With an abundance of natural beauty, small-town charm, wineries and culinary offerings, there are plenty of things to do in Prince Edward County.
This region in southeastern Ontario, also known as The County, is often compared to its more famous sister, Niagara-on-the-Lake, but there are notable differences. Whereas Niagara-on-the-Lake is a town in itself, The County is made up of three main towns: Picton (the hub), Wellington and Bloomfield. It’s quieter, less commercialized and more affordable.
As an area with its own arts trail, it has more character too. This island is a special destination to many Ontarians and was even named one of the best places to visit by Travel + Leisure magazine.
So my visit of three days that should have been seven left me and my friend wanting more. More beach. More food. More wine.
It’s why I’ve returned to The County again and again, and why my friend purchased a cottage just weeks after our first visit. It’s become my favourite weekend escape from Toronto.
In this Prince Edward County travel guide, I offer my list of favourite things to do, where to eat and drink, and where to stay. A lot has changed in the last few years; some businesses have unfortunately closed but The County has also seen the emergence of new establishments with exciting offerings, which is why I’ve updated this blog post, originally published in 2016, to reflect the changing landscape, particularly in the culinary scene. Exciting times!
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Things to Do in Prince Edward County
I’m smitten with the warm residents, well-preserved country homes and shops filled with retro art and handcrafted products.
I love browsing the goods at Frugal & Company (Picton), a retro shop filled with an array of vintage paraphernalia.
I’ve also spent a half-hour in Kingston Olive Oil Company (Picton) sampling extra virgin olive oil flavoured with Tuscan herbs, chipotle and black truffle, and aged balsamic vinegar infused with everything from red apple to dark chocolate. The flavour combinations here are endless!
My biggest dilemma was choosing which ones to buy as gifts and, of course, for myself but the staff helped me decide (thanks, Jackie).
It took me about four visits to Prince Edward County to finally make it out to Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, an environmentally and socially responsible cheese producer on 20 acres of land about 20 min. east of Picton. It’s worth pairing it with a visit to the County Cider Company which is just 8 min. away (more on this cidery below).
You’ll find a wide variety of fresh, locally made artisanal cheeses and other products at this dairy facility, as well as cheeses imported from Europe.
Try the samples in their retail store and/or enjoy them with a charcuterie board in their outdoor pavilion. One of my favourites: the chestnut cheese.
Sidestreet Gallery (Wellington) is one of my favourite shops/galleries that features County artists and artisans.
The display of the Red Canoe product line and retro CBC paraphernalia is worth browsing, as is the upstairs gallery. Lots to see here!
If you’re an antique enthusiast, visit Dead People’s Stuff Antiques (Bloomfield) to browse their collection of county furniture, artwork and odd collectables or just to have a good laugh.
I’m not an antique person myself but even I found a couple items I’d purchase if I had the space in my home to put them.
To find all things County-made under one roof, I sometimes stop at the Local Store (Picton), a shop located in a restored 19th century barn.
It’s a good thing the space is enormous because the owners pack a lot in there, including: art, jewellery, woodwork, linens and edibles. The Local Store showcases and promotes the work of over 130 artists and artisans from Prince Edward County. But it’s not just for shopping — upstairs is a spacious hayloft for antiques, a gallery filled with original oil paintings and a children’s area.
L’epicerie Maison Depoivre (Bloomfield) is also worth checking out for Europe-imported, gourmet food.
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Imagine a spruce-fir forest, Caribbean beach and the North African desert, and you have Sandbanks Provincial Park, home to some of the largest, most beautiful beaches in Ontario with powder sand that feels like velvet to the feet.
Outlet Beach is the closest beach to the park entrance. Travel mid-week in May and it will be nearly deserted.
Deeper into the park is Dunes Beach, the largest freshwater sand bar and dune system for which the park is named. On the edge of Lake Ontario, these steep, undulating formations of golden sand reach up to 25 m high. Of course, the dunes are modest compared to the Sahara or Jordanian desert but for someone who’s lived in flat Toronto most of her life, this was a welcome discovery in my own province just two hours outside the city.
