Prince Edward County Travel Guide
Prince Edward County is a picturesque island located just before the halfway mark between Toronto and Montreal. This assumes that you are coming from Toronto, especially if you are reading this article in English.
If you are Quebecois, here is a link to Tabersnack
It is one of the best restaurants in PEC.
You will get real poutine!
Bienvenue a Tous!
Hello and Salutations!
My name is Brother Jeremy and I am going to walk you through the best “The County” has to offer. Despite summer being rather short in duration, the coastal beaches rival anything found in the Caribbean. Originally a Loyalist community (going back hundreds of years), PEC is not a major destination for weddings, wine tours, unique breweries, camping and more.
The County is beautiful in each of the four seasons. The summer sun is unrivalled, with the water as warm as a bathtub. The fall is a time of change, seeing the leaves transition from green to a rich assortment of vibrant tones. If you are looking for a white Christmas, look no further. PEC hosts pictureques light shows, snowmen (and snow-women), and holiday-related shops and vendors. It has been said that there are more artists on the island (per capita) but I have not seen the evidence, nor would I be needing it.
I guess I could call it home now, considering that my wife’s family developed their plot three generations back. Prince Edward County allows me to catch my breath, paying careful attention to each of my senses. When compared with Toronto, the smaller communities (along Loyalist Parkway) are reminiscent of an era far removed from the present. It is the type of place where everyone says hi to each other, regardless of whether they are locals or tourists.
Let’s get started!
This shot was not taken in the County but instead at the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls. With my AMAZING Eishet Hiyil wife Esther!
Prince Edward County Wineries
While it may not be as well known as Niagara, Prince Edward County is fertile ground for grape production, producing a rich and balanced taste profile. Due to its (relatively) northern geographic position, the weather here is colder, producing a sweeter product, not too far removed from many Niagara Ice Wine varieties. While there are some larger wineries (like Sandbanks)-that mass produce for the LCBO- many are smaller-scale and run by a family. This is not to say that the larger wineries are not family businesses, which is often the case at first. Instead I am highlighting the awesome variety of wine vendors here, some occupying only a small lot with a limited number to choose from. In fact, you will find some boutique wineries that offer only three types, each of them world class. The rule tends to be, the smaller the establishment, the more creative the product. Be sure to look out for wines that incorporate local cider, another staple of the Prince Edward County food (and beverage) culture. You can expect to find old world recipes married to local grape varieties, a winning combination.
Truly Canada, Eh?
Located close to my wife’s camp (near Consecon), Lacy Estates is a “mom and pop” type establishment that offers quality white wines and rieslings. I tasted the 2017 Riesling Vidal and found it light and easy to drink. It was not the typical house wine, not by a long shot. The flavours were rich, consuming both my pallet and nostril. The sip was interesting, forcing me to take a moment and tease out the various flavour notes.
The building itself is well put together, reminding me of one of the cottages I visited as a young child. Run by a husband and wife team, Kimball and Liz pair their spirited offerings with locally grown produce. Unpretentious, the wine is delicious and suitable for a variety of pairing options. I would recommend matching any of their white wines with local seafood, especially salmon or white fish.. If you are going for the full Canadian deal, consider adding a maple syrup glaze on your fish prior to bbq.
Last summer I spent the entire season in The County, leaving right after having our Baby son in June. We wanted some time to relax, far from the traffic and sirens of the Don Valley Parkway. With our baby boy in tow, we ventured off and discovered a plethora of cool restaurants, breweries and wineries.
If you have less time to spare, consider going on a PEC Wine Tour. You have the option of choosing three itineraries, each emphasizing a different genre of wine. Each package includes three destinations, giving the guest full control over how (and where) they spend their day. While this may seem like a lot of drinking, the emphasis is on enjoyment, not mass consumption. Regardless of which combination you fancy, you will be treated to an offering of paired wine and food. Not only does this increase the enjoyment factor but also facilitates easy alcohol absorption. That way you will not get a handover, or so the advice goes :)
Rosehall Run Vineyards.
