14 Top-Rated Things to Do in Prince Edward County, ON
Author Bryan Dearsley visited the beautiful tourist region of Prince Edward County, Ontario, in the fall of 2022 to tour its parks and outdoor attractions.
Set on a headland jutting into Lake Ontario, the 1,000 square kilometers that make up this beautiful region offer a wealth of things to see and do. The area draws visitors as much for its outstanding natural beauty as for its laid-back vibe. Cute communities and long stretches of coastline, home to some of Ontario's best beaches, are the main attractions.
To learn more about the best places to visit in "the County," be sure to read through our list of the top things to do in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
1. Enjoy the Beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park
There's no better place to visit for warm-weather recreation in Prince Edward County than Sandbanks Provincial Park.
Located just a 20-minute drive from the county's largest town, Picton, the park protects the world's largest freshwater bay mouth barrier, a sand dune that eventually separated East Lake from Lake Ontario.
Boasting three large public beach areas, the sandbanks are a huge draw for families in particular, and are some of the top beaches in Ontario. Of these, the very best beach for families is Outlet Beach, popular for its shallow shores and safe swimming.
Wildlife enthusiasts won't be disappointed, either, as the parks offers many quieter spots that are perfect for bird-watching, especially in spring and fall as migrating bird species pass through. An extensive trail network, the Sandbanks Woodlands Trail, crisscrosses the dunes, woods, and wetlands, and interesting interpretive programs are offered.
Those wanting to extend their visit are well-served by available camping spaces within the park. Two attractive cottages are also available for rent. Alternatively, there are plenty of other accommodation options across the County, including quaint B&Bs and historic inns, including the classy Drake Devonshire Inn.
And although smaller, North Beach Provincial Park offers a similar yet generally less crowded experience to Sandbanks Provincial Park, and makes for a great picnic spot.
Address: 3004 County Road 12, Picton, Ontario
2. Visit the National Air Force Museum of Canada
Although strictly speaking not located in Prince Edward County itself, as it's close to the town of Belleville, the National Air Force Museum of Canada is well worth including in your travel itinerary to the area.
Just a few minutes off the main 401 route from Toronto and just outside the large Canadian Forces Base Trenton, this fascinating museum features exhibits relating to Canada's air force. Highlights include static displays of aircraft set across a 16-acre "Airpark" and numerous related artifacts, memorabilia, photos, and artwork.
The pride of the museum's collection, though, is its fully-restored Halifax bomber. Built during WWII and a mainstay of Allied bombing campaigns over Europe, this is the only surviving example of the bomber known to exist. Visitors can book a private tour of this aircraft's interior; a rare Lancaster bomber is also currently being restored.
Other aircraft, like the impressive Hercules troop and cargo carrier, can also be toured. A gift shop is located on-site.
Address: 220 RCAF Road, Astra, Ontario
3. Discover the Source of the Lake on the Mountain
Considered somewhat of an anomaly, as no one has yet discovered its source, the Lake on the Mountain is a must-visit in Prince Edward County. Located in the west of the County near the small community of Glenora, the Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park covers an area of 257 acres. It's 60 meters higher than Lake Ontario, and is well worth a visit.
From the parking area, a scenic viewpoint is easy to access and offers incredible views over the Bay of Quinte. It's also a lovely spot for a picnic. Afterwards, head into Glenora itself. Here, you can hitch a ride on the Glenora Ferry into Adolphustown across the Bay of Quinte; you can even take your car, at no extra cost.
Address: 296 County Road 7, Prince Edward, Ontario
4. Get Artsy at the Oeno Gallery
Art enthusiast or not, you should definitely include Oneo Gallery on your Prince Edward County travel itinerary.
Established in 2009, this attractive gallery building has showcased examples of original contemporary and historic art from across Canada and abroad, including paintings and sculptures. In addition to its permanent collections, temporary exhibits of works by international artists are also held here.
