Awww Prince Edward County. Or PEC. Or simply, The County. It’s a place that I love to visit and sadly one that we do not visit often enough. This summer we managed to get two visits in and have a third planned for very soon. Our most recent visit was in celebration of my birthday. The day would be full of great food and wine and cheese and a couple of surprises. All of the good things. Since I photographed a wedding on the actual date of my birth, we took that Monday to leave the city and head East. It always amazes me how quickly you can arrive in the County. In my mind it’s a magical place forever away but in actuality, you can pull into Wellington in just over two hours. Here are some of our favourite things in that area.
Betty’s Pies & Tarts
Okay, so, Betty’s is NOT in the County but… it’s on the way and it’s a staple in my life. They make the best butter tarts that you will ever eat. Betty’s is located on Highway 2 in between Port Hope (holler!) and Cobourg. It’s a great halfway point to your journey to the County to stop and get a sweet treat. I always get the Raspberry Delight ones. They’re butter tarts with coconut on the top and raspberry in the bottom. No joke: they are a dream in your mouth. When we stopped there on this recent trip, the woman working said, “You’re one of the Smith sisters… you’re, Jessica, right?” So also, they know me there. When you go, maybe throw my name out there. Who knows what will happen!
There are about a million things that I can say about the Dev. It’s become a hub for us in the County. Whenever we head to this area, a stop here guarantees great food and drink plus a lot of familiar faces. When you walk in, everything just feels right. The design of the place (just look at that floor and wallpaper!) is stunning. The food is delicious. On this recent visit, Josh did a gin tasting for the staff so I sat outside drinking coffee while that took place. Growing up on Lake Ontario means that anytime I see it, I feel like I am home and sitting there that day was no different. There was a large group of Canada Geese floating on the water that day. It was September 21st so I knew that they were gathering to start that long journey South. The sun was so warm that day that it was hard to imagine that fall and eventually winter was around the corner. I was doing all I could to will them to stay.
Stopping here was a surprise for me as I had no idea that it existed. Josh knows that I love birds so of course, we had to make a stop for my birthday. Located on County Road 8 just outside of Picton, Birdhouse City is just that – about 100 birdhouses made by local residents and organisations. It started with one which is a scale model of a hotel and grew from there. I don’t think that any actual birds live there but it is pretty cool nonetheless.
Fifth Town Cheese
I first heard about Fifth Town Cheese from my friend Ben who is an architectural photographer and had photographed it when it was first built. What makes Fifth Town so special is their dedication to being environmentally and socially sound. Fifth Town is Canada’s only LEED certified dairy. Among the cool things that they do, their aging caves are underground and they use both solar and wind power here. Plus, their cheese is pretty spectacular. On this day we picked up a Buffalo washed rind cheese called The Rock. As well as their popular goat cheese Cape Vessey. Both were devoured in one sitting a couple of days later. #cheeseforlife
Yes, there are lots of awesome farmer’s markets in Toronto but there is something so lovely about stopping at a road-side stand to pick up some fresh produce. This time of year may be my favourite with potatoes, beets and squash in-season.
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks is a great spot to camp or spend a day while in the County. Back in May when we visited, we took our Aussie friend here. We hiked the Dune Trail and then had lunch at the Park Store & Grill. Seriously, they have great burgers there. Our friend is a chef and he even agreed. The landscape of Sandbanks is pretty cool (just look at those dunes!) and in the summer it is a great spot for splashing around in the water. Wineries
There are a ton of wineries to visit whilst in the County. I love visiting them and I love picking up bottles of wine that you can buy no where else. We visited Huff Estates Winery earlier this year and picked up a couple of bottles (the Rosé and Pinot Noir). I love that they also sell “picnic-sized” wine at Huff. So convenient.
The Hayloft Dancehall
The Hayloft is an institution in the County and recently a few of our friends bought it and have made it into something even more special. It is essentially a barn in the middle of the country where you can have a few drinks and watch live music. On weekends they have awesome bands play including Elliott Brood, The Beauties, City & Colour and Sloan. There is a shuttle that takes you there from Wellington, Bloomfield or Picton so it is also super easy to get there and back safely should you choose to consume a couple of wobbly pops.
The last time that we stayed in the County, we got a room at Angeline’s in The Walter. The rooms here are super cute and modern. They are the perfect crashpad when staying in the County.Norman Hardie Winery
Yes, I already briefly mentioned wineries in the County but Norm’s gets a special mention. Every time we visit the County, we stop here. There are always familiar faces here and bottles of wine to test out. They also have a wood-fired pizza oven. On a hot summer day, sitting outside with a class of chardonnay and a pizza is one of the greatest things ever. On our recent visit, they also had an incredible caprese salad on the go. It was a dreamy.
There are lots of hidden beaches in the County. This secret one is well-known to the locals but, nonetheless, it’s a quiet spot to head to at the end of the day for a quick dip and to watch the sunset. We did this on our last trip out there and it was the perfect way to end that day. Lake Ontario never looked so good.
P.S. If you happen to be in the County on the last weekend of October, we are doing an Autumn Portrait Party at the Hayloft. Come down and get your family photographed! It’s going to be a lot of fun! More information can be found here.