Visiting Prince Edward County or Sandbanks Provincial Park? Bring your friends- there's tons to see and do!
I've been traveling to Prince Edward County, Ontario, for years as part of a summer camping tradition. The area has always represented to me the travel ideals of unspoiled nature and charming small towns, but the commitment of camping prevented me from branching out to explore the region. But all of that changed with Blogcation Retreat!
Part vacation, part relaxation, part blogging boot camp, 100% fun with the girls, Blogcation Retreat got me out of my tent and into exploration mode. I discovered that Prince Edward County is the perfect destination for a girls' getaway and I can't imagine a better place to eat, drink, and be merry.
First add some cheese...
I have been a fan of Cooke's Fine Foods for over 15 years since I first discovered their gorgeous store in downtown Kingston, Ontario, as a university student. I would marvel at all the incredible gourmet delicacies and I would always make sure my meager student budget would afford me a few well chosen treats.
Discovering a branch of Cooke's in Picton was an even bigger treat. It became my go-to spot to stock up on special sauces and treats when we were camping at nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park. I knew it was the perfect spot to gather some goodies for the ultimate girls' weekend.
Cooke's has a fantastic selection of cheese - including many local varieties- and creates delicious cheese platters. It was an honour to meet and chat with Susan Cooke herself and hear her recommendations for different cheese pairings. Her suggestion to try raspberry habanero pepper jelly by Portland was 100% perfect - it's now my favourite thing in the store! This is definitely one destination worthy of any Prince Edward County travel list!
Next, add some bread.
There's a fantastic little bakery on Picton's Main St called The Pastry House. They prepare plenty of their namesakes, but the real delight is their homemade bread. They make goodhearth, sourdough, and sunflower rye, among other varieties, and it all pairs perfectly with the cheese at Cookes!
Get ready to cook!
One of the best things about Blogcation Retreat (or any girls' getaway) was having an entire house to ourselves to make the most of our time - and also to cook! The kitchen in our rental home, Towers Manor, looked like something out of a magazine. Complete with a fancy gas oven, espresso machine, and tons of prep space, it was perfect for testing out our culinary chops!
We had so much fun getting a weekend's worth of delicacies ready, from flavored water to homemade croissants, but I think our best meal of all was when we recruited Ryan to prepare an incredible steak barbecue for the group. (Hint: The best deal on steak in Ottawa was found at the Glebe Meat Market and we could not have been more thrilled with their amazing service. Thank you!)
I know, I know - his presence was a bit of a violation of the girls' getaway theme but it was great having him there as our afternoon manservant. Ryan prepared a steak rub using volcanic sea salt we bought in Hawaii, fresh crushed peppercorns we had picked up weeks earlier at Istanbul's spice market, and spice blends from a local Prince Edward County company called Cured. Amazing! Towers Manor was doing a great job of getting our culinary skills in order!
Just in case you need a boost in the morning
My go-to place for caffeine in Prince Edward County is the Bean Counter cafe in Picton. They have a wonderful selection of espresso and tea drinks, along with ice cream, bakery goods, and lunch items. I always stop in when we're camping and use it as my 'coffice' when I need lattes and Wi-Fi. It's cute and cozy and it's a great place to overhear a little community gossip.
I absolutely love Lacey Estate wines.
With all the amazing wineries in Prince Edward County, it's hard to pick a favourite. Hard... but not impossible! My vote is for Lacey Estate. They make lovely wine and I really enjoyed benefiting from their incredible wine knowledge. Liz Lacey is a real girls' girl - you couldn't ask for anyone better to hang out with during a girls' getaway - and her wine enthusiasm is infectious. She also makes scrumptious wine jellies, both sweet and savory, and knows exactly what cheeses to pair with them.
The second half of this power team, winemaker Kimball, takes wine and food pairings to a level I've never seen before. We chatted about my love of spicy Indian food and how I how I found it difficult to find a great wine pairing. He suggested I take my spice level up a notch with a Bangladesh inspired tindaloo (vindaloo's spicier cousin) and that I pair it with a Gewurztraminer wine. I had never even heard of Gewurztraminer wine before but I was hooked after one glass and I'm currently saving a bottle to open once I perfect my curry making skills!
Wine without whine: touring the vineyards in style.
I could easily spend an entire afternoon hanging out at Lacey Estate but it really isn't fair to the other wineries in the area. The Blogcation Retreat team loved doing a regional winery tour with Sandbanks Vacations. They take care of all the driving (in a pretty swank ride too!) as you explore Prince Edward county, stopping in at least 4 wineries, where the generous samples exceed what's offered to the public. The Sandbanks team are fun, knowledgeable, and utterly dedicated to making sure visitors get the best possible experience in Prince Edward County - just what a girls' getaway needs!
Bonus! Make a little wine and cheese magic
I love Prince Edward County's Fifth Town artisan cheese so much, I wrote a blog post calling them the sexiest of slow food purveyors. They're completely dedicated to the community, the environment, and their cheese. They offer a very reasonably priced wine and cheese pairing that's a great way to discover these local products if you only have time for one visit.
Relax the "right" way.
Pamela Fraser from Relax Right mobile massage therapy is technically a registered massage therapist but her title should really be Pain Relief Angel. She's an absolute pro at what she does and the best thing of all is that she (and her equipment) come to you! (Hmmmm.... I should ask if her home visits include campgrounds!) Her visit was the perfect and most relaxing way to kick off our retreat. As an extra bonus, Pam is a bit of a secret expert on all things Prince Edward County. She's the perfect person to ask for a few travel recommendations.
Take a walk on the wild side.
You've probably seen Phil Norton's beautiful photographs before in publications like Canadian Geographic. And in Prince Edward County you can see the countryside through Phil's eyes - but with YOUR camera lens! Phil leads 2 hour photography walks around Prince Edward County, helping with technical tips and providing inspiration. Our journey took us to Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park, to a field of wildflowers, and then a family farm where we were greeted by a gaggle of goats! Phil also has a keen eye for less domesticated creatures and with a bit of luck he might spot an osprey or an eagle. And at $15, it is one of the best priced travel activities I've ever done.
If you fancy exploring on your own, Sandbanks Provincial Park is Prince Edward County's most famous attraction and our favourite campground. It has gorgeous white sand beaches and good hiking. If you're camping averse you can still enjoy the great outdoors, as Sandbanks offers economical day passes for those who just want to visit for a few hours.
I'm not normally a very enthusiastic shopper, and this is especially true while I travel. But Picton is the exception to this rule. There are endless little shops on Main Street, specializing in home decor, gourmet food, arts, crafts, antiques, and more. You can find a lot of products from local artisans and producers (like our spice blends from Cured!) and there are plenty of treats at every price point.
Blogcation Retreat was such a memorable weekend and having it based in Prince Edward County confirms what I've long suspected about the region's terrific travel appeal. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a visit to the area, but if it's a girls' getaway you're after, you'll find that Prince Edward County has everything you need to eat, drink, and be merry.
What's your idea of the perfect girls' getaway destination?
If you're exploring Ontario, here's what else you should check out.
Elgin County's Behemoth Butter Tarts
Hotel Review: London's Hotel Metro
Fiesta Flavors and Fun in London, Ontario
Several of the businesses mentioned in this post provided Blogcation Retreat with media discounts or gifts and we thank them for their support. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.