Prince Edward County
Occupying a peninsula that juts off the north shore of Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County is a scenic getaway for travelers seeking an escape into a rustic setting. Sandbanks Provincial Park in the southwest is the county’s natural highlight, with soaring cliffs and wide, sandy beaches that are perfect for lake swimming. Several acclaimed wineries dot the 405-square-mile region, and award-winning cheesemakers have put the town on the foodie map. Visitors can sample the town’s bounty in Picton, where restaurants, galleries and museums form the nucleus of the county.
Located on Picton Bay on the eastern shore, Picton is a wonderful place to stroll, with a picturesque harbor and marina overlooked by lush green spaces. One of the few remaining art deco movie houses in Ontario, the Regent Theatre first opened its doors in 1918 and continues to show films.
More than 50 shipwrecks have been found in the waters surrounding Prince Edward County, and the Mariners Park Museum, built around a lighthouse south of Picton in Port Milford, has become the repository for the treasures discovered during initial diving expeditions. Fascinating artifacts and relics tell the story of the region’s prohibition-era rumrunners.
Described by locals as “Ontario’s Camelot,” Prince Edward County’s nutrient-rich soil yields bountiful harvests. Visitors can tour lots of wineries, along with distilleries and cider and beer producers. Prince Edward County is a Designated Viticultural Area, with lots of pinot noir and chardonnay. Local wineries of note include Domaine Darius, Half Moon Bay Winery and Cape Vineyards, and there are plenty of area operators offering wine-related tours (and safe driving services) for those who want to explore the surrounding vineyards. Make a day out of your visit to the Waupoos Winery, on the shore of Lake Ontario, with a petting zoo and chocolatier on-site. Prince Edward County is home to the largest number of wineries outside of Niagara, which dot the twisted lanes of the popular Taste Trail.
Follow the Arts
Renowned for its rich cultural heritage, Prince Edward County has no shortage of artistic flair. The Arts Trail takes art lovers through the countryside lined with an eclectic mix of modern galleries to rustic barn studios.
Small Pond, Big Creativity
One of the most popular stops, the Small Pond Arts features work by local landscape and portrait artist Milé Murtanovski. Throughout the county, tradition and modernity coalesce with county fairs, art festivals, wine tastings, street dances, summer festivals and even an Innovation Centre.
Gallivant On Land
Cloaked in mystery, the Lake on the Mountain is one of Ontario’s natural wonders and a great curiosity. Sitting more than 200 feet above Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte, the turquoise lake, with a constant flow of fresh, clean water with no apparent source, defies all geological and geographical logic; the most generally accepted theory is that it is a collapsed doline, an odd feature found in areas with a limestone foundation. The lake’s scenic views of Picton Bay provide a dramatic backdrop for recreational activities, including hiking and cycling within the namesake park. Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation.
A number of walking trails traverse the dune and wetland habitats and afford excellent bird-watching; the park is a bird migration hot spot in spring and fall. The 1.5-mile moderately rated Sandbanks Dunes Trail meanders through fragile dune habitat and skirts several pannes, rare wetland habitats that support myriad wildlife species and unusual flora.
Point Petre Wildlife Conservation Area, an exceptional area for bird-watching, features a long pebble beach where you can swim off flat limestone ledges. Sandbanks Provincial Park provides countless opportunities for on-the-water recreation with boating and fishing on the East and West Lake for yellow pickerel, smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike and various pan fish. Although there are no formal canoe routes at Sandbanks, the Outlet River is ideal for those just learning to canoe and who wish to explore the marsh habitat. Sandbanks is famous for its three expansive sandy beaches that are deemed among the best in Canada; Outlet and Sandbanks beaches have shallow waters and gradual drop-offs that are ideal for families, but beware that Dunes Beach has a steep drop-off and is not recommended for children.
Party in Prince Edward County
Famed nationwide for its superb sparkling wines, wine tasting is one of the county’s most popular activities. In May, Terroir on the Move is a showcase for the region’s acclaimed wineries, offering participants a passport to visit six participating wineries.
Throughout June and July, the Arts in the County festival is Eastern Ontario’s leading art exhibition, with more than 2,000 juried works of art by local artists. In August, the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival draws some of Canada’s leading jazz musicians to perform against the stunning backdrop of the region’s wine country.
For an insight into the region’s fascinating history, take a drive along the Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33), stretching 62 miles from Trenton, along Lake Ontario, to Kingston. The historic parkway retraces the steps of the British Loyalists who settled here after fleeing the Revolutionary War. One of Picton’s historic and natural treasures, Macaulay Heritage Park highlights local history through its collection of 19th-century buildings, including a carriage house, church and delightful heritage gardens. Learn the histories of early residents.
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Prince Edward County