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Vineyards, eateries and artisan food producers - hidden gems in Ontario's Prince Edward County

As I was walking around one of our neighbourhood's farmer's market, I was struck by the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables we grow in our province. And while the Niagara region is perhaps the best known area for fresh farm products, I like to visit Prince Edward County at this time of year, to try some of the excellent food on offer, much of it made from fresh County produce.

The County is of course well-known for Sandbanks Provincial Park, a place many of us will have visited for it's splendid beaches or perhaps a spot of camping. (Incidentally, when it comes to quiet beach walks I prefer North Beach). But it is beyond the sand dunes of West Lake that the real County lies – a region of rolling hills, stately homes, beautiful farms and tumble-down barns, romantic vineyards and road-side produce stalls lining miles of quiet country roads. And I wouldn't be an adventurer if I didn't go off the beaten track!

I love to visit Bloomfield, a small village halfway between Wellington and Picton. Plenty of boutiques await curious shoppers, including an antique store by the memorable name “Dead People's Stuff”. Hidden behind the United Church is a little secret oasis: the garden of the Saylor House Cafe, where a Saturday lunch or high tea is often accompanied by live music. Try the delicious scones, then pop over to Slickers Ice Cream across the road, a County institution and try their apple pie or campfire ice cream. A few doors east of Slickers you will find Bloomfield Public House and Market where you can pick up local foods and drinks for your picnic basket. They do great coffee as well. If art is your scene, near the junction of Highway 62 and County Road 1 you will find Oeno Galleries at Huff Estates and LalaLand Glass Studio.

Another of my favourite spots is on the other end of the County, in the strung-out hamlet of Waupoos. To get there, drive through Picton and take Highway 33 towards the Glenora Ferry. Just before you reach the ferry dock, go uphill on County Road 7 to Lake on the Mountain. If you are hungry by now, stop off at the Miller House, a French cafe and brasserie serving great charcuterie boards on a patio with some of the most spectacular views this part of the world has to offer.

If you are not hungry yet, continue to Waupoos. From Lake on the Mountain drive for about 11 kms until you reach Bongards Crossroad. Follow it south towards Waupoos for about 3 kms until, on top of a hill overlooking Lake Ontario, you will find the County Cider Company, surrounded by apple orchards and vines. Fresh baked pizza straight out of their wood-fired oven pairs deliciously well with their ciders. And on certain days they have live music, which only adds to the ambiance.

Nearby is the Waupoos Estate Winery where you can enjoy a glass of wine on the lawn overlooking Lake Ontario. And while you are in this neck of the woods, go east along County Road 8 to visit Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company. It is out of the way but you won't regret going here and taste and buy some of their spectacular cheeses made with local milk.

If you are into local produce, you could do worse than checking out a site dedicated to the bounty of the County, the tastetrail.

Backtrack along County Road 8 back westbound through Waupoos, past the former Waupoos Pub. This now is a restaurant, after Stella's Eatery moved here from Picton. It is one of the best in the County and a great place for dinner, so while you are here, pop in to make