With its picturesque small towns, world–class wineries, spectacular beaches and boutique hotels, it’s no wonder Prince Edward County (PEC) has taken off as one of the coolest destinations in Ontario. The County, as it’s warmly known, is an island located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, where rural life meets urban aesthetic and sensibility. Its proximity to major hubs in Ontario and Quebec – it’s a two–hour drive from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and four hours from Montreal – and influx of artists and entrepreneurs who have fuelled a booming travel industry make PEC ideal for a day trip or weekend getaway.
Head to Wellington for a cappuccino and freshly baked pastry at Piccolina, the latest outpost from local favourite Enid Grace Culinary that pays homage to traditional Italian espresso bars. If you’re craving something savoury, order the breakfast panino: fresh baguettini or Piedmontese brioche stuffed with cured meats, cheeses and pickled veggies.
After breakfast, it’s off to the Wellington Farmers’ Market – the place to be on Saturday mornings from late spring until Thanksgiving weekend – for fresh county produce and food stalls. For an early lunch, grab a Middle Eastern salad from Papa Ghanoush and Momma Hummus, run by a local Syrian husband–and–wife team, and picnic at nearby Wellington Beach. If you’re visiting with kids, don’t miss one of the best playgrounds in the region at Wellington Park.
Come 11 a.m., it’s not too early to visit one of the more than 40 wineries that have made the county the youngest and fastest growing wine region in Ontario. A quick drive – or bike ride along the Millennium Trail – will take you to the rolling hills of Hillier, home of the Grange of Prince Edward Winery. Run by a mother–daughter duo on their family farm and boasting 60 acres of vines, it’s the largest estate vineyard in the county and an idyllic spot to sit under a tree and sip pinot noir while roosters and chickens scurry around your feet. A pop–up mobile cocktail bar by Old Salt Cocktails serves delicious drinks and gourmet sausages in the garden (through October only). Closson Chase, renowned for its chardonnays and Instagram–worthy purple barn, is a three–minute drive up the road if you have time to squeeze in another tasting.
For lunch, head to TerraCello Winery in Bloomfield – it’s the next best thing to being in Tuscany, thanks to its traditional wood–fired pizzas, rustic patio and panoramic northern views of the countryside. If you’re in the mood for something Southern, look no further than Judy’s Fried Chicken and Barbecue at Bloomfield Public House Market (which stocks gourmet foodie souvenirs). PEC’s culinary scene has become more culturally diverse with restaurants like newly–opened Sujeo Korean Restaurant in Picton (try the gun mandu, handmade pan–fried dumplings filled with ground pork and vegetables) and La Condesa in Wellington, where Mexican small plates and tequila– or mezcal–based cocktails are on offer.
Resist a post–lunch beach nap and opt for a sugar–packed pick–me–up in the form of toasted marshmallow handmade ice cream at Slickers (with locations in Picton and Bloomfield), or the prettiest striped soft–serve at Old Greenhouse Ice Cream Shop in Wellington.
Next up: shopping. In Bloomfield, don’t miss Dead People’s Stuff for eclectic antiques, and Kokito for a selection of new and vintage cottage–inspired home decor, including wool blankets from MacAusland’s Woolen Mills. In Picton, head to Field Made Goods, a collective of four female artisans that specializes in whole–plant skincare products, beeswax candles, handmade ceramics and other home decor items. In Wellington, shop houseplants, handmade pottery and gifts (by appointment only) at The Parlour Studio, and refuel with an afternoon coffee from Oak Clothing Co., a boutique, surf club and café that stocks minimalist clothing for men and women. And keep an eye out for glass blower Mark Armstrong at work as he turns out vibrant glass bowls, vases and decorative ornaments at his studio–slash–gallery, Armstrong Glassworks.
For a late–afternoon snack and pint of craft beer, you can’t go wrong with Midtown Brewing Company (set in a former meatpacking plant in Wellington), Matron Fine Beers (an edgy, off–the–beaten–path farmhouse brewery complete with an outdoor patio in Bloomfield) or Parson Brewing Company (a family–owned–and–operated joint in Picton).
If you’re visiting before the end of October, make a reservation at Sand and Pearl Oyster Bar, named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2018, for dishes that feature produce from local farms and fresh Canadian seafood, including Bay of Quinte pickerel, wild Fogo Island snow crab and Nova Scotia lobster. After dinner, drive three minutes down the road to Sandbanks Provincial Park to watch the sunset from the white–sand shores of Outlet Beach or the towering dunes at Dunes Beach, the largest freshwater baymouth sandbar and dune system in the world.
Flame+Smith, a stylish and sustainably–minded restaurant in Bloomfield that specializes in woodfire cooking, is also an excellent choice for seafood, vegetarian dishes and desserts like “burnt” Basque cheesecake with rose poached strawberries.
If you’re not ready to call it a night, head to Koenji Whisky Bar in Wellington for a stellar whisky selection, boozy cocktails and Japanese snacks.
Make it a weekend
Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield offers a variety of well–appointed accommodations, including suites in the main guest house, three quaint cottages, the revamped Walter Motel, the four–bedroom Picton House (ideal for families), Loft 28 (a one–bedroom loft just 10 minutes from the main inn) and House of Falconer, a work–in–progress that will be completed next summer (three suites are available to book now). Second–generation inn keeper and designer Alexandre Fida decked out each option with vintage and local touches. His choice of Kate Golding county–inspired wallpaper throughout the inn is especially charming.
Wellington’s Drake Devonshire, the rural outpost of the Drake Hotel in Toronto, put this region on the map when it opened in 2014. Located just down the street, sister property Drake Motor Inn is a slightly more budget–friendly option, but still has the mid–century charm and artistic details the brand is known for – think Polaroid cameras (with real film!) and eye–catching art collections.
Opening on December 1, 2020, Wander is a luxury waterfront resort located between Bloomfield and Wellington that is perfect for family getaways. All 10 Nordic–inspired cabins sleep six and feature walls of windows, full kitchens, organic linens, blackout blinds, heated floors and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. (Pet–friendly suites and in–cabin babysitting are also available.) And they know how to winter: cold–weather activities include cabin–versus–cabin games, sunset wine tastings and ice fishing.