For most of us, international travel is out of the question for the foreseeable future. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t travel our own areas and explore our own localities, discovering new things we never even new existed. If you’re looking for a staycation in Ontario, not too far from Toronto, but far enough that you escape the city and all that comes with it, then look no further than Prince Edward County (PEC). PEC is a short 2 hour drive from Toronto, but once you get there, you will forget about the city and relax in County life with ease! PEC is made up of a few small towns and villages; Picton, Wellington and Bloomfield and they are each as cute as each other. Read on for a full three day itinerary.
Leave Toronto early to make the most of your time in the County. On arrival, why not have a relaxing beach day? To make it even better, pre-order a picnic for two from the Agrarian Market and enjoy that on the beach. It comes with cheeses crackers, salamis, spreads, sparkling water and more, and is the perfect beach snack. PEC is known for Sandbanks Provincial Park, which has sandy beaches and limestone cliffs. The sand dunes are also a great attraction here. Be warned, if you’re going to Sandbanks, you need to get there early. If we are talking weekend, then you best be there by 9am, during the week at summertime, you should still be there before lunch. It gets very busy. We went on a Thursday and had to queue for a good 40 minutes in our car to get in. There is a daily vehicle permit fee of $15 that you will have to pay to get in. Please note that the washrooms were opened when we were there last week and they were being sanitized regularly. Once there, find your spot and enjoy the water for the day – bliss!
After all that sun and sand, you will need a shower so head back to your accommodation to get ready for the night ahead. We stayed in the Drake Devonshire which is a boutique hotel in Wellington. This is an upscale boutique hotel right on lake, that offers stunning sunset views. You usually have to book far in advance and be prepared to pay a pretty penny to stay there!
Some other accommodation options are:
Bloomfield Bliss (this is a 2.5 bath Airbnb with a hot tub, located in Bloomfield)
Home in the Hamlet – another Airbnb in PEC
For dinner on your first night, you have a few options, we dined at the Drake Devonshire and I have to say we were disappointed with the menu, and with the food that we ordered. It might have been just an off night in the kitchen, and of course things are more complicated because of Covid, but for the prices they charge, the food did not live up to expectations. We did stumble across a new establishment – Koenji Whisky Bar and the food looked absolutely delectable. Unfortunately, at the moment because only outdoor areas can be seated, you might have to wait a while as their outdoor seating area is very small I suggest going there earlier and making a reservation for that night.
If your accommodation allows it, have a night cap overlooking the lake!
Wake up bright and early and grab some breakfast. You’re going to want to eat before you head off on your wine tour! I highly recommend Enid Grace in Wellington for coffee and some baked goods. Their scones are divine! They are only offering take out at the moment, if you are looking from somewhere to sit down and eat, then try The Vic Cafe, as they have an outdoor seating area.
For your wine tour, you have two options; rent bikes and cycle to the wineries yourself, or book a wine tour and be driven from winery to winery in luxury. I have done both and I recommend both. It really depends on your personal preference!
PEC Wine Tours offers group tours and private tours
If you go with the cycling option, then I highly recommend Closson Road Cycles. I have rented from here twice. $60 for a bike for the day and it’s in a great location nearby lots of wineries!
During our stay last week, we rented bikes and cycled to the wineries. It was a sweltering hot and humid day, but we had great fun! We did a 15km loop and stopped at 6 wineries and a cidery! We also stopped at Prince Edward County Lavender, which was beautiful. They have a great little gift shop where you can buy all things lavender also!
All of the wineries were very well set up for social distancing and had measures in effect because of Covid-19. We were most impressed with The Grange Winery. They have tasting kits that you can then bring outside to their vineyard to enjoy among the vines. In your tasting kit you get one tasting glass and your 4 wines, which are each in small bottles. I thought it was excellent. They also have a Cocktail Pop Up by Old Salt Cocktails daily from 12-5pm, so of course, along with our wine tasting, we also had to try a cocktail and they were delicious!
Karlo Estates is another great one to visit as they have so much open space. Once you buy your glass of wine you can wander the area, and they have a gorgeous little stone bridge that is the perfect area for your Instagram shots! If you buy a glass of wine there, they give it to you in a plastic tumbler which you can then take home with you.
The only winery we tried to go to but found it was not opened to the public due to Covid-19 was Traynor Vineyard. They are opened for curbside pickup though so check them out.
Lock Mór Cidery was a surprise find for us. My legs had given up from all the cycling and I was dripping in sweat when we cycled by. I screamed at Phil (who was ahead of me) “Oh my god, this place has an Irish name, it’s a sign, we have to go in” and so we did and I had a well earned rest! I had a delicious cider cocktail and Phil did a tasting. We also ordered some of their famous Pasty’s (highly recommend!)
Trail Estate Winery was another place we happened upon by chance, and a good thing too because while we were there, a massive downpour of rain occurred and we were forced to take shelter in there and drink wine (oh no!). They aren’t doing tastings unless you reserve ahead of time, but you can buy wine by the glass. We loved the Gewürztraminer so much that we bought a bottle! They have an adorable cottage right beside the winery that they apparently rent out through Airbnb – talk about a dream location!
That evening, we ate in East & Main which has a great patio area. We were very impressed with everything there. Their menu choice was fabulous, I had ravioli and Phil had a steak and both our meals were absolutely delicious. They also had a great cocktail menu. We were so ravenous I didn’t even take any pictures of the food! If you are in PEC, I really recommend having a meal at this establishment.
Other restaurants in PEC:
The Miller House – you will get stunning sunset views here
La Condesa – only opened for takeout right now
After our meal, we went back to The Drake to have a drink on their patio and enjoy the sunset over the lake. The Drake Devonshire offers stunning lake views and their cocktail menu was excellent!
After all that wine yesterday, you will probably need a good breakfast today! Despite our dinner experience at The Drake, we did decide to have breakfast there, and I’m really happy we did. Their breakfast menu was great, and the food we got was really good. Again, I could just sit on their patio overlooking the lake forever, so it was so nice to have our breakfast and coffee out there!
After breakfast, what do you want to do? You could hit the beach again. This time, consider trying the smaller, quieter Wellington Beach. Wellington Beach is free and won’t be as busy as Sandbanks. North Beach Provincial Park is another beach option which will be quieter than Sandbanks, however, I believe it’s a pebbly beach rather than a sandy beach so keep that in mind.
You could always hit up more wineries, after all PEC is home to over 40 wineries! If you want to have lunch at one before you leave, I highly recommend the pizza at Terrecella . It’s actually one of my favourite wineries, and their pizza is so good. I don’t think they are opened right now, but their Instagram indicates they are re-opening soon. You can follow them here for updates. Harwood Estate Vineyards has a great outdoor space where you can do some tastings and enjoy the sun!
Myself and Phil both love Mini-Golf, so we decided to go and play a round before we left! They have a great mini golf facility – Caddy Shack. It’s right by the main entrance to Sandbanks. It’s a great, fun course, they serve beer so you can enjoy a beverage while you play, they also have a nice outdoor seating area and you can get pizza and ice cream there too. We had a great competition going, but Phil, the golfer won by two shots in the end!
If you are looking for some fantastic ice cream before you hit the road, please try Slickers, delicious homemade ice-cream and so many flavours to chose from. They have a store in Picton and also in Bloomfield!
PEC really is the perfect weekend getaway, relaxation by the lake, good food, excellent wine, it really has it all. So enjoy your trip to The County!