Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Curse of Lake Nagagamisis Provincial Park

So for halloween I thought I would tell you a horror story of a camping trip...

Almost out of gas we pulled into Nagagamisis Provincial Park which is about a half hour south of highway 11, the northern Trans-Canada highway from Nipigon to North Bay, on the lonely highway 631 towards Hornepayne.  The closest city on highway 11 is Hearst an hour away.  Now if you don't have the faintest clue where I am talking about, think of an isolated campground perfect for a horror movie farther north than Timmins (Home of Shania Twain -- Scary).  I imagined Nagagamisis would be like Wakami just farther north and I was hoping to catch fish, look at mushrooms, and enjoy a fire by the lake. To begin I was right on the money, our site #32 was gorgeous.

Looking north onto Lake Nagagamisis before the Horror.

Wakami; similar, but not cursed!

After we set up camp I went to talk to a ranger about renting a canoe for the next day and found some white elfin saddle mushrooms; not edible but totally cool looking -- everything was working out perfectly.

They were everywhere at Nagagamisis, never saw an elf though.
Beverley and I had a lovely dinner and decided to go to bed shortly after dark. I must point out it was the second week in September 2013, so the night was not likely to be a warm one.  An hour and a half into a lovely slumber I awoke to find a ghost had let the air out of our mattress.  I thought simply, 'pesky ghost', refilled the mattress and went back to bed.  Another hour and a half ticks away and we again wake on a cold smooth rock under the tent. This time I was a little more upset with the ghost and, after marking my territory and filling the mattress, I was sure that would be the end of our problems.  But no, yet another hour and a half and I awoke on the very cold Canadian shield that was slowly breaking my back.  What is it people say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? So this time we checked the mechanism of the mattress and realized that the ghost had really got us as they had magically set up the mattress ever so slightly incorrect so that it would leak all night.  After fixing a mechanical defect it was off to a chilly dreamland fearing only Freddy or the Sandman.

Photographic representation of the nights sleep.
The next morning we woke up to the burly ranger asking us if we still wanted the canoe.  As I exited the tent, the ranger looked haggard from what I have to assume was a night of being a werewolf or vampire. The morning was calm with a slight wind and I was still hopeful that we might have a meal of fresh fish so I answered affirmative and paid for a day canoe rental a mere $25. Upon inquiring about bait the ranger gladly gave us the rest of his minnows, howled, and was on his way.  After a quick breakfast we quickly went to the canoe on Park Lake (the second lake at the campsite with no motor boats) and prepared to depart.  I don't know if it was the unfulfilling sleep or if we were poisoned sometime during the night, but when we embarked onto the water we maybe got 10 yards from the dock before the wind picked up and the lake monster grabbed our canoe stopping us dead on the water.  Bev and I paddled for probably 15 minutes before giving up and floating back to the dock.  We did fish from the dock and shore for about 20 minutes but it must have been a north-easter wind because we had no luck and so retreated back to our campsite.

I know it looks calm, that's why it must have been a Ogopogo. If you look closely Rob's about to Hulk out.
Beaten, we decided to do something that couldn't fail -- we went for a hike.  The Time Trail (1.7 km) was hidden along a roadway to an interpretation site. We drove by the trail and hiked to a point and back before we actually found it.  

The point at Lake Nagagamisis where we were happy and notice the beautiful clear sky (important later).
There were tonnes of mushrooms; boletes, chanterelles, and flat top coral,  and they slowly made Robert crazy.

"Come out, come out where ever you are. Little pigs, little pigs let me come in. Not by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin. Then I huff and I puff and I'll blow your house in.  Here's Robbie!" (2 points if get the quote)
The Time Trail is an easy loop hike with a brochure of points of interest you can get from the Park Office.  The second trail The Shaganash Trail (4 km) leaves Shaganash campground and heads south to Park Lake follows it and then loops around the front of the park to Lake Nagagamisis  following it until it returns to the opposite end of the same campground.  The Shaganash Trail is a moderate loop that looks more at old growth forest and its relationship to the lakes, again with loads of mushrooms. It ends at a special feature of the park -- the fish smoker.  Many of the parks have fish cleaning stations, but this is the first one I have seen with a fish smoker. Too bad we didn't catch any fish.

And while your fish is smoking, you can play tetherball.