Hillier Creek Estates
Casa-Dea Estates Winery
Make sure that you experience each wine in context, taking some time to walk around the property and observe the process. Most will be super happy to show you around, giving you a glimpse into their industry and world. If you are looking for culture, this is Canadiana at its finest. Spend some time walking around the vineyard, noticing the rich vibrancy of the grapes, seeing how they differ from the variety offered at the supermarket.
Full of nutrition, the fruit grows to impressive sizes, sporting unique pallets that would make a painter jealous. While some ask you not to pick the grapes off the vines, you will see some people skirting the rules! How dare they! Just kidding, you will not end up in the county lockup. Just make sure that you limit yourself to 1 (or 2).
As mentioned before, Sandbanks has put the region on the map, at least in terms of wine production and tourism. It is located in Wellington, right on Loyalist Parkway (or Highway 33). It is hard to miss the turnoff, thanks to the clear advertising along the stretch.
It was founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Catherine Langlois. The property is 7 acres of prime wine growing space, allowing Sandbanks to be enjoyed by guests here and around the world. Despite getting bigger it has retained its down-to-earth nature.
When Prince Edward County became a VQA designated Wine Area, Sandbanks also got their wine sold in LCBOs across the province. While the selection was limited at first, over 30 varieties are found either at the boutique store or at the government stores (and authorised third party vendors). Their popularity is due to their high quality wines and reasonable price structure.
You will find all the necessary amenities and then some! From tasting area to barrel storage room to boutique retail outlet! This place is well put together, the prime location for Prince Edward County events. For those looking for a little relaxation, grab a glass of wine and have a seat outside.
If you are looking to pair your fresh fish consider the Route 33 Pinot Grigio. A sweeter wine, you will be treated to rich fruit notes. The sweetness will excite your palate without being sickeningly sweet (like Jewish Kiddush wine). I would drink this with the main course, not with dessert. The key to proper pairing is to balance the taste profiles, ensuring that one does not dominate the others.
This wine screams “drink me with chicken glazed in a spicy-sweet glaze) or something along those lines. This is the mostly common variety sold in stores, inspiring tourists to check out what they have to offer.
If you are tech savvy, the Prince Edward County tourism board has developed a unique app for wine enthusiasts. You can choose by location (eg. Trenton, Wellington), variety (white, red, rose), or amenities. The app makes it easy to explore the region, allowing people to appreciate the uniqueness of PEC’s wine country.
Hope to see you here!
Top Wedding Venues in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
Prince Edward County Wedding Officiant
Some people think big and do big. While they say that things are “bigger in Texas” we say that things are nicer in the County. You will find the perfect venue to go “all out”, inviting everyone (and their dog) to your lavish function. Whether dogs are invited is up to you, just make sure to notate the canine dress requirements. (Sorry if my wit is a little dry)
The wedding venues come in all shapes and sizes. You will find repurposed heritage buildings, used for events instead of industry. The area has a rich history, going back to the ancient Ojibwe Aboriginal tribes that populated the lake basin. If you see many British flags, do not think that you are in the wrong country. Canada still maintains strong ties to the Monarchy, sharing Queen Elizabeth (2) as our head of state. While she kinda lets us do our own thing, we show our admiration by deferring to the Royal Institution as much as possible. You will find restaurants named after key British figures, forcing guests to absorb a worthwhile (yet brief) history lesson.
Here are my three favourite places to get married in Prince Edward County. If you have any questions please hit me up and I will be happy to provide guidance of any kind.
The Grist Mill
Located on the West end of the island, the Grist Mill is synonymous with a trip down memory lane. It is not far from North Beach Provincial Park, one of the best rated beaches in the country.
The first thing that you will notice is the white barn, freshly painted in a splendid bright hue. It fits perfectly into the landscape, providing a postcard-worthy shot from every angle. To the side of the main building is the blue tower, providing a better vantage point from the top deck. What was once a mill is now a wedding venue of choice, repurposed-and reinvented-for a new generation.
