As promised, the guide to Prince Edward County a la Swell Made Co. is ready to go. I mentioned I would share my favourite spots a while back when we introduced our lovely stockist, Kokito. That was shortly after a night away in May; but really, I should have posted this over a year ago after spending a week in the County in August 2014. Updated after a week visit in July 2016.
Prince Edward County is a quick 2 hour drive from Toronto (2.5 hours from Ottawa), but once you're there you'll feel like you've traveled a lot further. The landscapes are stunning, the pace is slow, everything you eat or drink is bursting with local flavour. The quaint communities are teamed with gracious hosts and big-city expats (a common story, which I love).
The one thing that makes Prince Edward County so memorable is the beautifully simple pleasures you'll experience over the course of your stay. From soaking in the sun on Norman Hardie's vineyard patio while you sip wine and eat wood-fired pizza, to bouncing down the sandbanks into the lake. This IS the good life. Don't be surprised if you find yourself dreaming about real estate.
WINERIES + CIDERIES
This is Ontario's (and Canada's) emerging wine country. If you're heading to the County, you'd best get to know it because this region will change dramatically over the next 10 years as vines age. This region is known for it's cool-climate grapes and terroir of clay and limestone. It's also known for producing acclaimed Chardonnays and Pinots, but that's not all. Here are a few of my suggestions. There are over 40 wineries in the County.
There are many options for visiting the wineries in Prince Edward County. You can go slow and tour them at your own pace over the days or week by car or bike (yes, bike!). Or, you can plan a tour. We've done both and I would highly recommend a tour. It's a unique experience that will allow for a peek behind the scenes at many wineries, plus you'll receive one-on-one attention from the pros.
All that sparkles is at Hinterland. You've probably seen it at some of the hottest restaurants and for good reason. Prince Edward County produces grapes with the kind of ripeness suited to making balanced and elegant sparkling wines and Hinterland has committed to making authentic wines year, after year. They often sell out of some varietals early in the season, so get there soon. If you're lucky, you might even get to sample your bubbles Bellini style. hinterlandwine.com
Winemaker, Dan Sullivan is a leader in the region. The wines he produces at Rosehall Run are a reflection of his dedication to the vineyard and farm. He maintains a hands-on and sustainable approach to winemaking that extracts the optimum from the unique terroir. Go for the Chardonnay, stay for the Pinot Noir. If you're lucky, you'll catch the Picnic Food Truck parked outside during your visit. rosehallrun.com
Winemaker Fred Picard was born in Burgundy, France and now hails from the County. Huff Estates is a state-of-the-art facility, modern and sleek with a multi-faceted concept to maximize your experience. More akin to something you'd find in Niagara, it boasts an indoor/outdoor patio, hotel, live music every Sunday through the summer and an art gallery/sculpture garden. A place where you can enjoy their award-winning wines. huffestates.com
Another PEC pioneer and internationally acclaimed winemaker, Norman Hardie takes pride in creating wines that taste of a place, and raise the bar on quality year, after year. His Chardonnays and Pinots are some of the most Burgundian you will find outside Burgundy, France.
The vineyard is beautiful and hip with a laid-back patio that serves wood-fired pizza to pair with your wine. It caters to everyone and you'll feel right at home. There's no pretentious here. Just good wine and good food. normanhardie.com
THE COUNTY CIDER COMPANY
Visit The County Cider Company near Waupoos Estate to try the famous and mouth-watering ciders. Located on the picturesque shores of Lake Ontario, you can grab a seat with a view and relax while tasting the cider and nibbling on snacks like hummus, local cheese and sausage. It's the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Just ask if they can start bottling the Blackberry Sage cider (only on tap for now).
My new favourite winery in the County is Trail Estate. A quaint and family run winery that is known for clean and crisp wines. Particularly their Rieslings. All wines tell a story of their soils. Each wine is true to its terroir with strong individuality, structure and character. Made only in small batches. trailestate.com
As mentioned, there are over 30 wineries on the Island. Create a plan of attack. Other notable wineries are Devil's Wishbone, Keint-He, Sandbanks Winery, The Old Third, Closson Chase, The Grange (perfect picnic spot) and Hubb's Creek. I could go on... Do you have suggestions? Please comment below.
Posh or humble, there are many options for places to enjoy your stay in the County. No matter what you choose, you'll be greeted with open arms. From hotels to camping to AirBnB, there's something for every type of traveller.
