Travel Diary: Staying Local in Prince Edward County
I can’t say quite when it happened, but despite October knocking at the door, and a practically non-existent summer season, sometime between planning my fall wardrobe and getting ready for snow, summer finally arrived. I’m convinced it has something to do with Jeff Stober and the opening of the new Drake Devonshire. For the man who managed to gentrify West Queen West, and bring hipster culture to both Bay Street and midtown (The Drake General Store at Yonge and Eglinton anyone?), making a deal with Mother Nature to delay the arrival of summer until his latest Drake outpost was ready to launch hardly seems like a stretch. Well better late than never I say, so pack your bags and let’s plan a trip to PEC.
Where to Sleep
The Drake Devonshire obviously (24 Wharf Street, Wellington, drakedevonshire.ca). This refurbished property, on the shores of Lake Ontario, dates back to the 1880’s. While some of the original historic structure remains, the property received an overhaul, courtesy of Toronto-based architectural designers +tongtong, to create the authentic Drake experience. What does that entail? Canadiana-influenced décor and curated art-world touches. 11 rooms and two suites, all outfitted with original artwork and local vintage furniture finds. A soaring dining room that overlooks the lake and serves a seasonal menu, paired with local PEC wines. Overall, it’s everything you’d expect from the masters of the mix, balancing old and new, traditional and modern, with just a hint of nostalgia for pine trees and summer camp.
Photographs by Kayla Rocca
Where to Eat
At the top of Main Street in Picton, The Bean Counter Café (172 Main Street, Picton, beancountercafe.com) offers a great spot for coffee, gelato, a light lunch, or total indulgence in their sugar-filled baked goods (diet? what diet?). There are a number of gluten-free options, but if you’re all about the gluten, try the sticky buns – ooey gooey and oh so delicious.
If you thought the Drake was the only familiar sight from the big city, think again. Slow Taco (Bloomfield, @slowtacomobile) brings the food truck trend to PEC with handmade tacos featuring fresh, local ingredients. Technically Slow Taco is more cart than truck, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in flavour.
Whether you’re feeling sweet or savoury, Sunday morning brunch at Agrarian (275 Main Street, Bloomfield, agrarianpec.ca) is a must-do. Dig into a Lumberjack Stack of pancakes, bacon, and a fried egg, or stick to the classics with good old Eggs ‘N’ Bacon. There’s also a speakeasy downstairs, with craft brews, ciders, and cocktails, where you can see live music every Friday and Saturday night.
If you’re looking for fortifications during your Main Street stroll, stop in at Penny’s Pantry (10 Elizabeth Street, Picton, pennyspantry.biz) where you can pick up snacks, spices, and bite-size treats in this tiny bulk food shop.
Where to Shop
Upon entering the charming space at French Country (237 Main Street, Picton), Torontonians may experience a slight feeling of déjà vu. That’s because this luxurious home furnishing store is a transplant from Rosedale, where it used to be housed in the current 6 by Gee Beauty space. Owner Viola Jull has a fabulous eye and stocks the shop with luxurious linens, alpaca blankets, organic wood vases, and decadent candles from Apothecary Guild.
A few blocks away, more Toronto-transplants have set up shop at Zest (192 Main Street, Picton, zestkitchenshop.com), the kitchen store with every gadget imaginable. You’ll find all the big names from Nespresso to Le Creuset, as well as smaller crafted products like cutting boards from Swaine Street Woodworking, gourmet bitters from hipster favourite Dillon’s, and Cold Plates, beautiful serving platters made from re-purposed carrera marble from First Canadian Place in Toronto.
Prince Edward County is a hot spot for antique hunters, and Dead People’s Stuff (388 Main Street, Bloomfield, deadpeoplesstuff.ca) makes no bones about the business. Visit this eclectic space and find an ever-changing assortment of furniture, décor, and curious treasures.
Home goods store Kokito (285 Main Street, Bloomfield, kokito.ca) celebrates Canadian design and lakeside living. Wander around the bright airy shop and discover a curated selection of unique children’s gifts, ceramics, leather bags, and beauty finds.
What to See
The 49 off-road kilometres of the Millennium Trail wind through farmer’s fields and urban areas to link the communities of Prince Edward County. You can walk, jog, or bike the trail, or use it to winery-hop and get a taste of some of PEC’s finest wines.
Sandbanks Provincial Park (ontarioparks.com) is as close to the Caribbean as you’ll find in Ontario. While there may not be palm trees or tropical weather systems, there are miles of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, shallow sandbars, and sandy dunes. The beaches draw hundreds of kite surfers during the windy season, making it look like Malibu in the north.