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Not into wine? Here’s everything else to do in Prince Edward County

With more than 40 vineyards and nine craft breweries dotting the countryside and villages of Prince Edward County, it’s long been a weekend getaway destination for wine and beer connoisseurs.  

But between sips of pinot grigio and dark ale, there is actually a whole range of attractions and things to do for non-drinkers and families to do. It may sound like sacrilege, but here are some amazing experiences in Prince Edward County that have nothing to do with alcohol.  

Sandbanks Provincial Park in the off season

Sandbanks beach
CAA North & East Ontario

Known as the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation, Sandbanks Provincial Park is a must-see destination for campers and nature lovers during the summer months. But if you miss out on camping next to the white sand beaches you’ll need to book camping spots months in advance heading out to the park outside of peak season can be glorious. Day trippers pay just $21 to park at Outlet Beach, Dunes Beach and Lakeshore Beach. Canoeing, kite sailing, paddleboarding, walking and hiking are all possibilities for active weekends. Not into breaking a sweat? Stroll along the beach in fall, take in the glorious autumn colours or grab binoculars to bird watch in spring.

Where: 3004 County Road 12, Picton, ON, K0K 2TO

Alpacas, anyone?

CAA North & East Ontario

A half hour away from Sandbanks in Hillier is SHED Chetwyn Farms, an alpaca ranch offering unique experiences, starting with farm stays where you can do chores if you like the hands-on approach. The owners are clear this is not a petting zoo – alpacas are sensitive and shy creatures – but they do pasture in a former vineyard next to the parking lot. If you’d like to get a bit more up close and personal, the farm offers a photography lesson with a professional field photographer ($38); alpaca yoga ($28) and alpaca encounters for groups of 10 or more ($350). The farm also has store with beautifully handcrafted alpaca wool clothing and items from other producers like the Prince Edward County Honey Company.

Where: 500 Closson Road, Hillier, ON, K0K 2J0

On the trail of art

Prince Edward County is an idyllic spot to view art or make culture the focus of a weekend stay. In fact, the county has the Arts Trail, a meandering wander through the countryside, leading you to studios and galleries in some of the loveliest locations in Ontario. One of the largest is the Oeno Gallery and Sculpture Garden, located on the Huff Estates Winery. The sculpture garden, with more than 60 installations, is a major (and free) attraction, while the gallery itself hosts work by more than 100 artists, including the Group of Seven and Maud Lewis. Overall, the Arts Trail has 11 stops 

Gastronomy in the county

Sandbanks dining
CAA North & East Ontario

With so many Toronto chefs finding roots in the county, it’s not surprising that dining out in the area is something of a preoccupation. Every wait staff has a suggestion for the next place to visit, with a few like Picton’s Spanish tapas restaurant Bocado topping the list. Across the street is the beautifully appointed The Royal, which offers exceptional dining, hotel stays and occasional art shows. Built in 1879, it has old world charm with very modern sensibilities. For anyone familiar with The Drake on Queen Street West in Toronto, the Drake Devonshire is a home away from home. Located right on the water in Wellington, the restaurant overlooks the expanses of Lake Ontario while offering a compact but exceptional menu. Looking for something toothsome for the day trip or to take home? 

Pop into the unassuming Taste of Country grocery store in Bloomfield. The sign outside says it sells wine and beer, but the real stars are the baked goods trucked in from their Belleville headquarters. The apple fritters have their own comments section; they’re so divine, as are the butter tarts; there’s plain or pecan for purists, but for those who like thinking outside the pastry box, there are peanut butter and chocolate butter tarts, Turtles butter tarts and Skor chocolate flavour. The store also has bread and buns, plus a serious freezer section with ready-to-cook cinnamon rolls, bags of fresh-picked wild blueberries and veggies, as well as cured meats and an array of homemade pickles and jams that practically yell, “let’s go on a picnic”!  

If you go

Where to stay: Outside of peak season, Prince Edward County AirBnB and hotel stay prices drop significantly, but still book ahead to ensure you aren’t disappointed. Each of the villages from Picton and Wellington to Hillier and Bloomfield have great options.  

How to get there: From Ottawa, Prince Edward County is off the TransCanada Highway after Napanee, through the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and across the Skyway Bridge.  

Don’t own a car? Don’t worry. CAA Members get up to 20% off car rentals through National or 5% from Enterprise.  

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