Returning to the campsite, the sky became as black as sack cloth and the dead started rising and Bev and I decided to put up our eating tent -- yes we have an eating tent.  A fire was built to keep evil spirits away and soon it was time for bed again.  An hour after I fell asleep Bev woke me up to calmly inform me that the tent was eating her alive.  Thinking that the tent was broken I went outside to realize that indeed the tent was attacking her with help of the wind, but it wasn't broken.  If I had my camera I could have started work on Paranormal Activities 17 or maybe the Blair tent project. I returned to the tent to sleep, but it was too much for Bev -- "To the car!"  Rob "Noooooooo!  The Horror.  The Horror."  Within an hour the storm was gone but my sleep in the car had barely begun.  The next morning I was up at sunrise, cleaned up the site in 30 minutes and we left promising never to talk about the Curse of Nagagamisis again. The End.

There are so many good sites at "The Nag", but again they follow the normal rules of by the water and private.  Of the 107 non-electrical sites (generators are permitted) in Shaganash Campground #64, 68, 70, 72, 73, 77, 80, and 82 and in Bedwash Campground #23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 32, 36, 38, 40, 42, 43, 47, 49, 51, 57, 59, 61, 62, and 63 were all excellent.

Site Cleanliness: Great.  It was almost perfect when we arrived, plus you had your own driveway.

Privacy: Excellent.  Again more space up north to make the sites more private.  

Hiking and Activities: There are two trails which isn't a lot, but you could fill your days with activities like canoeing, fishing, beach volleyball, tetherball, swimming, or boating.

Fire Pit and Amenities: I am getting rid of this category as all the parks seem to have good to great for this category.  And even though this park had a fish smoker, I'll just mention it in the blog.  I am replacing this with the new category:
Park Class:  This 8,131ha park is a natural environment class and it is not hard to see why as a great deal of land around the park is being used for forestry.  

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: We didn't swim because of the weather, but from the look of things the water was beautiful and the day use beach was good, small, but good.  It says there is beach all along the shore, but it's more of a rocky beach just to warn. It is very easy to get to the water from all of my recommended sites.

Recommended Length of Stay: If you are canoeing or fishing: 7-10 days, any less than that and there isn't a point in going so far.  If you are not, I figure 3 days is enough you could rent a boat for a day, hike for a day, and relax the whole time.

Overall Impression: I really did love this park, we were just unlucky. The ranger was so nice that I really wanted to thank him before we left, but because of the hour I decided not to bother him. I would definitely return to this park for a longer stay.

Rating out of 107: #23 I hold it in the same high regard as Wakami, but there is no need for a gun at this park so... Wakami is #22 now because you might need your 22 for the bears in the area and Nagagamisis is #23 for the classic mystery, drama, thriller of the same name starring a talented Canadian boy named Jim Carey. Happy Halloween everyone.

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point

See you in Movember.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chutes Provincial Park not to Narrow (Thanks Shins)

For some reason Beverley thought that Chutes Provincial Park was not going to be a great park, but upon arrival she realized how wrong she was.  But only this once.  Chutes is dazzling.  I think Chutes is the provincial park that made me realize, northern Ontario parks are better. Now, wait, before I’m lynched, I wish to make my case.  Northern parks have more physical space and therefore, can maintain sites that are lovely, quiet, and private. Now hang away.

No, log jam here, but maybe you can see some tree butter. Testing out the new panorama function.

Chutes Provincial Park was named for the logging chutes on the Sauble River that use to sit on top of the stunning waterfall at the north end of the town of Massey.  Massey is a half hour outside of Espanola, if you take the Chicheemaun, or about an hour east of Sudbury. When the logging company closed in the early nineteen sixties there was talk of building a hydro-electric dam over these falls, but the province decided to keep the natural water feature and create a provincial park. Thank-you. I guessed this park is a natural environment park. Wrong. Chutes is a recreation park, so I'm one for one in my guessing game. 

This park began our end of the summer camping extravaganza to see Bev’s parents again in September 2013.  We were going to try to see three provincial parks on the way to Thunder Bay (dumb idea), one on the other side of TB (Quetico to come), and then three on the way back to Toronto (didn't happen).  When we arrived at Chutes planning to stay a single night, it only took an hour for that plan to be thrown straight out the metaphorical window. Because of Chutes, I thought it would be smart to add a category to the end of each of my blogs: Suggested Length of Stay.  For Chutes the answer would be 3 Days – Day one set up, Day 2 Hike and Swim, Day 3 Sit and stare at the waterfall before leaving – and this is exactly what we did.

