Ontario has another wine destination, Prince Edward County, affectionately named “The County.” This cluster of towns, about 2.5 hours east of Toronto, is home to some of Ontario’s best wineries. But never was there a great place to stay until summer 2015 when Jeff Stober, the hotelier behind Toronto’s stylish Drake Hotel, opened a rural clone, the Drake Devonshire. It’s the ideal retreat for travelers wanting their Drake by Lake Ontario. Once a 19th-century foundry, the building is now a contemporary farmhouse-cottage, decked out with 11 individually-designed hotel rooms and two suites in the quaint town of Wellington. The property offers coziness all year round in the communal living room and out back over a lakeside fire pit and s’mores. Guests can hang in the barnlike Pavilion for musical performances, sommelier seminars, seasonal events, or just to gawk at the floor-to-ceiling mural by Brooklyn artist FAILE. It doesn’t hurt that Sandbanks Provincial Park—known for its 60-foot sand dunes—is practically the backyard of the Drake Dev.
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Though there aren’t neighborhoods, per se, in the Prince Edward County, many little towns are very close. Wellington, Picton, and Bloomfield are great for driving around or—if you’re adventurous—biking. Drake Devonshire backs onto Sandbanks Provincial Park, ideal for a day at the beach, on the dunes, or hiking the trails. Our favorite eateries within the block? Tall Poppy Cafe, East+Main, and Pomodoro. Want an interactive cooking experience? From the Farm cooking school awaits in an 1830s farmhouse. For nightlife on weekends, the Hayloft Dancehall is a barnyard stomping grounds revitalized by the owners of Toronto’s Dakota Tavern; take the shuttle ($5 each way) from Wellington to Cherry Valley.
Prince Edward County wineries near the hotel include Hinterland, the Grange, Closson Chase, Broken Stone, and the Old Third. Norman Hardie is a perennial favorite, with a terrace featuring wood-fired pizzas (developed by Pizzeria Libretto’s Rocco Agostino). For souvenirs, head to Coriander Girl for pretty flowers and gifts; the antique markets for one-of-a-kind decor finds; Agrarian for cheese; and Humble Bread for edibles. Of course, there are exciting festivals year-round, including Maple in the County, the Lavender Festival, the Great Canadian Cheese festival, the Birding Festival, and CountyLicious.
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Rooms: 11 rooms, 2 suites. From $229. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Head Chef Matthew (Matty) DeMille heads up the Drake Dev’s exciting farm-and-lake-to-table menu. Reservations are essential for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and snacks. We’re partial to the asparagus flatbread, roast-suckling pig, and rabbit gemelli. The extensive list of the county’s wines will be expertly paired with your meal. Handcrafted cocktails (and tasty nonalcoholic cocktails) with cheeky names can’t go unnoticed. Opt for the Forest Fire (Beefeater gin, Laphroaig Islay scotch, spruce tip syrup, lemon juice, egg white, and Angostura bitters) in lieu of dessert; the frozen Drinkin’ Watermelon (Absolut vodka, lemon verbena tea, watermelon, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters) is great for lakeside summer sipping. Spa and gym details: While there is no gym, the bounty of the county is at your feet. Get out and run, swim, hike, or bike. Cruiser bikes are available and perfect for riding the Millennium Trail. On a rainy day, hone your ping-pong skills in the game room. In-room spa services are offered, but at a minimum, the baths in each room—equipped with Malin+Goetz products—come pretty close to a peaceful sanctuary.
Who it's for: Artsy, creative types wanting a weekend away; those who yearn for adventure, the outdoors, and a little R&R; oenophiles with a penchant for all things gastronomic; those planning a country-inspired wedding, retreat, or special event. Our favorite rooms: The A-framed Owner’s Suite is a modern tepee come to life, a beacon for design fiends. The Douglas fir–encased suite includes detailed millwork on the ceiling, locally-sourced antique furniture, and original artwork by Rick Leong. The crowning jewels for a summer slumber party? A fireplace and a private balcony overlooking Lake Ontario. The Creekside rooms and balcony rooms offer a view of babbling Lane Creek. The Foundry Rooms are housed in the original inn and feature rustic Canadiana with modern touches. Good to know: Though there’s lots to do in the Glass Box—the Drake’s version of a rec room—our favorite activity is the Friday night figure drawing sessions with artist Stewart Jones. The twist? You’ll be sketching a live music performance. Purchase a supply kit for $20, or bring your own and pay a $10 cover. For exploring the area, ask about the Drake Shuttle. Staff will even pack you a gourmet brown-bag lunch. County wine tours curated and led by Drake guides are another way to explore. Want to do your own thing? Picnic basket services are available for wine-trail outings or for a romantic lunch.