Keep in mind Sandbanks Provincial Park sees a lot of activity June-August but, during mid-week in the spring and later in the fall, it’s amazingly quiet.
One day, I’d like to explore Sandbanks Beach – I’ve read this third beach most closely resembles a tropical waterfront.
Drive Along the Country Roads
Summer is a fantastic time to visit Prince Edward County but don’t forget autumn. Drive along the winding country roads to take it all in.
In October, I love the cool, crisp air and the multicoloured foliage: vivid hues of tangerine, gold and scarlet.
Lake on the Mountain
Just a 20-min. drive from Picton, high above Picton Bay is Lake on the Mountain, a mysterious body of water that isn’t connected to Lake Ontario whatsoever. How did it come to be? No one knows but it’s one of the most scenic areas of The County.
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Take the time to sip beer or a glass of wine on the patio of The Miller House Cafe-Brasserie (part of the Lake on the Mountain Resort) with front-row seats to a gorgeous panorama of the waterways below.
On a clear day, the view is absolutely worth the drive. It’s stunning in the fall as well.
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Acoustic Grill (Picton)
Looking for nightly entertainment? The Acoustic Grill is a favourite watering hole for drinks, eats and musical performances by both local and touring artists, some of whom are Juno award winners.
Check their website for listings.
County Canteen (Picton)
You can also catch live music at the County Canteen over wine and craft beer/cider every Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Got a voice? Wednesday is karaoke night.
Prince Edward County Lavender (Hillier)
Get a dose of Provence and aromatherapy in the purple fields of Prince Edward County Lavender just a 10-min. drive north of Wellington.
Tour the fields, shop the boutique for handcrafted products, maybe even book a room in their B&B for the ultimate lavender experience.
The peak flowering time is from late June to July. During this time, the lavender farm hosts the two-day Lavender Festival.
Restaurants in Prince Edward County
Spandex pants are made for places like The County. With its agricultural bounty, the region has become known as the gastronomic capital of Ontario, thanks to their skilful chefs who focus on locally sourced ingredients, from farm-fresh meats to County-grown produce.
The Vic Cafe (Picton)
This coffee house is committed to serving food in a way that respects both the environment and our health. You’ll also find ethically sourced coffee, as well as wholesome breakfast and lunch items that make use of seasonal products that are both vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.
The Vic Cafe is worth a visit just for its fun, bubblegum-coloured and sunlit interior.
Check it out at its new location to see its new look!
The Marans Dinebar (Picton)
So what filled the space where The Vic Cafe used to be beside the Regent Theatre? A restaurant that’s brought the world to Prince Edward County. I’m so pleased to see establishments like The Marans Dinebar focus on international cuisine, partly because I can now get my ethnic food fix. Owners Guerin and Jessica, transplants from the suburbs of Ontario, keep it local too by cooking with ingredients like the produce that’s grown in their home garden.
Crepe Escape (Picton)
For an affordable breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to Crepe Escape, a casual, family-run eatery that offers both sweet and savoury crepes. The Francaise is popular for good reason: it’s absolutely delicious.
Gluten-free options are also available.
Enjoy your meal either inside or on their new outdoor patio.
Yum Club (Picton)
With meals under $10, the Yum Club is another establishment that’s easy on the wallet. Their shawarmas and peanut noodles are light, tasty meals. For something even lighter, you can give their salads a try or, for something more substantial, the poutine may pique your interest.
They gave themselves a facelift after relocating in March 2019.
Amelia’s Garden (Picton)
This formal dining room is housed in a centuries-old stone farmhouse at The Waring House, the country inn I stayed at for two nights (more on the accommodations below). Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Amelia’s Garden is where I had breakfast each morning (included with an overnight stay). I couldn’t resist the poached eggs with cheddar sauce — a more flavourful take on eggs benny.
