About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”
In the past two decades, Prince Edward County – affectionately known as the County or PEC – has transformed from quiet farmlands to a cool countryside retreat that combines big-city culture with refreshing rural air. Its evolution is in part thanks to a large population of former Torontonians who have relocated in search of greener pastures (both literal and figurative).
With more than 50 wineries and dozens of breweries, scenic trails, wonderful art galleries and antique shops, and more excellent restaurants than you could possibly eat your way through in a single visit, the challenge when it comes to visiting PEC is narrowing down what to do in just two days.
In the morning:
Leave downtown Toronto heading east along Highway 401. If traffic is on your side, you’ll be in the PEC in just under two-and-a-half hours. Kick off a weekend of top-notch eating at the Vic Cafe, a cheerful diner with an old-school aesthetic. Then, stretch your legs with a walk around downtown Picton. Stroll down Main Street and pop into Field Made Goods to peruse creations by a trio of artisans or check out the women’s clothing collections at Luna Boutique.
In the afternoon:
Next up is biking along the Millennium Trail, a former rail bed connecting the towns of Picton, Bloomfield, Wellington, Hiller and Consecon. The trail is fairly flat and passes through lovely farms, forest and wetlands. If you didn’t bring your own set of wheels, several local shops offer bike rentals.
Whether you pedal the full 46-kilometre trail or a smaller section, your route can include wineries and breweries along the way. Don’t miss the Benway Road to Closson Road section of the trail that passes near Traynor Family Vineyard, a sustainably minded winery where you can taste intriguing Pet-nat and skin-contact natural wines.
After cycling and sampling, you’ll be ready for a late lunch at La Condesa, a hip Mexican restaurant located in Wellington. Once you’ve eaten your fill of tacos and tostadas, it’s time for a visit to the nearby Sandbanks Estate Winery to sample limited-run wines you won’t find at the LCBO.
In the evening:
Check in to the Drake Motor Inn, located up the street from the landmark Drake Devonshire. It blends the Drake’s artsy style with a retro roadside motel theme.
The Motor Inn backs onto Midtown Brewing Company, where you can stop for a quick pint before dinner. Then head over to the Devonshire for lake views, stylish surrounds and a menu that spans from approachable to adventurous.
If you’re in the mood for a nightcap, walk back to Wellington’s Main Street for a flight of Japanese whiskeys at Koenji Whisky Bar. Or pick up a s’mores kit from the front desk of the Devonshire (it’s free for hotel guests) and take a seat at one of the firepits dotted around the Devonshire and Motor Inn properties.
In the morning:
It’s back to Picton for breakfast at the refined Royal Hotel. Executive chef Albert Ponzo worked in top Toronto kitchens before moving to PEC to cook with farm-to-table ingredients. Save room for a moist, buttery croissant or pain au chocolate made by the hotel’s pastry chef, Sarah Villamere.
From Picton, it’s a short drive to Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park, where the main attraction is a freshwater lake perched on a mountaintop, 60 metres above Lake Ontario. Walk along the boardwalk running parallel to the lake and admire the views of the Bay of Quinte.
Continue driving northeast to County Cider Company, where you can sip on craft hard ciders while taking in the picturesque vista over Prince Edward Bay. Swing by Fifth Town Artisan Cheese to pick up handmade cheeses produced from local cow, goat, and buffalo milk.
In the early afternoon:
For lunch, it’s off to beach-themed raw bar Sand and Pearl for seafood. Order one of every variety from the ever-changing list of freshly shucked oysters, before moving on to mains like whole Nova Scotia lobster or yellowfin tuna niçoise.
Spend the rest of your afternoon hunting for art and antiques. Follow the self-guided Prince Edward County Arts Trail, which offers a route between the County’s best studios and galleries. Stops includes fine art and photography at Andara Gallery and its seasonal Barn Gallery. For antiques, MacCool's Re-Use and Dead People’s Stuff are local favourites for one-of-a-kind finds.
In the late afternoon:
Bring your tour to a close with a visit to Slake Brewing, which offers striking views over the countryside from its perch at the top of a limestone hill. Toast farewell to the PEC with one of Slake’s oak-aged beers or, if you’re the designated driver, pick up a few to take home with you back to Toronto.
COVID-19 need to know
Prince Edward County is following Ontario’s COVID-19 guidelines. Contact individual businesses before your trip to find out how they’re currently operating.
For the drive
Listen to the “Visionary Life” podcast’s series of nine episodes featuring PEC entrepreneurs, which starts from episode 14. You’ll learn about the business owners behind some of the spots you’ll visit during your trip.
Drive east on Highway 401
- 10 a.m. Vic Cafe
- Noon Millennium Trail
- 2 p.m. La Condesa
- 5 p.m. Drake Motor Inn
- 6:30 p.m. Drake Devonshire
- 8:30 p.m. Koenji Whiskey Bar
Note: Times are suggestions only
The writer was hosted by some of the featured businesses, which did not review or approve this article before print.
- 9 a.m. Royal Hotel
- 10 a.m. Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park
- Noon County Cider Company
- 1 p.m. Sand and Pearl
- 4 p.m. Slake Brewing