A highlight of a visit is exploring the Oeno Gallery's impressive sculpture garden. Set amid four acres of pleasantly landscaped grounds adjacent to the gallery, the garden is home to some 30 installations, including sculptures that encourage viewers to unleash their curiosity.
The County's Mad Dog Gallery is also worthy of a visit. Established in 1990 and set in a historic barn, the gallery features work by a variety of local artists. Be sure to also allow time to wander through the surrounding gardens.
Address: 2274 Prince Edward County Rd 1, Bloomfield, Ontario
5. Circle the Bay of Quinte
Named after a French mission that set up here centuries ago, the Bay of Quinte is a large body of water that separates Prince Edward County from Belleville and "mainland" Ontario. Long popular with boaters and cottagers, "The Bay," as it's known locally, is also a popular fishing spot, in particular for walleye.
A great way to enjoy the many sightseeing opportunities available around The Bay is to plan a circular tour, starting and ending in Belleville. From Belleville, head east to Shannonville before taking York Road through the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, crossing the Bay on Highway 49, and circling west to Rossmore.
It's a scenic drive, so allow plenty of time to stop, especially once you hit the Prince Edward County leg of the journey.
6. Explore History at Mariners Park Museum
Perhaps not surprisingly given its location on Lake Ontario and being just a short distance from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Prince Edward County has a long and rich marine tradition. Those wanting to learn more about this history should include Mariners Park Museum on their list of fun things to do.
Situated between Port Milford and South Bay, this museum has done a great job of preserving the region's maritime history. Highlights of a visit include fascinating displays related to everything from shipbuilding to fishing, as well as rum running, a risky occupation that peaked during the US prohibition when illegal alcohol was smuggled from local (also illegal) distillers to New York.
Boat races and recreational boating are also covered. Also of note is the old lighthouse, brought here from nearby Duck Island, along with numerous ship models and artifacts.
Address: 2065 County Road 13, Milford, Ontario
7. Wander around Pretty Picton
One of the prettiest small towns in Ontario, Picton was established in 1786 by Loyalists from the United States, and has much to commend it to the curious traveler.
Boasting a picturesque main street, the community offers plenty of things to do for young and old alike, from great shopping and dining experiences to sightseeing around its leafy neighborhoods with their fine old heritage homes, as well as the town's pleasant harbor.
Points of interest in Picton include historic Crystal Palace, a smaller replica of the famous building in London, England, and Macaulay Heritage Park, with its historic home and church. There's also a fun space for older kids to play called Youthpark, which features a skateboard park.
8. See Your Feathery Friends at Birdhouse City
Although undoubtedly Prince Edward County's most unusual attraction, Birdhouse City is a must-visit when touring the region. Located just outside Picton in the Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area, this attraction consists of an impressive collection of birdhouses that each represent a famous building from around the world or from the county itself.
What started as a one-off scale model birdhouse of an old area hotel has since grown into an impressive collection of over 100 such structures as local business, schools, and groups kept on adding new birdhouses.
While locals will recognize renditions of county landmarks such as Crystal Palace and Salmon Point Lighthouse, the rest of us will have no problem spotting iconic structures such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a Greek temple, and yes, even the local Tim Hortons.
Location: Picton, Prince Edward County, Ontario
9. Visit Macaulay Heritage Park
After exploring Birdhouse City, be sure to leave some time to check out Macaulay Heritage Park, located on the outskirts of picturesque Picton. The highlight of a visit is stepping inside the attractive Macaulay House, a red-brick heritage home built in 1830 that now serves as a museum.
Also worth seeing are the nearby Church of St. Mary Magdalene (also a museum), along with the expansive gardens.
Afterwards, be sure to spend at least a little time wandering around Picton. Set on Picton Bay, itself a part of the Bay of Quinte, it's here you'll find a number of other interesting historic buildings, including the Crystal Palace, an old inn, and numerous fine old homes.
