Many folks aren’t sure exactly where Brighton is but if you’ve visited Prince Edward County from Toronto, there’s a chance that you’ve driven through it on your journey! As the western gateway to the Bay of Quinte, this adorable town deserves some quality time. It makes the perfect stop on a road trip through the Bay of Quinte, a day trip while visiting Belleville and even as a getaway all on its own. Whether you’re a fan of small towns, good eats, hiking and paddling or a fan of history, this town has something for you. Keep reading for a taste of the fantastic things to do in Brighton!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Stellar Things to Do in Brighton Ontario
Many Ontario small towns are bursting with adventure and Brighton is no different! Spend some time in the core of town and then make your way towards the outskirts for more fun things to do in Brighton.
Stroll Along Main Street
Brighton’s main strip really is quite adorable with a number of beautiful old buildings and plenty of green space. Memorial Park is not to be missed and this is where you’ll find the bell from Brighton’s original town hall that was decimated by a tornado in 1973. This is also where you’ll find the town’s Cenotaph so take a moment to pay your respects to those who sacrificed their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have today.
It doesn’t take long to walk from one end of downtown to the other so no need to hurry! Take your time to enjoy and duck into every little alley as you never know what you may find.
Check Out the Street Art
I mention the alleys as this is where you’ll find some fantastic murals! Between the dollar store and the town’s dental centre, you’ll find Casey’s Lane. This laneway was neglected for a number of years but received a facelift in 2021. Take a moment to rest on one of the benches, enjoy the beautiful flowers and spend some time with the gorgeous mural that spans the west wall.
Crafted by local Brighton artist Des Rodrigues, he has incorporated Brighton icons such as the Presqu’ile Lighthouse as well as local landscapes. He also added a section dedicated to acknowledging the atrocities committed by Canada’s residential school system. Rodrigues wanted to create a peaceful space for reflection and that’s exactly what you’ll find along Casey’s Lane.
Support The Local Shops
There are a number of adorable local shops along Main Street that are worth paying a visit to while exploring Brighton, especially for women! Here are my recommendations to do some shopping in Brighton.
Lighthouse Books – This adorable bookstore has a wide variety of topics for both adults and children from trail guides to romance to science fiction. However, I love Lighthouse Books because they have a fantastic section dedicated to Indigenous authors right at the front of the store. There are a number of popular titles but quite a few lesser-known books as well as a few items from Indigenous artisans. Naturally, one of these books came home with me!
Willow Lifestyle Boutique – One of the top-rated clothing stores in Brighton, this family-owned and operated shop carries a variety of styles that flatter all body types. Willow Lifestyle Boutique only carries Toronto-based RAPZ clothing which designs and manufactures all of its items here in Canada. All of their jewellery is also sourced from Canadian artisans and companies so you know you’re truly supporting local! It’s not uncommon to see the owner Lisa Wamboldt working so be sure to say hello if you pop by.
The Birdhouse Nature Store – While you may be tempted to pop into the stunning white house located at the front of the property on 82 Main Street, keep heading towards the back as this is where you’ll find The Birdhouse Nature Store. Owned by Bay of Quinte native Bobbi Wright, she has everything you need to get started on backyard birding. You’ll also find a number of home decor items as well as handy household objects.
Catch a Concert in the Park
Locals and visitors alike head to the aforementioned Memorial Park every Wednesday in the summer for a live jam session! Every evening from the start of June until the end of August, Brighton runs their Concerts in the Park series. A new band plays each week with a variety of music from the grandstand.
Concerts start at 6:30 pm every week and if the forecast calls for rain, the concert will be pushed to Thursday instead. Take a look at the full lineup online here!
Step Back in Time at The Proctor House
Just a few blocks north of Main Street, you’ll find the Proctor House. Built in 1853 by Isaac Chamberlain Proctor, it was later expanded by his son, John E Proctor who was a prominent businessman in Brighton. It now operates as a museum where you can learn more about the family history as well as the evolution of Brighton.
While it’s free to admire the house from the outside as well as explore the grounds, you will need to pay for a guided tour in order to head inside. For just $5 cash, you will be shown a glimpse of the extravagant lifestyle John E Proctor and his family lived, as well as hear about a number of the quirks each family member had. It really is fascinating and the tour will be catered to you or your group depending on what you’re interested in! Plus this money goes directly to the Save Our Heritage Organization of Brighton to help with the upkeep of the Proctor House and its collection.