The interior is tastefully done, minimalistic but with creative accents. The decor reflects the geography, rich in local culture and flavour. Music lovers will adore the piano set up, adding a touch of class in the rugged outdoors. It is the best choice for those with an artistic bent, perhaps a little of that old Loyalist Spirit. To compliment the wedding package they offer “little extras” like high tea and A+ customer service.
If you want to check it out, come and enjoy a delicious drink with thoughtful food pairing. Pricing is reasonable, priced a full step below alternatives in “the City”. The sandwiches are certainly high end (think paninis), served with kettle chips and a smile. In respect to wedding parties, the catering is local and reflects the season and geographic landscape.. They can accommodate most dietary needs and other cultural (or accessibility-related) considerations.
On the other end of Prince Edward County sits Picton, the biggest urban area on the island. Picton has a very walkable downtown core, occupying a km (or so) of boutique store fronts. As long as you have good running shoes (and some time to spare) you will never find yourself bored here.
This is a smaller establishment, perfect for eloping or micro weddings. You can choose to get married either inside or outside in the gazebo. It is on the smaller scale (as mentioned previously) but creates a perfect romantic atmosphere. From the outside it reminds me of something out of New Orleans, especially French Colonial properties. This is attributed to the white “wrap-around” walkways; bougie as can be. The service is five stars, lavishing butler service on guests with gusto.
Took a look at the menu. Carnivores will appreciate the quality cuts, sourced locally from small-scale farms and butcheries. Fresher meat is better meat, even if the cut is aged (or cured) prior to hitting the flame. The plates are assembled with great care, a reflection of their culinary prowess and connection to the land. As with many “farm-to-table” type of restaurants, you can expect to hear an interesting story, giving you insight into the region and the people that work here.
The outdoor spacing is well thought out, ensuring that it features all the amenities without causing guests to feel claustrophobic. I am a real fan of their coy fish pond, reminiscent of an zen garden of sorts. It is the best place to relax, allowing you to focus on the steady flow of the waterfall. Take a breath and take in the scenery. Consider closing your eyes, focusing on the rhythm of the water hitting the rocks as they cascade down the trajectory. An escape from stress, this is prime wedding spacing, offering you the perfect elegant-yet small-wedding ceremony. There is no need to leave the property as everything is offered on site.
If you are looking for a “fairy tale” wedding destination, look no further. Their social media presence is solid, offering a large variety of event and venue images to peruse. This is elegance at its finest, claiming the only “winery waterfront space” in PEC.
They offer an all inclusive package, save for music/entertainment, wedding planning, and officiate services. While they have their own preferred vendor list, you can make the phone calls yourself and see what works for your budget/plan. For example, you may want to prioritise live music, something that can be easily arranged considering the large quantity of artists on the island.
Maybe you are religious-or have a specific ethnic identity-that you want honoured during the service. Not all officiants will have experience (or be comfortable) performing specific liturgy. In this case it is best to find an officiant in advance, ensuring that he or she is available on your big day.
It is truly all inclusive, save for sound entertainment, planning, wedding officiant and so forth. There are so many awesome vendors in the county, either they (or myself) can help you choose someone that is right for you. Maybe you want an eighties themed dj, or a cover band of the Spice Girls. I am not here to judge, just to give you some ideas to push you in the right direction? (No I am not in the Spice Girls cover band. They rejected my application, despite my killer moves).
For the “non teetotalers” consider their cash bar or all inclusive open bar option. Modestly priced (@55 a head) it includes a large selection of quality pours that will quench all thirst. Open bar doesn’t give you the licence to become a sloppy drunkard, instead frees your guests from having to run the atm prior to the reception. It is a nice gesture but non essential depending on the drinking habits of the wedding party. For example Baptists are not known to drink while Jews see alcohol from within a religious context.
