Bringing cool to the country, the Drake Devonshire hotel in Prince Edward County is the rural answer to Toronto’s hipper-than-thou digs, The Drake. This modern farmhouse on the shores of Lake Ontario has roaring fires, scheduled sing-alongs and roasted marshmallows aplenty. But because the Drake always ups the cultural ante, this pastoral outpost also hosts live music, author visits and art exhibitions to boot.
Double rooms from $225.78 (CA$299), excluding tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of CA$2.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates are for room only. Continental breakfast – including house-baked scones, clotted cream and coffee – costs CAD $9 for adults and CAD $6 for kids.
Forgot your toothbrush? The Drake General Store in the lobby has all your toiletry needs and so much more. The shop stocks maple syrup candles in retro tins and crocheted cacti – could this be the greatest hotel gift shop ever?
At the hotel
Full concierge services, game room, public fireplaces, waterfront fire pit, on-site parking, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Bose docking station, minibar, sweet treat at turndown, artisan-made doll, bathrobes, Malin+Goetz bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Celebrating an anniversary? Go big and go for the Owner’s Suite. It has a full glass wall facing the lake, plus a private patio and fireplace. For families, the two-bedroom Loft is ideal. In addition to the extra room, there’s an adjoining lounge and two bathrooms.
There’s no pool, but there is a beachfront for waterside lounging (no swimming, sorry). If you’d like to take a dip, the beaches at Sandbanks Provincial Park are a quick drive away.
Guests can request in-room treatments like massages, reflexology, manicures and pedicures. The hotel also has a seasonal lakeside massage hut, where guests can enjoy a range of treatments in the warm summer air. The menu includes couples meditation sessions, yoga and massages.
No need to shove Monopoly in your bag for your weekend at the lake. The hotel has a dedicated rec room with board games and a ping-pong table. And this isn’t just any game room. Called the Glass Box, the space has floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the nearby creek.
The restaurant and bar are wheelchair accessible, as is Foundry Guestroom #101.
Kids of all ages are welcome. The restaurant has highchairs and a ‘Little Drake’ menu; staff is happy to heat up milk or baby food too. As for activities, the Drake Dev often hosts campfire sing-alongs on the deck.
When the weather’s warm, grab a table outside on the deck.
Do your best to interpret ‘country chic.’ Whether that means a Pendleton poncho and vintage cowboy boots, or simply your coolest band tee and a pair of Converse kicks, you’ll mesh with the laid-back atmosphere here.
With an A-frame ceiling and exposed Douglas fir beams, the Drake’s restaurant feels like a summer camp dining hall, albeit one of the chicest mess halls around. The green wraparound banquettes and yellow chairs make for a bold colour scheme, and artist Don Maynard’s installation, Flock, isn’t your typical restaurant decor. Feast on jaw-dropping views of Lake Ontario, as well as chef Alexandra Feswick’s lake-to-table cuisine. Seafood chowder, pan-seared pickerel and moulesfrites are just a few picks from the menu.
Beyond the bar at the restaurant, which is stocked with local vino, there are two seasonal spots for a drink. The first is the Drake Pavilion – a screened-in deck overlooking the lake that serves up booze and chow from 9am to 11pm. Then there are the cascading wooden bleachers that overlook the lake. Head there for a glass of Prince Edward County chardonnay at dusk in the summertime.
In the main restaurant, you’ll have to eat all the hand-cut, rosemary-salted fries you can by 11pm. Room service runs until 11pm, too.
Order food to your vintage-bedecked and potentially creek-side room from 8am to 11pm. Options include chicken and waffles, a charcuterie plate, a lobster roll and more.
On the banks of Lake Ontario, the Drake Devonshire is in the town of Wellington in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport. From there, the hotel is a two-and-a-half-hour drive east.
Traveling by rail? The closest station is Bellville, which is just 30 minutes from the hotel. Trains come from both Ottawa and Montreal by VIA Rail.
Take the 401 (two and a half hours east from Toronto and four hours west from Montreal). Even if you’re flying into Toronto, it’s worth it to rent your own wheels. The hotel has free on-site parking and you’ll need a car to explore all that the county has to offer.
Worth getting out of bed for
Borrow a cruiser bicycle from the hotel and pedal to a local beach, just minutes from the hotel. The Drake Dev will even pack a gourmet brown-bag lunch for you and include a bottle of local wine. You should also take to Prince Edward County’s many trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. Sandbanks Provincial Park in Picton (just a 20-minute drive) has 11km of trails, plus three sandy beaches for windsurfing, sailing and sunbathing. Then there’s Millennium Trail, a former railway that’s been converted into a scenic 49km stretch. Snaking its way through Picton, Wellington, Bloomfield and Consecon, the trail has marshes, farmland, forests and creeks.
