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CANADA’S PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY

The gem of Lake Ontario

BY IRENE MIDDLEMAN THOMAS

ALTHOUGH ONTARIO’S PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY is a popular getaway spot for Toronto residents, it is new to most Americans. Not to be confused with Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Prince Edward County is a jigsaw spit of land located on Lake Ontario. When I finally heard of this intriguing island, it didn’t take long for my husband and me to pack our bags.

Boasting 500 miles of shoreline, Prince Edward County’s roots are in fishing and agriculture. But with more than forty vineyards and an ever-increasing array of breweries and top-notch bistros, it is also a mecca for gourmets, with fabulous cheese shops and farm-to-table providers. Cozy yet chic B&Bs and small inns dot the country roads, small villages, and hamlets. Antique shops, art galleries, bistros, playhouses, and music venues provide plenty of options for visitors looking for something to do. 

One of the most-visited towns is Wellington, with the silky sands of Rotary Beach overlooking Lake Ontario. Just north of Wellington, Closson Road (also known as the Golden Mile) is loved for its many farm shops, B&Bs, and wineries. According to Norman Hardie, who owns the award-winning Norman Hardie Winery, the county’s limestone-filled soils are like those found in Burgundy, France. Consequently, wine enthusiasts discover excellent Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays throughout the county. Bloomfield, one of the county’s larger towns, also deserves a visit—if only for a splurge at Slickers County Ice Cream. The innovative menu at Slickers includes rhubarb ginger, Jack Daniels and chocolate, and my personal favorite, campfire cream.

Cyclists and trekkers adore the thirty-mile, mostly flat, gravel-paved Millennium Trail. A former railway, the trail is bordered by trees and dense bushes, purple chicory flowers, and thickets of blaze-orange tiger lilies. As we cycled, we passed many farms with alpacas, cows, and horses, and strawberry fields with fresh fruit stands.

Sandbanks Provincial Park is deservedly a major tourism destination featuring three exquisite Lake Ontario beaches and trails for superb cycling and hiking. We spent several hours there, splashing and swimming about in the refreshing lake and marveling at the soft, powdery sandy dunes, which are enormous! In fact, they are the largest barrier dune formation in the world. To take in an inspirational view from 197 feet above Lake Ontario, we also visited Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park. At the park’s Miller House Cafe, which offers divine flatbread pizzas and hearty craft brews, every outdoor table offers a postcard-worthy sight.

Picton Harbour | ©DANIEL VAUGHAN
Picton Harbour | ©DANIEL VAUGHAN
Tasting wine at Closson Chase Vineyards | JENNY THOMPSON
Tasting wine at Closson Chase Vineyards | JENNY THOMPSON
Bloomfield Main Street | © GEORGE FISCHER PHOTOGRAPHY
Bloomfield Main Street | © GEORGE FISCHER PHOTOGRAPHY
The Dunes at Sandbanks | JENNY THOMPSON
The Dunes at Sandbanks | JENNY THOMPSON

Another fun excursion is the free, fifteen-minute ferry ride to the small city of Picton, the county seat. Picton is charming, welcoming, and reminiscent of a New England seaside town. Happily, Picton has a Slickers County Ice Cream location as well! And yes, I did indulge again. 

Borrowing from the Pennsylvania Dutch, the county founded its own barn quilt trail in 2013. Barn quilts were traditionally signs of good luck, but nowadays are decorative folk art. There are more than 150 beautiful barn quilt squares adorning the sides of barns and other buildings throughout the county’s towns and countryside. Barn quilt maps are available in many shops and galleries in Prince Edward County, or you can print your own from the websites provided here.

Laundry's Farm Stand | JENNY THOMPSON
Laundry's Farm Stand | JENNY THOMPSON
Barn quilts in Picton | SHUTTERSTOCK>COM / ELTONLAW
Barn quilts in Picton | SHUTTERSTOCK>COM / ELTONLAW
Belleville Train Station | SHUTTERSTOCK>COM / ROY HARRIS
Belleville Train Station | SHUTTERSTOCK>COM / ROY HARRIS

Plan Your Trip

GETTING THERE
Prince Edward County is two hours east of Toronto and four hours west of Montreal via car or train, followed by a short taxi ride from the Belleville Train Station.

WHERE TO STAY
Wellington Willows Boutique Bed & Breakfast, one block from the lake and two blocks from Main Street, puts chocolate coffee toffees on pillows and serves sumptuous breakfasts, such as cherry tomato tarts, vegetable frittatas, and smoothies.

MORE INFO
wellingtonwillows.com
visitpec.ca/experience
barnquilttrails.ca