Just over two hours away from Toronto, this once-sleepy foodie and wine-lovers region has morphed into summer hipster family central as more and more young people fall in love with the unpretentious vibe of this pretty rural community. Tucked into the “golden triangle” between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa on the north shore of Lake Ontario, PEC is miles of wineries, too-cute-to-be-real farmhouses and barns and miles of gorgeous waterfront. Total #cottagegoals.
There’s no big hotel chains or mega-mansion cottages here, but instead a plethora of adorable inns and B&Bs sprinkled in and between the three main towns of Picton, Wellington and Bloomfield. Party like Justin and Sophie Trudeau and bunk down at the groovy Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield (kids will love The Babylon, a reconstructed cabin from the 1860s.) Angeline’s got a Brooklyn-meets-Anne-of-Green-Gables makeover when the second-generation of this family-owned business—Alexandre, an interior designer, and his sister, Melanie, took over—and imbued the joint with tons of quirk and cool. You also won’t want to miss eating dinner at the on-site restaurant The Hubb Eatery with it’s emphasis on seasonal and local eats. For kids who don’t consider it a vacation unless there’s a pool, consider bunking down in one of the rentable trailers at Quinte’s Isle Campark, a sprawling trailer park and campground with two pools (one spanking brand new and at the water’s edge of Pebble Beach), splash pads, sports courts, a mini golf course and daily complimentary activities including dance parties, crafts and wagon rides. The property is large, so bring scooters or bikes if you want to cover lots of ground, and it’s a bit of a drive to the main centres, so be sure to pick up groceries on the way.
Saturday mornings are the time to be at the bustling farmers market in Wellington, which takes place right next to a beautiful playground on the water. Rainy day? Check out the The Regent Theatre in Picton, a true old-timey picture house. And of course you can’t miss the most famous kid destination in the area—the amazing beaches and sand dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park (Outlet Beach is particularly good for families). Pick up a gourmet to-go picnic from Agrarian Market in Picton and make a beautiful day of it.
Prince Edward County first slipped into the consciousness of many Torontonians when cool-kid hotel, restaurant and retail brand The Drake set up shop in Wellington with their surprisingly kid friendly The Drake Devonshire. A great place to take the littles to lunch, a kids’ menu, ample highchairs, change table in the washroom and a free games room with ping pong and foosball will keep tots of all ages happy while parents scarf down next-level burgers and shrimp rolls. Kids looking for a sweet fix? (and seriously, when are they not?) You can almost taste the amazing pastries at Enid Grace Café from the smell alone. And to be a true PEC tourist you have to visit Slickers Ice Cream for the apple pie or campfire-flavoured scoops. You’ll find families running amuck at Norman Hardie Winery—grownups sip wine from the tasting bar as kids get their ya ya’s out on a trampoline and gobble up wood-fired pizza. And you won’t want to miss Waupoos Winery, which has an on-site petting zoo and old-school candy store for it’s littlest visitors.
No malls here, but you can satisfy the stuff itch by antique hunting or checking out the charming little stores along the main drags of Wellington, Picton and Bloomfield. My favourite was The General in Wellington, a coffee shop/general store stocked with lots of carefully curated cuteness, including many hipster-approved toys and games. Frugal & Company in Picton is a nostalgia-hunters dream, packed to the rafters with a smorgasbord of retro finds, including old comics and kids’ books. Down the street, Bonkers Gift Shop is full of fun, cartoony gifts (Harry Potter socks or stormtrooper mug, anyone?). Casa Lucia in Bloomfield sells pretty handcrafted clothing, textiles and jewelry from Mexico and Kokito sells a lovely Etsy-esque collection of décor and household items, including lots of sweet things to make baby’s room Instagram perfect. If you want to shop local, check out The Local Store, housed in an old dairy barn. It’s filled with homegrown art and food, as well as antique finds like vintage matchbox cars and old-timey kids’ books. It also has a small kids’ colouring and checkers-playing area (and a friendly in-house cat, of course!).