10 Things to do When Sandbanks Provincial Park is Full 🌊
The secret is out on Sandbanks Provincial Park – hardly a surprise, considering it’s been an attraction since the early 1800s.
But nowadays, when the parking lot is full and the beach is jammed, the park temporarily closes its gates for safety reasons. This typically happens on the weekends in July and August, especially the long weekends in August and September. Closures can last a couple of hours.
But if it’s a hot day and you’ve got kids in the car, hearing that the park is closed is basically a Code Red. Especially if you’re stuck in a line of beach goers.
So here are some suggestions to keep your cool when Sandbanks is full.
1. Keep an eye on Sandbanks’ social media and tune into 99.3 CountyFM, the community radio station. Sandbanks gives updates and closure announcements on Twitter at @SandbanksPP and on Facebook as @SandbanksPP, as well as the radio station. This is particularly important if you’re visiting on a long-weekend or you’re aiming to arrive between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – the busiest times for the park.
Hit the splash pad.
2. There’s a pretty awesome splash pad in Picton, located at the fairgrounds, on the eastern edge of town just beyond the quirky Bridge & Main streets intersection. If the kids are desperate to cool off, head in that direction.
This is also one of Canada’s coolest playgrounds – for real, we got a badge and everything – and it was designed to be accessible and inclusive to all age groups. You’ll find ropes, rings, climbers, slides, ladders, a curved rock climbing wall and more. Bonus: Angry Bird’s restaurant and patio is across the street for a quick bite.
Grab some board.
Get an ice cream.
4. Ah, the magical healing powers of ice cream. Skip the fast-food chain soft-serve, and get a scoop (or three) from any of the local artisanal ice-creameries. Some of the hardest decision making happens at the ice cream counters of Slickers (famously known as one of Canada’s Top 15 ice cream shops for their campfire, apple pie and rhubarb-ginger flavours) and The Old Greenhouse Ice Cream Shop (where their ‘Dessert Technicians’ serve up classic favourites alongside sugar-free options), the classics at Dari Bar and the hefty scoops at Cones and Shakes. There are more than 20 places to find a sweet scoop in The County, so you’re never far from a cone.
Play a round.
5. If you’re near Sandbanks, you’re near the brilliantly-named Caddy Shack miniature golf course. This isn’t exclusively for kids – there are no giant clown faces waiting to swallow up the ball. It’s a course designed to improve the short game, with tricky tilts and rolls, that’ll appeal to all ages. Banking one into a cup certainly beats waiting in a hot car!
Take in some art.
6. If you’re already on County Road 11, make tracks to Mad Dog Gallery, where you’ll be given a warm welcome by their two pooches. Their gallery (and home!) is a converted barn with a stunning garden and features mostly traditional and contemporary County artists. The Local Store is filled with locally-made arts, trinkets, local food products, and more, while the old barn at MacCool’s Re-use is great for a mid-century modern treasure hunt. If nothing else it’s a moment of zen if the wait’s getting on your nerves.
Park and sip.
7. If the kids are alright but the grown-ups are about to blow a gasket, perhaps a nice, cold pint would help. The County Canteen has over a dozen beer taps featuring the best of local and regional brews, as well as a wine list featuring lots of Prince Edward County VQA pours and menu items for kids (plus the coveted high-chair!) Or travel a little further north to Parsons Brewing Company, in a converted heritage barn, where a flight of beers will smooth any ruffled feathers. Plus, they’ve got a large natural playground with family-friendly games to keep everyone entertained. If coming from Bloomfield direction, try the waterfront restaurant at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort, or the patio at the Agrarian Bistro & Speakeasy. Or head to Kinsip for a cocktail outside the heritage barn while the kids check out the chickens, peacocks and picturesque swing.
Take a wine tour.
8. If you can steer your way out of the Sandbanks line-up, you can detour toward the South Shore, where there are a handful of wineries waiting to welcome visitors. Spend your wait tasting at Long Dog Winery (with charming, ankle-high mascots and immaculately-maintained vines); Half Moon Bay (where you can try a rare and bold merlot); Exultet (with 100% estate grown, award-winning wines) and Lighthall Vineyards (which also serves up brie, washed-rind, blue, pressed manchego and feta cheese handmade from sheep milk.)
Go for a walk.
9. If you’re on County Road 11, swing around to Beaver Meadow Wildlife Conservation Area, a true nature reserve that allows hikers to hear birdsong and maybe catch a glimpse of a critter in the marsh. There are no amenities here, just walking paths and sweet silence.
Keep calm and Give up.
10. When all else fails, try another beach: North Beach Provincial Park has the same soft sands and warm, shallow waters. Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park doesn’t have swimming access but it’s a great drive, stunning view, and with The Miller House Cafe & Brasserie and Lake on the Mountain Brewery right there you can easily and happily hunker down for the day. Little Bluff Conservation area boasts a chilly but refreshing swim if you don’t mind sharing the waves with water snakes, or high-tail it north to soak up The County’s history at the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village, walking distance from Roblin Lake which is perfect for a dip, or across the road from Harry Smith Conservation Area.
Content updated May 2019