And I apparently didn’t get enough of the cheese so, for dinner, I started with the cheddar and apple soup; the unlikely pairing of fruit and dairy was outstanding. I never say no to sea scallops, so when they were presented to me on a bed of risotto with my favourite vegetables, my stomach rejoiced.
And, hello, coconut cream pie! It’s not often I see it on a restaurant menu.
After inhaling it, I understood why Amelia’s Garden is known across The County for this dessert.
Parsons Brewing Company (Picton)
I visited Parsons Brewing Company not for beer but a glass of wine and Mexican food after a friend tipped me off about their fish tacos. Their menu is now more influenced by Argentinian cuisine which I’m sure is just as good! Any establishment that incorporates the flavours of Central or South America is worth checking out, in my books.
I’m sure their beer is great… to people who like beer.
Slickers Ice Cream (Picton and Bloomfield)
Whenever people talk about Prince Edward County, you’ll inevitably hear about Slickers Ice Cream. There’s an unspoken rule among both locals and visitors that ice cream just isn’t acceptable unless it’s from Slickers.
East & Main Bistro (Wellington)
A local favourite, East & Main Bistro serves up “luxury comfort food” at reasonable prices in a casual yet beautifully designed space.
La Condesa (Wellington)
Well I can’t say enough about this Mexican restaurant, La Condesa, that Chef Sam and her partners just opened in March 2019 (in the space where The Courage used to be). This isn’t surprising, since I loved the food she served up when she was at Parsons Brewing Company.
The corn tortillas and hot sauce are made in-house and the food, an homage to Chef Sam’s Mexican roots, is superb in both presentation and flavour.
La Condesa also offers a number of Mexican cocktails (and with that huge bar, why wouldn’t they?), as well as gluten-free dishes (even churros!).
What are you waiting for? Go. Now.
Idle Wild (Wellington)
In the same week La Condesa swang its doors open, Idle Wild opened just across the street. This tiny take-out joint offers Asian fusion fare with a menu that changes weekly.
The Drake Devonshire (Wellington)
For an upscale, hipster vibe, The Drake Devonshire in Wellington is the place to dine if you want to see and be seen. Expect the same calibre of cuisine as you would at its flagship property in Toronto. I’ve never had a disappointing experience here.
(More on the hotel below.)
Enid Grace Cafe (Wellington)
For a dose of loveliness, Enid Grace Cafe is the spot. This little breakfast and lunch eatery is an ode to the rural cafes of Italy where food is fresh and prepared daily.
All baked goods are made in-house daily, including their butter tarts which are unbelievably good.
Bloomfield Public House (Bloomfield)
I was disappointed when The Hubb Eatery at Angeline’s Inn closed in 2017 but you know why it’s okay? The owners, Laura and Elliot, opened Bloomfield Public House in October 2018. This means you can still fill your stomach with their amazing farm-to-table cuisine.
Their menu changes every two weeks which gives you an excuse to return. Frequently.
Reservations are recommended.
Saylor House Cafe (Bloomfield)
Such a charming place! Tucked away off the main road, the Saylor House Cafe feels like a secret. I’ll probably regret giving it up like this but, heck, you’ve gotta share a good thing.
The cafe is a great spot for breakfast, lunch or just coffee/tea and a baked treat in an antique-filled, whimsical setting. You can also snag a seat in the garden during the summer.
Prince Edward County Wineries, Cideries and Distilleries
The newest and fastest wine-growing region in Ontario, Prince Edward County is now home to nearly 40 wineries (with more on the way), many of which are independently owned.
I wanted to spend a few hours sipping wine in various locations responsibly, so it made sense to contact Sandbanks Vacations & Tours, a company that offers wine tours and vacation rentals.
Wolf, a guide intimately familiar with the history, wineries and people of The County, was informative and clearly well-connected in the tight-knit community. He drove my friend and me to five wineries during our half-day tour, regaling us with stories and leaving us tipsy by the end of the afternoon (we can only imagine what state we would have been left in had we opted for the full-day tour!).
