Exploring Prince Edward Island one hiking trail at a time
Black Marsh Trail, North Cape
|Distance||900 meters one way|
|Estimated Time||45 mins|
|Surface Type||crushed rock, boardwalk|
|Elevation Change||6 meters|
|Maintenance Rating||well maintained|
|Dog Friendly||on a leash|
The Dunelands Trail is a short trail between the parking lot at Cavendish Beach and the parking lot at the Oceanview Lookout at the end of Gulf Shore Way West. The trail crosses a grassy field to a boardwalk on Macneill's Pond (also called the Lake of Shining Waters). As you cross the boardwalk the pond is on your right and the large sand dunes that form Cavendish Beach are on the left.
After you cross the boardwalk the trail continues through a field and along a stand of trees. The trail soon comes to a playground and picnic shelter. Continue on the trail and you will soon come to the Gulf Shore Way West Trail near the parking lot for Oceanview. At this point I would suggest taking the short walk out to Oceanview to check out the red rock shoreline with views back at Cavendish Beach.
You can access this trail from one of two parking lots in the park, the Cavendish Beach parking lot to the west and the Oceanview Parking lot to the east.
Cavendish Beach: From the junction of route 13 and route 6, turn west onto Cavendish Road (route 6) towards Cavendish. Drive west on Cavendish Road for 2.6 kilometres and you will come to a set of lights. At the lights turn right onto Graham's Lane. Drive for 1.4 kilometres and you will come to a gatehouse. If you haven't already bought a park pass at one of the other entrance's then you will need to stop and buy a park pass. Continue on this road for another 1.4 kilometres and you will come to the parking lot for Cavendish Beach. Park and go to the building at the start of the Cavendish Beach Boardwalk. From there you will see the Dunelands Trail going down across the field on the right.
Oceanview: From the junction of route 13 and route 6, drive north on Cawnpore Lane (Route 13). Drive for 800 meters and you will come to a gatehouse. If you haven't already bought a park pass you will need to stop here and buy one. Continue driving on this road for another 150 meters and turn left towards Oceanview. Drive for 550 meters and you will come to the parking lot at Oceanview. From here there are several short trails that lead out to the red, rocky coast that you should check out. At the far end of the parking lot on the left you will find the wide crushed rock trail that leads to the Dunelands Trail. Follow this trail and keep right to get to the Dunelands Trail.
From the Sign
The Life & Times of a Sand Dune
Waves sweep tiny grains of sand off the sea floor and throw the onto the beach. The wind dries them out, then tumbles them along. Sometimes they just drift aimlessly. Sometimes they are thrown back into the water. But they are sometimes trapped by an obstacle - a pile of seaweed, a heap of driftwood. When this happens a sand dune can be born.
As sand begins to accumulate, certain specialized plants begin to colonize and stabalize the area. Conditions here are harsh. The salt spray, hot sun and lack of water are deadly to all but a few hardy plants. As these take hold on the "fore dune," they help trap more sand, providing room for more plants.
One of the first to lay down roots is sea rocket: a small green plant with thick, waxy leaves that store precious moisture. Then comes marram grass - a species that loves dry, sandy conditions. Its long, thin roots strike down into the sand but also weave themselves just below the surface, creating a living net that binds the dune together.
The more sheltered side of the dune is home to a range of shrubs, fungi and other plants. Here you will find beach pea, seaside goldenrod, woolly hudsonia, wild rose, bayberry, and sometimes - you should be aware - poison ivy.
Once plants have colonized the dune, animals are quick to move in. Insects and mice help aerate the soil and spread seeds. They also attract predators like the red fox, which considers the sand dune a fine place to raise its young. During the summer, savannah sparros next in the grasses and northern harriers can be seen hunting overhead.
From the Sign
Named after one of the three Scottish families that founded Cavendish in 1790, Macneill's Pond (also known as the Lake of Shining Waters) was at one time a bay open to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Migrating sand dunes closed this bay off from the sea. The salt-water in the new pond was gradually replaced with fresh-water thanks to rainfall and inflowing streams. Ponds formed this way are called "barachois" ponds, from the French word meaning "tidal pool". Many of the ponds within Prince Edward Island National Park were created in this way.
This pond is home to several species of nesting waterfowl: pied-billed grebes, ring-necked ducks, blue- and green-winged teals and Canada geese. Is is also an important stop during the migration of these and other species. Beaver and muskrat live here. Raccoons and mink can be seen hunting along the water's edge. This is one of the few locations in the park where broad-leaved arrowhead is found. This is a plant that grows along the edge of ponds in rich soil. Cat-tails are also common along the edge of the pond. In the spring and early summer, the stream which flows from the pond out to the sea teems with spawning schools of gaspereaux and blue-backed herring.
From the Sign
For hundreds of years, people have treasured the natural and cultural landscape of Cavendish, a landscape that is shaped by many forces.
Along this trail you will discover the rich history of the people who have lived or visited here and explore some of the area's natural features. Enjoy the enduring beauty of the red sandstone cliffs, sand dunes and beaches, fresh-water ponds, old fields and forests.
Prince Edward Island National Park was established in 1937 to protect the unique coastal area along the north shore of the Island as well as culteral landmarks like Green Gables and Dalvay-by-the-Sea. This park is part of a system of national parks, historic sites and canals that preserve and protect significant aspects of Canada's natural and cultural heritage. Enjoy your visit and please help us continue to protect the sand dunes by walking only on the designated paths and boardwalks.
Trail Last Hiked: July 12, 2018.
Page Last Updated: March 25, 2020.