A lavender field with a path down the center leads to a wooden building Photo Courtesy of Meaghan Froh Metcalfe

Prince Edward County

Prince Edward County has been called “Canada’s coolest Island hideout,” a place where “hip meets historic.” (By Condé Naste Traveller and The New York Times, respectively.) The County, as it’s known, is a world-renowned destination for its stunning beaches, charming towns, and exceptional food and wine. At two hours from Toronto it’s no surprise it’s such a popular destination.

Day One

A log cabin Photo by Karen Palmer
Visit Ameliasburgh
Day 1 – 10:00 AM: Pioneers, Poets, And Perennials – Begin Your County Visit in Ameliasburgh

Long before European settlers arrived, Carrying Place was a meeting point for Anishnaabeg, Wendat and Haudenosaunee peoples — and a link between the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. Today, Carrying Place is still a gateway to the island. And it’s just a short drive (not much in The County is a long drive) to the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village. Founded in 1968 in a former Wesleyan Methodist Church, it’s now a full pioneer village, including a blacksmith shop and a beekeeping building. (Do double check the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village website for opening times before going.)

If you’re a fan of poetry, note that famed Canadian poet Al Purdy lived on nearby Roblin Lake for many years. The Ameliasburgh Library has a collection of Purdy memorabilia.

Next, a fifteen-minute hop by car takes you to Oeno Gallery’s Sculpture Garden at Huff Estates Winery. There you’ll discover how art created by nature (think: perennials) can have a unique relationship with art created by human (think: glass, bronze, wood). And, since you’re already there, enjoy the scenery at Huff Estates Inn & Winery.

Several cars on a street, home hardware store in the distance Photo by Trevor Crowe
Explore Quaint Wellington
Day 1 – 1:00 PM: Revel in Wellington’s Many Charms

It’s challenging to mention Wellington without using the word “quaint,” since the community is the site of some of Ontario’s oldest homes and finest architecture, including a house dating back to 1786. Wellington’s also at the heart of this region’s wine country, making it a perfect jumping off point for winery visits.

But first, lunch! With cool lake breezes Wellington’s an ideal lunch stop — the only question being what to choose. La Condesa for tacos? Midtown Brewing Co for tasty light bites? Boutique hotel/restaurant/bar the Drake Devonshire for something upscale? Whatever you decide, a stroll along the beach boardwalk after lunch is in order. Or, peruse galleries on Main Street, for instance SideStreet Gallery, featuring local artisans, or the Sybil Frank Gallery, specializing in fine art.

Keep an eye out for green bicycles — they mark the home studios of glass blowers, potters etc. Of course, art is everywhere in The County, as the year-round Prince Edward County Arts Trail shows. It winds in and around Wellington, Bloomfield, and Picton, connecting arts lovers, buyers, and collectors with professional galleries and studios.

A sign that reads "Broken Stone Winery" Photo by Trevor Crowe
Enjoy Local Wineries
Day 1 – 3:00 PM: Serious About Wine, but Refreshingly Unpretentious

The County’s over forty wineries are known for being serious about wine while having “refreshingly unpretentious” wine tastings. They feature wines with a distinctive sense of place, due to the porous limestone-rich soil of The County. Local specialties include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; adventure is also the name of the game with innovative Rieslings, Baco Noirs, Pinot Gris…the list goes on.
You’ll find a number of tempting wineries close to Hillier, a little hamlet with a vibrant arts community. (Home to Alchemy, an artist residency focused on community engagement through art, food and conversation.) There’s family-run Broken Stone Winery, priding themselves in “hand-crafted wines, grown by our family for you.” There’s Closson Chase, a winery that helped spearhead the birth of The County wine industry, and an early advocate for sustainable practices. There’s Stanners Vineyard, dedicated to producing premium Pinot Noir.

But don’t neglect The County’s cideries! For instance, the award-winning Loch Mor Cider Co. They specialize in traditional, European-style dry ciders in a lovely pastoral setting. (It must be said, “lovely pastoral settings” define much of Prince Edward County.)

Day Two

6 alpacas grazing on a field Image Courtesy of Noble Beast Farm
Wander Lovely Lavender Fields
Day 2 — 11:00 AM: A Contemplative Start Amidst Lavender…or Alpacas

For a tranquil start to the day, surround yourself by fields of fragrant flowers at Millefleurs, a lavender and honey farm noted for its mead, a delightful sipping wine. The farm’s boutique brims over with lavender products, and honey and mead made on the farm.

