Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, picturesque Prince Edward County should be on everyone’s vacation list. Though there is an abundance of activities for families, the County is a fantastic place for parents to play without the kids. From fine dining and winery tours, to watersports and classes, you’re guaranteed to have a vacation you’ll both enjoy.
Accommodations Prince Edward County
There aren’t any commercial hotel chains in the County. There are camp grounds, cottages, inns and bed & breakfasts, each with its own character and charm. We turned to Trip Advisor to help us select accommodation options.
We started with a highly-rated B&B. At AWAY in the County, Susan and Glen Wallis set the bar high for all B&B’s. The house itself is stunning, representing upscale rustic charm. Every detail has been carefully planned. The walls are adorned with many pieces of Susan’s encaustic paintings. We enjoyed breakfasts, prepared by Glen, in the screened-porch looking out at the yard and the lake. We were greeted both mornings with warm, fresh-from-the-oven muffins, homemade jams, hot coffee and juice. We savoured a delectable omelette one morning and we had eggs benedict on the second morning with fresh eggs from their chickens – for real. Glen’s Hollandaise sauce was the best I’d ever tasted. The plentiful breakfast will fill your belly with goodness and start your day off right. We were so full from breakfast one day that we had to cancel our lunch reservations! The sunset over East Lake is among the prettiest we’ve seen. There are no TV’s or telephones in the room, however, WiFi is available throughout the B&B. AWAY is the perfect place to reconnect and unwind. Susan and Glen even send you off with a couple muffins for the road.
Sandbanks Provincial Park features the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation. If you are interested in staying at this popular campground, be sure to book well in advance. Rumour has it, they’re pretty booked-up hours after they open on-line reservations. The beaches along Lake Ontario are spectacular and Dunes Beach is a playground for the kid in all of us. Powdery-soft sand dunes perfect for tumbling down. If you plan on walking the shoreline of Outlet Beach, you may want to consider wearing water-shoes because the shore is covered with small shells. Sandbanks also has great bicycling and hiking trails — a real adventurer’s paradise.
Food Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County, recognized as a culinary hub, is a destination for foodies. There are several delectable restaurants to choose from, with many located in Picton, Bloomfield, and Wellington.
We had the pleasure of dining at Blumen Garden Bistro, a somewhat upscale dining establishment, where Chef Andreas Feller incorporates local ingredients to create succulent meals. Staff was friendly and efficient and catered to our every need without making us feel rushed. We especially appreciated the recommendations from our server. Food was beautifully plated and very tasty. I have an incredible sweet-tooth, and while desert was most delicious, I think I actually enjoyed my entrée even more. Just between us, I would have licked my plate if no one was looking.
We have a list of restaurants that we want to try next time we’re in the County. Pretty much everyone we spoke with highly recommended The Hubb and Angéline’s, Pomodoro, and East & Main. If you are visiting during the busy tourist season, be sure to make reservations to avoid disappointment.
Slickers Ice Cream was our favourite treat spot, featuring delicious ice cream, hand-made in small batches. There were several innovative flavours to choose from and a few favourites. We sampled a whole bunch –YUM! Campfire, which tasted like roasted marshmallows, ended up being our top pick. Staff confirmed that it is their top-seller.
Wineries Prince Edward County
There are nearly 40 wineries to choose from in Prince Edward County. With a unique limestone-based terroire, you can expect bold wines, unique in their complexity. Given our jam-packed schedule, we had to select only two to visit. With the help of Trip Advisor reviews, we selected a larger producer and a boutique winery.
Huff Estates is one of the area’s larger operations. Our guided tour taught us a lot about wine production. The tasting area is upscale with friendly, knowledgeable staff. We enjoyed lunch on the patio overlooking the vineyard. The menu featured some creative dishes prepared using fresh, local ingredients. Our server recommended the Napoleon for desert, which did not disappoint. Huff Estates is also home to Oeno Gallery and Sculpture Garden. It is visually stunning with a meticulously maintained art garden. You will want to reserve some time to walk through the gardens and let yourself be inspired by the beauty. There is an inn at Huff Estates, however, we did not have time to pop in.
Karlo Estates, owned and operated by husband and wife team Richard Karlo and Sherry Martin, is housed in an 1845 post and beam barn, exuding rustic charm. Artisanal wines are paired with nuts, cheese, and other foods. Knowledgeable staff explains each of the selections. After our tasting, we walked through the vineyard to the largest dry stone bridge in North America. It is a mortarless structure built using 45 tonnes of locally quarried chocolate limestone. Guests are invited to picnic at the bridge and enjoy a glass of wine and the view. The walk through the vineyard allowed us to see the vines first-hand and ask a million questions along the way. The vines are tended to by hand, including picking of the grapes. At Karlo Estates, the wines are wild-fermented (a riskier process that yields glorious results!) with minimal filtration. I like a sweet wine and found my favourite in their Reisling. My husband likes a full-bodied red and fell in love with Quintus, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec (an unusual grape for the region). The port-like wines were the biggest surprise, particularly the uncommon white variety, the VanAlstine White. Be sure to add Karlo Estates to your list if you are visiting the area. Schedule enough time to enjoy a glass of wine in their screened-in porch, complete with cozy blankets for cuddling up in chillier weather.