Bev staring at the falls.  Told you.
In the past 4 years, I have tried to learn as much as possible about Mycology (fancy word for the study of mushrooms) sometimes to the dismay of Beverley, but I haven’t poisoned her yet -- with mushrooms, (ceviche is kind of a different story). The only trail at Chutes was the Twin Bridges Trail (6km), a great medium hike with some difficult slopes and a mushroom every three feet.  This was the first time we ate orange boletes (Leccinum aurantiacum) and there were at least 10 different varieties of edible mushrooms that were ripe and ready when we were there the Tuesday after September long weekend.  Now I cannot stress enough, when we pick mushrooms I have to be 100% sure the mushroom is edible before we even pick it from the ground and to do that I have to confirm it's variety in 2 different mushroom books. And then to be extra safe, I take a spore print.  I'm getting better at it, but I still follow those rules. Here are some pictures of the edible mushrooms for the visual learners:

Clavariadelphus pistillaris (pestal shaped coral mushroom)
The sweetest grilled mushroom of them all.
Russula Aeruginea Top
Didn't eat it because -- it's green.
Orange Bolete from a different camping trip.
Excellent flavour, but I wouldn't pick this one since the slugs have claimed it.

Both Bev and I did go for a swim and it wasn’t the coldest water I’ve ever been in, but if you won’t swim unless it’s 24ÂșC this is not the place for you.  It was also fun to be taken for a ride by the current and I have, since our trip, been told people use certain routes on the waterfall as waterslides.  I wish I had of known this and gone for a death defying slide.

Beverley getting ready for a cool one.

There are some cool things about Chutes I hadn't seen at other provincial parks, but now I'm looking for them.  Things like biker boxes so people with motorbikes can lock up their valuables or food over night and accessable campsites for the physically disabled.  I have since started to notice these amenities at all the campgrounds since.

Campground A sites 1 and 2.

Physically disabled fire pit -- The campground bar-b-que.

The best campsites at Chutes are campground A #20, at campground C #62, 68, 74, 82, 85, 87, RF #94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 108, and 110, and at campground D #119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, and 130.  Since there are so many good sites, the best ones are C #62 and 74 and RF 97.  We stayed at #94 which was one minute from the waterfall and you could hear water all night as you were sleeping. Not good for the suggestible pee'r.

Site 94 from the road.

Site 94's path to the waterfall with a waving Bev.

At the start of every trip there is a sense of excitement and anticipation that can cloud ones view of a Provincial Park.  I don’t think this is one of those times, but take it into consideration when reading my assessment.

Site Cleanliness: Good.  Some little bips and bops to clean up, but overall the site was pristine and some mushrooms growing right on the site.

Privacy: So many private sites to choose from.  The site we stayed at was not the best but we loved it. Privacy wise this campground is fantastic.

Hiking and Activities: Twin Bridges trail is great and the swimming is good. We also heard that the fishing was good, but we didn't take the time to try. There are summer activities set up by the staff.  This may sound good but it is really average at best.

Fire Pit and Amenities: The fire pit was excellent and as usual the amenities were great. When we were there the water was on a boil advisory and if you are sensitive, the water has some tannin flavour.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: The beach is great, not excellent and it is very easy to get to from all the campgrounds.

Recommended Length of Stay: 3 Days – Day one set up, Day 2 Hike and Swim, Day 3 Sit and stare at the waterfall before leaving.

Overall Impression: I loved chutes, it was a great park with a fantastic hike and beach.  My feelings about this park will likely increase its rating unduly, but I will try to be realistic.

Rating out of 107: #33 A third of me wants it higher, a third of me wants it lower and a third of me wants it exactly at 33. And "like a blind man at an orgy, I'm going to have to feel things out."

Shot some chutes on the Twin Bridges trail.  Shoot the chutes!

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Wakami Lake
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rainbow Fall(s)ing Down Provincial Park

In trying to find something nice to say about Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, I researched and found four things I never realized about our Provincial Park system.

