5 reasons to visit Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Celebrating a century of outdoor entertainment, species diversity and miles of picturesque hiking trails

  • Published Oct 31, 2022
  • Updated Nov 02
  • 829 words
  • 4 minutes
Presqu'ile Provincial Park is located on a peninsula which includes more than two kilometres of sandy baches. (Photo: Justen Soule)
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Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a gem on the north shore of Lake Ontario that’s just waiting to be explored. Open year-round, the park boasts more than two kilometres of sandy beaches, 16 km of trails and is home to the second-oldest operating lighthouse in Ontario.

Established in 1922 and located near the town of Brighton, Ont., within the Bay of Quinte Region, Presqu’ile occupies an area of 9.37 square kilometres. The park’s French name translates as “almost island”, reflecting the formation shaped when a limestone island was connected to the mainland by a sand spit (also known as a tombolo).

The park celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Here are a few of the reasons thousands of visitors flock to the park each year.

As one of the most popular trails in Presqu'ile Provincial Park, the Marsh Boardwalk is a 1.2 km trail featuring 800 m of boardwalk. (Photo: Ontario Parks)
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Year-round enjoyment

Presqu’ile can be enjoyed any time of the year. This park is made for outdoor explorers, from biking and boating to swimming and hiking. Enjoy more than 15 km of trails and paths, 2.5 km of sandy beaches and a 1 km marsh boardwalk to the largest protected marsh on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Presqu’ile has over 300 car camping sites in eight different campground loops. The High Bluff Campground, for example, has approximately 100 sites, most of which have electrical service. Other sites, like Craigs Campground, are more rustic, located in a wooded area and designated as radio-free.

In winter, the park is popular amongst winter hikers. Covered in ice and snow, Presqu’ile boasts a beautiful winter landscape that makes for amazing photographs. In some years, ice volcanoes have formed, creating remarkable scenery.  

Other popular activities include fishing, kiteboarding and canoeing. Hiking, however, is the star activity. Made for walking, Presqu’ile is predominantly flat, making it the perfect place for hikers and bikers. One of the most popular routes is a paved, one-way driving loop that takes visitors around the peninsula, showcasing the area’s natural beauty. This route is plowed in the winter. There are also  “off-road” trails, including the 8.1km Pioneer and Newcastle trails that take about three hours to complete.

Presqu'ile is one of Ontario's most popular birding hotspots with more than 300 bird species recorded. (Photo: Ontario Parks)
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A birder’s paradise

Presqu’ile is famous for the numbers and diversity of waterfowl, songbirds and shorebirds that migrate through the park each spring and fall.  

Some 339 bird species have been recorded here, 120 of which are known to breed in the park. During the fall migration, birds start moving south through Presqu’ile from mid-August to mid-October. Their migration will run into early November for smaller birds like waterfowl and shorebirds.

Acting Park Superintendent Jason Yakelashek, says that many of the 339 birds are transitory species, meaning they are not seen yearly. With some concentrated effort, expert birdwatchers typically observe and record around 200 species annually.

Friends of Presqu’ile Park report that peak viewing for ducks, geese and swans is March when the ice begins to retreat and waterfowl gather at the edges. Early May is when tanagers, flycatchers and shorebirds arrive. In the winter, birders are drawn by  long-tailed ducks, bald eagles and snowy owls.

The Presqu'ile Lighthouse is the second-oldest operating lighthouse in Ontario. (Photo: Ontario Parks)
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Unique landscapes

Several distinct habitats make up this unique land area. Because the park is a tombolo, the mainland is attached to the island by a sandbar — one of the largest in Canada. That means more than two kilometres of sandy beaches to explore.

The area also contains a large expanse of marsh, accessible by a boardwalk. The 1.2-km Marsh Trail includes 800 metres of boardwalk, complete with two viewing towers and a teaching platform. Sixteen interpretive panels illustrate the marsh’s story and the wildlife inhabiting the land.

Dunes are also present. Pannes (wetlands between the dunes) contribute to the area’s biodiversity. In the spring, these pannes are full of singing chorus frogs. These pannes dry out each summer, supporting wildflowers and other flora for pollinators.

Abundant wildlife

The diverse range of landscapes means a wide variety of wildlife. There are 13 species of amphibians and 10 species of reptiles. Dozens of species of mammals have also been recorded, many of them small and nocturnal. During the day, expect to see eastern chipmunks and black and red squirrels. At dawn and dusk, white-tailed deer, red fox, eastern cottontail rabbit and little brown bats are out.

Rich history

Constructed in 1840 on Presqu’ile Point, the lighthouse was designed by Nicol Hugh Baird, who also designed parts of the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal. A Lighthouse Interpretive Centre has many displays about the building’s history.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park and surrounding areas continue to be significant to many Indigenous peoples including Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat. It is situated in the Johnson-Butler Purchase, also known as the “Gunshot Treaty” (one of the earliest land agreements between representatives of the Crown and Indigenous Peoples in Upper Canada), and the Williams Treaties.

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