48 hours in Prince Edward County
Ontario’s quaintest weekend destination has undergone an edgy, boozy makeover
Torontonians know Prince Edward County for its vineyard-powered, farm-to-table charm. Big-name draws like the Drake Devonshire operate alongside old-standby restaurants, together turning the county into a self-contained hospitality industry. Call it the Drake effect: in Ontario’s near east, this steady buzz of success is leading to an influx of new businesses that are more raucous than rustic. There are revamped motels, high-octane cocktails and rockfests at speakeasies. Now, weekends in and around once-sleepy Picton deliver a livelier groove.
Drake Motor Inn, Wellington
The Drake Motor Inn is just down the road from its older sibling, the Drake Devonshire, in Wellington (both, of course, are offshoots of Queen West’s Drake Hotel). The retro boutique motel, which opened at the end of May, will surely be a hit among city pups: it’s the first pet-friendly Drake location, with dog beds on demand and treats available in a one-of-a-kind curated, Drake-branded vending machine. As for human guests, they can choose from 12 rooms—all accessible by keyless self-check-in—and enjoy art installations, fresh snacks from the Drake Commissary, vintage Polaroid cameras for rent, a firepit and, in the winter months, when the wineries are dormant, a skating rink. 43 Wharf St.,
The June Motel, Picton
Patrons of what was once the Sportsman Motel, a rundown favourite of Ontario’s travelling anglers, might not recognize it after its recent transformation. The pastel and palm–drenched brainchild of Toronto expats (and self-described “besties”) Sarah Sklash and April Brown, the June has become a wildly popular destination for weekending Torontonians looking to say yes please to glasses of rosé from the motel’s indoor-outdoor Lobby Bar, to the cozy, Insta-worthy suites and to nightly s’more roasts. Picton Bay abuts the property, so rod-and-reel enthusiasts needn’t look elsewhere for a fix. 12351 Loyalist Pkwy., 613-476-2424, thejunemotel.com.
Sand and Pearl, West Lake
This two-year-old spot, a short skip from Sandbanks Provincial Park, is a summertime seafood oasis. Fresh-shucked oysters, hot-buttered lobster rolls, cozy campfires and a to-die-for gin smash are all there for the taking. It’s also the seasonal home of Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and it offers a selection of local craft beers. The joint’s sprawling property, dotted with giant oak trees, plays host to a Full Moon Yoga Festival every August, providing a calming counterpoint to the beach-bash vibe. 1705 County Rd. 12, 613-503-0498, sandandpearloysterbar.com.
Enid Grace Cafe, Wellington
Pastry chef Enid Grace—who was born and raised in Prince Edward County—spent a good deal of time cooking in European kitchens before opening what has become one of the area’s most in-demand breakfast destinations. Inspired by the food philosophy of rural Italy, where freshly prepared dishes are intended to sell out before the day’s siesta, Grace has created her menu with indulgence in mind. Favourites include croque madames with house-made French bread, country ham and creamy béchamel; French toast with fresh berries and lemon curd; and a gorgeous brie and sunny-side-up egg breakfast sandwich that sells out on the regular. All items pair well with a traditional Italian coffee, of course. 303-1 Wellington Main St., enidgrace.com.
Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, Bloomfield
Grapes may be P.E.C.’s currency, but Kinsip has staked out new territory as the area’s only producer of gin, vodka, whiskey and rum, which it ferments, distills and bottles in small batches. Located in the former 66 Gilead Distillery (on a property that’s home to an entertaining group of chickens and peacocks), Kinsip offers tours, guided tastings and whiskey barrel–aged maple syrup. What wine? 66 Gilead Rd., 613-393-1890, kinsip.ca.
Wine With a View
Picnics at the Grange Winery, Hillier
The county’s winery visitors aren’t always in it for the view (hint: swirl, sniff, sip, repeat), but the surroundings are hard to ignore at the Grange. Situated on a 200-year-old, 150-acre farm, the staff will prepare picnickers a charming farm-harvest basket of locally sourced cheese, homemade jelly, preserved veggies and charcuterie. 990 Closson Rd., 613-399-1048, grangeofprinceedward.com.
Live Music Venue
Speakeasy at the Agrarian Bistro, Bloomfield
Upstairs at the Agrarian, rustic dishes packed with local produce sidle up to county-created wines. Downstairs, a 20-seater “speakeasy” hosts live local musical acts on Friday and Saturday nights. Also on offer are a whack of craft brews, ciders and cocktails to sip—and spill on fellow concert-goers. 275 Bloomfield Main St., 613-393-0111, agrarianpec.ca.
Ontario Fermentation Festival, Picton
For those looking to explore P.E.C.’s non-grape-based fermented options, there’s the Ontario Fermentation Festival, now entering its third year at Picton’s Crystal Palace. It hosts vendors of gut-friendly wares like kimchee, fine vinegars, pickles and kombucha. This year’s fermentation competition will be judged by author and “fermentation revivalist” Sandor Ellix Katz (a.k.a. Sandorkraut). ontariofermentationfest.com.