The following trip was sponsored by Bay of Quinte, but all opinions are my own.
I’ve been following more and more tourism accounts for Ontario on social media lately. As you can tell by some of our previous posts, we’ve taken to exploring more of Ontario during the pandemic. We find it to be a great way to support local and stay safer than our usual globetrotting plans that have been put on hold until 2021.
I remember coming across an advertisement on Instagram for a contest to travel around the Bay of Quinte for a weekend. I raised my eyebrows, just where was Bay of Quinte? What could we do there? How far was it from Toronto? After a quick google session – I learned Bay of Quinte is located in Southern Ontario on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. It’s well known for their fishing, golf courses, provincial parks and wineries. It comprises of several communities like Belleville, Brighton, Quinte West, Prince Edward County and greater Napanee. So much to explore and about 1.5-2 hour drive from Toronto – not bad! Bay of Quinte and I decided to team up to showcase what their beautiful area had to offer for a fun road trip.
My friend and fellow WCT blogger Katie and I decided to meet in Quinte West for our wonderful accommodation at local Air BnB Strawberry Hallow. It was a great, pet friendly bungalow with 3 bedrooms and a backyard. We found the area to be a perfect launch point as nothing was too far of a drive from this location. It was beautifully decorated and the host, Nicole, was easy to communicate with – we were very happy to be calling it home for two nights. (At the time of publication the property is listed at $130 a night and can be found here : )
One of the first communities we decided to explore was Brighton. Katie and I love finding unique pieces to bring home or add to the Inn in PEC and we excited to stop at Marion’s Antiques (360 Main St, Brighton, ON) a charming stop filled with everything from furniture to vintage stuffed animals. We browsed through books, vinyl records and beautiful jewellery pieces. The man at the front desk was happy to chat, telling us they had only recently re-opened and had a great response from the locals who started visiting again right away. We walked away with a smile and a crystal candy bowl.
Right across the street is Cheer Farms (365 Main St, Brighton, ON), a family owned and operated farm stand where you can pick up fresh produce, local knick knacks and baked goods! The stand was all decked out for the holidays, you could pick up some nice festive flower arrangements and home made home décor. The service was wonderful and we were able to purchase some fresh from the oven Hello Dollies, ‘Christmas’ jam and bbq sauce. It was definitely worth the stop!
It was starting to hit lunch time and we were looking for a good spot to stop for a coffee and sandwich, a short drive away we pulled up to Lola’s Coffee House (74 Main St, Brighton ON) in downtown Brighton. This seemed to be a popular place with the locals, as every time we passed by it over the two day trip, the patio would be filled with families or friends catching up over a coffee and a snack. Lola’s has been a farm-to-table staple to the community for the last 13 years. We enjoyed giant house-made deluxe grilled cheese and muffaletta sandwiches (we both had to take these in to-go boxes!) and delicious lattes with beans from local Picton, ON roaster ‘The County Roaster’. They have great all day breakfast options as well and delicious baked goods to go with your coffee. Vegan friendly, as well! At this time, they are also taking orders for pickup!
A cute, quirky spot we were recommended to stop at was The Bird House ( 240 Presqu'Ile Pkwy, Brighton, ON) A wonderful spot if you have a garden or balcony that could be a little more bird friendly. Fun bird houses, feeders, baths and bird seed wreaths were up for grabs at this family run store. They are currently offering pick up at the front door, or two visitors inside at a time max.
Full from lunch and looking to burn off a little energy, we decided a scenic walk would make for the perfect afternoon activity. Right down the street from The Bird House lies the entrance to Presqu’lle Provincial Park – the perfect place for a stroll with over 16km of trails and paths and a gorgeous shoreline with plenty of picnic tables to stop at and enjoy the view. If you wanted to prolong your stay, there are over 300 camping spots to hunker down at in the park.
