Prince Edward County is an idyllic place to escape. It’s an island community just under three hours from Toronto located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
Twin Birch Suites & Cottages, TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence” winner.
The Queen’s Inn, rated 4 out of 5 on TripAdvisor.
Picton Harbour Inn, rated 3.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor.
Feel like splurging? Drake Devonshire Inn, TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence” winner.
Encompassing just under 700 square kilometres (with 800 kilometres of shoreline), Prince Edward County is home to wineries, palette-pleasing cuisine, art studios and galleries, antiquing, eclectic boutique shops, historic towns, serene country roads, bird watching, one of Canada’s most beautiful beaches and more. Without a doubt Prince Edward Ccounty has free, cheap and fun things to do for everyone.
With over 40 wineries dotted across the area it’s hard to believe the wine industry in Prince Edward County has only really been in existence since 2001. Prior to that Prince Edward County was known as a military outpost and in the early 1800s as a farming community that supplied a third of all the canned goods in Canada, the UK and the US earning the area the unofficial title of the “Canning Capital of Canada”.
First attempts at growing grapes took place sometime during the 1800s but a strong Prohibition movement at the time prevented the interest from flourishing.
With its mild climate, due to its proximity to Lake Ontario, and a soil base that includes shale and limestone which allows vine roots to stretch deep into the ground where access to water and drainage is plentiful, the County offered ideal growing conditions. It wasn’t until decades later, that experimentation with grape growing resurrected in the County.
In 1993 Ed Neuser and Rita Kaimins planted a ½ acre of grapevines on their 100-acre farm. Their belief that the “terroir” of the soil was capable of producing well-balanced, quality wine grapes proved true. In 2001 they opened the County’s first winery, Waupoos Estates Winery. In less than 15 years, the number of wineries has grown to over 40 and the number of grape-growing operations on the island stands at over 50.
Wine tours in Prince Edward County are a popular, affordable thing to do. So much so, that the County has taken the time to organise the “Taste Trail”.
If you prefer to do a little pre-planning, just go online and visit the Prince Edward County visitor info website and you can download a copy of the free “Taste Trail” guide or request a printed copy be mailed to you. Or, just visit any of the five visitor info centres upon your arrival and pick up a complimentary printed copy. While you’re at it pick up a copy of the Welcome Guide too which outlines all the other free, cheap and fun things you can do while visiting Prince Edward County. Another great brochure to grab is the Wine Tour Map. It shows the locations of every winery in the County, plus breweries, antique spots, galleries and studios, restaurants, farm stores, places to stay and more. Best of all it folds up in seconds so you can easily tuck it into your pocket!
Since there are over 40 wineries in Prince Edward County it’s not likely you’ll have a chance to visit them all during your visit. With that in mind here are a few suggestions to include in your exploration of the Taste Trail.
A couple of things to note before you read on: at each winery there is a nominal charge per tasting but this is waived if you buy a bottle of wine. As for tours of the individual wineries, in most cases they are complimentary, however some wineries do charge for this experience, although it’s usually just a couple of bucks.
As mentioned above, Waupoos Winery Estates is the winery that started it all, opening for business in 2001. Take the tour, taste some wines and then enjoy a meal in their Gazebo restaurant. Every weekend there is live music on their waters-edge patio too.
The centre-piece of Hillier Creek Estates & Winery is a 160-year-old barn that was painstakingly restored and serves as a winery, tasting room and retail store. After your tour and tasting kick back on their cosy patio and share a wood-fired, artisanal-style pizza and a glass of vino.
One of the longest established wineries in Prince Edward County, Sandbanks Estate Winery produces a number of award winning wines. After your tour and tasting here, enjoy lunch in their picnic area. And if you’re a real keener, sign up for their fall picking party where you can volunteer to pick the grapes and enjoy a free meal and entertainment in return.
Plan your arrival at Rosehall Run for lunch time. Not only does this winery produce a variety of award-winning wines, it also boasts an acclaimed food truck called “Picnic”. Its menu of sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and cheese plates have all been created to complement the wines of Rosehall Run.
Sample wine with food pairings at Karlo Estates. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the largest dry stone (mortar-less) bridge in North America. Then walk off your wine with a stroll along the properties hiking trails or grab your easel and draw or paint in the vineyard.
