Summer Fun #2: Prince Edward County

There’s something special about Prince Edward County.

About 2 1/2 hours east of Toronto, “the County” is a great spot for a quick escape. Take a deep breath, and breathe in fresh air. Exhale, and relax on the beach. Take in breathtaking views of vineyards, Lake Ontario, Bay of Quinte. Explore the shops. Feel the history. Experience farm to table meals. Slow down.

I visit often (my mom lives here) so my kids and I have explored the island inside and out.

Here are some of my favourite kid-friendly spots to visit.

 

1. Drive out to Waupoos – County Cider Company, 5th Town Artisan Cheese

Waupoos is a gorgeous part of the County with spectacular views of Lake Ontario, rows of apple orchards, and a deep sense of history.

A must-do is a stop at the newly expanded County Cider Company.

The County Cider Company is situated atop a hill looking out over vineyards, surrounded by apple orchards on a property established in the 1780s. The stone barn where the tastings and restaurant are housed was built in 1832.

County Cider Company

County Cider Company

It’s a great spot to stop for lunch – the pizzas cooked in the outdoor wood-burning pizza oven are delicious. And the casual outdoor seating area with picnic tables and Muskoka chairs makes it a perfect spot for the kids to wonder about while you enjoy some cold county cider.

County Cider Company

County Cider Company

While out there on the Waupoos peninsula head a bit further afield to check out the Fifth Town Artisan cheese.

Re-opened this year, Fifth Town Cheese is a pretty neat place to visit with its geothermal heating, sustainable practices, and everything you ever wanted to know about cheese. They use local milk and highest quality ingredients to create the cheeses. Call ahead for information on wine and cheese pairings.

As you loop back on the peninsula, pick your own blueberries at the Blueberry Patch.

Not too far around the bend (nothing is really too far away in the county) is the popular Black River Cheese. You can never have too much cheese! They use only 100% pure fluid milk from Prince Edward County dairy farms, and no modified milk ingredients, artificial preservatives or animal rennet. I love the maple cheddar.

Just up on Morrison Point Road is Vicki’s Veggies who is dedicated to local sustainable farming.

This is one of the many fruit/veggie stands you’ll pass in your drive through the County. Keep stopping, they are all slightly different – jams, preserves, pies, you name it.  Local, home-made, fresh.

 

2. Lake on the Mountain

This is a fun spot to stop for views of Lake Ontario on one side and the geographic marvel of the Lake on the Mountain on the other side. Scientists can’t figure out how this lake has a constant flow of clean fresh water with no apparent source. I love a plaque and the ones here are full of stories of volcanoes, meteorites and massive glacial whirlpools.

Mostly it’s a great spot for a picnic (and to nibble on all the fab cheeses, fruits, jams, etc. purchased along the way).

Or, the Lake on the Mountain Inn restaurant looks quite charming (busy too!) and the Miller House bistro across the road has cheese and charcuteries, wine and coffee. With amazing views.

 

3. Bird House City and the Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area

The Birdhouse City is a bit kitschy, but what kid doesn’t love kitsch!? Each birdhouse is a replica of a building in or around Picton. More than anything though Bird House City recognizes the importance of the County for bird watching and as a migrating paths of birds.

After you wonder through the bird houses, head over to the escarpment and take trek up to the top of the Macaulay Mountain (it’s more a big hill than a mountain but perfect to burn off cheese, tire kids out).

The Macaulay Heritage Park is just over at the other side of the conservation area. The museum is situated in a historic church with lots of charming artifacts and local folklore to explore.

Great photo opps on the well-kept grounds outside the museum.

 

4. Bloomfield

If you looked up charming in the dictionary (aka Wikipedia), it would have a picture of Bloomfield.

Charming old houses turned B&Bs. Charming shops. Charming cafes.

With all this charm, where does one start? I recommend stopping along the “main drag” and check out the little shops.

 

Bloomfield, Prince Edward County

Bloomfield, Prince Edward County

My new favourite shop (in its 2nd season) is KOKITO. Fabulous locally made housewares. Canadian-made wool blankets, jewellery, bags, etc. All kinds of cool stuff hand-selected by the discerningly good taste of the friendly owners Shelley and Jenn. This is what you call a well curated shop!