If you’re still on a quest for comfort, swing by Chetwyn Farms, fifty-five acres devoted to Alpacas. The SHED at Chetwyn is a modern-day farm shop specializing in alpaca products. Watch the adorable woolly ones graze as you consider your cozy throw options. Or, head to nearby Noble Beast Farms to get up close and personal with the gentle creatures on an Alpaca trek.

A trail leading onto a bridge Photo by George Amaro
Hit The Trail
Day 2 – 1:00 PM: Walk or Ride the Millennium Trail – Nature, Art (and Pubs!)

If it’s time for something more vigorous, take a hike or bike along The Millennium Trail. It’s 46-kilometres long, stretching from Carrying Place to Picton, The County’s central hub (itself chockablock with art galleries and restaurants). The trail wends its way through wine country with many fine restaurants, breweries and pubs en route. Built on a former rail line, it’s an easy (read: flat) walk or ride, complete with stunning scenery.

Take time for the arts in Bloomfield, where you’ll find the Hatch Gallery, featuring work by some of Canada’s finest contemporary artists, and the Baxter Arts Centre, a creative space for making art. (While in Bloomfield you may also want to wander down Barker Lane to visit Matron Fine Beer, surrounded by rural beauty.)

If you haven’t come prepared with your own two-wheeler, bikes are rentable at various locations including Wellington-based Ideal Bike, Bloomfield Bicycle Company, Pedego Electric Bikes and County Bike Rentals, among others.

dining room of a home with some paintings on the wall Image by Eve Harvey
Marvel at the Beautiful Sandbanks
Day 2 – 3:00 PM: Some of the Best Beaches in Canada are at Sandbanks

No itinerary of The County would be complete without mentioning Sandbanks Provincial Park, a 20-odd minute drive from Wellington. Sandbanks is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation, with 12 kilometres of magnificent dunes formed by glaciers 12,500 years ago. White sand, turquoise water, and three beautiful beaches. Need we say more?

Sandbanks also provides an opportunity to learn about dune and wetland habitats on its walking trails. And, if you’re visiting in spring or fall you’re in for an avian treat as The County can be a good vantage point for a spectacular number of migratory birds. (Consider a visit to the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory on the island’s southeast tip to learn more.)

Nature’s not the only art form in the Sandbanks area — a seven minute drive east and you’re at Mad Dog Gallery, located in a renovated century timber frame barn. There you’ll see the work of local artists, many of whom create works connected to County life. (For instance Andrew King, whose art celebrates local lighthouses and maritime history.)

Sandbanks is, understandably, a very popular destination, so make sure to buy a daily vehicle permit in advance to guarantee your spot. But don’t forget, there’s always more to explore on the island, with its nine distinct regions, 800 kilometres of shoreline, vast farmland, and abundance of charming towns.

Several birdhouses dispersed on a field. Photo by Jenny Thompson
Want to Take a Detour?

Take the road less travelled with these stellar possibilities south of Picton:

  • Macaulay Heritage Park takes you back to the 19th century. Stroll the Heritage Gardens; visit the former Church of St. Mary Magdalene, now a museum featuring a permanent exhibit dedicated to the County’s Indigenous history.
  • Check out the whimsical Birdhouse City, a miniature community replicating historic County buildings as birdhouses.
    Melt Studio and Gallery is run by encaustic (hot wax) artist Susan Wallis, and features the PAUSE experience — a forest bath and encaustic collaging guided by the artist.
  • For tasty artisanal cheeses it’s Black River Cheese, nestled on the banks of the river. Two special farms are in the vicinity: Quinta do Conde, with seasonal hyper-local dinners, and Morrison Point Farm with beautiful, historic stone fences (and small batch honey). Arts abound in and near Black River, with local artists’ studios and Black River Ridge, a summer art camp.
  • Milford, self-proclaimed “hamlet of friendliness,” boasts three wineries (Lighthall Vineyards, Exultet Estates and Long Dog Winery), plus PECish Baking Company and a sustainably-run flower farm, FloraLora Flowers. Don’t miss Curious Goat General Store with its Bee & Blooms experience — an immersive adventure for the bee-curious.

Your trip at a glance

This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please CONTACT US.

All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.