Huff Estates Winery & Inn has much to offer. Tour their ingenious facilities and see how they set their crush pad and fermentation tank on a hill top so they could leverage the natural flow of gravity to send the fruits of their labour to the barrels below. Sample exceptional wines, enjoy a meal prepared using local seasonal faire, then immerse yourself in the visual splendor of contemporary works of art in their thought-provoking Oeno Gallery and four-acre Sculpture Garden.
With over 40 wineries to choose from it can be a little overwhelming trying to choose which wineries to check out and then coordinate a plan so you have enough time to get to the ones you want to visit. The Wine Growers Association of Prince Edward County understands. That’s why, to help you out, they have an excellent, short article on their website that explains how to plan a wine tour in six easy steps.
Looking for another cheap, fun thing to do? It’s not just wineries you can visit in Prince Edward County. You can also take tours and enjoy tastings at breweries and cider companies—as well as a distillery.
Between 1860-1890 one-third of the farmland in Prince Edward County was dedicated to growing barley which was shipped across Lake Ontario to American brewers. In fact, the barley was in such high demand (50,000 bushels a day at times) that many of the County’s barley farmers were able to pay off their farm mortgages in one season!
This 30-year time period was known as “The Barley Days” and later became the inspiration for the County’s first craft brewer, Barley Days Brewery. Try the Hot Rod, a rye-rauch beer brewed with smoked meat.
Another brewery to stop by for a flight of beers is County Road Beer where they produce farmhouse-style craft beer on–you guessed it–their farm.
A second farm brewery worth visiting is Fronterra, the County’s first organic farm brewery. They brew their batches using heirloom hops and malt barley cultivars grown on their very own farm. You can even prearrange a free working tour of the hopyard and fields.
In 2007, Lake on the Mountain Resort began brewing two types of beer. They became such a hit they eventually decided to relocate from the resort, set up a separate production site, complete with a tap room, and sell direct to the public. You can get a sample of what all the fuss is about by visiting the Lake on the Mountain Brewing Company.
Hard cider is an alcoholic drink created by fermenting apple juice. A great place to sample some is by visiting The County Cider Company & Estate Winery. Their hard cider is made from 100% apples and has won numerous awards.
For a taste comparison, head over to The Old Third Vineyard where they produce sparkling apple cider from golden russet apples.
A third option for hard cider is Bergeron Estate Winery & Cider Co. Their Cole Point Cider is a dry, hard, authentic English-style cider. The first year it was produced it sold out and it has sold out every year since.
For those who are connoisseurs of spirits, a stop at Sixty-Six Gilead Distillery should be on your list. This is a unique thing to do because they’re the only distillery in Prince Edward County. Their rums, whiskies, gins, shochus and vodkas are distilled using a hand-made copper still.
Prince Edward County is a haven for artists, studios and galleries. An excellent way to get a true taste of the art of Prince Edward County is to take some time to explore the Arts Trail. This free thing to do will expand your perspective and introduce you to unique pieces of art you have never seen before as you meet artists in their studios and visit local galleries.
To get started, download your complimentary copy of the Arts Trail guide. You can also pick one up at the tourist information centres or at various wineries, stores and shops throughout the County.
There are over 20 stops along the Arts Trail. Here are a few that you may want to consider:
Andrew paints exclusively with molten “encaustic” beeswax, incorporating other mediums to create fine art, sculptural paintings. Check them out at his Barn Gallery.
Fans of Canadian figure skating legend Toller Cranston will want to visit his family gallery. Here you’ll find paintings by Toller, as well as Sharon Fox Cranston and the dimensional works of Guy Cranston.
Discover the one-of-a-kind jewellery created by Beverly Dunnington. Beverly combines vintage, antique items and new bits and pieces—everything from watch faces, crystals and beads to found objects—to create something truly unique.
If your goal is to head home with a painting that captures one of the many scenes around Prince Edward County, stop by Pamela’s studio. Her award-winning work depicts landscapes, streetscapes, cafes, beaches and the rocky shorelines found throughout the County.
Here you’ll find the work of over 175 artists and artisans. Peruse the various mediums, including jewellery, pottery, stained glass, wood carvings and bowls, custom-made tables and ottomans, clothing and hand-knit items.
If your preference is for traditional and contemporary fine art, stop by the Mad Dog Gallery where you can ponder the works of a variety of local County artists.
Located across from the Regent Theatre in Picton, this gallery features original works by local County artists. Owned, managed and staffed by artists, it is home to works in painting, glass, jewellery, pottery, fabric, wood, metal, photography and mixed media.