KOKITO, Bloomfield

KOKITO, Bloomfield

Among the fabulous made in Canada items are Dream Child’s organic duvet covers and baby blankets.Yes, Kokito is the exclusive retailer in eastern Ontario for Dream Child!  Our bold and nature-themed prints fit perfectly with rustic meets modern sensibilities of the store.

Once you’re shopped-out, have a home-made ice cream cone from Slickers.

Slickers, Bloomfield

Slickers, Bloomfield

Then head down Mill Street to the Mill Pond playground and let the kids explore.

Maison Depoiver just out of town is a stop for francophiles (like me). Charmant! My girls highly recommend the pink macaroons.

And don’t miss a stop in some of the antique and vintage shops in and around Bloomfield.

Just a bit off the main drag is Dead People’s Stuff. Some really fun antiques and other one of a kind finds, at great prices.

And just down hwy 12 is MacCool’s Re-Use – vintage furniture, antique farm tools, etc.

 

Mac Cools Re-Use

Mac Cool’s Re-Use

5. The Wineries around Wellington / Hillier

While taking kids to wineries may not sound like an ideal way to spend a kid-friendly vacation, I have two things to say to that: I never said we were going to Disney land and kid-friendly doesn’t mean kids rule. Exposing kids to lots of different things builds character.  Oh, and happy mommy, happy kiddies!

Besides, the wineries of the county are pretty casual affairs, mostly located in barns, on wonderful farm land, with lots to see enroute (roll down the windows and MOOOOO). These are not the polished wineries of the Niagara Region. The beauty of the County is that it’s rustic. Kids and rustic are a great pairing.

Here are my top 3 recos:

#1 Karlo Estates 

If there is only one winery you can make it to (which would be truly tragic), Karlo Estates would be the one. The tasting room is in an old barn, where you are welcomed to stay a while to try the full tasting menu.

Karlos Estates Winery

Karlo Estates Winery

Tell your kids this involves chocolate. They may settle down. If not, take them out to the back for a walk to the stone bridge. I heard trolls live under the bridge – see if they can find them! There’s also an oversize chess board out in the grass.  Check mate!

Karlos Estates Winery

Karlo Estates Winery

I highly recommend the rosé, the Fifth Element and the white port (yes, an Ontario port – it’s divine).

 

#2 the Grange of Prince Edward

The location is just so stunning. The loyalist barn is a perfect spot to taste some wines. They are now offering picnics out on the grounds. So pretty.

 

#3 Norman Hardie

Go for the wines, stay for the pizza. The wines are spectacular. The wood fire pizza is a recipe from Pizza Libretto and Terroni’s, arguably two of Toronto’s best pizza spots (no argument here!).

 

#4 By Chadsey’s Cairn

I couldn’t do just the top 3 – I love this spot so much too. It has a special quality to it, situated on an old sheep farm with a stunning view of Lake Ontario. The tasting room is in the charming 1850s apple house. Friendly owners know a lot about growing grapes and the land and are always happy to chat. Walk around the property and chill in the barn.

 

6. Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks is one of the best beaches in Ontario. Ok Grand Bend, Pinery, Wasaga and Sibbald Point – you guys are pretty amazing too. But, well, you just don’t have the County “it” factor. And this white sand and crash surf … could be the tropics right here on Lake Ontario.

Sandbanks Beach

Sandbanks Beach

My tip: forego the “Outlet Beach” part of the beach that is located inside the gates of the Park. This one is super jammed with campers. Instead, go to the more westerly Sandbanks beach that is slightly outside the main part of the park. Don’t go through the main park entrance, which can be lined up on a sunny summer day. Head along County Road 12 towards Dunes Beach and keep going. You can buy the parking permit at a kiosk on the road in.

Sandbanks Beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

 

Another way to enjoy this spectacular spot is at Dunes Beach.  The swimming isn’t the best here. But the dunes are so much fun. You can even walk up and over the dunes and keep walking all the way until you reach the Sandbanks beach.  If you do this, you’ll be way down the beach where you’ll practically have the beach to yourself. Don’t do this on a really hot day, it’s a pretty decent trek that is entirely shade-free.  Also, not a trek for little little ones.  Plus, you still need to get back.

Or you.could just hang out in the dunes all day …

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Provincial Park

 

7. North Beach

I hate to give up a local secret but just for you loyal readers, I’ll let you in… North Beach.

