You don’t need a passport and expensive airfare to transport yourself to relaxation and bliss.
Traveling to places unknown and discovering hidden gems not too far from home is such a refreshing and much-needed experience. It not only gives you a new appreciation for the beautiful province of Ontario, but it expands your knowledge of things, people and places you otherwise would have never known.
My husband and I had a wonderful weekend getaway of country comfort and culinary delight in Ontario’s Southwest.
After my last relaxing yet adventure-filled getaway to Hamilton-Halton Brant, my amplified thirst for discovering more of Ontario led me to reading up more on what Ontario had to offer.
When the opportunity presented itself to pack our weekenders yet again to get a taste of what Ontario’s Southwest had to offer including a rapidly evolving culinary, wine and craft beer scene plus world-class fresh-water beaches and friendly community filled with strong rural roots, we did not hesitate to start packing our bags.
In the hustle and bustle of city and suburbia, it’s really nice to get away and hit the backwoods but at the same time, this wine and food lover was equally thrilled to learn that Ontario’s Southwest was brimming with some great restaurants and wineries.
Did you know about Savour Elgin?
Savour Elgin is a program with a goal to promote and enhance culinary tourism in Elgin County.
The Savour Elgin trail is a route through Elgin County that visits some of the best restaurants, farms, wineries, and other culinary attractions that focus on food and drink that’s local and unique to the area.
I love when you can actually see where the food and drinks you consume are grown and come from – from farm to table!
Our late-night arrival brought us to the beautiful Sweet Magnolia House B&B in Aylmer, a beautifully restored heritage home, where we were able to rest our heads and bodies for the night before our busy and exciting weekend experience.
Brenda was absolutely wonderful — so welcoming, accommodating and friendly.
It was me and my husband’s first experience staying at a Bed and Breakfast and we were so glad to have had it here.
The room we stayed in was amazing — separate areas including a full bathroom with stand-up (large shower), a living room area with large LCD TV and comfortable L-shaped couch, and a bedroom area.
We slept very well and woke up to a delicious home-made and locally sourced breakfast. It was satisfying and absolutely delicious!
To see more pictures of our weekend of Country Comfort in Ontario’s Southwest, you can view at the end of the post in a detailed slideshow.
Our adventure begins! First stop: Heritage Line Herbs.
Heritage Line Herbs is a working farm, offering agri-tours, a retail store, nine themed walking gardens (including the pizza garden), potted herbs and heirloom vegetables.
My love of fairies was ignited walking through the beautiful herb and flower gardens surrounding the Silver Birch Tea Room (which is outdoors).
It would make a stunning location for intimate special events.
After an enchanted walk through the garden, we stopped off at the Heritage Store to pick up some herbal teas and even picked up a gorgeous porcelain sugar and creamer that was 50% off – a great steal! They currently have tons of their herbs and other products in store for sale at amazing prices, don’t miss out!
With 24 million (and counting) staff buzzing with activity, the Clovermead Adventure Farm in Aylmer produces six unique honey varieties. Clovermead’s self-guided Bee Line Tour, which teaches the importance of bees and honey production, boasts friendly farm animals, Ontario’s largest beehive display, the Enchanted Bee Yard Trail and more. Inside the Honey Gift Store, visitors can sample all six honey varieties, as well as purchase treats, including honey spreads, beeswax candles and hand cream.
I really enjoyed strolling through the farm and learning more about bee’s and honey.
Especially because I am a huge honey lover! A stop-off at the store meant nearly buying the entire thing. Which to choose? Good thing they have a honey-tasting station where you can sample before you buy.
I personally loved the Blueberry and Power Honey.
Clovermead has so much to do for kids, big and small. A really fun place to visit if you’re in Aylmer. We plan to return with our little ones soon!
After Clovermead, we were famished and ready for lunch. A short drive away from Clovermead led us to the pines. Literally.
We drove into a secluded area off of Rogers Road in South Aylmer that was engulfed with large towering pine trees. Welcome to Pinecroft!
The Pinecroft ‘village’ has been a unique family business in Elgin County since 1948, creating earthenware and stoneware pottery and unique Canadian gifts for its visitors.
Nestled in Pinecroft Village is the showroom and Green Frog Tearoom Restaurant which occupy the original log cabin built in 1934.
We had seats facing the outdoors and it was absolutely beautiful.
The tearoom sources many of its ingredients from neighbouring farms, local markets and butchers, while fresh bread is baked in house.
We had the old-fashioned chicken and dumplings and seafood crepe. Both dishes come with soup or salad plus freshly backed bread. They were both delicious and offered generous servings.
I cannot explain how much I loved this place.
I have a huge adoration for the lavender scent and have always dreamed of visiting Provence’s Lavender Fields. I was so happy to have discovered Steed & Co.
Steed & Co. Lavender produces pesticide-free, culinary-grade lavender. This 45-acre farm in Sparta is designated an ‘Area of Natural Interest’ and guests are invited to stroll through the fields and gardens. In the gift shops, you can sample delicious homemade jams, jellies and condiments.
Just the smell walking into the gift shop will captivate and instantly put your entire mind and body at ease. Lavender is such a sedating scent.
Known for their healing benefits, it was interesting to also learn how well lavender goes in dishes as well.
The owner was fantastic and it was great learning more about how Steed & Co. came about and her passion for her business and especially her horses which was a huge influence in the birth of Steed & Co. Lavender.
If you look at their logo, you will notice how the two loves combine. Just fantastic!
Finding it so hard to leave the Lavender farm (the scent just entrances you), I thought it was a perfect time for some wine!
So off we headed to hit the fertile rolling slopes of Fruit Line Ridge near Sparta to Quai du Vin Estate Winery.
