When offered the opportunity to do a day trip or two in the new 2020 BMW X3 30e, our family was giddy. OOOH the possibilities! The whole province could be our oyster! Where to first? We decided to take at least one night away. Not having been to a hotel since March when the world changed, this seemed like a brand new stage for us. Super-careful since being whisked home from Florida before more cancelled trips, a getaway seemed so foreign. We didn’t count on the idea being so widespread when we decided to explore Prince Edward County!
You’d think traveling on a Monday-Wednesday during a pandemic, it wouldn’t be too busy. Not so. The four of us got the last room with a king-sized bed at The Waring House near Picton. It was a bit more costly than our budget, but with breakfast included, along with a parking pass to Sandbanks Provincial Park, it seemed like a good choice. BMW loaded, the kids were giddy with the built-in wifi, and I played with the touch-screen dash controls. Another 80-degree summer day in Ontario, I was thankful for the AC, and SO excited about seeing an alpaca farm I could hardly contain myself.
90 minutes from Toronto, we could have been on a different planet. Farms with silos, colourful barn quilts and row on row of grapevines greeted us once we passed Trenton. The light was golden and bright.
The SHED – Chetwyn Farms Alpaca Farm is free to visit, and open daily. Rows of grapevines right beside the gift shop made for great photo opps, and then we spotted them. I was in love. Munching on grass, we made eye contact with the beautiful creatures. Alpacas are only shorn once yearly, and are innately afraid of dogs (so leave yours in the car when you go). We went back a second time to see my buddies: Rasta-paca and Chewb-alpaca.
Next stop was Prince Edward County Lavender. The harvest occurs in late-July to keep this in mind if you want photos amist the purple flowers. There was plenty of lavender in the gift shop, though! The boys tried the scented ice cream I don’t think they’d choose it for high tea with the queen, but I loved it.
The roads near Hillier not only have super-cool names like Partridge Hollow and Thistle Dew Lane, but it’s wine country. I couldn’t resist photographing the lines of the BMW in front of Clossen Chase Vineyards. And then going in for a taste. They had freezies for kids as the parents sipped. We hadn’t been there for 10 minutes when the line went out the door! Our server was knowledgeable and took perfect Instagram shots!
Lunch was in quaint and artsy Wellington, where there is a second Drake hotel now called the Motor Inn, just up the street from the Drake Devonshire. A fellow cast and mask-wearing woman was confirming reservations at the latter, but there was only an indoor table available so we opted for the North Docks patio. I was ecstatic that East Coast Donairs were on the menu! We picked boats moored alongside as our favourites.
The hotel was super clean, and the bed insanely comfortable. They had the fortune to use the garden for a massive amount of outdoor seating and at night it was magical (and the red Malbec was one of the best values I’ve seen at a restaurant!) They distributed candles and bug spray as well.
With the boys resting, Derek and I tasted a beer on the patio of 555 Brewery in Picton before picking up wood-fired pizza outside at Barrel House Pizza. It was so impressive how so many establishments had adapted to the pandemic. The pies were very expensive, but delicious, and it felt great to support a small business. We met a couple of Quebeckers enjoying the area, and I loved practicing my French as we shared back to school concerns and pandemic anecdotes.
The next morning, the family was up early for breakfast. The hotel has a seated, 4-option menu that was delicious, if not quite a lengthy affair. Closures have made staffing difficult, and with only one chef at the time, it was quite the wait. We were in the beautiful garden, though, and lots of masked kids got up to run and play. Our only concern was getting into the beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park before it was full.
The hotel has passes in order to avoid the line to get into the park, but once the limit has been reached, even a pass will not grant you access. In summer this typically happens at noon-1pm, and you can check the twitter feed for constant updates. Unfortunately, the hotel had lost track of some of their 5 passes, so we had to race away from breakfast to get in line. We got in, and the hotel later compensated us for the parking.
Sandbanks Provincial Park should be world-famous. Oh the beauty!! Three beaches, white sand that gradually enters the water and great body-surfing waves. What a treat!! Parking lots line the beach, so you are able to bring a good-sized picnic and skim boards without having to haul them very far.
Post-beach we drove through Wellington once again and discovered a fab patio (people have been getting creative!) between two buildings at Midtown Brewing Company. In keeping with other typical fare in ‘the county’, Korean Hotdogs, east coast shrimp rolls and fish and chips were served in stylish baskets.
One sad drawback of Covid was that so many businesses were shuttered. Normally there would be several alpaca farms to visit, and loads of restaurant options. Many farms and wineries were closed, and even in August after so much revenue had been lost with closures, there were limited attractions and dining options open mid-week. We managed to find food and dine on patios for every meal, apart for one on the Tuesday where many restaurant patios shut early and we devoured Subway sandwiches in our room.
The BMW X3 30e was fun, full of technology (wifi and wireless charging!) and smooth on dirt roads. With a spacious backseat, window shades and loads of room in the hatch we never felt squished. Can’t wait until next summer when we can explore more of Prince Edward County!
Disclosure: We did not partner with any business or tourist board or receive compensation for this road trip. BMW loaned a vehicle for 5 days in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.