Tours operate Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm in July and August. There are no set times to arrive as you see fit, however the last tour starts at 3:00 pm in order to ensure it can be completed in time. However, group tours can be arranged outside of July and August from the Victoria Day Weekend until Thanksgiving.
Explore the Proctor House Conservation Area
Just behind the Proctor House, you’ll find a few trails you can enjoy throughout the conservation area. This is a great spot to stretch your legs and enjoy a lovely stroll through nature by Butler Creek. You’ll be quite amazed at the variety of vegetation and scenery these short trails have to offer. The Proctor House Conservation Area is one of the best free things to do in Brighton and is not to be missed!
The Hardwood Hill Trail is the longer hike as this loop is 3.2 kilometres in total as it takes you around most of the conservation area. However, you can make this shorter and opt for the Cedar Loop at 1.4 kilometres in length. I haven’t completed the full Hardwood Hill Trail myself but I absolutely loved the Cedar Loop and highly recommend checking it out!
Go For a Paddle
There is no shortage of fantastic paddling opportunities in the Bay of Quinte as well as Brighton itself! If you have your own canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard, you can launch from a number of spots throughout town.
SOMETHING TO NOTE: The majority of these launch spots will put you right into Lake Ontario. Only paddle when the waters are calm unless you are a very experienced paddler. Lake Ontario is still one of the Great Lakes and the conditions can change on a dime. Make sure to check the Brighton weather forecast before you launch and let someone know where you are and when you planned to be off the water!
An easy launch point is at the public Gosport Boat Launch. It’s located right next to the Harbourview Marina & Restaurant and has plenty of free street parking close by. It’s a popular spot to launch and you can meander the lakeshore.
If it’s a little too busy for you here, I recommend heading to the Harbour Street Parkette. It’s about 10 minutes west of the Gosport Boat Launch and is much quieter. There isn’t a lot of room for parking but it’s only meant for personal watercraft so you won’t have to contend with any boats or motorized vessels at the dock.
Both of these are great in that they launch you into the more sheltered Presqu’ile Bay, meaning you won’t have to contend with as many large waves as you would launching into Lake Ontario. However, you can do so by launching from the campground or along the beach at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Though I personally recommend launching from the Calf Pasture Day Use Area and then paddling towards Lake Ontario. That way if it is a little rough, you can quickly get back to more sheltered waters.
Pack a Picnic
When was the last time you went on a picnic? I bet there’s a good chance that you can’t remember, so why not plan on here in Brighton? I say this because it’s the perfect reason to head to Northumberland Fine Food and this is exactly what you’ll find in their store.
Just two blocks south of downtown, it may not look like much on the outside but upon entering you’ll be greeted with warm, modern decor and a plethora of unique eats! Take a few minutes to check out the shelves and see all of the items they have available. I know I had to do a few loops and it was a struggle to decide what to pack for my picnic with so many delicious possibilities! When their mantra is to transport you to a different time and place through food… of course you want one of everything.
I ended up going with some Indigenous-sourced smoked salmon, Ompah cheese from Back Forty Fromagerie, garlic-stuffed olives, beetroot crackers and some fresh, local blackberries. While you may be packing for a picnic now, don’t be surprised if their impeccable selection of frozen pastas, prepared meals, gelato and other goodies catches your eye. You may want to stop in on your way home so you can stock your freezer with their amazing offerings!
Of course, you can always opt for one of their tasting boards, though I have a feeling you’ll be having so much fun perusing all of the amazing items they have that you’ll want to build your own instead!
Hit the Beach
Who doesn’t love a beach day in the summer? Luckily you don’t have to go far to soak up the summer sun in Brighton! A short 10 minute drive south of downtown is where you’ll find Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Here, 2.5 kilometres of sandy beach awaits so go cool off along the shores of Lake Ontario!
RELATED: If you’re looking for more sandy spots to soak up the sun, check out my guide to the best beaches in Ontario!