Toronto's Drake now has a spot in the County, The Drake Devonshire on the shores of Lake Ontario in Wellington. As if you haven't heard about it. It lives up to all expectations of a Drake enterprise and it's lovely. Quaint, but cool with designer rooms and art installations throughout the property. They have everything you need for a chic and pleasurable stay from live music to a private beach (with fire pit) and ping-pong tables. It's becoming quite the hub in the County with the locals too. They have activities like yoga, live music and figurative drawing, all hosted by local experts. drakedevonshire.ca
SANDBANKS VACATION RENTALS
Looking for something more family friendly and long term? Check out a rental property. Most require a week stay during the summer, but there are weekend options found throughout the year. Familiarize yourself with the area and choose a property that suits your group size and vacation needs. You'll wish you had more than a week once you get into the motion of the County. sandbanksvacations.com
Studio House is an 1860's open concept converted carriage house. Fully restored and owned/operated by local artist Stewart Jones and Rebecca (who also operates Picnic Food Truck... see below). This rental is a modern gem in the heart of Wellington and the County. It can easily accommodate a family or group. You'll also be able to view local art for purchase in the space.
An innovative Boutique Bed & Breakfast enhanced with a French gourmet food shop and Art gallery space (featuring local art), located in the heart of Prince Edward County, ON in Bloomfield. The hosts' goal is to marry the French "art de vivre" to the best of the Canadian country lifestyle and it comes through in the stylish decor and relaxed setting.
THE JUNE MOTEL
In Picton, with views of the bay, you'll find the County's newest chic-motel. The June Motel was given a new life by travel and wine enthusiasts (and friends), April and Sarah. They have a penchant for great wine and good vibes at this 16-room hip motel. They'll make your stay unforgettable as you visit the County for a night or a week. This motel is a perfect way to spend time with your best girls or time away as a couple. thejunemotel.com
Let's just say the County won't leave you hungry. Local delights are bountiful and it will be one of the highlights of your stay. There is something to discover in every corner of the region from fine dining to berry picking. Follow the Taste Trail and you'll hit all notable spots.
DRAKE ON THE LAKE
Just like the hotel, the Drake on the Lake also lives up to the expectations with local (and seasonal) in mind. They serve delicious food and cocktails throughout the day. Of course, there's local wine. All with a view of the lake from their sprawling patio and dining room. It's stunning. Make reservations early if you're not staying on the hotel. This hot spot fills up fast. drakedevonshire.ca
EAST & MAIN BISTRO
Also in Wellington, this Bistro provides luxury comfort food, but uses fresh and local ingredients. They're located at the main intersection of Wellington where vinters and farmers naturally cross paths. Every plate is prepared with careful respect for the agricultural heritage of the County. I especially liked their vegetarian options. eastandmain.ca
THE AGRARIAN BISTRO + SPEAKEASY
The Agrarian Bistro + Speakeasy is a hub for local and casual food in the County on the Main Street in Bloomfield. From the farm, dairy, bakery and winery right to your table, they take a modern spin on classic comfort food. You can head to the Speakeasy after hours for music, craft brews and local cider. Did I mention they have a cheese shop and items to-go during the day too? agrarianpec.ca
Kin Cafe in Bloomfield offers fun treats like ice cream and artful bento boxes and smoothie bowls alongside coffee and tea. Modern and bright with artwork displayed throughout, this spot is a place for family and kinship. Local beer and wine are available too. kincafe.ca
Stop at a produce stand and pick up the night's dinner, or a full picnic. The County is also dotted with fine cheese shops, bakeries, etc. Don't forget the wine! How's that for eating local?
In particular, Vicki's Veggies has a plentiful offering of fresh goods. If you're heading back to Toronto, you can also find their stand stocked at Evergreen Brickworks throughout the year.
PICINIC FOOD TRUCK
Or, you can skip the produce stand and grab a picnic style lunch from Picnic Food Truck! Everything they serve up is healthy, fresh, local and oh, so convenient. This is fast, slow food. Enjoy the service from lovely Rebecca, but remeber this truck is on the move. You'll often find her out at Rosehall Run, but check the website for events too. picnicpec.com
SLICKERS'S ICE CREAM
A visit to the County wouldn't be complete without a stop at Slicker's Ice Cream. It's hard to miss in Bloomfield. Look for the sweet little yellow shop (on the corner) complete with an ice cream bench for an equally sweet treat. Cool down and enjoy the Campfire Marshmallow, or whatever flavour you choose.