Quai du Vin produces more than 90,000 bottles of wine per year, with top sellers Vidal White and Baco Noir leading the charge. The winery is not only a source for fine wine but is a popular entertainment venue on summer weekends. Winery tours are generally available, while specialty tours with samples and pairings are available by booking in advance.
It was a pleasure meeting Jamie Quai and sampling some of Quai du Vin’s delicious wines.
We came home with some Vidal White and Sangria (so good!).
Such a fun-filled day of delicious and interesting discoveries that thrilled my senses.
We were ready to wind down for the evening and headed to Port Stanley, a fishing village nestled in a deep valley at the mouth of Kettle Creek.
We checked into one of the region’s most distinguished inns – The Kettle Creek Inn, a historical 1849 inn which is one of “Ontario’s Finest Inns.”
The original Port Stanley inn and two custom-built guest houses encircle the courtyard. English gardens and a folksy gazebo create a peaceful oasis. The parlour, with its fireplace, the intimate English pub and the two cozy dining rooms all provide old world charm.
The Inn has 10 guest rooms and five luxury suites.
We stayed in one of the luxury suites which included a separate bedroom, full bathroom with stand-up shower PLUS a jacuzzi tub, a living room area with LCD TV and a little fridge (this is VERY important to me especially if traveling with kids!) and a small walk-out balcony for fresh air.
Dining options include an English-inspired pub and an upscale restaurant. The menu showcases a commitment to terroir with ingredients that are farmed or foraged locally, such as the perch and pickerel that arrive daily at the port just a few steps away. The signature dish is the locally revered chicken potpie.
Of course I had to try the chicken potpie and it did not disappoint! It was pretty good in size with big chunks of juicy chicken and the fries that come with are are delicious too!
I didn’t want to fill up too much as we had reservations for a late dinner at the nearby The Windjammer Inn.
Located steps from the beach, the award-winning restaurant is a place where global inspiration meets local sensibility. Chef Kim Saunders’ culinary sensibility and expertise shine through on the menu, which states the kitchen’s food philosophy: “Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Sustainable.” A summer meal is best enjoyed on the wrap-around porch where the gentle breezes from Lake Erie roll in.
The Windjammer Inn is not only stunning on the outside with a wrap-around porch to die for, but just as alluring and intimate on the inside.
The walls are adorned with art work and paintings created from local artists that were also up for sale should you want to take one home as proceeds go to a local charity.
If that charming atmosphere wasn’t enough to impress, the service was equally amiable.
Our waitresses were funny, engaging and quick!
We ordered “Stuff on Sticks” (which is marinated beef skewers grilled to perfection) and Seared scallops with smoked tomato and horseradish “cocktail sauce” with crisp pancetta and baby arugula as an appetizer.
They were both very delicious!
The Stuff on Sticks was my favourite which came with a tasty sesame ginger dipping sauce.
Our table also comes with complimentary bread and butter. Along with that we ordered a refreshing sweet white wine.
For our main course, we went with mustard and mesquite roasted pork tenderloin with corn and cheddar pudding, southern braised green and smokey apple jus and cornmeal crusted Lake Erie perch with mushroom studded wild and tame rice, french beans and walnut, parsley and arugula pesto.
Both were savoury and delightful but the mustard and mesquite roasted pork tenderloin with the corn and cheddar pudding, and southern greens topped it off for me. Truly sensational!
To end this splendid meal, we finished off with a lemony pie and a very dense flourless dark chocolate cake that they call The Chocolate Sin.
Oh my yumminess! The chocolate cake was to die for — my personal favourite.
I highly recommend this if you ever eat at The Windjammer Inn.
It was a great night in Port Stanley, so picturesque with the boats nestled on Lake Erie.
Make sure to plan a visit and stay here sometime — you will love it!
In the morning, we had continental breakfast at Kettle Creek Inn and then before our trip back home we had one last stop-off in West Lorne at the Arts & Cookery Bank, one of the most unique and stunning attractions in Elgin County.
Located in a heritage 1914 Bank of Montreal building and an 1883 timber frame barn on the main street in West Lorne, it has become a regional culinary and cultural destination highlighting interactive cooking classes. Admission is free and they offer monthly culinary and photographic experiences for all ages and abilities.
We had the pleasure of learning more about the rich culture and history of ‘The Bank’ and the town of West Lorne from Chef Gerry Brandon.
It’s evident there is such a wonderful community in West Lorne and I applaud the Arts & Cookery Bank for their passion in keeping the community and history alive and educating, supporting and involving the community and especially the youth.
On the main floor we explored the interactive, multi-media photographic displays that link four rural communities through the people, places and events, their streetscapes, enterprises and pastimes. Rotating photographic exhibits are selected from a vast database of over 2000 digital images.
The heritage barn has become The Cookery. This is the place to “cook up” great ideas and fabulous food.
Original timber frames and barn wood are delightfully paired with a twenty-first century cookery.
This is my dream kitchen! Absolutely beautiful.
We engaged in stimulating conversation about food and community with Chef Gerry Saunders as we enjoyed the delicious corn and shrimp chowder and garlic bread prepared for us by the Chef with some wine.
At the back of The Cookery is The Photo Stable, aptly named because it was the stable. Behind the sliding stable doors is a digital photo classroom where your photos, taken in their communities, come to life.
Upstairs you can visit the Interactive Tourism Salon where you can plan an excursion with the CAR Map, their interactive online guide to their tourism and heritage attractions and/or sit down in the Post Card Room and create and send a virtual postcard to your friends.
It was a wonderful and cultural weekend of Country Comfort in the beautiful communities of Ontario’s Southwest. We hope to return for another stay with the entire family because there’s just so much to see and do for everyone in the family!