Boasting over eleven hundred kilometres of coastline, one never finds themselves too far away from a beach at any given time while exploring Prince Edward Island. As PEI also happens to be Canada’s tiniest province, it’s easy to get from spot to spot until you find the perfect stretch of sand—especially as the most popular ones are scattered around Prince Edward Island National Park in the northern part of the province. For those in the mood for some beach hopping, here are some of the best beaches on PEI’s north shore.
The beach in the Greenwich section of the national park takes a bit of work to get to—but boy will you ever be glad you made the effort once you arrive. The park is home to rare, crescent-shaped dunes that are always changing due to the wind, and the result is a spectacular stretch of sand that seems to go on for miles. Better yet, you’ll likely have the whole place to yourself, especially if you visit late in the day which is aptly called the “golden hour.”
To access the beach, visitors walk along the 2.5 kilometre Greenwich Dunes Trail which passes through a forest of red maple and white birch trees, before arriving at a picturesque floating boardwalk over Bowley Pond.
From there it’s a quick scramble between dunes, and you’ll soon find yourself looking down at the sprawling beach below, as the Gulf of St. Lawrence laps at the sparkling golden shore.
If you can resist the lure of the beach for a couple more minutes, be sure to head to the left once you get down the staircase. There, you’ll find another trail heading back into the dunes that leads to a viewing platform, complete with interpretive signs and a couple of Parks Canada chairs that are perfect for soaking in the unforgettable view.
Arguably the most popular beach in PEI due to its proximity to tourist hot spot Green Gables Heritage Place (any Anne of Green Gables fans out there?!), Cavendish Beach is unique in that it has all the best features that beaches in the province are known for. Soft white sand? Check. Dunes? Check. Great views of those famous red sandstone cliffs? Yup, it has that too.
Cavendish Beach is particularly popular during the summer months when all of its facilities are up and running, but it never feels too crowded as the beach is so expansive. Lifeguards monitor a roped-in area near the shore making it ideal for families, but wander just a little farther away from the boardwalk and you’ll quickly feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself.
Being only a 20 minute drive from Charlottetown, it’s no wonder Brackley Beach is a favourite with the locals. Boasting sparkling golden sand framed by dunes dotted with green vegetation, it’s a wonderful spot to relax for the day—especially if you walk a few minutes past the entrance where fellow beach-goers all but disappear.
Brackley Beach is also the gateway to a wonderful stretch of the island known as Brackley-Dalvay, which ends at the Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site’s beautiful heritage hotel. Those looking to mix some activity into their beach day can cycle or jog along the paved 12.5 kilometre Gulf Shore Way, which links the two spots and has great coastal views.
Insider tip: Don’t miss the Covehead Lighthouse between Brackley-Dalvay. Not only is the white lighthouse adorable, but there’s also a small cove around it which is the perfect place to enjoy a stretch of sand all to yourself.
IF YOU GO:
Park entrance fees: All visitors to Canada’s national parks require a pass to get through the gates, the cost of which helps staff and maintain the parks. If you plan to visit a number of sites over different days, you might be better off purchasing a seven day, Season or Discovery Pass. Not only could it save you money, but you’ll also get to breeze past the lineups.
Note: To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, entry to parks across the country will be free for all visitors in 2017.
Facilities: Both Cavendish Beach and Brackley Beach have excellent facilities, such as washrooms, showers, a canteen and even lifeguards depending on the season.
Accessibility: Parks Canada has a wonderful program in place to ensure everyone can enjoy PEI’s beaches, by providing beach wheelchairs at Cavendish Campground Beach and Brackley Beach Complex.
Serenity found: Anyone who’s ever tried to hit the beach in a place like Mexico or Spain knows it can be tough to actually get some peace and quiet what with all the people around. Fortunately that’s not the case in PEI, where a small population combined with an insane number of beaches means you’ll never fall victim to overcrowding—even on the hottest day of the year.
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Globe Guide explored Prince Edward Island in collaboration with Tourism PEI. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles