Prince Edward County is about 2 hours east of Toronto and 3 hours southwest of Ottawa and an incredibly popular summer destination. The area has been growing exponentially in the last few years as people look for cottage country more affordable than the Muskokas. It is fast becoming central Ontario’s alternative to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake for wine country. There are close to 40 wineries in Prince Edward County, 10 breweries, three beaches, a provincial park, and more. You can drive non-stop from one end of the island to the other in about an hour. If you are looking for weekend getaway from Ottawa or Toronto, a bachelorette or bachelor party, or a romantic weekend with your partner, this place is for you! This itinerary is for a self drive tour of Prince Edward County to check out all the best stops so if you’re planning on tasting wine, beer and cider, you’ll need a designated driver. If you’re interested in doing a Prince Edward County Wine Tour instead, click here to jump to the end of this post for some recommendations.
Where to stay in Prince Edward County
If you prefer a major hotel, you could stay in Trenton or Belleville but I highly recommend staying local. There are a plethora of local Bed and Breakfasts, Inns, Resorts and Airbnbs in Prince Edward County to stay at so choosing somewhere to sleep really comes down to location and preference. Staying in an Airbnb gives the flexibility to make some meals (instead of ordering food) to keep your costs down. Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington are in the heart of the county and close to a majority of the local wineries so local winery tours will pick you up in any of these villages. You can rent a campsite at Sandbanks Provincial Park if camping is more your style or stay at The Waring House or Lake on the Mountain Resort for more cottage or resort style accommodations.
What to do in Prince Edward County
There really is no end of things to do in the area: especially when, as it gains popularity, more wineries, breweries and restaurants pop up every summer. You can take a wine tour (you’re basically hiring a designated driver), bike wine tour (tour around on bikes to various wineries), brewery tours, apple picking in the fall, swimming, cycling, Lavender festival, shop local, eat delicious food at farm-to-table restaurants, drive-in movie theatre, you name it!
Another thing to note is that while PEC is busy every summer, there is an annual MS Bike on the second weekend in July and accommodations book up fast.
There are three beaches in the County: Sandbanks (most popular), Sandbanks Dunes and Wellington Beach. They fill up quickly so I recommend getting there first thing when they open to try to get a parking spot. You can no longer park on the side of the road (it’s a very hefty fine).
When to visit the County
Peak season is the summer months between June to August where many people spend the weekend or vacation for a week or the summer. Bachelorette and bachelor tours are incredibly popular during the summer in PEC so expect crowds. The Sandbanks Beach opens at 8 AM and is closed by 8:30 AM when it hits capacity for the day. Grape harvest season in September/October and there’s a county wide celebration near November. Travelling during the shoulder season (before June and after August) is a great time of year to visit Prince Edward County and everything it has to offer.
Suggested Weekend Itinerary (2 or 3 days) in PEC
Here’s a perfect weekend getaway itinerary, starting by arrival on a Friday night and leaving Sunday morning. You could also use this itinerary to visit during the middle of the week but many places have reduced hours during the week so be sure to check local opening hours. If you’re planning on doing a winery tour, do it on Saturday and make sure to fit in Slickers on the Sunday.
Night 1: Find dinner
Day 1: Lighthall Winery, Parson’s Brewing, Slickers, 555 Brewing, Crimson Cider, County Emporium, Mustang Drive-in
Day 2: Brambleberry Farm/Lavender Festival/Chetwyn Farm (alpacas), Agrarian Market Picnic/Flossies Sandwhich Parlor, County Emporium, Broken Stone Winery, Closson Chase, Hinterland
Night 1 (Friday night): Find dinner.
Many places close between 4-7 pm, so I recommend either getting to the County early on Friday or stopping somewhere with a later dinner menu. The Waring House is good food and open for an upscale dinner experience and The Drake Devonshire in PEC is open Friday until 10 pm.
Day 1 (Saturday): Lighthall Winery, Parson’s Brewing, Slickers, 555 Brewing, Crimson Cider, County Emporium, Mustang Drive-in
Start your day by heading to the far southeast end of the county and working your way back throughout the day. Lighthall Vineyards is one of the oldest vineyards in the county and they also make their own sheep milk cheese to pair with each of their wine tastings.
Head to Parson’s Brewing for an absolutely delightful lunch and enjoy a game of horseshoes. If you’re lucky, there might be a local farmer’s market on the property. I recommend the Asado Carne (both a meat and vegetarian option) which is cooked to perfection on their outdoor fire grill. If you enjoy the beer, you can pick some up in the store. They also serve oysters on Saturdays starting at 2 pm.
After lunch, grab a beer at 555 Brewing, a glass of wine at Black Prince Winery or a cider/cider slushie at Crimson Cider Co. All three are within a 5 minute drive of each other.
Slicker’s Ice Cream has two locations within 5 minutes of each other: Bloomfield (the original location) and Picton (the newer and bigger location). The ice cream is made fresh daily in small batches and they have a ton of fun flavours to try. Their Campfire Ice Cream is delightful and tastes like sitting at a campfire in the summer. The Picton location sells cones, milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches while the Bloomfield location sells cones.
Mustang Drive-in Movie Theater is open Wednesday to Sunday and they sell tickets by the carload. You can purchase tickets in advance but they reserve some tickets to purchase at the gate when you get there. There is a snack bar to buy all the movie treats including popcorn, hotdogs and drinks.
Day 2 (Sunday): Brambleberry Farm/Lavender Festival/Chetwyn Farm, Agrarian Market Picnic/Flossies Sandwhich Parlor and County Emporium
If you visit during the first two weekends of July, check out the Lavender Festival at PEC Lavender. There aren’t many lavender fields in Ontario and it’s such a treat to visit them when they are in full bloom. There is a daily admission fee for the Lavender Festival which is a two-day event with live music, hourly draws, samples for Lavender Iced Tea and Lavender Nougat, local food, pony rides, facepainting for kids and more! The lavender gelato is perfect on a hot summer’s day and I’m obsessed with their lavender Earl Grey tea.
If you aren’t able to visit during the Lavender Festival, you should go berry picking at Brambleberry Farm. Their picking hours are posted daily on their Instagram – they don’t have posted hours because picking berries truly depends on the year/how busy they’ve been/what’s available, etc.
If berry picking isn’t your thing, stop by the Chetwyn Farm to visit with the alpacas! You can’t feed or pet the alpacas, but they’re fun to hangout with and you can visit the farm shop!
For lunch, grab picnic supplies at the Agrarian Market off Lake Street in Picton and eat it at the Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area down the road. The second option is to stop at Flossie’s Sandwich Parlor and get the best sandwich and side of fries in Prince Edward County.
After lunch, head to the County Emporium in an old beautiful church. Kate and Davelynn are the owner’s and have created an amazing local one-stop shop, including an outdoor patio to enjoy a caeser or sangria on a hot day!
If you’re still looking for a few wineries to check out, head to Sugarbush, Broken Stone, Harwood, Sandbanks, By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery, and Huff Estates.
Wine Tours in Prince Edward County
If you don’t have a designated driver, there are a ton of tour options in the county. Wine Tours in Prince Edward County are very popular and available for small or large groups. You’re going to want to check the itinerary and stop at Slicker’s.
I personally recommend a half-day wine tour with PEC Wine Tours. Price includes tastings at four wineries with pickup/drop off in the county and they operate year round. This is a mixed group tour so you may spend the day with other people experiencing the county.
Another popular experience is the Sip & Cycle Bike Tours with the County Wine Tours. The tour includes about 20 km of cycling on the Millennium Trail, visiting 4 wineries with 3 tastings each and a visit to the alpaca farm. Tours start in Wellington so book your accommodations in the village.