If you love original art but you’re on a budget, then The UnGallery is perfect for you. Its goal is to provide affordable art and here you’ll find it–everything from paintings, glass, jewellery, sculpture, ceramics, wood, metal, photography and fibre.
One of the great free things to do in Prince Edward County is to take the scenic route otherwise known as the Loyalist Parkway aka Highway 33.
The highway follows the course of the United Empire Loyalists—early Americans who were loyal to England during or after the American Revolution–who chose to re-settle in Canada.
Winding its way along the edge of Lake Ontario, the Loyalist Parkway is not only your gateway to a host of wineries, it also takes you through the quaint, historic Loyalist towns of Consecon, Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton where you’ll come across studios, galleries, unique stores and boutique shops, wonderful restaurants and quaint inns and B&Bs.
Picton is the big town in Prince Edward County with close to 5,000 residents. The main drag offers up lots of interesting shops to check out. Kickstart your time on Main Street by grabbing a coffee or tea at The Bean Counter Café or Miss Lily’s Café then start exploring.
Do a little shopping in Picton
If you’re interested in taking home a piece of original artwork as a keepsake of your trip explore the Arts on Main Gallery and peruse the paintings, photography, sculptures, pottery, mixed media and more. Two more options, especially if your goal is to find a piece of affordable, local art are the Rose Cottage Studio & Gifts and the UnGallery.
A few Picton lunch spots
When you’re ready for a bite to eat you’ve got a variety of places to choose from. The Acoustic Grill serves up affordable tasty pub grub (try the potato nachos), a nice variety of beers and live music on most nights starting at 7:00 PM. The County Canteen is another casual spot when you’ve got the growlies. Menu ranges from rice paper rolls and curry, to fish tacos and bangers and mash. They also have 24 craft beers on tap. In the mood for something a little fancier? Head over to the Blumen Garden Bistro where the dishes range from seafood and rabbit to ribeye steaks. Feel like an all-day breakfast? Many locals claim the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Picton Harbour Inn serves the best bacon and eggs in town.
Prefer a picnic? Grab food to go at one of Picton’s three grocery stores (Sobeys, No Frills and Metro) or, a café like Miss Lily’s or The Bean Counter. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, pick up your supplies at Chef Michael Hoy’s Sunday Market.
Take in a movie, live concert or theatre production while in Picton
If you’re in the mood for a show see what’s on at The Regent Theatre. First opened in 1918, The Regent Theatre plays host to first-run movies, art films, live theatre and concerts, and satellite performances of opera, dance and theatre. (If The Regent is sold out, surprise your sweetheart or the family with a night at the drive-in. This fun, cheap thing to do is located on County Road 1. The Mustang Drive-In features two screens, first-run movies and a snack bar.)
Don’t leave Picton without seeing this
And before you head on your way from Picton, you must see one of Prince Edward County’s real curiosities—the Lake on the Mountain. What’s so curious about this free thing to do? It’s a lake that sits over 60 metres (almost 200 feet) above the Bay of Quinte and appears to have no visible water source which has inspired decades of speculation as to how it came to be and how it continues to exist.
Drive just under eight kilometres west of Picton, along the Loyalist Parkway, and you’ll arrive in Bloomfield. Located smack dab in the middle of Prince Edward County, Bloomfield is home to a cornucopia of shops selling unique wares, antique spots, eclectic restaurants and cozy bed and breakfast accommodations.
A few Bloomfield shops to check out
Window shopping and browsing are fun things to do in Bloomfield because of its intriguing lineup of shops.
Even if you’re not into collecting old things the irreverent name alone warrants a visit to Dead People’s Stuff Antiques. For a unique keepsake, authentic to the area, pop into the Cannery Row PEC where you’ll find one-of-a-kind, reasonably priced home décor finds repurposed from items and materials native to Prince Edward County. There’s something for everyone at Green Gables Gifts and Greetings where their eclectic collection of items are on display in eleven rooms throughout this Victorian-era house. If a t-shirt or hoodie is your idea of the perfect souvenir then pop by the Prince Edward County T-Shirt Company.
Farm-fresh food experiences in Bloomfield
Believe it or not there are actual working farms right behind the houses on Main Street in Bloomfield which means the farm-to-table, fresh food philosophy is alive and well at the restaurants and cafes of the village. See for yourself by sitting down for a rustic style meal at the Agrarian Bistro. Enjoy a hearty breakfast or pizza made from farm-fresh ingredients at Bull Frogs Eatery. Another excellence place to savour the seasonal fare is The Hubb Eatery Lounge at Angelina’s Inn. Craving homemade comfort food? Head down the laneway to the Saylor House Café.