It also happens to be home to Ontario’s second oldest lighthouse built in 1840. We parked and walked along the shoreline to visit the 69 foot lighthouse with a bright red door. Plaques informed us about the tragic loss of the schooner ‘Speedy’ in October of 1804 as it carried several high ranking trial officials and a prisoner travelling from York (aka Toronto) to Presqu'lle. The waters in the area are highly dangerous and many ships have sadly been lost – hence the importance of the lighthouse. There is lots of history tied to Presqu’lle, so take your time exploring the grounds and reading the historical blurbs as you go. We walked away with more knowledge about the area than when we first came – which is definitely an added bonus.
After recharging a bit by the lake, we drove to Quinte West to visit the Dahlia May Flower Farm (1226 Stockdale Rd, Quinte West). The farm grows chemical free, specialty flowers on 3 acres of land and even offers flower subscriptions and deliveries. Their beautiful bouquet creations have gotten them an Instagram following of over 81 thousand flower enthusiasts! We were lucky enough to see their holiday displays and walked away with wreaths and a holly bush. There were also house plants and succulents to choose from in their on farm store. If you have a green thumb, I’d recommend the stop. I bet in the spring and summer the meadow really comes alive with flowers and I would love to come back and see it all in full bloom!
Katie had already heard of The County Emporium before Bay of Quinte suggested it to me (2522 County Road 64, Quinte West) and the idea of being able to get a little holiday shopping done and have my dinner under the same roof was intriguing. Friendly owners Kate and Davelynn were there to greet us at the front of the shop where workers were setting up Christmas trees and stringing up lights. The store, which was actually a church, was filled with unique gift ideas and local products. A popular item seemed to be Smashtess romper, as the ladies were already wearing them when we arrived, and our friend Jo who tagged along with us told me she had just received her romper she had ordered from them (they deliver! How convenient! ) Funky holiday socks and specialty gummy candy was bought before we put in our order for dinner. You place your order (the menu will change from time to time as they will get catered by different local restaurants) which happened to be Indian Food that night, we all got butter chicken and naan bread (delicious!) and took our meals to an adjoining room that resembled an upscale cafeteria with pink plush couches, warm inviting blankets on benches and mason jars filled with pretty carnations. It was a great, chill atmosphere and I’d love to go back in the light of day to get a better look at the church.
We woke up early in Strawberry Hallow the next morning to try and cover as much ground as we could. A bakery I was very much looking forward to visiting was the first pit stop of the day! Wannamaker’s bakery (391 Dundas Street W, Trenton ON) is located in Trenton and had some of the most delicious baked goods I had ever laid my eyes on. Giants cinnamon buns, coconut donuts and apple fritters were heaped into a take away box for us to enjoy on the run. I couldn’t believe just how heavy the box was when we took it out of the shop – you really get your monies worth. If you have a sweet tooth, this is the place to be. See https://www.facebook.com/WannamakersHomeSweetHome/ for more information – your stomach will thank you!
We took the donuts along for a ride to Frink Conservation Area (381 Thrasher Road, Plainfield ON). It’s a bit of a drive outside of the city center, but a great place to get a little peace and quiet. Many of the trails start right there in the parking lot (close to 13km of paths and trails to follow!)- Or there’s a breezy walk you can opt to take instead down the .9km boardwalk across a serene silver maple swamp. Spot a variety of birds, beavers and turtles. The day we visited, toddlers and their parents were accompanied by a nature expert and were taking part in ‘nature classes’. We really loved to see the community safely get together like this in outdoor spaces for the love of nature and wildlife! A teacher graciously stopped to talk to us and tell us a bit more about the area, how the swans have just come back to the marsh, and even showed us where we could find a few beaver dams. Soon, Katie and I had the boardwalk to ourselves as the students moved on and there is something so calming and healing about being out in nature- good for the soul. Come get a breath of fresh air for yourself.
Looking for a little more sustenance after our walk, we drove back into town to grab some lunch at The Caribbean Jerk Spot (690 Sidney Street, Belleville ON). Once owned by a husband and wife team from Montego Bay, the restaurant has now been passed onto the couple’s daughter with family friend Devin working in the kitchen. You know when you smell dishes bubbling away in a kitchen with lingering spices and sweet aromas in the air and you just KNOW it’s going to be a good meal? That was The Caribbean Jerk Spot. Katie opted for the traditional jerk chicken on rice while I went with Devin’s sweet and sour chicken. Plenty of vegetarian options to choose from as well. The portions were great and Katie and I were so full. Please note, at this time you’re only able to takeaway food. We enjoyed the meal in our warm and cozy car.
