak or SUP (rental details below).

8. Where can I get lunch?

Grab lunch at the restaurant in Sandbanks’ park store on main Outlet Beach, or stop by the Canteen at Dunes Beach.

Feeling crowded? Head into town for lunch and enjoy the rich tastes of the County.

9. What are the park hours?

During the summer, Sandbanks is open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

10. How much does it cost to get in?

Day use costs $18.00 per vehicle or $125.00 for buses.

11. Can I stay overnight?

Yes, but Sandbanks is an extremely popular summer camping destination and fills up very quickly. Book early or plan a midweek/ shoulder season trip.

Did you know Sandbanks has two roofed accommodations available and are often underbooked during the spring and fall seasons?

Maple Rest Heritage House

Sandbanks Maplerest

Jacques Cottage

jacques cottage

Reservations for Maple Rest and Jacques Cottage can only be made by phone: 1-888-668-7275.

12. Where can I park?

All three beach areas have parking. When it’s busy, we recommend snagging the first spot you can find.

13. What kind of accessibility does the park provide?

During the summer, Mobi Mats create a accessible path through the sand, starting at the park store and heading out onto the beach. These help make the beach more accessible to anyone using assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

Beach mats placed along the sand leading to the water.

Sandbanks also has two beach wheelchairs available for park visitors. The wheelchairs can’t go in the water, but visitors can use them to travel along the sandy beaches. The wheelchairs are available to sign out free of charge at the Woodyard rental concession.

All-terrain beach wheelchair parked on pavement.

14. Can I rent a canoe or other watercraft?

Sandbanks rents kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards (SUP). Rentals are available — first come, first served — between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm. The woodyard canoe rental location is located by Outlet River, before the bridge accessing the Outlet A & B campground.

canoe rental at Sandbanks

15. Can I rent a picnic shelter?

Sandbanks has two picnic shelters available to rent, one on Dunes Beach, one on Outlet Beach. Picnic shelters can accommodate 50-80 people. Water and electrical outlets are available, as well as a charcoal barbecue (bring your own briquettes).

Call the park directly to reserve a picnic shelter: 613-393-3319.

picnic shelter

16. Can I bring my dog?

For sure! Just keep Fido on a leash (no longer than 2 m).

Dogs aren’t allowed to splash in most beach areas, but we have two special sections for pups: the mouth of Outlet River and on Lakeshore Beach near the Lakeshore Lodge site.

17. What should / shouldn’t I pack?

What you should definitely pack: sunscreen, hat, water, snacks, swimwear, lifejackets for kids (the park does lend PFDs, available while supplies last), change of clothes, towels, bug spray (DEET).

What your shouldn’t pack: alcohol (only permitted on your campsite, not on the beach), firewood (no campfires on beach), drones

We don’t recommend packing: large pieces of beach shelter, like volleyball nets, oversized umbrellas or sun shelters (these can be hard to place on busy days), multiple vehicles, or radios.

18. Is your beach safe to swim in?

Sandbanks Provincial Park holds a Blue Flag designation, meeting international standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education, safety and services. The park is one of only 35 Blue Flag holders in Canada.

Sandbanks beach

The beach’s water quality is tested every week. Any advisories will be posted on the Ontario Parks Alerts page.

19. Does Sandbanks have ticks or poison ivy?

Tick safety: Ticks are common throughout Ontario, including at Sandbanks. To protect yourself from Lyme Disease, follow these safety tips.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy: We remove poison ivy from campsites and designated park trails, but it’s still prevalent in park, especially on the dunes between parking lots and beach. Poison Ivy is an important dune stabilizer, helping to protect our dunes and beaches, as well as being a food source for wildlife. Avoid it by staying on trails and keeping a close eye on kids.