This is not nearly as busy as Sandbanks. It has white sand, great surf, dunes, shallow swimming area (go to the end and on the other side).

 

8. Mad Dog Gallery

Ok there are LOTS of amazing galleries and artists in Prince Edward County so it’s hard to just talk about one of them.

But as the site of the early inspiration for Dream Child’s Waterlily print, the Mad Dog Gallery gets special mention.

The gallery is in a renovated dairy barn. And the grounds out behind the gallery are so special. The lovely pond with the lotus flowers, dragon flies, lily pads … a masterpiece of nature.

This is a picture from three years ago … with Dream Child just a glimmer in my eye!

 

9. Millennium Trail

The County acquired the Millennium Trail, an abandoned rail line from the Canadian National Railway in 1997 for the purposes of developing a trail system. It is a “linear park” stretching 49 km from start to end. It is mostly pastoral, walking through wetlands and farmer’s fields.

Millennium Trail

Millennium Trail

We walked from the Wellington on the Lake golf course to Karlos Estate winery (how much do I love walking to an amazing winery!).

Millennium Trail, Prince Edward County

Millennium Trail, Prince Edward County

Another nice place to start is in Hillier, walk up Station Road and get on the trail either going west to Palmer-Burris Road or east to Danforth Rd.

Birds, corn fields, wild flowers. It’s beautiful. And the flat gravel path is perfect for biking with the kids.

See the various routes on this map.

10. Wellington

Wellington is such a cute town with a nice beach and boardwalk along the water. You can walk all along the beach out to the rocky shore.

The playground in the Wellington park is a good spot to stop and let the kids climb and swing.

Some nice restaurants for dining, such as East and Main. Stop for a fair trade organic coffee, homemade sweet and bite made with freshest homegrown ingredients at the funky and kid-friendly Tall Poppy Café.

Tall Poppy Cafe, Wellington

Tall Poppy Cafe, Wellington

And then there’s the spot of the old Devonshire Inn that will one day (soon, let it be soon!) be the new Drake Devonshire Inn.

The location right on the rough and rocky shores of Lake Ontario make this an amazing spot. Word on the street is that it’s opening “late summer”.  There’s a lot of excitement about this new spot, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint!

 

Slow. Green. Fresh.

The thing about the County is that it is this unique mix of history, local foods, traditional farming, artisan everything (from cheese to painting to pottery), antiques, corn and more corn, cows, beaches, gourmet dining, wine, and windy tree-lined country roads.  Savour all that it has to offer.

I have a special connection to Prince Edward County as I’ve been coming since a kid when my family would every year spend a week camping at Sandbanks.  As a parent, I can appreciate how important it is to get city kids out of the city. And out to the farm to see where our food comes from, and to eat it fresh.

You can stop and buy fresh veggies, jams, maple sugar straight from the folks who grow/make them. Often little stands at the side of the road on an honour system where you leave your toonies in a bin and take your loot.

Then around the bend for wine and cheese in a rustic, historic setting. Kids are always welcome. Sandbanks Provincial Park has been drawing families to the waves and white sand for decades.

There’s a pace in the County. Slow. There’s a smell. Green. There’s a taste. Fresh. There’s a wholesomeness of the place. Add wine, some gourmet cheeses, farmland and beach and it just works .. like a charm!

 

What do you love about Prince Edward County? Post your comments below!

 

Blog by Shelley Smith, owner of Dream Child Organics. Dream Child bedding is bold, stylish and fun, made in Canada with organic cotton and toxin-free dyes.  Working with Sistering, a social services agency in Toronto that helps marginalized women earn an income, Dream Child Organics is ethical and green from seed to seam to sleep.

Recent Comments

  1. Awesome post which I will share. Some other awesome, low traffic pebble beaches can be found at Point Petre and Little Bluff’s Conservation Parks. Also hear The Sandbanks Winery have a colouring station, and Broken Stone Winery is run by a young family.

    We also run a family friendly B&B, so if you come back again, think of us!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I also love Sandbanks Winery. The Dunes Vidal is really nice, and very affordable.

      Good to know about Broken Stone Winery, will put on my list to check out. And same with the off the beat beaches.

      I checked out your B&B online – looks amazing. Great location – Cherry Valley is so gorgeous.

      Cheers!
      Shelley

      Dream Child Organics

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