This new monthly series, travel my home, will discuss what it’s like to live in a tourist-oriented town or city. Like the series for remote job of the month and travel job of the month, I will reach out to various people across the globe to get their take on what it’s like living in a place that is ‘meant for tourists’.
We’ll be looking at the types of tourism popular in the area and what we believe to be worth (as well as what we think most tourists miss out on). Want to stay in the know on hidden gems in hotspots? Sign up below to never miss an article.
prince edward county, ontario, canada
Growing up in a tourist town myself, I thought what better place to start than my own hometown of Prince Edward County. Among locals and those in the surrounding areas, it is often just referred to as “The County”.
Prince Edward County is an island (though not to be confused with the province, Prince Edward Island) located in southern Ontario on one of the great lakes in North America, lake Ontario. Roughly between Ottawa and Toronto.
It is best known for its provincial park, the Sandbanks, and is becoming more and more of a culinary and winery destination.
People tend to visit from May through September for optimal outdoor activities like swimming, camping, and drinking patio beers.
While I grew up there, I wanted to get a more recent account of the area. So I reached out to my sister Alyssa, a math teacher and Steeped Tea Consultant and my friend Alexis, a yoga (+beer!) teacher (yes, yoga and beer together).
Prince Edward County is an island with gorgeous beaches, multiple wineries and breweries, and a budding artist community. However, this is all very recent. 20 years ago, there were limited things to do, hell, ten years ago there wasn’t that much going on. There were a few artisan shops and festivals each year, but it was only in the last 5 or so years that the area has exploded. Prince Edward County is now one of the top places to visit in Canada.
The area is most famously known for its beach, The Sandbanks. Though it also boasts wineries, breweries, food and artist trails. Some of the areas most popular events, bringing in thousands of people, include Maple in the County, The Cheese Festival, Terroir (wine tasting festival), Festival Players and the Jazz Festival.
What you can’t (and can) miss during a visit to Prince Edward County
The wineries are the biggest draw for most people visiting the county. We’re Ontario’s newest wine region and is being called “the new Niagara”. There are many ways to enjoy the wineries; you can visit them yourself, rent a bus or limo, or go on the newly popular wine and bike tours.
While wine is great and all, there’s 37 of them. Most of them are good, but unless you’re really into wine and coming to the county purely for that, it can get old. I would suggest visiting a few; like the Sandbanks Winery, Norman Hardie, and Huffs has an art gallery, so why not? The tours are good for making a day of it, otherwise, you’ll be driving all over the place and one person will have to suck it up and play DD.
Beyond just wineries, Prince Edward County has a great scene for beer drinkers too, and personally, I find the breweries are more fun. You can play bean bag toss or ping pong at Prince Eddy’s and tetherball or horseshoes at Parsons (along with some pretty good Mexican food).
Other great places to grab some food include the Acoustic Grill and the County Canteen – particularly if you’re into live music. If you’re a morning person and enjoy breakfast you should head down to the Harbour Inn, but get there early. That is unless you enjoy standing in line for an hour or more. Regardless, their breakfast is worth it. Other places I’m sure you’ll hear of on a visit to the county is the Waring House, which yes, is good, particularly if you’re over 60. The Blumen, if you’re feeling fancy and have a good sized wallet. And finally, the Miller House and Lake on the Mountain (they’re opposite one another). You’ll go there if you like nice views. Water on both sides, one being a bottomless lake.
As far as lakes go, there’s no better place to enjoy Lake Ontario than the Sandbanks. It is one of the largest freshwater baymouth sandbars in the world. While I personally find sand a little overrated in and of itself, the vast majority disagree. If you intend on getting a nice spot though, be sure to head over early or wait until the early evening to enjoy your beach time because the sandbanks get CROWDED. But, you happen to be driving up to the entrance and get turned away because the beach is at capacity, you can always take in a game of mini golf just down the road.
If you also happen to be a non-beach person like me, a great place to spend your day soaking up the sunshine and still getting those water views is at one of my favourite places, The County Cider Company. They make great food, the views are spectacular, and I could sip their cider all day.
Tourists & Locals
The tourism is excellent for most of the local businesses. People make their entire yearly income between May and September, which can be great, but Prince Edward County and Picton (the town within the county) in particular currently doesn’t have the infrastructure to support an influx of that many people – tourism has approximately tripled in recent years!
Many locals have a difficult time keeping up with the demand, finding enough seasonal employees and the congestion – not just on the roads but in the hotels and B&Bs. Some tourists have even camped on the side of the road, as there simply are not enough accommodations. And the accommodation that is offered is incredibly expensive overrated which leaves many people choosing airbnb, however, the county is looking to regulate this as it affects the local housing market.
I have no idea what storefronts will be on main street this summer because places just can’t survive the winter without tourists
Everything is closed in the winter.. but what about me? I still live here and I want a cider and a street taco lol
Explore the County
The only actual town within the county and where you’ll absolutely end up at some point or another. Most the festivals are held at the fairgrounds in the town and some of the best restaurants are here too.
Come For: • Restaurants • Essentials • Miss Lily’s Cafe + Bookshop • Festivals
Becoming more and more popular among the younger crowd but still generally targeted for older folk. They’ve got some funky shops and restaurants and is just the cutest little village to stroll around.
Come For: • The Agrarian • Veggie Taco Stand • Antique & Thrift Shopping
Other Top Spots
• Macaulay Mountain & Birdhouse City • Prince Edward T-Shirt Company • Point Petre