Waupoo offers four venue options on site. The first is a cabana, a small wooden structure that screams “Huckleberry Finn”. It is situated close to the water sporting a cool setup for relaxing beside the water. The second is their “farm to table” restaurant, offering a generous selection of local produce and ethically sourced meat. The third is a large outdoor tent, accommodating up to 150 guests. The height of the structure is remarkably tall, giving the space a unique context (or framing). The angles create a rich visual illusion, causing the space to appear much bigger than it actually is (despite being already big as it is). And yes, the bar portion is well integrated into the tent, allowing guests to enjoy their bevvies throughout the night.
*(Brief caveat. This figure only reflects physical capacity not health mandates due to Covid 19). Carry on :)
The fourth area is the dock, perfectly positioned beside beautiful Lake Ontario. Apologies in advance for digressing, but did you know that nearly a quarter of all freshwater is found in our Great Lake System? Cool Eh?
The archway is placed at the centre of a long seating area, itself supported by rows of aged trees. Despite being able to host up to 200 people* it feels rather cosy, intimate even. Photographers love to shoot here, appreciating the photogenic nature of the property. It is impossible to take a bad shot here, catching something meaningful from every angle. City dwellers (like myself in the winter) tend to see the forest AND the trees. Outside of limited urban (and suburban) parks we spend little time under the stars.
At the risk of sounding overdramatic, Prince Edward County is like an oasis in the desert. While we lack camels and sand in Tdot, we are surrounded by a concrete jungle, devoid of meaningful biology (save for humans and dogs and whatnot). Human beings belong to nature as nature belongs to human beings. We work in a symbiotic relationship, despite our negative influence often overtaking our positive.
Closing off the wedding venue portion let me clarify; yes I definitely recommend PEC as your wedding destination of choice. Canada has been rated the best country to live in, and for good reason. There is a steady stream of visitors to the Great White North, whether it be for immigrant, tourism, or study. As I used to hear when I was young “go where the biggest line up is”. If people are willing to wait in queue, there must be a good reason for their patience.
Prince Edward County.
Get married like in Venice. But
Pay (colourful) Canadian dollars.
See you here!
Camping in Prince Edward County
So if camping is your game, there is nothing better than the luxurious dunes that encompass Prince Edward County. This is not some “Mickey Mouse” beach as it flexes 11 km of summer heaven, bar-none. What was once a hidden gem is now a tourist mainstay, causing lineups and other forms of “bureucracy” and red tape. This is not to say that you have to let it ruin your holiday, with the park allowing you to register up to 5 days in advance. This secures your spot, giving you the security of knowing that there is a place to meet you when you arrive!
Welcome to The Sandbanks!
Do not assume that a camping site can be arranged “at request” as it is one of the most popular camping sites in the province. Furthermore, health restrictions have caused capacity thresholds to diminish, causing beachgoers to seek nearby alternatives.
(There are many alternatives to Sandbanks.)
Pricing is fairly modest, at least when compared to some private alternatives. Camping is priced between $30-60 per night (per person), not including cabin rental and other luxuries. However, if you are looking for a winter escape, they do offer winterized cabins with indoor plumbing. Of course it is not the Ritz Carlton, nor should it be. This is Canadian nature at its best, at its glory for the whole world to see! Stop complaining and get outside!
Not all areas of the property are equal in price, as they offer different levels of amenities and features. For example, Outlet River A & B sites back directly onto Lake Ontario. This is truly something that you have to burn into your retinas, seeing nature’s beauty at its finest. Just to let you know, these sites are snatched up the quickest, positioned closest to each other and the lake. If you are a stickler for privacy, perhaps you should consider one of the more economical, inland alternatives.
People say that the beaches here are the best in Canada, even when considering the sandy coastline of Tofino, Vancouver island. This may not be a fair comparison as PEC is located on a fresh-water lake while Tofino is anchored to the Pacific Ocean. While the waves are not (quite) big enough to surf, you can certainly “wave-jump” into the swells, letting the tide bring you perpetually closer to shore.
