Visitors to popular Sandbanks Provincial Park told to plan ahead as day passes are snapped up

If you’re thinking about spending the weekend at Sandbanks Provincial Park beach, you’re being warned to plan ahead.

With its breathtaking sand dunes and famous waters, Sandbanks has long been a popular destination for tourists but the province is trying to curb overcrowding under COVID-19.

Last year saw bumper-to-bumper traffic, long wait times, and hundreds turned away.

This season, to maintain physical distancing, Ontario Parks has implemented new rules.

Sandbanks is one of 17 provincial parks participating in a pilot project requiring that visitors buy a day pass to get into the beach and day-use areas. The pass can be purchased five days in advance.

Rohini Ranjan is one of the lucky ones after park passes for Saturday sold out days ago.

“We booked five days early and it was super easy,” says Rohini Ranjan.

She says she appreciates the new system so far, after travelling from Toronto with two young kids.

“It was ease of mind, because if we had not booked that and came with kids all prepared for the beach and then were turned back it would not be a good day for anybody,” she laughs.

Joanna Juszckak, who booked a day at the beach with friends, has a similar story.

“I was there at 7 a.m. when the tickets were selling to make sure I got one, to make sure we didn’t have to stress when we got here,” she says.

Ontario Parks warns that anyone who doesn’t have a pre-booked pass could be turned away.

“I’ve never seen the traffic like this, with people trying to get into the park, and it started last year under COVID,” says Lorenzo D’Alessandro, who has a seasonal home in Prince Edward County.

On Saturday, looking at the slow line-ups into the park, he says he hopes people have passes.

“Overwhelming. That’s about the only thing I can say.”

Park officials say physical distancing must be maintained at the parks and beach, and to wear a mask when that is not possible.