This year, I’ve been traveling a lot more than is usual for me, and am totally loving it (while grateful, at the same time)! Thus far, I’ve been to Jamaica, Disneyland, Los Angeles, Miami, and now, Prince Edward County. As I publish this today, my husband and I are en route to explore another destination, which I’ll be writing about in an upcoming post soon.
While I love to travel to exotic destinations, it’s not always in the cards (or budget) for people. Living in Canada, we are totally spoiled with so much natural beauty in our provinces. Within Ontario, alone, there’s so much to discover (like these gems I wrote about in Southwestern Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake last year).
Prince Edward County is a quick 2-hr. drive away from downtown Toronto, so there really is no excuse to not get up and go! A trip to PEC or “The County” (as it’s affectionately called by locals) is the perfect place for a weekend getaway with your partner, friends, or family. Our last visit was 3 years ago, and I can tell you that so much has changed even within the last year, that it’s truly exciting! Increasingly, we are hearing stories of people who are packing up, and trading in their city life in Toronto for the county life, and I don’t blame them. But if that’s not part of your life plan right now, even a short getaway to this region will give you a taste of what it has to offer…oh, and there’s LOTS!
Here are 11 things to see and do in Prince Edward County, based on what we got up to in only about 30 hours.
Know Before You Go
First things first, if you’ve never visited The County, there are a few things you ought to know:
- In terms of location, Prince Edward County is an island in Southern Ontario, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, just west of the St. Lawrence River.
- While it’s one city, it’s comprised of several wards or townships that had merged to form Prince Edward County. You’ll find most of the restaurants, wineries, distilleries, breweries, and shops to be concentrated in: Hillier, Wellington, Bloomfield, and Picton.
- The County’s climate and limestone soils make it the perfect place for viticulture. It’s Ontario’s newest wine appellation and there are over 40 wineries here (18 of which are VQA wineries as of 2019).
- Wineries and restaurants are dispersed throughout the region, so a set of wheels is necessary (and there ain’t any Ubers here, FYI). To safely visit the wineries, either plan to have a designated driver, book a wine tour (bike tours and chartered bus tours are available), or charter a taxi.
- It’s a top food destination within Ontario, and they’ve developed their own Taste Trail to help you plan where to eat. There is a real focus on sourcing locally and seasonally, so go with an appetite!
11 Things to Do in Prince Edward County
1. Dine or Stay at the Drake Devonshire Inn
No trip to PEC is complete without a stop at Drake Devonshire. Located in Wellington, it’s a staple in Prince Edward County, for good reason. I’ve never stayed in one of their 11 boutique-style hotel rooms (will have to on a future trip), but have eaten here twice and both times, it was delicious. Consistency is key, when it comes to a restaurant brand, and high standards are maintained across all of The Drake restaurants I’ve dined at (including The Drake Hotel, Drake One Fifty, and Drake Mini Bar).
The first time we visited Prince Edward County, we came to Drake Devonshire for dinner. This time around, we enjoyed a filling brunch. And there’s nothing better than being able to take in spectacular views of Lake Ontario while you’re eating or having a drink!
2. Stay at The June Motel
In Picton, The June Motel is surely one of the cutest places you’ll ever stay (pop in for a visit, even if you don’t stay overnight). It’s a former motor lodge that’s been re-purposed into a retro-style motel by 2 Canadian female entrepreneurs.
There is such attention to detail at The June, with cute styling, pink accents (hello, pink doors and pink neon sign in the lobby!), and funky wallpaper. We felt well taken care of and appreciated being able to text reception for anything we needed (with a quick response to follow). If you want to go for a ride, The June offers bikes to their guests. They also offer lots of packages for couples and girls’ getaways, so be sure to check their website when you’re planning your visit to Prince Edward County.
3. Go Winery Hopping
One of the biggest draws to The County is the wine. A number of award-winning wines are produced in Prince Edward County, so you should reserve time to visit a few (I recommend having a DD or booking a tour). Sadly, I’d been abstaining from alcohol, so wine wasn’t a huge priority on our getaway (like, who am I?).
