Two stunning expanses of dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park are considered to be the largest freshwater baymouth sand dune system in the world. The dunes tower up to 25 metres at some points, making them a favourite with photographers the world over. Beyond the dunes are large expanses of golden beach, with the sparkling waters of Lake Ontario beyond.

Wide expanses of clean golden sand and spectacular dunes
help Sandbanks earn coveted title of Best Beach in Ontario

If you haven’t had the pleasure of walking along the sandy beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park — what are you waiting for?  

The park’s giant sand dunes and golden beaches, which just happen to form two of the largest freshwater baymouth sandbars in the world, are among Ontario’s most treasured natural assets. Best of all, the beaches are a mere 18 kilometres from downtown Picton in Prince Edward County, where you can dine in style at the end of the day.  

There are three separate beaches at the park to choose from: Outlet and Sandbanks beaches on Lake Ontario are shallow, offering the safe waters families love. Both feature wide expanses of clean golden sand perfect for sunbathing, tossing a Frisbee, building sand castles or walking with your lover at sunset.  

On nearby West Lake to the north, you can get an early start to the swim season at Dunes Beach, where the inland water warms up faster than Lake Ontario. This unsupervised beach is not recommended for small children — you’ll find the shallow waters drop off quite steeply.  

Sandbanks' dunes are known far and wide

Lucie Martin of Ottawa has been a fan of Sandbanks for years, having camped at the park a number of times. As for Sandbanks beach, it can’t be beat, she says. “The sand is white, the water is clean and you can walk for quite a way before getting over your head.” 

Sandbanks beach is visited by thousands of people each summer, arriving from points throughout southern Ontario, Quebec and New York state. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that visitors to voted Sandbanks Best Beach in Ontario in a recent online poll.  

The beach at Cobourg on Lake Ontario came in second (it’s a favourite of Toronto and area families during the summer, when they arrive equipped with barbecues and other paraphernalia for a full day at the beach), followed by Wasaga Beach on Nottawasaga Bay.  

Rounding out the Top 10 were: Northwest Beach on Lake Erie at Point Pelee National Park in Leamington, Kincardine Beach on Lake Huron, Long Point Beach on Lake Erie, Sauble Beach, Southampton Beach and  Canatara Park Beach in Sarnia, all on Lake Huron, and Lake Erie’s Fish Point Beach on Pelee Island.   Other contenders included beaches at Grand Bend, Erieau, Innisfil, Fenelon Falls, Beckwith Island, Long Sault, Port Elgin and Port Franks.  

While several of the above beaches can boast long stretches of beautiful sand, Sandbanks’ stunning dunes and the park’s recreational and cultural opportunities elevate this spot to something really special. It also doesn’t hurt that Sandbanks is located in wine country.  

Take a canoe ride or go for a walk

Back to those dunes. You’ll want to bring the camera for photos — towering up to 25 metres high, these amazing stretches of dunes are simply spectacular. In fact, they’re considered the largest freshwater baymouth sand dune system in the world. What you see today is the result of receding glaciers more than 12,700 years ago!  

You’ll find many unusual plants growing amid this arid landscape, with neat names such as bluets, hoary puccoon, sea rocket and sand spurge. The park’s marshy coastal areas, open dunes and forests of pine, maple, hemlock and cedar all combine with a backdrop of sparkling water to serve up a true feast for the senses.  

Sandbanks Provincial Park offers everything you need for camping, picnicking and exploring, whether by foot or on a bicycle, which you can rent here, along with canoes, kayaks and paddleboats. In case you can’t wait to start your shopping trip in Bloomfield and Picton, there’s even a store here! The Nature Shoppe, operated by the Friends of Sandbanks, features souvenirs, books, toys and clothing.  

If you’re planning a visit to Sandbanks, there are several events held at the park throughout the year, including a family sand sculpture event (Sandfest is held each July) and camp-style musical theatre. Check out Ontario Parks for more information about Sandbanks.