Please drink responsibly. If you are planning on sampling a lot of wine, there are several companies that offer winery tours, including Sandbanks Vacations & Tours.
Classes Prince Edward County
Learning something new is a fabulous opportunity to reconnect as a couple – think Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost without the soundtrack in the background! There are several opportunities to take classes in the County, from cooking to wakeboarding and everything in between.
We had a delightful field-to-table culinary experience with Cynthia Peters, owner of From the Farm Cooking School. We met Cynthia in the Esso parking lot in Picton and followed her throughout the countryside. It is so much fun to follow a local through back-roads because you get to truly appreciate the scenery when you’re not constantly checking directions. Guided by Cynthia, we visited the area’s two cheese factories: The Black River Cheese Company Ltd. and Fifth Town Artisan’s Cheese Co.. We quickly popped into The County Cider Company for a tasting. And we stopped at Vicki’s Veggies, family-farmed, organically grown, specializing in heirloom tomatoes and artisanal hot sauces. If I wasn’t already in love with Prince Edward County, Vicki’s cinched the deal. Take a look at the blackboard sign in the picture below, and you’ll understand what a truly magical place this is. Once back at Cynthia’s farmhouse, we had a cooking lesson and learned to make mushroom ravioli while sampling some local wine. The hands-on cooking class was a lot of fun and we picked up some tips and tricks throughout. The best part? Enjoying a meal that we had prepared with a new-found friend.
We also tried our hand at the fine art of glassblowing at The Red Barns, an artisan’s playground. The Red Barns are home to several resident artists and classes of varying lengths are offered in glass blowing, pottery, woodworking and more. If you ever wanted to indulge your artistic side, this is an idyllic place to do it. Established glassblower, E.J. Davy and up-and-coming glassblower, Janet McLachlan welcomed us into their studio. They gave us a quick demonstration, all the while explaining what they were doing. Then, they skillfully assisted us in crafting beautiful paperweights, flowers, and drinking glasses. We couldn’t believe how quickly they invited us to get in on the action. It was a little nerve racking at first … you are handling molten glass after all. But it was incredible how quickly the process became more familiar. By our third piece, we were starting to feel like pros. Davy and Janet kept cheering us on and jumping in to help us when we needed extra hands (Can you say, uncoordinated!?!) From the intense heat of the ‘Glory Hole’ to the cracking of glass on the ends of the poles in the discard buckets, this was an intensely sensory experience. Next time, we want to try pottery throwing (note the Ghost reference above.) Even if you are not taking a class, The Red Barns is worth a visit. The grounds are whimsical and the onsite gallery showcases artwork from some of the resident artists. Looking for a place to stay? There are B&B rooms on-site as well.
Waterplay Prince Edward County
Sandbanks Vacations & Tours outfitted us with kayaks and a stand up paddleboard. The equipment was in tip-top shape. Carrie and Richard were awesome! Sandbanks Vacations & Tours also has rental properties. We will look into these when we go back to the area as a family. There are many places to put your boats in the water. We chose to explore Dunes Beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park. We followed the shoreline and appreciated the spectacular dunes, flora, and fauna. Be sure to bring your camera. We attempted using a stand up paddleboard (SUP) for the first time. That was the biggest reason we chose to paddle Dunes Beach. The calmer waters were ideal for us to find our legs. Like taking a class, trying something new is good fun as a couple. Let’s just say that learning to SUP provided us with many opportunities to laugh at each other and ourselves. People on shore even got in on the fun laughing right along with us and shouting encouragement.
The beaches at Sandbanks are a beautiful destination and the perfect place for a picnic. So, if you aren’t camping, I’d highly recommend getting a day pass to visit the park. Many B&B’s and inns have passes for use during your stay. There are snack bars at the park, but we preferred to ask a local restaurant to pack us a picnic. Saylor House in Bloomfield packaged up some chicken mango wraps, coleslaw, and a pickle; a low stress way to enjoy a scrumptious lunch on the beach.
Shopping Prince Edward County
There are many boutiques, antiques stores, and art galleries in Prince Edward County: pottery, glass, paintings, woodwork, souvenirs, and more. Picton has the most shops, including a kitchen store, boutiques, dollar store, Giant Tiger, pharmacies, and groceries. Bloomfield is much smaller, but has a few whimsical boutiques, including one with Prince Edward County (PEC) souvenirs and another with all organic products. If you like antiques, be sure to hit Dead People’s Stuff (coolest name EVER!) There are many other fun spots scattered throughout the countryside. So venture out of the towns, because the journey is part of the experience.
To make your route planning a breeze, stop at the Chamber of Commerce building in Picton to pick up a map for Arts Trail and a list of wineries and other attractions.