We had a little room left for dessert and drove across the road to visit Reid’s Dairy (222 Bell Boulevard, Belleville, ON), a Belleville institution. They’ve been providing dairy to local’s since 1910 and were home of the Loonie Milkshake. Yep, a small shake is just a loonie! Even though it was chilly out, Katie and I saw so many cars come and go, running back to their passengers will trays of milkshakes. They had some full holiday flavours to choose from and I went for a delicious egg nog shake and Katie got a mocha shake. Both were gone pretty quickly, and it left me wishing I had ordered a large. You can also grab some ice cream and you guessed it, milk to go. The building itself is shaped almost like a castle, you can’t miss it from the roadway, and once you get inside there is a giant cow with sunglasses on to greet you, pre COVID times you were able to press a button to make him moo. It’s a quirky stop for sure.
We decided to do a little shopping and downtown Belleville was just the spot to scratch that retail itch. We were able to grab a to-go coffee and some nice snacks and pantry items to take home from French bistro L’auberge de France (304 Front St, Belleville ON) They had a delicious array of sandwiches and decadent desserts for purchase as well, but unfortunately we were a little too full from lunch – but we are excited for our next visit.
A short walk away, we saw the most unique vintage shop! Katie and I fell in love just from walking past the window display. We dove into treasures from years before we were born and tried on velvet hats, silk shirts and picked out the perfect handbags. Boretski Gallery (300 Front St) is the perfect place to get lost in, they have everything from causal wear to evening and formal wear and even vintage jewelry and shoes! Owner Marina was friendly and knowledgeable and every piece in the store seemed to have a story. She showed us a few shirts and skirts that were repurposed from clothing that was damaged beyond repair – a really fun way to reuse and recycle. We both bought some gems and were so happy we stumbled across.
We had a little time to kill before our dinner reservation so, Katie was kind enough to let me stop at Wildcard Brewing (38 Gotha St, Trenton ON) to see what they had to offer. Katie is more of a wine girl, but she’s always up to try something new. You never know until you try! Located in a pretty unassuming industrial part of town, Wildcard Brewing has plenty of outdoor seating, a few brews on tap and a bottle room that was open for takeaway. The spot itself is close to an airbase, so we were able to enjoy a few beers and watch giant planes fly overhead, it made for a pretty cool show. Some of our favourites were Purple Sour Ranger (this one even Katie enjoyed!), Notoriously Juicy IPA and Limey Bastard, a nice light beer with lime. Friendly staff and great outdoor space. Well worth a stop if you’re a beer enthusiast.
Dinner time finally rolled around and we were really looking forward to dining at the infamous Tomasso’s Italian Grille. (35 Front St Trenton, ON) Plenty of locals we met in Trenton were quick to tell us it was the best restaurant in town. It’s located right on the picturesque downtown waterfront- it would have made for a great patio scene in the summer. The menu offered favorite Italian classics, and a great selection of cocktails. It was a perfect way to unwind after a busy day. Katie and I both enjoyed a pasta dish (Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo $21 and Fettuccine California $22) and the relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant. If you don’t have time to have a sit down meal, you can always pop into Jim’s Pizzeria next door for a slice or pizza to go! We really enjoyed this recommendation and see why the community cherishes Tomasso’s so much!
And so our road trip came to an end, I felt like we were able to do as much as we could in those two days we were visiting, but there is still so much to cross off our lists! We look forward to coming back to explore and get to know the Bay of Quinte a bit better. We extend a heartfelt thank you to Bay of Quinte for hosting and introducing us to their wonderful communities we otherwise might not have known about! If you want to mirror our road trip or add new stop suggestions for next time, please feel free to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear about it!
Please see www.bayofquinte.ca for more information!
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.