Karlo Estates (Wellington)
My favourite stop by far on my wine tour was Karlo Estates where I sampled wines with small food pairings in the rustic setting of an old barn, surrounded by aged wood beams and oak barrels.
I love coming back here.
Waupoos Estates Winery (Waupoos)
Head to the water’s edge in Waupoos and you’ll find the vineyard where The County’s wine industry was born. I’ve visited a few wineries in the area and Waupoos Estates Winery may be the most scenic.
Stop by for a tour and tasting of their wide selection of vino from light and crisp whites to full-bodied reds and their award-winning Baco Noir.
But there’s so much more here to enjoy: hard cider made from the apples in their orchard, maple syrup from their sugar bush (maple ice wine, anyone?), a chocolate/gelato shop, a fruit winery on the other side of the road offering peach- and chocolate-flavoured wines, and four rooms in a farmhouse from the 1900s with views of the vineyard and Lake Ontario for overnight stays. (Note: some activities and products are seasonal.)
Next to the winery is the Gazebo Restaurant, a gorgeous setting for lunch and dinner (and wine pairings, of course!) with an emphasis on local ingredients. Their vegetables are sourced from their own garden. My lunch in the Gazebo was just as impressive as the setting.
The Gazebo Restaurant offers patio seating on select days, and is closed December to March.
Huff Estates (Bloomfield)
Huff Estates offers an intriguing combination of award-winning wines and contemporary art in a fabulous setting. Opened in 2004, the winery began crafting chardonnay, pinot gris and merlot wines but their Off Dry Reisling was the clear winner for me and my friends (it’s also their best seller).
Following a tasting and tour, visitors can enjoy lunch on the patio overlooking the vineyard from May to October.
What makes Huff Estates unique in The County are the indoor and outdoor displays of art and sculpture from both Canadian and international artists. Inside, the Oeno Gallery is bright and worth a peek.
Outside, the Sculpture Garden takes visitors on an artistic journey across four acres of a landscaped garden where they can pause at, and contemplate, each art installation and sculpture.
The artwork in the indoor gallery changes every 3-4 weeks so you’ll see something different each visit.
The County Cider Company (Waupoos)
Prince Edward County’s craft breweries are making a name for themselves, but so too is The County Cider Company, the oldest cider-producing company in Ontario. Located in Waupoos (15-25 min from Picton) among apple orchards and against a stunning backdrop of Lake Ontario, it’s known for having one of the best views in The County.
I’m a cider enthusiast so I couldn’t pass up a visit to this cider house. A tasting includes a flight of five refreshing ciders (all of which are gluten-free), from their best-selling Waupoos Premium to their crisp pear cider — my two favourites.
Loved my al fresco lunch of a porchetta sandwich too although The County Cider Company has replaced their menu mostly with wood-fired pizzas.
In Ontario and can’t wait to try their ciders? Look for them at the LCBO and Loblaws supermarkets.
Kinsip House of Fine Spirits (Bloomfield)
So you’d rather sip spirits instead of wine? Visit the tasting room at Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, the only distillery in Prince Edward County where they ferment, distil and age their own vodka, gin, whisky and rum.
For a touch of Canadiana, you can sample their maple whisky or maple syrup that’s aged in whisky barrels.
Kinsip is also a farm so say hello to the free-running chickens.
Hotels in Prince Edward County
Jackson’s Falls Country Inn (Milford)
From the moment I read about this boutique property, I wanted to visit. Located in an idyllic setting, Jackson’s Falls Country Inn is designed with antique furnishings and contemporary flair. No two guest rooms are alike — each of the 10 spacious suites comes with its own personality. I stayed in the hip and sassy Canadiana-themed Pilsworth Suite surrounded by National Geographic magazines and an art collection, each piece with a story to tell. Just ask the owner Lee about them and she’ll regale you with animated tales and a healthy dose of humour.
She opened the inn as a place to introduce the richness of indigenous culture to her guests. The dream catchers, native art and massive Mohawk Suite are a nod to her Mohawk heritage.