Slow down. You're in the County now. Remember you're here to soak in the simple pleasures, so adjust your pace and enjoy country living at it's finest. There are many artists taking residence in the County. Follow the Arts Trail to say hello and peek inside their galleries and studios.
SANDBANKS PROVINCIAL PARK
If you're here during the summer months, you'll likely be spending a lot of time on the beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park. This is a child's (and adult) dreamland with majestic sand dunes that roll into clear, shallow and warm waters. Pick a spot and stay for the entire day. The park is well equipped with parking, bathrooms/change rooms, food stands and a playground. I'd suggest packing that picnic mentioned above, along with your beach essentials. ontarioparks.com/park/sandbanks
LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN
Just like the name says, it's a lake on a mountain high above (60m) the Bay of Quinte. It's a strange natural phenomenon and it's worth visiting if you're on the east side of the County. The Inn at Lake on the Mountain offers fine pub grub and beer to take a break, with a patio overlooking the lake. There is also a lovely cafe with equally magical views of the bay across the street. ontarioparks.com/park/lakeonthemountain
WAUPOOS VINEYARD + FARM
If you're in the area scoping out wineries, cider and cheese, stop in at Waupoos for the idyllic views of the Bay of Quinte from the vineyard. The winery offers a restaurant, ice cream and gift shops and a farm across the street. If you're traveling with kids, this is a highlight. They can wander through the property and visit with the animals. A perfect pit stop for the whole family. waupooswinery.com
OENO GALLERY + SCULPTURE GARDEN
Huff Estates features a fine art gallery and sculpture garden right on the estate (including a restaurant and inn). If you're stopping in for wine, be sure to visit the gallery and the garden. It's a dramatic setting in the quaint county. Where else would you find a giant sculpture of a zipper? That's Canadian. Many of the artists are Canadian and internationally recognized.
Enjoy live music with the locals throughout the year in the County at various venues and festivals. Venues include everything from wineries to theatres. If you can align your trip with a great show at the Hayloft Dancehall, you're set.
SHED CHETWYN FARMS
Shed at Chetwyn Farms is modern farm shop specializing in goods made from alpaca yarn and related goods. The goods define a new aesthetic that represents modern day farming values infused with traditionally crafted design. While visiting the shop, you can also visit the adorable alpacas yourself. A charming stop along the country route leading to some of your favourite wineries. shedchetwynfarms.com
There are plenty of places to pick up treasures from your stay in the County. Here are a few of my favourites.
This is one my favourite shops in all of Canada! KOKITO's owners Shelley and Jenn have filled the quaint shop on Bloomfield's Main Street to the brim with a curated selection of Canadiana, modern home goods and so many delightful treasures. Travel + Leisure called KOKITO: quirky and eclectic. You could spend hours examining every little item because each one deserves that much attention. Every item, every maker and the owners themselves have a story to tell and that's what makes this shop so special. kokito.ca
You can also hop across the street to their newly opened home decor shop, Sand & Sumac.
Looking for a cool souvenir from the County or, PEC? Head over to County Shirts in Bloomfield. They screen print well-designed and well-made shirts bursting with County pride. The aesthetic is clean (not kitschy) and they're a delight. There is something for everyone, little or big. countytshirts.com
MacCool’s Re-Use is more than a catchy name. They believe in a respect for the history and quality of an object and giving a new life to previously used furniture. They house a large variety of antiques, collectibles, vintage, mid century modern, and 20th century design furniture. maccoolsreuse.weebly.com
CORIANDER GIRL FLOWERS
Toronto-based Coriander Girl has opened a shop in Picton. Visit this lovely space for a collection of flowers, antiques and gifts that are locally sourced and inspired. You'll walk away from this shop feeling warm and ready to spread love with a special gift. www.coriandergirl.com
Need more help planning your trip to The County? You can visit prince-edward-county.com for a comprehensive guide. The County Front Desk is also available to plan every detail of your trip.
That's all, folks! Enjoy a little piece of the County. We sure are lucky to have such a special place so close to home. If I am missing anything, I'd love to hear your suggestions. We're already planning our next trip.