Once you’ve had your fill of physical activity, kick back with some wine. Prince Edward County is filled with vineyards and wineries. Start with Norman Hardie Winery (613 399 5297) in Wellington. The tasting bar is open year round and during the summer there’s a wood-fired pizza oven. Grab a glass of pinot noir and nibble on thin crust pizza on the patio. At Rosehall Run (613 399 1183), also in Wellington, arrange for a private tour of the grounds as well as a barrel tasting in the cellar with winemaker Dan Sullivan. Up for a bit of bubbly? Hinterland Wine Company (613 399 2903) in Hillier (15 minutes from Wellington) makes sparkling wines. Try Whitecap, which is named for Lake Ontario’s chilly waters and has notes of peach and melon.
For a proper introduction to Prince Edward County, head toEast & Main Bistro (613 399 5420) near the main intersection in Wellington. There the emphasis is on local meats, vegetables and cheeses, plus the owners will help match your PEC dish with a PEC wine. Canadian bistro The Courage serves almost too pretty to eat dishes; Gyoza dumplings, ceviche with orange blossom, seared trout and spicy za’atar fries. At Blumen Garden Bistro(613 476 6841) in Picton the inspiration comes from farther afield. Chef Andreas Feller fuses tastes from his native Switzerland with South American and Canadian influences. If the weather permits, sit in the lush gardens and try the pistachio-crusted rack of venison. Just keep in mind that the restaurant closes each year between the end of January and the end of March.
On weekends, make a beeline for Enid Grace, which dishes out giant fluffy cinnamon rolls on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s open for leisurely breakfasts, lunches and coffee throughout the week too (we’re just big fans of pillowy baked goods). Have a sweet tooth? Post-meal, make your way to Slickers Ice Cream (613 393 5433) in Bloomfield. A favourite among locals, their creamy flavours include lemon chiffon, pecan pie and rhubarb and ginger.
Inside the Agrarian bistro in Bloomfield, you’ll findSpeakeasy(613 393 0111), a funky bar with craft brews on tap, ciders, local wines and cocktails. Stop by on Saturday nights for live music – everything from flamenco guitar to roots to indie singer/songwriters.
Navigating to the Drake Devonshire from Toronto, where I live and work, on a Friday afternoon is a rare two-and-a-half-hour drive that you can actually look forward to. It’s almost a straight shot east along the 401. But once you veer off the highway, you get the distinct feeling of arriving in the country – that mythical place that’s only a true respite if you live most of your life in the city.
The myth-making was amplified on this particular February evening by a dense fog that enveloped us as we reached the ‘County’ (as the area is known by those of us who don’t get there very often, but wish they could). We arrived at the Drake Devonshire a half hour later without incident, but very much in need of a drink.
Lucky for us, a drink at the Drake is a given. And just 10 minutes after checking into our room (quaint, thoughtfully decorated, full of Malin & Goetz toiletries and a well-stocked mini bar), we were in the restaurant for dinner. A word of advice: if you plan on dining at the hotel for brunch or dinner on a weekend, make a reservation. Drake’s restaurant is one of only a few popular spots in the region, meaning many non-hotel guests flock here for oysters, duck confit salad and truffled lasagna. The food is top-notch and the wine list, especially if you go local (the County is famous for its small-scale vineyards), is even better.
There are two exceptional aspects when it comes to The Drake Devonshire. The first is the location. If you live in or around Toronto, you’ll know that outside the city we lack the kind of high-quality hospitality that we’ve come to expect inside the city. There are, of course, some exceptions – and the Drake Devonshire is one. But what makes it all the better is its stunning location just steps from Lake Ontario that’ll make you feel as though you’re weekend-ing on the seaside. And then there’s the County itself, with Sandbanks Provincial Park (a hike or summertime lounging location that gives the impression of being on the moon), myriad Victorian farmhouses and excellent wineries, and an ever-expanding hub of micro-breweries and farm-to-table restaurants, all within a half-hour drive of the hotel.
The second is the hotel’s spot-on vibe and decor. The Drake Hotel and restaurants in Toronto are similarly near-perfect in this regard, and so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But there’s something about the fact that this airy space used to be a foundry originally built in the late 1800s which makes the hotel that much more charming. And the additions – most spectacularly the double-height, super-bright dining room that backs onto the lake – fit just as seamlessly with the cozy County vibe. The Drake team are pros when it comes to filling their spaces with weird and wonderful art (our room featured pastoral paintings interjected with cartoon characters like Gumby and Lisa Simpson), and quirky Canadiana.
The hotel is located in a tiny town called Wellington – which is a very good thing. We put the local cafes, breweries and restaurants to great use, as more than one or two meals at The Drake can get pricey. In those off-hours between outdoor adventures, antiquing and (more) wine, the hotel has outdoor fire pits, a small beach and deck chairs to lounge in during the summertime, and an indoor games rooms, ping-pong table, photo booth and, again, lots of wine to entertain in the colder months. There’s also a preponderance of programming, from morning yoga to special dining events to take advantage of – again, the team are hospitality pros. It’s well worth the journey for a weekend in the County.
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