So too is the restaurant, a restored school house from the 1870s that serves up farm-to-table, indigenous-influenced cuisine like bannock, elk chorizo sausage and corn ice cream sandwiches against the backdrop of blackboards and vintage maps. To be a guest of Lee’s is to walk into history. I’ve dined at the Public School House twice now and will always want to return.
But it’s not just its unique character that makes Jackson’s Fall Country Inn stand out — it’s the cozy atmosphere, down-to-earth hospitality and personalized service from Lee and her team.
This place has heart.
It was also Lee who inspired me to visit the reservation where she spent her childhood, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (just a 20-minute drive away), where an indigenous artfest happened to take place during my visit. It was small but impressive, showcasing the many talents of the local community.
Owl’s Nest Suites (Carrying Place)
This six-acre creative homestead is unlike any other place I’ve stayed at. Constructed of straw bale and natural materials (including the handmade furniture and pottery), these three rustic suites are wonderfully unique.
It’s 25-40 min. away from the major attractions in Prince Edward County but, after a day of exploring, I loved retreating to this quiet, beautifully landscaped oasis and walking the dogs, Pyjamas and Slippers, along the nature trail, then ending the evening with a bonfire. During the summer, fresh produce can be picked from the organic garden and eggs can be collected from the chicken coop to cook breakfast in your own kitchenette.
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(Each unit comes with a TV and DVD player with a selection of DVDs but no cable. Unless you’re a TV addict, you likely won’t need it.)
Owl’s Nest Suites is a special place where you’ll be warmly welcomed by Janna and Jake who are consummate hosts.
The Drake Devonshire (Wellington)
If you want to spend the night at the Drake Devonshire, you’ll need to make a room reservation oh, I don’t know, five months in advance. If that fails, consider at least dining in the restaurant.
Opened in 2014 to much fanfare, this lakeside hotel of only 13 rooms is indeed seductive — it’s country rustic with a touch of modern chic, designed with swanky decor and contemporary art. It’s also a hipster hotbed for live music and parties.
The Waring House (Picton)
It’s not the hippest hotel in The County but The Waring House, a farm-turned-country-inn surrounded by picturesque gardens, maintains its rural roots and is conveniently located for activities across the region.
If you prefer contemporary design like I do, request a Premium room in the Heritage Lodge or Quaker Lodge — they’re newer and more spacious than the units in the other buildings. My room with a balcony was traditional (it is the countryside, after all) with modern comforts. I had a tonne of space and the bed was among the most comfortable I’ve slept on.
With 49 rooms housed in five buildings, The Waring House is one of the larger hotels in Prince Edward County (but not too large that it feels impersonal) so chances are you’ll find accommodations here when all the boutique inns and B&Bs are full.
Sandbanks Summer Village (Cherry Valley)
Got a family? Then consider Sandbanks Summer Village, an 80-acre resort community of cottages situated on or near the waterfront. It’s also just 9 km from Sandbanks Provincial Park. The cottages have all the comforts of home including a full kitchen, and the sunsets by the lake are beautiful.
Amenities for kids include: a family pool, playground, splash pad and children’s activities. For quiet grown-up time, the resort has an adults-only pool and hot tub.
What You Should Know
Some establishments in Prince Edward County close their doors during the off season and, during the summer, days of rest vary from business to business. Some are open 7 days a week, some close on Sundays, some on Mondays and Tuesdays. Avoid disappointment by planning ahead and checking their hours of business in advance.
If you venture out to Waupoos or its surrounding areas, be prepared to lose your mobile signal and have a back-up for directions, perhaps screenshots of the directions on your phone GPS. One local joked how the region is sometimes referred to as the “Waupoos Triangle”. Consider yourself warned!
For a Prince Edward County travel guide and event listings, visit the local tourism website.
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I was hosted by some of these establishments or by The Corporation of the County of Prince Edward. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are my own.
I also earn a small commission from Booking.com if you click on their link and make a reservation through their site – at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.
This post was originally published June 4, 2016 and updated June 23, 2019.