When dreaming up the perfect bash for a bride-to-be (or girls weekend away), “fun” is usually the initial criteria when making plans. And with sunny, picturesque beaches, leading Canadian wineries and cideries, live entertainment, trendy dining and tons of recreation, Prince Edward County (PEC) not only lives up to this goal, but many others.
Only a short distance away from Ontario’s two largest cities, PEC is a great meeting place for travelers from Ottawa and Toronto, as well as surrounding areas. The region is affordable yet upscale – a unique attribute that sets itself apart from many other wine and tourist hotspots.
So it makes sense why – when my bridesmaids hosted my bachelorette there this summer – we heard locals tell us it seems to be a growing trend in the area.
Here are a few places not to miss when planning your retreat.
Wining and dining
While wine tastings and tours are the primary activity at Prince Edward County’s multiple charming vineyards, many have also started offering new activities to complement the wine experience.
Sandbanks Winery, which sits adjacent to Lake Ontario, is one of the region’s oldest wineries and largest producers. Throughout the summer months, the welcoming team hosts wine release parties on many weekends, where party-goers can enjoy tastings on the house, food truck eats, and relaxation on the patio before learning about wine production in a complimentary tour.
Although widely recognized for its acclaimed wines, Norman Hardie is known for its popular wood-burning pizza. The rustic vineyard is the perfect spot for a midday stop on the winery route to grab a pizza and pinot – if you can get a table!
Three Dog Winery is fairly new to the scene, with its own tasting room. In addition to trying its showcase wines, yoga every Sunday amongst the vines is an ideal bachelorette party activity to round out the trip.
Known for its focus on sustainable production of grapes, Closson Chase is housed in a quaint, bright purple barn and does the two things it does – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – very well. Visitors can browse the art adorning the inside of the barn while sipping vino before lounging on its outdoor terrace overlooking the vines.
Whether taking a formal bus or limousine tour or choosing your own winery adventure, it’s clear The County’s wineries are what you go for, but its other offerings are why you stay.
Set on expansive Lake Ontario, The County boasts beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park, which features stunning beaches and sand dunes for some quality time spent with friends under the sun.
After the sun sets, Picton and area is home to a growing number of live music hotspots, despite the town being very quiet come evening. A laid-back atmosphere featuring local musicians and pub food will greet you at both Coaches Pub & Grillhouse and the Acoustic Grill on a weekend night. Follow that up with a shuttle bus trip to the Hayloft Dancehall – a barn-turned-bar founded by the owners of Toronto’s Dakota Tavern – where you’ll likely find other bachelorette parties stomping their boots along to the entertainment.
When the day is done and everyone is ready to relax, the area offers B&Bs, hotels, lofts, inns and cottage rentals to accommodate your preference and number of guests.
And if you find you have questions along the way, don’t hesitate to ask one of the friendly locals who are more than happy to share their recommendations on the region.
So when “fun” is the first goal on the list, this gem South Eastern Ontario should be the first place in mind.
By Stephanie Brooks