Each year we usually go on a family camping trip to an Ontario provincial park with H’s sister and her family. Over the past couple of years we have gone to Charleston Lake and even closer, to Rideau River last year. However, it has been a few years since we had made the trek down to Sandbanks. There’s a couple of reasons for that:
#1. Sandbanks has some really horrible campsites – whoever was carving these out was not concerned about having level ground, whether a car would be going right by your head, or whether all the rain in an area would collect in the one basin that also happened to be the only clearing for your tent on your site.
#2. It’s a long drive for a weekend camping trip that was made longer last time we went because of road construction.
#3. You have to reserve five months in advance, at 7am as the reservations open up, to even have a chance at one of the aforementioned lousy sites.
Regardless, we gave it another shot this year, booking our five months in advance on a site that looked to be decently large and flat (the addition of pictures on the website now sure helps!) and choosing to stay for three nights rather than two to make up for the length of the drive. Oh, and they finally finished that road construction in Picton county – a nice bonus as well!
This time around, we stayed on site #333 – although it lacked a bit of privacy on one side, it was a huge site that had a nice level spot to pitch our tent.
We also rented a paddleboard this year from Sandbanks Tours – they were great to deal with and only about a 15-minute drive from the park but I did notice that the park also rented standup paddleboards right on the water which might make it a bit easier. Neither of us had tried this before but it is quite intuitive and doesn’t take much getting used to.
Overall, I don’t think my assessment of Sandbanks has really changed. I would definitely try and stay in the Outlet River section of the park if we went again. The best beach of the park is located there and the sites also seem larger and more private. We did have a great weekend, but our fortunate choice of site and beautiful weather certainly played a part. I am sure we will return in the future but I think we will try out some other parks as well before rushing back.
It has been mentioned other places and I am not sure what has happened to ranger patrols in Ontario Parks – they seem to be non-existent. In three days, I did not see a single ranger go through our campground loop whereas the last time we were at Sandbanks, they were a constant presence and were warning people for talking too loud around their campfires after dark. This year people had music going until 1 or 2 in the morning every night – luckily they were not right by us but it certainly was a change from the tightly-patrolled and dead-silent nights we spend in Vermont earlier this summer.