Visiting Ontario provincial parks during off-peak times is one of my favourite ways to get the best experiences from our natural wonders across the province.
In autumn, after the summer crowds have left, but parks are still open, there is a peacefulness, and quietness to our parks. You can often wander the trails in solitude and feel that you have the park to yourself.
As trees begin to change colour and lose their leaves, it makes it easier to spot creatures in the forest, or if you visit a park along migration routes, you may catch a glimpse of some migratory birds.
I’ve been to Sandbanks Provincial Park more than once, as it’s conveniently located in Prince Edward County, just a couple of hours away from where I live. It’s also right on Lake Ontario, so it has a few beautiful beaches to explore, which makes up for the overall lack of challenging trails in the park. (There are 10km of trails, which are all still great, but relatively easy and short!)
Taking advantage of an unseasonably warm October day, we were off to Sandbanks to enjoy some sunshine and sand. The park was quiet, you could hear the rustling of the leaves in the trees, the distant honking of geese (instead of cars) and climbing the big sand dune was extra fun, as there were no other footprints in the sand. If you haven’t been to Sandbanks, well it is home to some of the best sand dunes in Ontario!
One of the most interesting things I kept coming across, that I hadn’t slowed down to notice on a previous visit, was the perfectly circular patterns that plant were leaving in the sand.
Being blown around by the breeze off of the lake, grasses were creating miniature versions of what my imagination started calling crop circles. But in this case, they were sand circles. Just one of those wonders of nature. I’ve heard that nature doesn’t draw in straight lines or perfect circles before, but I’d have to argue against that now.
Being October, it was a little cooler along the beach, but the beauty of that was that it was deserted. Sure, I wasn’t planning to swim, but it was perfect for a run and a walk. Plus there were interesting animal tracks all along the beach, which had me wondering what creatures had explored this beach the night before, or earlier that day.
There was a large flock of geese hanging out off shore as well, seemingly getting ready to fly further south, and we also came across a huge gathering of ladybugs (ladybirds?) on the sand. There were thousands of them! Enough to make an area of the beach appear darker to the eyes, and make us curious as to what it was. It actually became a challenge not to step on any of them as we got closer and realized what it was. Strangely none of them were flying around, just walking on the sand. Perhaps because it was too windy for them!
Caterpillars, geese, ladybugs and more made for a fun autumn day at Sand Dunes Provincial Park. While the park was actually still open to camping, it seemed almost completely deserted. We saw a few other people on the beach (literally, three!) and a family arrived just as we were leaving. Definitely not the usual weekend experience at the park, but one I’d happily repeat any weekend.