If you are worried about your kids getting their feet scratched up by rocks, the swimming area is (generally) soft, allowing you to leave your sandals on the shore. However, if you do choose to venture outside the authorized area, you might just prick your toe on something sharp! This is not recommended anyways, as unauthorized areas are not patrolled by lifeguards and security. Make sure to swim in groups, staying closer to the shoreline the more insecure the swimmer.
Did you know that Prince Edward County is a bird migration point, causing many “winged-friends” to take a break along their long journey? You will even get to see a plethora of exotic birds, each taking a unique migration trajectory. The best time to see the birds is either in spring or fall, the season in which they are either travelling to-or returning-from Florida. These are not your normal snowbirds, your Jewish bubbies playing cards in Boca Raton. You will see the Canada goose in all its glory, given the chance to chase them into the horizon. While they are certainly fun to play with, any foul play will be swiftly punished under Canadian Law. Well I heard that American Eagles are protected, allowing me to assume the same protection for our picnic interrupting comrades. Regardless of the outcome, the Canada Goose will always win! This is unless you are an aficionado of Canadian Goose Jackets, rendering you the victor regardless of the “shade” they throw at you!
If you enjoy doing fun things, you have certainly come to the right place. If you are the adventurous type, consider renting ATVs to go on a family off-road trek. They have vehicles for most sizes, giving 16 as the legal cut-off for operation. The main paths are tame while the backcountry trails can easily flip the inexperienced rider. Be sure to know your skill level, progressing slowly as confidence builds. Make sure you put down that Timmies, placing both hands on the steering. This is not the time to take the “low-rider” approach, trying to impress your friends at the disco. Safety first!
For those with RV’s, look no further. Sandbanks hosts all your needs, being awarded 97% by RV Life. Whatever you need-from hook up, to bathrooms, to tuck-you will not have to leave the property. While this is (in theory) possible, it is not recommended. PEC has a whole bevy of interesting attractions to check out. Do you like antiques? Maybe not, but your wife does! Rest assured that she can shlep your tuchas to a whole bunch of artisan shops, each selling another chatacha to put in the hutch.
Ok, so now you have your spot and you are wondering what to do. We are programmed to operate in a biological jungle, not a concrete construction project. It is positive for us to interact with the environment, especially the water, grass, and air. Take a second to reflect on your life, appreciating all the blessings that The Creator has bestowed on you. The water is “bathtub warm”, allowing you to sit on your floatie and veg. If you are in the mood for a kick, consider taking a boat on the water and pulling a tuber behind you. Not only will the rider have the time of their life, you will enjoy the wind in your hair and the freedom that this activity provides. While it may seem tempting to look back on the tuber (or waterskiier), do not do so. Instead keep your eyes entirely on your “lane”, affording you the necessary time to respond accordingly. This assumes that you have an Ontario Boaters License, the required credential to operate a boat (or water craft). For those from out of Province, drinking is only permissible if several criteria are met. For example, you must have a steady anchor and a bathroom on board. This list is far from exhaustive but should serve to warn you about the potential concequences of drinking and boating. People do die (sadly) and people have their driver’s licenses revoked. Make your trip a success by avoiding shame and prison time.
Pec Camping Resources
Canadian Tire - Trenton - Your camping gear, first aid etc
Son's of Jacob Synagogue - Belleville
Bay of Quinte Fishing Tours - Picton
Bay of Quinte Bait and Tackle - Belleville
Berry's Meat Market - Best Local Beef (#1 for BBQ)
Fun Things to Do in Prince Edward County
National Air Force Museum of Canada
Have a picnic at Centennial Park
Grab your clubs and head to Oak Hills Golf Club
Centre Theatre in Belleville (retro style cinema, small and possibly haunted).
Go for a "beer making tour" @ Gillingham's in Bloomfield
Watch a Belleville Senators Game
Learn about local PEC History at a local Museum