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Sandbanks Provincial Park

Is located near the town of Burgeo, which is approximately 150 km from the Trans Canada Highway on Route 480. The park is named for its undulating sand dunes and long expanses of flat, sandy beaches which are some of the most magnificent on the island portion of this province. Inland, the park is characterized by spruce-fir forest and barrens typical of the South Coast of Newfoundland.

Please note this map is for illustrative purposes only. The park boundary may not be accurately portrayed.

Area History

There is evidence that the Burgeo area was inhabited by Dorset Eskimo long before Europeans settled these shores. Sandbanks Island, which was once joined by a sandbar to the Sandbanks Park area, has a Dorset archaeological site in a small cove. It is believed that it may have been a look-out.

The Sandbanks and Burgeo area was first visited by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, and by 1628 the Portuguese were fishing the area off the "virgio Island". This name was subsequently changed to Birgio and more recently to Burgeo.

The history of Burgeo is one of fishermen, merchants and the Church. The original Anglican population came from Devon, England to take advantage of excellent fishing grounds. The Sandbanks were probably settled before Burgeo itself, in the mid to late 1700's, most likely because of the good grazing offered by the dune grass. Evidence of this past activity is still visible on the grasslands of the Park.

Some families were living on the shore a long time before the first clergyman, Reverend Martin Blackmore, settled in the area. During the 6 years he spent in Burgeo, Reverend Blackmore had 3 churches built, including one on the west-side of Sandbanks island where most of the people lived.

By 1878, the original church was too small, so another was built on Sandbanks Island, only to be blown down a year later in a violent gale.

The third church was then built on the Sandbanks itself, in the lee of a wooded hill. Evidence of this church can be seen within the park at a cemetery on the grassland inland from Fox Point.

It is believed that the centre of population shifted from the Sandbanks to Burgeo because Burgeo Island offered superior shelter for fishing boats, and because the first merchants set up business there rather than the Sandbanks.

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Park Activities

Camping

Sandbanks Provincial Park has 30 unserviced campsites on a single camping loop. Approximately two-thirds of the sites are sheltered among forest, and the other one-third are situated in a grassy area. Firewood and water are available at the checkpoint. Each site has a fireplace, picnic table and garbage can. Four pit toilets, two of which are wheelchair-accessible, are conveniently located nearby. The park has a wheelchair accessible comfort station complete with flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities. Trailer dumping station is also available.

Day Use

The day use or picnic area, located by the beach on Swimming Pond, is equipped with change houses, picnic tables, garbage cans and pit toilets.

Hiking Trails

Sandbanks Provincial Park has 7 km of sandy beach. Enjoy the special beauty of these sands with a shore walk; in summer, be sure to look for shorebirds feeding in the shallows. Notice the contrast between the sand dunes and the rocky barrens which are so typical of the South Coast. Other trails pass inland, through forest and bog, to lookouts such as that at Cow Hill. Enjoy these beautiful nature walks, and please, no smoking on the trails.

Playground

A playground equipped with swings, see-saws and monkey bars is located on the sandy area adjacent to the campground.

Swimming

A section of Swimming Pond, has been designed for swimming. A small section of the pond has been roped off for your safety.

CAUTION: The swimming area is unsupervised.

Water safety equipment is conspicuously located in the designated swimming area.

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Natural History

Sandbanks Provincial Park has many natural features of significance. Follow the trail to Cow Head and walk the sandy beach to Fox Point. There, old Precambrian, dark coloured, gneisses, similar to those at Grey River and Grand Bruit, were partially melted around 450 million years ago to form a metamorphic rock called agmatite. The sand dunes and beaches are unusual, particularly for the rugged Southwest Coast of Newfoundland. The abundant supply of sand was produced from melting glaciers which fed Grandy's Brook about 10 thousand years ago and a complex series of depositional wave environments supported by numerous offshore islands. The sand dunes are a fragile environment because they have a thin vegetative cover of Dune grass (Ammophilia breviligulata) and Beach Pea (Lathyrus maritimus) which binds the sand together. This vegetation is easily eroded by trails, resulting in sand blowouts. Because of this, it is important to stay on designated trails.

The park has another unusual feature; the freshwater outflow of Heron Pond and Grepesy Brook intertidal. At high tide, salt water flows up Grepesy Brook to Heron Pond, while at low tide, freshwater flows down the brook to the ocean. The animals and plants which live in the water and on the intertidal flats must be able to tolerate both fresh and salt water conditions. Heron Pond is home to a number of salt-tolerant plants, and at certain times of the year, is inhabited by a variety of waterfowl.

The Burgeo area is an important bird migration route. Because of extensive sand deposits, shallow water, and the Heron Pond intertidal area, Sandbanks Park is an excellent place to birdwatch, particularly for shore birds such as sandpipers and plovers and water fowl like ducks and geese.

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