There are two areas close to the entrance to the park where visitors can access the beach. I personally opted for the second area as it’s a little further down and I found it to be quieter. I enjoy a sense of tranquillity when I have sand between my toes! It’s not uncommon to see some vegetation near the shoreline but the waters are perfect for cooling off on those hot summer days.
However, be sure to keep any eats you may bring along hidden as there are a fair number of seagulls that are guaranteed to be eyeing your food! If you want to avoid any casualties, continue along the shoreline to the day use area. You’ll see picnic tables and little alcoves on your right, many of which have direct access to the lake. While these are rock rather than sand, there are very few seagulls. You may just want to bring along some water shoes to protect your feet!
Take a Hike at Presqu’ile Provincial Park
Since you’re already at Presqu’ile for some beach time, bring your hiking shoes and hit the trails! Presqu’ile is home to 16 kilometres of hiking trails spread across five separate routes. While they vary in length with the shortest being the Jobes Woods Trail at 1 kilometre and the Newcastle Trail being the longest at 4.3 kilometres, all of the hiking trails in Presqu’ile Provincial Park have little to no elevation making them great for hikers of all skill levels. Another fantastic perk is that the majority of the trails are fairly shaded but it’s still a good idea to pack your sunscreen and have a bottle of water handy!
If you’re short on time or only have a bit of hiking in you, I highly recommend the Marsh Boardwalk Trail. It’s definitely the most popular trail in Presqu’ile Provincial Park but for a good reason! This 1.2 kilometre long trail takes you through the largest protected marsh along the north shore of Lake Ontario. You’ll start with a lookout and an 800 metre long boardwalk which then connects to a sandbar that has been dominated by a dense cedar forest. The sheer variety of environments you’ll experience along this short trail is absolutely fascinating and will have you in awe of the trail!
Visit the Park’s Nature Centre
One of the reasons you need to visit Presqu’ile in the summer months is so that you can check out the Nature Centre! Each room is dedicated to an ecosystem you’ll find within the park. Starting with the early days of the Ordovician Period and some fossils found within the park, you’ll then enjoy learning about the marsh, forest, meadow rest, old field, lake and beach.
There is plenty of information to be found within the Nature Centre which will give you a greater understanding of the wildlife, flora and fauna found within Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Spend some time with the interactive exhibits, observe the taxidermy animals, and learn about the fascinating characteristics of various birds, wildlife and environments.
Check Out the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse
No trip to Presqu’ile is complete without seeing the second-oldest operating lighthouse in Ontario! With commercial traffic on the Great Lakes steadily increasing by the early 1800s, marine safety needed to be improved and so the government commissioned Nicol High Baird to do just this. He designed the lighthouse you see standing today in 1837 with construction completed in 1840. The original design showcased elegant elements in the masonry but come 1894, the tower was wrapped in timber and then later covered in shingles to halt the deterioration of the structure.
As you walk to the lighthouse from the parking lot, you’ll pass by the Lighthouse Interpretive Centre. Pop in to learn more about the naval history of the area as well as the lighthouse itself. The non-profit organization Friends of Presqu’ile operates out of here so you can ask more questions and pick up some souvenirs from their gift shop. All proceeds go back into the park as well as developing additional programming for visitors.
SOMETHING TO NOTE: Presqu’ile Provincial Park really has so much to offer and is the perfect destination for some family fun. It’s a popular spot to go camping and you can enjoy a number of other great activities such as birding, cycling and fishing. Not to mention the incredible discovery programs the park runs in the summer months! A few full days are needed to truly experience all the park has to offer – and that’s without exploring the town of Brighton. If this is up your alley, I recommend spending a few days in Brighton just so you have time to see it all!
More Things to Do in Brighton Ontario
It might be a small town in Ontario but Brighton has plenty to offer! If you’re looking for more things to do around Brighton Ontario, here are some great recommendations.
Catch a Race at Brighton Speedway – Watch these drivers battle it out in winged stock cars, monster trucks, motocross and more. It’s bound to be a rip-roaring good time on this dirt track!
Play a Round at Timber Ridge Golf Course – Ranked as the 10th best value course in Canada by ScoreGolf Magazine, grab your clubs and enjoy a round of 18 holes on the green.
Ride the Presqu’ile Promise Cycling Route – a 69 km cycling loop along the lakeshore, with some hilly country roads further north that offer breathtaking vistas.