1. Did you know the Provincial Park system was created to protect loggers rights from settlers owning prime forest land in Ontario.  In 1893 Algonquin was created to stop the settling of that area and now in 2013 a logging company wouldn't be able to get within 20 kilometres of the place.

2. There are 6 classifications for Ontario Provincial Parks; Recreational, Historical Class, Natural Environment, Nature Reserve, Waterway, and Wilderness.  Now, I can play a guessing game as to what kind of park I am in or going to.  I love games!

3. Ontario Provincial Parks cover an area of 78 000 square kilometres an area approximately the size of Nova Scotia.

And now for something completely different.  Thank You Nova Scotia.

4. Lastly, I didn't find anything really nice to say about Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park is a recreational park (totally guessed it) located on Highway 17 (Trans Canada Highway) about two hours east of Thunder Bay near the town of Rossport. It is split into two separate campgrounds; Rainbow Falls Campground, where we stayed, and Rossport Campground.

Now in Rainbow Fall's defence; 1. We only stayed for one night, 2. This is before Bev told me to do the Blog, so I wasn't looking as closely for the fun stuff,  3. The weather was too cool so no swimming, and 4. I promise to not use any more numbered lists in this blog.  So what did I dislike exactly you might ask?  I was really disappointed when we arrived at our campsite finding it was filthy and Bev and I spent at least a half hour cleaning it of debris before we set up. To make matters worse we had come ill prepared for fishing and unsuccessfully drove through Rossport looking for bait then onto Schreiber -- all told I think we were out for an hour and a half.  The capper was, after talking with a lovely elderly gentleman who had thrown back a couple of bass and a nice sized lake trout, we didn't catch a fish.

Ignore the buoys and this would be a good place to swim, otherwise it's the size of an Olympic pool and not very deep.  P.S. We fished straight across in those trees and caught nothing.

Rainbow Falls has three realistic hikes and one hike that is a little crazy.

Rainbow Falls Trail (3 km) is a wooden boardwalk trail that meanders along the edge of the river to the falls and then continues on as part of the Casque Isles Hiking Trail which I'll get to in a minute.  This is an easy trail because of the boardwalk and even though we didn't see a rainbow at the falls we'll take their word for it.

Back 40 Trail (5.6 km) is a medium to hard trail because it climbs up to a beautiful lookout of Whitesand Lake and the surrounding area. In hindsight I wish we had of done this hike and taken a look around.
A look out over Whitesand Lake.
Superior Trail (4.8 km) goes through a spruce forest to a lookout of Lake Superior -- there are so many great lookouts of Lake Superior and this one is like some of the others. Now for the crazy trail:

Casque Isles Hiking Trail (50 km) follows the coast from Terrace Bay to Rossport, occasional jutting in for a lookout.  Now I call this crazy, but when I was growing up my family would hike a bit of the Bruce trail every year and it's 890 km, so Casque Isles hiking trail is sanity personified in hindsight.  I guess if you could catch a lift back to the campsite it would be cool to do this entire trail in a couple of days.

Before you say, 'sounds really nice', we must look at Rainbow Falls Campground's ugly step-sister, the Rossport Campground.  Located right on Lake Superior so watch out if there is wind. It has no hiking, a rocky beach, and no privacy. It's like a mom and pop campground or trailer park more than what I've come to expect from an Ontario Provincial Park. For Example;

Looks like a nice spot,

Until you see how close the neighbours are.
What you can do at the Rossport Campground is fish and boat so it's not entirely bad, but in my opinion it is not good.

As with all campgrounds there are good sites and there are bad sites.  The good sites by my criteria are in the Maggie Campground 31e, 38e, and 49e, in the Whitesand Campground 57, and in the Lakeside Campground 66, 69, and 70 where we stayed.

A little filthy gorgeous.

As well, there are better and worse sites at the Rossport Campground. If you are going to spend a night the better sites are 18, 19, 23, and 24.

Even though I have nothing really nice to say about Rainbow Falls that doesn't make it a bad campground.  As I was saying to Beverley, if we had of brought worms, caught a fish, went for the Back 40 hike, and never saw the Rossport Campground I think we would have had a much different impression of this campground, but the provincial parks can't all be perfect or else what would be the point of this blog... please don't ask or answer that question.

