Swimming and beach activities

Prince Edward Island National Park

Current beach area closures 

Take in the beauty of PEI National Park’s spectacular shoreline and the experience the bliss of our picturesque beaches for yourself. 

Surfguards are on duty at several beaches in the summer months, working to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for beachgoers. Prepare for your visit and learn about water safety before you swim. Surf conditions are posted from July 1 to Labour Day on PEI Now: Park Updates.  

Splash around in the water in one of our supervised swimming areas or stroll along the sandy shore. Parks Canada now offers accessible beach access at some of our beaches, with ramps, beach wheelchairs, mobility mats, and universal washrooms at most locations.    

Take part in our fun summer programming and try a Yoga on the Beach class, or build some magnificent waterfront real estate with renowned sand sculptor and artist Maurice Bernard in his Sensational Sandcastles sessions. 

For those seeking quiet evening serenity, finish your day along our national park coastline and enjoy the show of colours you’ll see here and nowhere else. Whether you prefer an active beach day or more laidback time by the water, PEI National Park beaches really do offer something memorable for everyone. 

Supervised Beaches

Two surfguards wearing yellow uniforms sitting on a white lifeguard stand. They are both looking off into the distance, one with black binoculars.

2022 Surfguard Supervision

Check out PEI Now: Park Updates for surf conditions, posted daily by approximately 11 am from July 1 to Labour Day.

Cavendish Beach: June 29 to September 5, 10 am to 6 pm daily

Cavendish Campground Beach: June 30 to August 28, 11 am to 5 pm daily

Brackley Beach: June 29 to September 5, 10 am to 6 pm daily

Stanhope Beach: June 30 to August 28, 11 am to 6 pm daily

Ross Lane Beach: June 30 to August 21, 11 am to 5 pm daily

Greenwich Beach: June 30 to August 21, 11 am to 6 pm daily

Beach accessibility

Accessibility services in PEI National Park.

Cavendish Beach, Brackley Beach and Stanhope Beach offer supervised swimming, accessible beach access, mobility mats, accessible washrooms and designated parking for those with limited mobility. 

Mobility mats are special mat surfaces at the base of the beach entrance ramp, which stretch over the soft sand and give access to the hard-packed wet sand along the water’s edge. This creates an easy path of access for wheels of all kinds.

Beach wheelchairs

Parks Canada offers two different wheelchairs to suit your desired beach activities. Sand wheelchairs have wider, softer tires, which easily navigate the uneven sand surface. Buoyant wheelchairs have a special design to allow the user to get right in the water.

Reservation details:

  • Beach wheelchairs are available for reservation at Stanhope, Cavendish and Brackley beaches starting June 30. 
  • There are 3 wheelchairs (2 buoyant and 1 sand) available at each location and each one is reservable by 1 person per day. 
  • Each chair is available by reservation from 10 am to 5 pm daily, and a staff member will meet each reservation holder on site to provide the wheelchair at the beginning and end of each reservation. 
  • Please make reservations (minimum 2 days in advance) by calling 902-672-6350 or emailing pc.pnipe-peinp.pc@canada.ca
Water safety 

Small children play in shallow water on a sunny day at a PEI National Park beach with dunes in the background.

Beach flags

A beach flag warning sign explaining the different flags and their meanings.

PEI National Park's supervised beaches now use the international beach flag warning system: 

  • Green: Calm surf
  • Yellow: Moderate surf/rip currents present
  • Red: Dangerous surf
  • Purple: Jellyfish present.
  • Orange: Strong offshore winds/inflatables not permitted

Flags are flown during supervised hours only. The absence of flags does not assure safe waters.

Safety tips

  • When in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Swim at a supervised beach and in the supervised area (between the flags).
  • Never swim alone.
  • Observe surf conditions and follow surfguard advice.
  • If surf is present, beware of rip currents.

For more information: Water safety

Rip currents

Rip currents are powerful, fast-moving currents that can pull you away from shore. 

Caught in a rip current? 

  • Stay calm. Attract attention.
  • Conserve energy. Tread water. Waves can assist you back to shore.
  • Swim parallel to the shore, toward the breaking waves, to get out of the current – do not swim against it.

Learn more and watch "Rip Currents - The Hidden Danger" below. 

Rip Currents – The Hidden Danger, on backdrop of stormy seas


The allure of sun, sand and the ocean are synonymous with summer.

The beach can provide us with a calm, peaceful retreat, playful childhood memories or an adventurous outing.

Beaches are living, constantly changing ecosystems, but a simple shift in wind direction can transform tranquil lapping waves into a roaring intense surf.

When the waves get large and a surf forms, strong rip currents will forms as well, creating dangerous conditions for swimmers.

As waves crash onto the shore, their natural motion is to retreat back to the ocean.

Waves travel in circular motions.

However, sometimes natural man-made and natural barriers, like piers and sandbars, block the seaward motion of the waves. The trapped water forms a current that flows along the shore, searching for a break in the barrier. When this break occurs, the constricted current flows quickly seaward. This fast moving seaward current is called a rip current.

People caught in rip currents often panic and try to swim against the current.

With an average speed of 1-2 meters/second, these attempts can result with life threatening and sometimes fatal consequences.

