Take a trip to Nature in Prince Edward County
Never before has the call of the wild been so loud.
The birds are chirp-chirping, the bees are buzz-buzzing, and the brooks, of course, are babbling on and on and on. You can almost hear the grass growing and the trees flowering.
All amplified, of course, by being cooped up since mid-March in the sameness of routine that has been wrought by COVID-19.
We hear it, too.
So, if you’re clamouring for more than a Zoom call with Mother Nature, jump in your car and head to The County.
(Just a couple reminders: Be sure to bring a mask and hand sanitizer and respect physical distancing of at least 2m/6.5′. Follow signs and instructions when in washrooms, stores or while at restaurants and tasting rooms. Call ahead for curbside pick-up. Please delay your trip is you’re feeling unwell.)
While Sandbanks Provincial Park is The County’s marquee attraction, there are several other beautiful provincial parks and conservation areas well worth a day trip, including North Beach Provincial Park, located between Consecon and Wellington, with the same softy, sandy beaches and clear, turquoise waters as Sandbanks – but far fewer crowds. Be sure to check in with Ontario Parks about the activities available during your trip.
Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park is the place for a picnic – it’s a natural phenomenon, a lake on top of a ‘mountain,’ itself surrounded by a lake.
Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area, which includes the beloved Birdhouse City, is the place to head for a challenging hike or a hamstring-busting bike ride.
Off the beaten path is Beaver Meadow Conservation Area, a small site dominated by a marsh teeming with life, from birds to swans to the flat-tailed critters that give the park its name. And plenty of mosquitoes. Bring your bug spray!
And of course, the rocky and picturesque Little Bluff Conservation Area, home to smooth round rocks, a marsh that’s home to singing frogs, cliffs offering gorgeous views of the blue, blue waters, and dozens of water snakes(!). It’s a great site for a picnic.
Remember to do your part to keep The County clean and green – pack out what you bring in.
We’re an island, so we’ve got water all around us for whatever it is that you love doing on lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. And more than 700 kilometres of shoreline to explore! So bring your boat and fishing pole, kayak, canoe, surfboard, kiteboard, paddleboard – or just your camera – and make a splash.
Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards can also be rented at Cabin Fever Kayak.
Ah, the lure of the open road … the dustier and dirtier and twistier the better. And we’ve got lots of those.
The road trip has been immortalized and romanticized in books and movies and popular culture since, well, the beginning of roads. It’s a fantastic way to explore the pastoral and natural beauty of The County. We’ve even got a few paved roads to smooth it all out.
Pick a road and just go. Head north to Sophiasburgh, where County Road 3 hugs the Bay of Quinte, or where County Road 15 leads to Big Island and North Port. Head east on County Road 8 to Waupoos and Cressy, where the winding roads pass farmers fields and forests.
West goes toward Hillier; Closson Road has The County’s most sights (and wineries), while Wilson Road has become its own attraction, with two wineries, two art studios, a brewery and garden centre – plus a distillery under construction.
Or drive south toward South Shore, Cherry Valley and Milford, following the river, or heading deep into birding territory.
You really can’t get lost (we say with an abundance of confidence). We’re an island, so eventually you’ll hit water. But take a map or GPS. And we’re larger than we look – it takes more than an hour to cross from Consecon to Cressy – with gas stations to be found only in Carrying Place, Wellington, Picton and Rossmore – so fill ‘er up before you go.
The Millennium Trail is another of The County’s treasures … some might say a hidden one despite its 46-kilometre length that stretches from Picton in the east to Consecon in the west.
It’s a haven for all kinds of users including walkers, hikers, joggers, cyclists, ATV riders, dirt bikers, and snowmobiles, skiers and snowshoers. No cars are allowed, however farm vehicles from adjacent properties do have access.
The linear park, as it’s called, has more than 30 access points where you can hop on and off . (In fact, it’s possible to do a beer or wine crawl by hopping and off the trail.) And it offers up quite a diversity of beautiful landscapes, from rural to urban, farms to forests, streams to lakes and wetlands.
The trail is open, but please respect physical distancing.
If you’re a bird lover, the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO) area is a must visit. The mainly volunteer-driven observatory records about 220 species during an average year, and bands more than 8,000 birds, including more than 500 northern saw-whet owls!
It’s one of approximately 25 independent stations across Canada, with PEPtBO being the second largest. Since they began officially documenting our feathered friends, a total of 298 different species have been recorded! You might see warblers, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, kinglets, finches and raptors, among others. April and November are peak times to see migrating birds, with lots of colourful birds in the spring and raptors in the fall.
The observatory is located within PEC’s south shore, which is designated as a Bird Important and Biodiversity Area – an international system of designating areas important for numbers, habitat or staging. It encompasses approximately 26 square kilometres of land, 65 sq. km of near-shore waters, and roughly 30 km of shoreline … so plenty to explore!
The Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area is currently open. Please check PEPtBO’s website for updates on COVID-19 related closures.
Spend the night and you just might be treated to some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets anywhere! Whether it’s over open water, across a field of golden corn, or beyond a barn, seeing the sun’s rise and fall makes each day in The County truly picture-perfect.
So, what are you waiting for? Get in that car and get ready to squeeze the freshness out of Mother Nature, figuratively speaking, of course.
Article and photos by George Amaro