The best place to travel, should be anywhere with your partner.
The stigma that we need to travel far and spend piles of money to have a good time and relax, is bananas. Rather than flying out of the country, what if we find local treasures instead?
Have you ever been to the Cheltenham Badlands? Cyprus Lake Grotto? Or Flowerpot Island? Me either... I just found out about them in a Toronto blog post here. And all of these are right here in Ontario!
This August, my partner and I decided to explore Prince Edward County. Here's our full itinerary:
CAMPING STAYCATION: PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY ITINERARY
We set up camp at Edgewater Park. It's a 9-minute drive or a 60-minute walk from Sandbanks Provincial Park, but without booking months in advance. It's bare bones and all you need to pitch a tent for ohhh $35 / night.
Before bed, we made Beans & Wieners on the camp stove in the rain. Do YOU call them Franks & Beans?
We woke up to a morning bonfire and cooked bacon with eggs, and toasted bread over the fire.
At 11 a.m. we walked down to the water to rent a Stand Up Paddle Board for 4-hours. We went across the lake successfully, and had a packed lunch with whatever we could fit in a float bag (found here). Run up and down five sand dunes, and you've gotten in a workout for the day too. ;)
When we came back there was a little bit of time to spare, so we went rolling on the water in an adult-sized hamster ball at Westlake Willy Water Park. Seriously ... LOOK!
* Photo from princeedwardcountyvacation.com
By 3 p.m. it was time to get ready for the fancy part of our date adventure.
We drove about 45-minutes to Sandbanks Winery to enjoy a wine tasting and tour. The only thing we forgot to purchase were butter tarts. Apparently it's a must, second to the wine of course.
Welcome to the home of my favourite varietal, Baco Noir.
We had an amazing tasting tour led by one of their educators, Katie. We learned about how owner, Catherine Langlois, started this winery with just six acres of land and a ton of heart back in 2001. Her first 150 cases were sold to local restaurants, and the rest is history.
With over 25 wines to sample from, how do you narrow down your list?
We tried: Smugglers, French Kiss, Late Harvest, Lot 17/Route 33 Red, Sleeping Giant, Baco Noir Reserve, and Entre Nous Foch Reserve.
The ones labelled 'Winery Exclusive' will never be found at the LCBO. Will your strategy be to try these, and then buy a bottle? Or try the LCBO ones, so that you can purchase them at home more often? Decisions, decisions.
Oh, before I forget, if you purchase two bottles of wine at Sandbanks Winery, you get a complimentary 5-flight tasting. Then for just $6 you can grab hold of your favourite kind and head outside to explore the vineyard.
Katie led us to where the barrels of vino are kept, and we sampled a Stage 1 wine (basically juice). It sits here for 5-10 days, and happens until the fermentation process converts the sugar into alcohol, then dry wine is the result.
We also learned about how they prepare for a uniquely harsh Canadian Winter in the county. Did you know they have to hand-cut each vine down and "turn it over" into the ground? Then they bury it for insulation. The snow adds a second layer of warmth. Then in the Spring, they dig out each one, also by hand. That $10 bottle of wine is worth every penny. I mean, nickel.
Some of their manual labour has been completed with a twist – by hosting a Harvest Party, and event with wine, food, and music. Sign up for their newsletter by scrolling down to the bottom of their website here if you'd like to find out about these types of events.
We left with three bottles, and then decided on occasions we would open them for. They include: achieving a professional designation, an anniversary, and enjoying a nice (hopefully steak) dinner. Do you and your partner have any celebrations coming up?
At the back of the property there's a great, blue food truck called Idle Wilde. We didn't stay to eat there, but as we passed a bachelorette party, they raved about how delicious their food was. This local cuisine is served later on Friday's to enjoy music in the vineyard.
Can we talk about how cute these two owners are? They are a husband / wife duo who met in the restaurant industry and are now chasing their own entrepreneur dreams. I asked them if they leave work – at work – and their reply was that it's not really possible given the summertime in the Prince Edward Country region. #coupleswhohustle
After we finished at the winery, a few of the staff they let us in on a little locally-loved cocktail bar called Courage in Wellington.
After driving up and down the street, we found it! Here's what to look for:
You know when the locals suggest you to try a cocktail from a particular place, it's going to be good. I had a feature drink, and my partner had the Hemingway's Vice (2.75 oz) with Havana White, Luxardo, and grapefruit.
Our last stop for the day was to the Drake Devonshire Inn. Click here to see all of their menus. I had the Prinzen Chicken: a half bird, country veggies, dinner roll, and gravy. My partner had the Scallop + Grits: chorizo verde, corn, spicy greens, soft herbs, and crispy garlic. Mmm.
After a day like that – I fell asleep after a quick (but massive) camp fire back at the campsite. One s'more was eaten!
We packed up our site and made it to the beautiful, weedless, perfect beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park ($18 day pass). We brought an old film camera, frisbee, and a massive picnic blanket I scored at the the Tin Barn Market in Almonte, Ontario.
After the beach, we stopped at Slickers for some delicious ice cream, were in a rush to get back to Wesley the Pup, but zig-zagged into an antique shop! There was a typewriter that I snagged, and we wrote letters all the way home.
Please travel to Sandbanks at least once in your life. You'll have a blast!