Sandcastles and SUNSHINE in PEI National Park

It was a celebrity sighting of the highest order. A whisper rippled up and down the beach as the crowd peered up in wonder.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Oh my goodness, do you see what I see?”

“Holy crap, THE SUN IS SHINING!”

My mom left a comment on yesterday’s post saying she’d been talking to Mother Nature for us. Apparently not even Mother Nature ignores what Granny has to say!

We were on our way to Brackley Beach for a sandcastle making workshop (how awesome is that?) when we drove past one of the more youthful lighthouses on PEI. This one is a full century newer than the one near us in St Peter’s Harbour, built in 1967 and rebuilt in 1975. This might also be one of my favourite pictures so far this trip.

Covehead Lighthouse, PEI

Covehead Lighthouse, PEI

The Covehead Harbour lighthouse, and Brackley Beach (not to mention Cavendish Beach, and our favourite, Greenwich beach with its dunes and hiking trails) are all within the borders of PEI National Park. To visit them, you need to pay admission fees of $19.60 for a family, or you can buy a seasonal pass for $98. Or if you’re lucky, you did what we did and you order your seasonal pass before June 30 and get it for half price.

The PEI National Park pass has been one of the best investments of the trip. In addition to access to great beaches and hiking trails and a few convenient shortcuts around Cavendish, we’ve had two wonderful afternoons on the beach with their free (with park admission) interpretive programs. Last week, we were charmed by friendly Island native Rilla (is that not the perfect name for someone who works in PEI tourism?) and the Beach Detective program at Greenwich beach. She took us on a little tour of the beach and talked about what washes up on shore, how to identify it, and gave us a great natural history of PEI. (Did you know it used to be a peninsula? Or that there is speculation that with rising sea levels, at some point it will actually be three islands? And that the largest wild mammal is the coyote, which has only been an inhabitant of the Island for the last 15 years or so, having walked across the ice from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick?) We examined different kinds of seaweed, shells, rocks and sea critters – Beloved and I were captivated, and the kids were engaged and interested, too. And look at this awesome piece of driftwood we found – you can see rust marks from where the iron nails used to be, and there’s a wooden dowel or peg that used to fasten two pieces together. I can’t see how it could be anything less than a hundred or so years old, surely part of an old ship. How fun is that?

A photo posted by Danielle Donders (@dani_girl) on

Yesterday, we took advantage of another one of Parks Canada’s free programs: a sandsculpting workshop!

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

If you’ve ever wanted to graduate beyond dollar-store pails and shovels, I highly recommend this amazing free workshop. The workshop leader, Maurice Bernard, is a master sandsculptor, a patient teacher and a lovely fellow with whom to chat. He’s also a talented artist. (Funny, now that I think about it, Rilla from the beach detective program at Greenwich also mentioned she’s a Parks Canada employee during the summer and an artist in the off season. Hmmm, my career prospects for PEI are looking better and better all the time – seasonal government, off-season photography.)

We’re also going to have to make a run back to the dollar store, not for pails and shovels but for drywall spacklers, rulers, spatulas and some really big buckets!

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

Lucas was engaged in building that castle for, I kid you not, at least three hours. Long after the big boys got restless and moved on, he carefully smoothed, poked, shaped and sculpted. The big boys were more interested in the brute force tools.

“Hey, let’s dig a hole!”

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

For the several hours we were on the beach it drizzled, the clouds broke and the sun shone briefly, and then they closed back up and turned grey once again. Before the drizzle turned to a deluge, we decided to call it a day, and headed to Cavendish to visit Avonlea Village, a stop we’d missed on our trip last year. The boys each took a turn playing the piano in the historic church, and I was reminded once again how badly I want a piano for the house. Simon has been taking lessons, and Tristan has taught himself to play using YouTube videos.

Avonlea Village, PEI

As afternoon wended toward evening, the rain gave way again and we had a genuinely sunny evening. Just in time for Cows ice cream!

Avonlea Village, PEI

As we drove back east toward our cottage, Beloved and I marvelled at the beauty of the countryside. Though we’d driven St Peter’s Road half a dozen times or more since we arrived last week, it had been so relentlessly grey that we were almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape in the warm light of the setting sun.

Though we were worn out from a day full of adventure, I had one more caper in mind. One of the activities I had most been looking forward to was watching the sunset on the beach. I’d imagined that over two weeks, we’d have many opportunities to enjoy both sunsets and, early riser that I am, sunrises on the water. However, with yet more rainy days in the forecast for the week ahead, I was genuinely concerned that this might be our only opportunity, so we drove up the ruddy red road that Tristan and I had walked earlier in the week to the abandoned lighthouse at St Peter’s Harbour. It’s prettier with the moon above it than with drizzle falling all around it!

St Peters lighthouse and moon

We looked out from the dunes…

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

… and stared out to the sea …

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

… but we didn’t walk in the water. The jellyfish were a little out of control. Ick.

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

So, to recap: three beaches, two lighthouses, amazing sandcastles, Cows ice cream, and bit of rain and a few glorious hours of sunshine. I don’t think we could have asked for a better day than that! Now let’s just hope the three days of downpour in the forecast is wrong!

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

And now we know that intermittent drizzle and a high of 19C with a stiff breeze off the water can still give you a perfectly lovely beach day, something you would have never convinced me of back home!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

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