Treat yourself to unique ice cream while in Bloomfield
Anyone who has visited Bloomfield undoubtedly ends up at Slickers County Ice Cream. At this thing to do in Prince Edward County the lineup is usually out the door and for good reason. Their delicious ice cream is made daily, in small batches, using local ingredients but mostly it’s because of the unique flavours they sell, in particular their ‘Smores’ and ‘Apple Pie’ flavours.
Rent a bike while in Bloomfield
Ditch the car and take in the fresh air and beauty of Prince Edward County by powering your way up and down the country roads by renting a bike from the Bloomfield Bicycle Co. They rent all kinds of bikes, custom fit them to your height and they deliver and pickup their rental bikes anywhere in Prince Edward County. All bikes include a 21-ounce bottle of cold, filtered water which is yours to keep. And, if you pop a tire or something, no worries; they even have an emergency rescue vehicle that will come to your aid and make any repairs required.
Play in the waves at Sandbanks Provincial Park
A short 12-kilometre drive from Bloomfield you’ll find Sandbanks Provincial Park, home to the world’s largest freshwater sand bar and dune system. This affordable, fun thing to do boasts three large beaches which happen to be some of the best beaches in all of Canada. Take off your shoes; the sand is soft on the feet and the waters of Lake Ontario crystal clear. When the wind picks up you can enjoy some great wave action too. There are also trails to hike, and Sandbanks is a real hot spot for bird watching too. And if you’re not in a hurry, stick around to take in the sunset at the North Beach.
TIP: Need to use a washroom? There is a public washroom in the parking lot behind the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Centre building located at 289 Main Street.
Wellington is a quaint village very much reflective of the historic, laid back atmosphere found in both Picton and Bloomfield.
A few things worth checking out include The Sybil Frank Gallery where you’ll find thought-provoking, original art produced by artists from the County and across the country.
When hunger hits considered the East & Main Bistro where they serve everything from five spice magret duck breast with barley squash risotto, to steak and fries. If dining by the water’s edge sounds appealing, head over to the Drake Devonshire Inn where you can indulge in an imaginative menu while sitting on their Lake-side deck.
Looking for a fun evening out? Make reservations at Stache on Main. During the day it’s an art gallery, at night it becomes a fully-licensed piano lounge.
Golf courses aren’t as plentiful on Prince Edward County as wineries but there are three affordable options for getting out and playing the links. The championship-calibre Picton Golf Course is one of the oldest golf courses in Ontario, first welcoming players to its tees back in 1907. Pressed for time? Head over to the nine-hole Wellington on the Lake Golf Course which features a few Scottish links-style holes. Located approximately 30 minutes west of Wellington, you’ll find the Barcovan Golf Club. With four tee areas this 18-hole course is ideal for players of all levels.
Your trip to Prince Edward County may be over but here are two cheap, cool things to do before you point the car for home.
The Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves is worth the few extra minutes drive once you reach Highway 401 from Prince Edward County.
Ontario’s oldest cavern, this attraction is located off a country road. It’s only $12 per adult and $8 for kids, for a guided tour 30 feet under the ground. The owner of the caves has been a caving enthusiast since he was a boy. He bought the property 14 years ago and has spent the last decade personally transforming the caves into a cool, caving experience that is accessible for people of all ages. TIP: They don’ take debit or credit, so you’ll need cash.
Our second recommended, affordable attraction to see before you go is the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The largest air force museum in the country, the museum honours the heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Here you’ll find a wide variety of re-stored aircraft including the World War II Halifax Bomber–the only one of its kinds in the world, an outdoor airpark featuring 22 distinctive aircraft, a working restoration shop, and displays including one that walks you through the famous “Tunnel to Freedom – The Great Escape”.
Admission is only $10 for adults and $8 for kids.
A great way to find deals on fun things to do and places to stay in Prince Edward County, Ontario is by checking Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 places. Visit the Prince Edward County, Ontario Groupon pages and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on tours, attractions, tickets, activities, events, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon Prince Edward County pages are a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Prince Edward County, Ontario visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.
Photo credits: TripAdvisor, Michela Simoncini Succede alle cantine Caprai…, Notquiteahuman1 Blue Grapes, Context Travel Paris – Wine tasting, Waupoos Estates Winery, Barley Days Brewery, Andrew Csafordi Studio Gallery and Picton Golf & Cuntry Club.