Tucked away in the idyllic countryside just two hours east of Toronto, Prince Edward County is the gem of Southern Ontario. This charming island community on the waters of Lake Ontario provides a peaceful weekend getaway that is perfect any time of the year. With beaches that are lauded some of the best in the province and a focus on art, food, and wine, there are a lot of reasons to visit Prince Edward County, but here's just a few good ones.
1. Explore Sandbanks Provincial Park
Visitors flock to Sandbanks Provincial Park for the golden sand and sparkling water found along its three beautiful beaches. While sunbathing and swimming remain the two favourite activities of the park, just off the beaches of Sandbanks is an eclectic mix of vegetation and wildlife that beg to be explored. A visit to Sandbanks Provincial Park can be a quick stopover to enjoy the beaches, but there are hours of hiking trails to enjoy for the active outdoor enthusiast.
2. Travel the Taste Trail
Prince Edward County's array of locally produced food and wine culminates along the Taste Trail where visitors can experience the epicurean renaissance happening in the county and explore Canada's newest designated viticultural area. This self-guided tour allows visitors to drive (or cycle) beautiful back country roads that link together all the best restaurants, artisanal food producers, local cheese makers and award-winning wineries found throughout Prince Edward County.
3. Great Canadian Cheese Festival
Love cheese? Then it is impossible not to love the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. As the largest artisan cheese festival in North America, there is nowhere else in Canada that visitors can sample so many different Canadian cheeses in one place. Taking place on June 4-5 in 2016 at the Picton Fairground, those with a deep love for cheese can sample more than 500 different cheese creations and locally brewed beer, wine, and cider, all available for purchase for visitors that find their life is not complete without a wheel of artisanal cheese.
Prince Edward County's love for not only artisanal cheese, but all artisanal goods, runs deep. While this is probably a testament to how amazing their artisanal food is, their love of the hand crafted can also be credited to the passionate people that make it and have since made the Great Canadian Cheese Festival possible.
With live music, informative cheese seminars, and a chance to talk to world class cheese makers face-to-face, the Great American Cheese Festival is the perfect excuse to escape to Prince Edward County for the weekend.
4. Browse the Boutiques
Wherever there is good wine and artisanal food, there is always some excellent boutique shopping. Prince Edward County definitely has all three present throughout the island, ready for visitors to explore. Whether it is finding the best deals on hand-crafted goods and local produce at small farms stands or exploring the modern galleries and boutiques in towns like Bloomfield and Picton, there is much shopping to be done in Prince Edward County. Visitors might come for the beautiful weekend getaway experience, but they will certainly find it hard to leave without hand painted silks, exquisite oil paintings, and a wide array of antiques to commemorate the adventure.
5. Wander the Arts Trail
Like Prince Edward County's Taste Trail explores all things delicious, its sister trail, the Arts Trail, explores all things handcrafted and attractive. The Arts Trail is a feast for the eyes ready for the dedicated art admirer to explore, as well as an excellent way to collect some unique gifts before returning home. Visitors can explore professional galleries, studios, and craft shops, with many featuring the artist themselves on hand so you can meet the master behind the craft. With a constantly evolving arts scene, enthusiasts can expect to find everything from rustic county crafts to cutting edge modern creations that represent everything that Prince Edward County is.
6. Take Up Windsurfing
Prince Edward County is home to a number of great sports for both motorized and non-motorized boating, but it is also a popular spot for a more adventurous way to take to the waters - windsurfing. The sheltered bay waters at North Beach provide a great spot for beginners to take up the sport, but among seasoned windsurfers, the conditions found at Sandbanks Provincial Park are perfect, causing it to be frequently lauded the best windsurfing spot in Canada. Although both parks offer canoe and kayak rentals, Prince Edward County has a sad lack of windsurfing rental locations. So in order to enjoy this opportunity of a lifetime, be ready to bring your own board.
7. Enjoy Rural Art on the Barn Quilt Trail
Starting in the United States, the networks of rural trails accented by quilt-type artwork has spread throughout North America with Prince Edward County as one of the newest communities to adopt the tradition. Starting in the heart of Prince Edward County at Picton and running up Country Road 32 to Bloomfield, visitors can enjoy driving or cycling the trail, enjoying all the diverse barn quilts they can spot along the way.
8. Eat Local in the Garden County
Prince Edward County truly is a foodie haven, but before it earned the accolade of Gastronomic Capital of Ontario, it was hailed as the Garden County for producing nearly a third of Canada's canned food. However, an area doesn't just forget nearly a century of its agricultural history, produce still grows here, but the emphasis is placed on fresher foods. In between enjoying artisanal wine, cheese, and other goodies produced in Prince Edward County, be sure to plan stops at the area's numerous farm stalls and farmer's markets to sample some of the sweetest berries and crispest carrots in Ontario.
9. Soak in the View at Lake on the Mountain
Defying all geographical theory, Lake on the Mountain is one of Ontario's greatest natural wonders and a must-visit while in Prince Edward County. Every year, visitors flock to Lake on the Mountain to gaze upon the turquoise waters that have no visible water source yet constantly flows with fresh, clean water, all while trying to unravel its many mysterious and explore its many local legends. Once referred to as the Lake of the Gods by local Mohawk tribes, the native people used to travel here each spring to offer gifts to assure a good harvest for the year. Today, people no longer leave offerings, but come to enjoy the magic surrounding the lake and gaze out over the edges of the Prince Edward Escarpment that features picturesque views of Picton Bay.
10. Explore by Bicycle
Elaine Chan-Dow, Ontario Tourism
Prince Edward County is truly an area that travels on two wheels, and they have a cycling tour to fit every desire. With bicycle rentals and tour operators found through the county, visitors can burn off the calories while cycling the Taste Trail, enjoy the joyous amalgamation of art and nature along the Art Trail, or enjoy some of the adventurous tours designed by tour operators like Bloomfield Bicycle Company. From food and wine to yoga and outdoor adventure, bicycling is the way to explore the treasures of this bucolic gem of Southern Ontario.