Address: 23 Church Street, Picton, Ontario
10. Explore the Past at Ameliasburgh Heritage Village
Ameliasburgh Heritage Village makes for a fun excursion for those traveling with kids. Established in 1968, this popular interactive living history museum consists of a variety of historic preserved structures from across Prince Edward County. The most notable of these, the Wesleyan Methodist Church, dates from 1868.
Other buildings to explore include a number of barns and a dairy, a log home, a general store, and functioning blacksmith's and carpenter's shops. Also worth seeing is a 1910 Goldie Corliss steam engine, complete with an 18-foot-diameter flywheel.
If you're feeling peckish and can spare the time, book one of the village's traditional afternoon teas. Guided tours are available.
Address: 517 County Road 19, Ameliasburgh, Ontario
11. Spend Time in Belleville
A visit to the town of Belleville, located just outside Prince Edward County and set overlooking the Bay of Quinte, is time well spent when exploring this area of eastern Ontario. A good place to start is in the city's attractive downtown core.
Chock-full of great restaurants offering casual and fine-dining food experiences, along with numerous places to shop including art galleries and clothing shops, downtown Belleville stretches along the lakeshore from Keegan Parkway and up Front Street. It's an especially pleasant treat during the festive light displays leading up to Christmas.
City planners also created plenty of green space, adding a number of great parks to explore. Zwick's Centennial Park is the city's largest, and features over three kilometers of paved paths, frequent events and concerts at the bandshell, a dog park, as well as plenty of picnic spots.
Riverside Park is a good choice for those traveling with toddlers for its large fort-themed adventure playground.
There is also a very large network of hiking and biking trails across the city. Some of the best, including the nearly three-kilometer-long Bayshore trail, include waterfront sections with great views over the Bay of Quinte. There's also plenty of easy access to the many rural trails around Belleville, too, including a 24-kilometer-long section of the Trans Canada Trail.
12. Little Bluff Conservation Area
Just a short distance from Mariners Park Museum, the 70-acre Little Bluff Conservation Area features some of the county's most dramatic coastal scenery. Set atop a 20-meter-tall limestone bluff that seems to plunge into Prince Edward Bay, this section of Lake Ontario features breathtaking views.
After getting your fill of the views, clamber carefully down to the beach below along the cobblestone rocks. You'll be rewarded with incredible views of the cliffs you were just standing on. There are also close to two kilometers of pleasant trails to explore, with the chance to get in some wildlife spotting along the way.
Just a little farther east along County Road 13, you'll wind up at Prince Edward Point. Here, you'll have access to the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, a large preservation area covering over 1,380 acres that was established in 1978 to monitor migratory bird traffic.
All told, more than 300 bird species spend time here, more than 70 of which nest in the area, drawn by the extensive scrubland, grassland, woods, and swamps.
Address: 3625 County Road 13, Milford, Ontario
13. Pop into the Historic Crystal Palace
A short walk away from downtown Picton is one of the more unusual historic buildings in Prince Edward County, if not all of Ontario. Built in 1887 on the Prince Edward County Fairgrounds, the Crystal Palace was designed as a smaller replica of its famous namesake in London.
Built entirely of wood and glass and painted in yellows and greens, this is certainly an impressive sight, and one that's extremely photo-worthy. The building is now used for community events and private functions.
Address: 375 Picton Main St., Picton, Ontario
14. Take the Kids to the Quinte Museum of Natural History
Opened in 2022, the Quinte Museum of Natural History is not only the newest major attraction in Prince Edward County, it's also one of the most interesting. Set in a 5,000-square-foot former warehouse space, just a short drive from the National Air Force Museum of Canada, the museum is home to a surprisingly large collection of casts of original dinosaur bones.
Laid out in a series of galleries with easy-to-follow explanatory notes, these full-scale skeleton casts include everything from carnivorous dinosaurs such as velociraptors to armor-plated and horned beasts.
It's a fascinating and kid-friendly collection that takes around an hour to visit, so be sure to include it in your Prince Edward County travel itinerary — whether you're traveling with kids or not.
Address: Old Morton-Parker Building, 99 Dufferin Ave., Trenton, Ontario