GREENWICH, P.E.I. -- Even regular visitors to Prince Edward Island may not know about one of its hidden treasures.

A visit to the Greenwich section of the P.E.I. National Park offers a chance to explore boardwalks, beaches and scenery that are spectacular.

The park is found by first heading to St. Peters in Kings County -- about 45 minutes from Charlottetown -- and driving around the scenic St. Peters Bay.

Once at the park it's worth a stop at the interpretation centre -- a modern building with lots of displays and information to help you get the most out of your visit.

Janette Gallant, visitor services co-ordinator for the park, said Greenwich is the newest part of the P.E.I. National Park system, opening in 1998.

"The reasons this was designated are both cultural and natural. The biggest reason is our parabolic dunes system. This is relatively rare in North America. As the name suggests, it is a huge dune system that moves with the weather, which can be over a long period of time or a short period of time," she said.

"But this area also goes back some 10,000 years with some of the ancestors of the Mi'kmaq people. We have found quite a lot of their artifacts. It is quite an archeologically rich area. This was also the site of an Acadian settlement in the 1700s."

From there you can drive a short distance to nearby Greenwich Beach. Here you'll find pristine sand that stretches out as far as the eye can see in each direction.

"There's gorgeous, clear water, a nice sandy bottom, and the beach goes on for miles and miles," said Mike Matyjiw of Toronto, who was visiting the beach for the first time.

He was with Pat Larson who described the beach as "a hidden treasure."

"It's great to make a day of it by eating at Rick's Fish and Chips in St. Peters and then coming to the beach," she said.

Laurie MacDonald of Cornwall, P.E.I., said she had also just discovered Greenwich for the first time.

"There's no high tourism here. It's safe for children with the sandbars. They can go out as far as you can see," she said.

MacDonald said in years past she had been taking visitors to the more crowded beaches in Cavendish and Brackley, but that's going to change.

"Next year this is where we'll be coming for sure. What a way to spend a day," she said.

At the other end of the park you'll discover a system of three trails to hike or bike.

"The Greenwich Dunes trail is our iconic trail. About five years ago it was named the No. 1 destination trail in Atlantic Canada," said Gallant.

"It is an absolutely stunning trail. It starts out by St. Peter's Bay and then comes through woodland. You emerge out upon Bowley Pond and go across a floating boardwalk there. You then go over a dune and when you look backward you see that spectacular parabolic dunes system."

The trails are worth the hike, but you need to be prepared with comfortable sneakers and a bottle or two of water.

The Greenwich Dunes trail is considered a moderate trail, but is 4.4 kilometres return.

However, at the end of the trail is another spectacular beach, and this one even more of a hidden treasure.

"It's well worth the trek," said Kathy MacNeil of Victoria, B.C., who added she considers that beach her favourite of any in the world.

She and her daughter Laura were making the trip to the beach, each sporting backpacks with water, snacks, and beach chairs.

"We always make it part of our tradition to come here at least once a year to Greenwich to make the walk because it's great exercise. It's beautiful over the salt marsh and they've done a beautiful job redoing the boardwalk. We couldn't go back out West without saying we've done this day," MacNeil said.

Lisa Chapman of Pontypool, Ont., said she found the beach to be as pretty as a postcard.

"I was in a boutique in Charlottetown and they were selling postcards and one was of Greenwich. I asked the lady and she told me it was Greenwich and said I had to go. So, we made a special trip out here today. This is stunning," she said.

Gallant said while she didn't have any exact numbers, visitation to Greenwich was up in 2017 with more people exploring the country as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

"It has been sort of a secret getaway for many people but we feel this year, the secret has gotten out. People are realizing just how beautiful it is," she said.


If you go...

Greenwich is less than a hour drive from Charlottetown. It is located towards the eastern end of the island, in Kings County.