Visit a Local Farm Store – If you plan to visit during the late summer or fall season, no trip is complete without visiting one of the local farm stores for tasty eats and treats. They also have additional attractions such as corn mazes, the ability to pick your own apples, and more. Cricklewood Farms, Cheer Farms and Dunnett Orchards are the top places to go in Brighton for some farm store fun!
Watch a Show at the Brighton Barn Theatre – Enjoy two live theatre theatrical productions throughout the year at this unique venue located in Proctor Park Conservation Area.
Delectable Brighton Restaurants
Being in a small town doesn’t mean there aren’t great places to eat and that’s definitely the case here! Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free or an eater of all things, you’ll certainly find some stellar restaurants in Brighton.
A staple in the core of Brighton for 14 years and counting, Lola’s Cafe focuses is fuelling your body with local, healthy and organic eats with their farm-to-table cafe. Vegetarians, vegans and those who are gluten-free, you’ll find plenty of options at Lola’s!
While I am none of the above, I can confirm they make incredible breakfast muffins with a fried egg, tomato, pesto mayo, cheddar and greens along with the option to add bacon (do it!). Their coffee (sourced from The County Roasters in Picton) is incredible as well and I highly recommend their iced red velvet latte!
You can never go wrong with breakfast at a classic diner and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Kailey’s Cafe. Bright red booths add pops of colour against vibrant teal walls as you settle in for a great start to your day. It’s constantly a revolving door of regulars and if that doesn’t tell you this place is great, I don’t know what will!
You’ll find everything you could want for breakfast including waffles, omelettes and skillets on the menu. As I’m a creature of habit, I couldn’t resist opting for their Eggs Benedict and I’m so glad I didn’t stray. Not only are the pieces of peameal bacon some of the thickest I’ve ever seen on a benny, but their Hollandaise sauce is also absolutely top-notch. Plus the coffee never stops flowing making this the perfect way to start your day!
The Gables Restaurant
Chances are you worked up an appetite exploring and if you’re going to visit any of these Brighton restaurants, it should be The Gables Restaurant. Dating back to 1872, this house is one of the oldest in town! While it has been a private dwelling for most of its life, it was converted into the beautiful restaurant you see today in 1996.
Focusing on meat and pasta dishes, everything on the menu is crafted with care. The half rack of lamb melts in your mouth and is served with mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables and a blueberry red wine reduction. Bursting with flavour, this dish offers the perfect mix of sweet and savoury! Plus you can’t beat their enchanting patio in the summer.
Located at the edge of the town core, Vito’s Pizzeria offers traditional Greek, Italian and Canadian dishes. Family recipes are at the core of their menu that have been passed down from the original owners Frank and Voula Georgatos. Enjoy a bite under an umbrella on their patio as you sink your teeth into their souvlaki, wraps, pasta dishes and more. Of course, you can always sit inside their elegant century-old restaurant!
Vito’s pizzas are absolutely fantastic, especially their Paisano pizza. A base of Marinara sauce mingles with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese which is then garnished with fresh garlic, Italian sausage, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and baby spinach. Paired with a Caesar salad, it’s a match made in heaven. Also in case you’re wondering, get the large because it’s just as good reheated at home!
Harbourview Marina Restaurant
Attached to one of the popular marinas in Brighton, Harbourview Marina Restaurant offers great eats to those visiting by land or water. Grab a seat on their beautiful patio overlooking Presqu’ile Bay. Whether you choose to enjoy a bite to eat or just grab a drink, it’s a great spot to soak up the summer sun. It’s not uncommon for them to have live music on Fridays which just adds to the ambiance!
Their menu is vast, especially since they’re also open for breakfast, with the majority of their items being your typical pub food. However, they do have a few unique items like their butter chicken curry rolls. I decided to go with their seafood linguine accompanied by a side garden salad. Calamari, shrimp and mussels are all tossed in their housemade tomato basil cream sauce and served with garlic bread. Everything was delicious though I noticed their portions are a little on the smaller side. Either that or they are dwarfed by the sizes at Vito’s and The Whistling Duck.
