There are over 20 beaches along 175-mile PEI, mostly characterized by their world-famous red sand cliffs, while others are known for their swimming, clamming, and fishing. Most beaches are located within provincial parks have restroom and shower facilities, and are supervised during the summer months, but not all are set up this way, including some "local" swimming holes, so parental supervision is crucial. Whether you’re looking for a friendly-family spot to dip your toes or rugged natural beauty, you’re likely to find both in picture-perfect PEI.

PEI’s beaches are characterized as either South Shore or North Shore. Rumor has it the South Shore has warmer water, though to non-locals, it’s pretty chilly on either side! Top beaches on the South Shore tend to have gradual depths (think zero-depth entry) and sandbars, while the North Shore is where the iconic red cliffs and sweeping views of the national parks are.

Family favorites on both sides of the island include:

"Singing Sands Sunset, Runoff Reflections" by Ted Kaiser via Flickr Creative Commons

Singing Sands

Located in Basin Head Provincial Park, this beach truly does "sing," though scientists cannot seem to pinpoint a reason for the beautiful but odd sound heard here. One of the warmest beaches on the island, kids can swim in the river flowing into the ocean for a day of both fresh and salt water. A play area is on-site, though nature is likely more captivating!

" Red Earth, Sky and Water at Argyle Shore Provincial Park PEI" by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr Creative Commons

Argyle Shore

This unsupervised beach offers a playground and bathroom facilities, and is open for day use only. A good spot for clamming, Argyle is located along Red Sands Shore, easily accessible from most points on the mid-island by car.

" DSC09728" by Nicole Bratt via Flickr Creative Commons

Cedar Dunes

Located along North Cape Coastal Drive near West Point, Cedar Dunes is epitomized by long, flat stretches of sand that families can walk for what feels like miles. Be sure to check out West Point Lighthouse, the only functioning lighthouse in Canada, which can actually be found inside an inn. There’s a small museum here as well, open primarily during the peak season.

Panmure Island | Photo Credit: Douglas Sprott

Panmure Island

Unlike most PEI beaches, Panmure is a white sand provincial park. Sheltered St. Mary’s Bay is on one side with the ocean on the other. Families will find sand dunes to play, and another lighthouse with historic tours available. Panmure is the meeting point for ever-popular deep sea fishing trips on PEI.

Cavendish Beach | Photo Credit: Steve Sutherland

Cavendish Beach, PEI National Park

This is the beach in all the postcards of PEI…or at least it will feel this way as you walk along it, taking in the dramatic cliffs and red sand. If you’re roughing it, Cavendish campground is the place to set up your tent: just steps from the shore and full of amenities. Several beaches dot the water along the national park, and you really can't go wrong with any one of them. For the most interesting sand dunes, visit Greenwich.

Some of the best beachside hikes are located within the national park here. Our pick is Homestead, which starts at the Cavendish campground and runs about 4 miles for a moderate hike or bike ride (families with young kids may want to bike it). As an alternate, Clark’s Lane Trail starts at Cavendish Grove and connects to the Cavendish Beach Trails. Greenwich Dunes take you through old homestead fields and farmland, and winds through forest before turning onto the floating boardwalk of Bowley Pond. Kids will love crossing the dunes via the "sand ladder" to the final lookout over the ocean, where you’ll definitely want to stop for a family photo.