Stick around after the Blog for a Bonus Review.

Site Cleanliness: Poor. At the popular site we stayed at, there was trash all over the place. Otherwise the park was relatively clean. At the Rossport Campground all the sites looked clean.

Privacy: Pretty good at the site we stayed at and the other ones on the list, but everything else is either straight across from one another or too wide open.  Addendum to this is both times we were at the park (one to stay, one for pictures) we were unable or unwilling to check out the Hewitson Campground.  At the Rossport Campground they are all wide open, but four of the sites are less wide open than the rest.

Hiking and Activities: Quite excellent even though we didn't go on all of the hikes. After being to parks in this area many times every hike is worthwhile.  The campground offers activities for children during the summer and the fact that you can rent canoes, waterbikes, kayaks, mountain bikes and fishing equipment to go out or around Whitesand lake is fantastic. Also we could walk right off the back of our site and fish, so all in all -- very good..  At the Rossport Campground there are no hiking trails, but if you wanted to rent a sea canoe you could go out onto Lake Superior for a great bit of exercise.

Fire Pit and Amenities: The fire pits were excellent, as usual, with one picnic table per site and the washrooms were acceptable . At the Rossport Campground the fire pits are all concrete squares in the ground, which I have nothing against, but without the privacy everyone at this campground may as well get together and have one big bonfire.  Otherwise the amenities were acceptable.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: O.K. The south beach is nice enough, but the swimming area is small.  At our site we were very close, but for many of the campers it would be quite a hike to the beach and I imagine many would drive.  Now, unbeknownst to me, there is supposedly another beach on the west side of Whitesand Lake and that one I don't know anything about.  At the Rossport Campground the beach quality is good, but it's the north shore of Lake Superior and it's very easy to get to the water, but it's the north shore of Lake Superior.

Recommended Length of Stay: Now even though I said I had nothing nice to say, I would stay for five days. Fishing for two days, hiking for two days, and one day at the beach(es).  Now at the Rossport Campground, unless you have a sea kayak, my answer is one night then cross the road to Rainbow Falls Campground and go for four more. 

Overall Impression: I have to say that it is hard looking back at this park and trying to be fair, because I know how I felt when I was there.  I didn't like it.  And I know that there have to be parks that you don't like, but I still feel I haven't given Rainbow Falls a fair shake, so maybe before this experiment is done I'll revisit this park and have a different or reaffirmed point of view. So as close friends of mine and I always say, "Until that day.  Until that day."

Rating out of 107: So here is the problem, the Rossport Campground in my opinion is #106, but the Rainbow Falls Campground deserves to be in the 80's with it's great hair and god awful music, so I have no other choice but to split the difference and put it in at #93 right beside Wallace and Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Wakami Lake
#29 Pancake Bay
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point

The Bonus: Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park (no camping) between Rainbow Falls and Thunder Bay in 140 characters not including these characters or the captions.
The canyon, one of the bridges, and the zip line.
Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park is a natural environment park located 60 km east of Thunder Bay.

Bev and I in the free part.
Eagle Canyon $20 entrance fee $60 zipline.

For 2 bridges, and
Some stone stairs,

Worth it? You decide. We did.

Top of the World, Ma.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Everybody loves Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks, Sandbanks, Sandbanks, who loves Sandbanks?  To be completely honest, and I don't want to exaggerate, but every person I have ever talked to in my life about provincial parks love this place.  No exaggeration.  The beach is boffo, the hikes are stunning (mostly boardwalk to protect the dunes), and you can take little trips outside the park to various wineries in Prince Edward County.  It sounds too good to be true and it is.  Nestled on the west coast of PEC, Sandbanks Provincial Park has the world's largest fresh water sand bar (nothing to do with alcohol) and dune system (nothing to do with Frank Herbert).

Straight off the site to the left.

Straight off the site to the right.

Straight off the site to the straight.

What is funny about Sandbanks Provincial Park is that it was unintentionally created.  In the 1850's farmers cut down many up to 200 year old trees near the lake to create more grazing land for their cattle.  The cattle then had free reign to eat the plants on the dunes and the dunes began to move without the plants to hold them in place.  By the 1880's the western road next to the dunes needed to be moved three times.  But on the environmental bright side, now Sandbanks is rated one of the best fresh water beaches in Canada, maybe even the world. Yeah Farmers!