“I didn’t know if I was actually going to make it back to the beach.” “It was a danger day, but it was a sunny danger day and that is a very bad combination.” “This is the first time I’ve been back. It’s not so much that I am afraid of the beach, I just didn’t want to walk over the stairs and see where we were and have it all come back. There were a lot of waves on the beach that day, but we’d swam in large waves before so we thought it was no big deal.” “We were advising people not to go in the supervised area.” “We tried to swim back in and we realized that we were not getting anywhere.” “It became pretty clear that they were in trouble.” “I knew about rip currents, but I thought I was a strong swimmer and I thought that I could get out of it.” “It’s like swimming on a treadmill, you don’t get anywhere, in fact you move backwards.” “I turned around to my boyfriend and I asked him if he could get out and he couldn’t either.

He’s two years in the Navy and he's a really strong swimmer and he's a really big guy and I figured that he could fight through anything. “ “Initially I was excited at the chance for a rescue, that's always kind of an exciting time, but once we got into the water and saw how dangerous is was it was more..I got a little anxious wondering if we could actually get these people in.

There was actually a point out there where we thought maybe we weren't sure we could really do this.” “The waves were getting really bad and we were starting to lose a lot of energy.

I kept going under the water and the waves kept coming over my head.” “They were actually surprised at the strength of the water I think.” “A lot of panic coming from these people...” “They were convinced that they were going to die.” “So four of us took a rescue can and the other guard took the rescue board which was really helpful in this rescue.” “When you are actually in it you don’t think of anything but I've gotta get right back to that beach.” “They try to swim straight in, because the only thing in their mind is to get into shore.” Where as if you swim out of it, to the side, along the beach, and then in, you are wasting a lot less energy and you are out of that current that is pulling you out.” Look for an area where maybe you see crashing waves and you know that there isn’t a current ripping out and swim in that direction.” I was relieved and amazed that I was even back on land and in retrospect I should have swam sideways and tried to get out that way.” Talk to your surfguards, they should be able to tell you where rip currents are located, the safest areas that you can swim in and give them tips on what to do if something happens.

“...because I have this experience now, I probably won’t freak out as much.

I’ll be able to use my logic and remember what I know, and how to swim and if nothing else to wait it out.” Carolyn’s story had a happy ending, but for over 100 people every year in North America this is not the case. Increasing public awareness of rip currents can prevent events like this from occurring at all.

One of the myths about rip currents is that they are the same as undertows or rip tides.

A rip current will not pull you underwater; they are narrow, strong currents that pull you away from shore.

Not all rip currents look the same. Although some are well formed, most are unstable and difficult the average person to see. Some cues you can look for are the color of the water and variations in wave patterns.

Since rip currents create a channel of water, the water may appear darker in color.

It may also be demarked with churned up sand, foam or debris moving in a seaward direction.

The channels are generally narrow, less than 10 meters wide.

Wave shapes or breaking points are different in rip currents. Look for variations in wave patterns, such as choppy water, leading to a plume beyond the breakers or sandbars.

Be careful of areas of calm water amidst the surf.

The unassuming calm water may lure people to swim there but the calm water likely represents deep rip currents and can be very dangerous.

Since visual cues are not easily identifiable, most people realize they are in a rip current when they feel themselves being pulled along the shore or in a seaward direction.

Rip currents will often have long-shore or lateral currents that lead into the seaward rip current.

When you are knee deep in the water, ask yourself, do you feel the water pulling at you?

This can indicate that a rip current is nearby.

By getting to know your beaches, you can gain knowledge about where danger spots might develop.

Pay particular attention around man-made structures like piers and breakwaters where rip currents are prevalent.

The ocean floor and most notably, sandbars, contribute to rip currents as well.

Waves get trapped between the beach and the sandbars. Watch the sandbars as they form; it is in the breaks between sandbars where that trapped water will escape and a rip current is born.

Be aware that rip currents can change from day to day and significantly alter after storm events.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current remember these key points to ‘breaking the grip of the rip’.

Don't panic and don't fight it. A rip current will not take you miles off shore.

The strength of the current will lessen the further away from the shore you are.

Some very strong rip currents may extend 300 meters off shore, but most will end just past the breaking waves.

A natural reaction when being pulled away from the shoreline is to swim towards it, but this is where people get into trouble. Averaging in speed between 1-2 meters/second, any swimmer, regardless of their strength, will tire easily in trying to swim against the rip.

Fatalities result when the tired swimmer no longer has the strength to swim.

Don’t swim against the current, stay calm and conserve your energy.

Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline, when you are out of the current, then swim back to shore.

Remember, rip currents are narrow. Swimming parallel to shore takes a fraction of the energy needed to swim against a rip.

If you can’t swim out of the rip, just tread water.

When the current lessens, swim diagonally back to shore. If you can, try to get attention from shore.

If you witness someone in distress in the water, do not enter the water. Get help from a surfguard or call 9-1-1.

Throw them a life-ring or a floatable object to grasp a hold of. Keep in visual contact with them.

Remember, good intentioned bystanders often drown themselves trying to perform rescue.

Keep safe this summer by learning the warning signs of rip currents and listening to warnings from surfguards.

Before heading out to beach, learn about daily weather & surf conditions Never swim alone. Use supervised swimming areas & learn more about rip currents from your local surfguards.

Remember, never swim against a rip, break the grip of the rip by swimming parallel to shore and then swim back to the beach.

And... When in doubt, don’t go out!

“Every year we continue to have a couple of rescue days, which just goes to show that there is a lot of education that needs to be done.” “Respect the water and don't ever swim alone.” Share this knowledge with your family & friends, and help us break the grip of the rip once and for all.

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