We did stop at By Chadsey’s Cairns, a family-run winery and farmhouse in Hillier. It’s super charming and I’d love to return in the summer to see the vineyard in full bloom. We had a flight of some of their off-dry whites, dry rosés, and sparkling wines. My favourite was their Muscat, which had lovely floral notes. On our past trip to PEC, we visited some of the other popular wineries, including Closson Chase, Huff Estates, Devil’s Wishbone, and Rosehall Run.
4. Go shopping
Around the corner from the Drake Devonshire, the main strip in Wellington (aptly named Wellington Main Street) is pretty small, so spend a bit of time meandering. We dropped into Parlour Studio, a tropical plant and pottery shop, and picked up a succulent to bring home with us. Bloomfield Main Street is a larger hub, with lots of boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants. You’ll also find shopping on Picton Main Street.
Prince Edward County is known for artisanal shops, antiques, and galleries. There is an emphasis on the arts here (so much so, they’ve created an Arts Trail, which includes stops for sculptures, paintings, glass, ceramics, and photography).
5. Have Craft Beer at Midtown Brewing Company
For craft beer lovers, you can’t miss Midtown Brewing Company. It’s one of only a handful of breweries in the region, and it has a brewpub and shop on-site. It’s family-friendly and has a selection of board games and books for people of all ages. It’s spacious inside, but has a homey kind of feel. Ample communal seating overlooking the tanks makes it feel like a beer hall.
They serve their own and other local craft beer. A good way to try some is to order a flight. I’ve heard great things about the food, which we didn’t sample this time around.
6. Have Authentic Mexican Food at La Condesa
I’m so glad we visited Prince Edward County when we did (April of 2019) because La Condesa had only opened a month before we got there. We spotted it on Wellington Main Street and knew we had to pay a visit before leaving. The food is authentic, since the chef/owner is originally from Mexico.
The space is also beautiful (it’s where The Courage used to be). Their guac and fresh tortilla chips are amazing, as are the lechón y chicharrón tacos (so good, we ordered another, even though we were already full!).
I also really liked the mezcal sour, which came with a spray of lime from a spray bottle.
7. Dine at Bloomfield Public House
Bloomfield Public House is another new restaurant in The County, serving seasonal food with ingredients sourced from local farmers. Conspicuously located on Bloomfield Main Street, the big, white building the restaurant is in was once the local bank and a grocery store. The interior is marked by exposed concrete and wooden beams, but the space is inviting.
The menu changes often and celebrates the rich agricultural history in Prince Edward County. We had dinner here as part of The June Motel’s Dine & Stay Package. Countylicious was also happening at the time. We really enjoyed everything, including our whole crispy rainbow trout for 2, roasted flat iron steak, and charred broccoli.
8. Have a Flight of Cider at Settlers Cider
We loved the laidback vibe at Settlers Cider, complete with the cutest Irish Red and White Setter named “Lagan” (after a river in Belfast) who greets you on arrival. It’s an orchard-based cidery that focuses on traditional cider varieties. We enjoyed a cider flight in their newly opened tasting room.
9. Visit Kinsip House of Fine Spirits
The folks at Kinsip were kind enough to give us a private tour of the distillery, explaining the process of how their spirits are produced. It’s a grain-to-glass distillery, with all of their products being fermented, distilled, and aged on-site. After our tour, we sampled different flavours of their house-made bitters and spirits. We came home with their Maple Whisky, which my husband’s been obsessed with of late.
10. Catch a Drive-In Movie at Mustang Drive-In
Although closed for the season when we were in Prince Edward County, we still stopped in for a quick photo at Mustang Drive-In. The old ticket bus in front is pretty iconic. We’ll definitely return to catch a flick!
11. Visit Sandbanks Provincial Park
It was too cold for us to visit Sandbanks Provincial Park, but this is a must-do when in Prince Edward County. It has the world’s largest fresh water sand bar and dune system, and has acquired the Blue Flag designation (given to beaches with the highest international standards in water quality, environmental management, education, safety and services). In the summertime, Sandbanks is a popular tourist destination and is great for families. Apart from the beaches (one of which is pet friendly), there are walking trails to explore the dune and wetlands.
Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to love Prince Edward County as much as I did visiting this time around. I’m so glad we took the time to research and plan our itinerary in advance. We did a lot in our 30 hours in The County, but with all the things to do in Prince Edward County, we barely scratched the surface!
Are you planning a trip to Prince Edward County? Let me know some of your favourite spots!