Prince Edward Island National Park was established in 1937 to protect a representative example of the Maritime Plain Natural Region. The park is just over 18 kmē along a 40-km stretch of the north shore of P.E.I (2.7 square kilometres of area has been eroded from the park in the past 65 years). The predominant landscape features include an extensive system of beaches, barrier sand spits, and dune complexes, gently undulating forested till uplands, barachois ponds, and salt marshes. The national park also manages approximately 12 kmē of federal crown lands adjacent to, some of which is still actively farmed by local farmers.
The park's expansive beaches, Green Gables House and the Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site attract large numbers of tourists during the summer months. The park receives about 800,000 visitors a year, most of whom come over the two-month summer season. An extensive park infrastructure includes a golf course, lawn bowling facility, numerous day-use beach facilities, canteens, tennis courts, hiking and cross-country ski trails, visitor centre, Green Gables House interpretive facility, four campgrounds, a hotel and restaurant, and other accommodations.. In addition, extensive tourism facilities, including hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks are adjacent in the Cavendish and Stanhope areas.
The early period of settlement had a dramatic impact on the island's ecology. From the mid 1700s to the late 1800s, the original Acadian hardwood and mixed wood forests were harvested for home construction, ship-building, and for export. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, much of the land was cleared for agriculture, along with the construction of an elaborate network of rural roads. In the mid-1900s, land abandonment led to an increase in forest cover, from 30.9% in 1900 up to 48.6% in 1990, which was dominated by white spruce (Picea glauca) and some hardwoods that invaded former fields.
The 1896 Victorian mansion known as Dalvay-by-the Sea was constructed as a summer vacation home by a wealthy American industrialist, attracted to the island's north shore beaches. The creation of Prince Edward Island National Park in 1937 significantly developed the island's recreation and tourism industry. Visitors are drawn by the many fine white sand beaches and dunes, the rolling pastoral landscape, seaside villages, and the Green Gables House that memorializes the writing's of P.E.I. author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
In 1998, Greenwich, a peninsula which separates St. Peters Bay from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, became part of Prince Edward Island National Park in an effort to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources found in the area. The extensive and fragile coastal dune system, wetlands and various natural habitats are home to numerous rare plant species and for the endangered Piping Plover shorebird. Among the most spectacular natural characteristics protected at Greenwich are the large and mobile u-shaped dunes with associated dune tract ridges.