Vacation in Loyalist country
As we drive south of Belleville along highway 62 for the third summer in a row, my husband and I both exhale happily when we cross the bridge over the bay and head south towards Bloomsfield. The 401 recedes behind us, and so does the feeling of concrete reflecting the summer heat onto us urban dwellers. We’re in Prince Edward Country now, and ready to feel like royalty.
British royalty that is. Prince Edward County is located along the Loyalist Parkway and was settled by United Empire Loyalists in the 1780’s. Many of their descendants still live, work, and farm here. It’s always fun to explore some of that heritage in the area. There are several museums in the area, but my favourites are the Macaulay Heritage Park – which includes Macaulay House, The Old Church of St. Mary Magdalene (which houses the Prince Edward County Museum) and historic gardens – and the Mariners’ Park Museum, at Mariners’ Lighthouse Park overlooking South Bay, just outside of Milford.
There’s no shortage of present-day attractions either. Picton is the largest town and provides a number of shops and restaurants as well as a theatre and several great bookstores.160; Bloomfield’s Main Street has some quaint craft and gift shops.
Wining and Dining
But my two favourite activities go hand in hand – wine (or cider) and cheese. My husband and I have developed the tradition of a visit to the County Cider Company (http://www.countycider.com/). Their tastings almost always tempt us to lay in a case or two of cider for the fall. Their patio (open 10 am – 6 pm throughout July and August) offers great food with a spectacular view overlooking the vineyards and South Bay. After we eat, we drive along county road #13 to the Black River Cheese company and stock up on local cheddar and other flavoured cheeses.
Although the area is less well known than the Niagara wine region, there are nevertheless a number of other wineries to visit including Carmella Estates in Wellington and Waupoos Estates in Waupoos.
There’s no shortage of good food either. The Hidden Bistro (http://www.hiddenbistro.com/main.html) on 49 is a fine dining experience you’re unlikely to forget, particularly if you dine in the gardens. The Tea Rooms at Quiddity (on County Rd. 12 south of Bloomfield) provide an English Cream Tea – one way to enjoy the continued Loyalist tradition. And Slickers in Wellington makes just about the best homemade ice cream around.
Nature provides beauty and recreation
The area’s rich cultural and agricultural tapestry is surpassed only by its natural features. One of the finest is Sandbanks Provincial Park. Yes, there are sand banks at Sandbanks, and they are beautiful. It’s well worth a day or two out of your vacation schedule to enjoy the park. A long freshwater sandbar stretches down to meet East Lake and Lake Ontario, providing wide expanses of fine sand beaches and in some places, long stretches of shallow water perfect for wading.
The many lakes and bays provide other opportunities for recreation. The smaller lakes and inlets, as well as the Black River, are perfect for canoeing. Fishing in the area is excellent, with pike, bass, walleye (pickerel), trout, salmon, perch, and crappie in the area. There are plenty of spots from which to rent or charter boats. Some cottages also include dock or boat rentals in their amenities.
Birders will also find plenty to see in the area as Prince Edward County is a world class birding location, boasting the highest concentration and abundance of migratory birds anywhere on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. Spring and fall are the best times to spot migrating species.
Another favourite natural feature is the mysterious Lake on the Mountain. It has a constant flow of fresh, clean water – with no apparent source. Located 60 metres above Lake Ontario, it has been an attraction for generations. Take your camera, because you’ll want to capture the spectacular view.
I can’t imagine running out of things to do in the immediate area, but if you do Belleville is just over the bridge, and Kingston is less than 100 km away.
It’s easy to find accommodations for nearly every budget and taste. We usually rent a cottage on West Lake, near Wellington. Cottages for rent in the area vary quite a bit – from rustic to fully renovated and air conditioned. These book up quite early in the year, so if you’re doing a last minute getaway you may be out of luck. But there are also campgrounds, resorts, hotels, and bed and breakfast accommodations throughout the area. The Wellington on the Bay Waterfront B&B even takes dogs – and provides doggie daycare. The Waring House Inn offers culinary cookery school vacations. Other specialty B&Bs offer birding or fishing packages.
Maybe we’ll see you there next year!
For more information visit the Prince Edward County website at http://www.pec.on.ca/