This is where the road originally was!
If you go to Sandbanks you are going to swim, everything else is, in my opinion, choose your own adventure.  Sandbanks has 549 campsites with 174 electrical sites. The best sites are the ones closest to the beach, (sites 6 to 18, 20, 21, 23, even numbers from 24 to 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, and 39 in Outlet A campground) but very few of these sites have any privacy. Site 39 in Outlet A Campground is the best site for privacy and access to the beach.  Sandbanks is the first park that does a great job of describing their different Campgrounds on the Ontario Parks website.  As well, Sandbanks also runs Jacques Cottage which will sleep six and Maple Rest Heritage House filled with antiques which sleeps 8 in 4 separate bedrooms each with their own bathroom -- both of these non traditional camping options have all the amenities of home including satellite television, all you have to bring is a beach towel and all consumable items and I imagine your wallet.  We stayed at site #7 back in 2011 which is:

Private from the front.

Just through the trees to the beach.
But from the left you can see everything.

Sandbanks offers three trails, all slightly different.  It seemed to me that if one was going to stay at a good site on Campers Beach and they wanted to hike, they could do them all at one time because of how they are situated one right after another.  Cedar Sands Nature Trail (2 km) is a nice relaxing trail in between the Cedars and Outlet campgrounds and is a good trail for the whole family to be introduced to the dunes.

Dunes meet family, Family meet dunes.

Then maybe go for a swim at Outlet Beach.  The next trail is the Woodland Trail (3.5 km) which begins at the Main Gate, then goes through the Woodlands Campground to the Dunes Day Use Area.  This is a fairly flat trail through a Carolinian forest and a beautiful walk. Then while you are there you can go for a swim at the Dunes Beach Day Use Area.  Dunes Nature Trail (2.5 km) is a duney trail with many ups and downs as you walk from dunes to marsh to forest.  On this trail you really get a feeling for how dunes are formed and how massive they can become.  Then why not go for a swim.

Beverley looking at the forest next to the marsh next to the Dunes, oh my.
Now these are the trails that Sandbanks promotes but there is a trail to the Richardsons Campground where you might as well go for a swim at the Sandbanks Beach Day Use Area.  Then there is West Point Trail (approximately 1.5 km) which doesn't necessarily show you anything new but it is still nice and then you can possibly go for a swim at the Lakeshore Lodge Day Use Area.  From here you just follow the road back to the main gates and back to your site.  This is a great day, but I recommend bringing a lunch or a snack because this crazy hiking swimming day could take 5 or 6 hours.

Beverley photo-bomb's Rob's selfie.

Sandbanks is a gem of the Ontario Provincial Park system with likely the best beach of them all. One beach to rule them all! With that in mind and, how everyone I've ever talked to feels about the place, my number may seem a little high but remember all these number are subject to change.

Site Cleanliness: Great.  All the sites were immaculate, but then again the sand could have covered all the garbage.

Privacy: There are private sites like #74, but it is not close to the water.  Whereas anything near the water is not private so one must choose what is more important. A Kobayashi Maru for sure.

Hiking and Activities: I think the hiking was great and if you don't want to do all the hikes at once you could do one a day.  There is fishing, swimming, park organized activities, and right outside the park -- wineries

Fire Pit and Amenities:  Fire Pit and picnic table were great as usual and the ground was soft as sand with a unusually high number of washrooms.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: The best beach in Canada.  See Privacy for answer to the second part of the question -- although to note it would have been easy to get to the beach from all the campsites.

Recommended Length of Stay: This is a new category I thought I should add after the most recent trip.  Some Provincial Parks just need a weekend and some a lifetime and a good length for Sandbanks is 5 days. I would choose a week during the dog days of summer and leave the weekends for the turkeys.

Overall Impression: I really enjoyed Sandbanks and cannot wait to go back even if it is just for one night on the way to another park.  Next time with more swimming.

Rating out of 107: Sandbanks is going to sit at #19 because I'm comparing it to all the rest.  The swimming was great, but the privacy was not.  This park is good for kids and adults so why not the number of the age of majority.

Step on the sand, kill the dune land? Not my best rhyme. 

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Wakami Lake
#29 Pancake Bay
#101 Turkey Point