The Whistling Duck
Another fantastic waterfront patio in Brighton, The Whistling Duck offers amazing views of Presqu’ile Bay. The vibe is very summery with teal picnic tables and chairs as you enjoy a seat right along the water. While I have not had bad service in Brighton once, the folks at The Whistling Duck are incredibly cheerful and make you feel right at home as soon as you step in the door.
Their menu is quite vast with soups, salads, sandwiches, fish, steak, burgers… you name it, chances are they’ve got it! I highly recommend any of their seafood dishes as they’re fresh and flavourful. I can say with certainty that the seafood linguine, lobster BLT and crab cakes are all incredible. And make sure you get a piece of their carrot cake cheesecake to go if you don’t have room after dinner. You can thank me later!
Stellar Hotels in Brighton Ontario
While it is a little outside of town, the best place to stay in Brighton has to be Timber House Resort. This privately owned resort features ten guest rooms inside a stunning three-story house. You’ll want to block out some time in your Brighton itinerary to enjoy the property as they have a beautiful outdoor space including a stunning patio and in-ground pool which is open to all guests. Check-in is fully automated and you can ask any questions you may have via your cellphone making it easy and convenient to plan your stay!
Each room is quite spacious with beautiful views of the property as well as a private ensuite bathroom featuring a deep soaker tub. I stayed in one of their king rooms where I enjoyed a view of the pool as well as a small desk which was perfect for getting a little work done during my visit. Guests also have access to a number of common areas including a fully equipped kitchen with a coffee maker, microwave, stove and anything you may need to whip up a meal.
While chances are you’ll be dining at a few of the fantastic restaurants in Brighton for your meals, breakfast is included at the Timber House Resort and made to order. Just head downstairs into the great hall and grab a seat! Kerri, one of their wonderful staff members, will take your order and you can enjoy breakfast classics like bacon and eggs, pancakes or French toast. Whatever you choose, make sure to try one of their homemade jams as they are incredible. The raspberry lavender was out of this world! Coffee, tea and orange juice are available, just head to the self-serve station and top yourself up as you need.
Ready to book your stay at the Timber House Resort? Click here to secure your getaway or you can take a look and see what others have to say about their stay. It might be hard to snag a spot here on weekends as the Timber House Resort is very popular for weddings and family gatherings but it’s worth planning a midweek excursion to stay here!
If the Timber House Resort is all booked up during your travel dates, another fantastic option is the Spinnaker Suites. Located on the shores of Presqu’ile Bay, this adorable boutique motel features nautical-themed suites. Each one is fully furnished including a complete kitchen with any and every utensil you could ask for, a cozy electric fireplace, Samsung smart TVs as well as a private balcony. There are one, two and three bedroom suites available, making this perfect for a romantic getaway, girls trip or a fun gathering with friends.
My suite had ample room, especially as I tend to work as I go. It’s always a dream to have a couch to lounge on after a long day of adventuring, especially with a cozy fireplace to come “home” to! There is also a full fridge, stove, microwave and all the dishware you could need for cooking. Guests have access to a barbecue outside and there are also laundry facilities available on-site. Don’t feel like cooking? That’s a-okay as the aforementioned Harbourview Marina & Restaurant is just a few steps from your door!
This is also where you can launch a canoe or kayak if you’re looking to get a paddle in during your stay. No boat? No problem! Just connect with Jay in advance and he’d be happy to help arrange a rental for you so you don’t miss getting out on the water. If that’s not enough, there are a number of common areas that all guests are welcome to utilize! Right next door you’ll find an adorable tiki bar as well as a beach volleyball court for those looking to get a friendly game in. In the parking lot, you’ll notice the “Hippy Trailer” where you can buy ice cream and beverages during your stay.
Feeling a little tired and sore after all the outdoor adventuring that’s available in the Bay of Quinte? Spinnaker Suites saves the day as you can book one of three registered massage therapists to help you work out the knots in your muscles. And yes, they even come right to your suite! As you can see, the Spinnaker Suites is a fantastic spot to stay and offers a great home base for all the great things to do in Brighton as well as the Bay of Quinte.
Things to Know For Your Brighton Visit
Ready to plan your Bay of Quinte escape in Brighton? Wonderful! Here are some tips, tricks and things to know to make the most of your visit.
How to Get to Brighton from Toronto
The easiest way to get to Brighton from Toronto is by car as the trip is approximately 160 kilometres and takes less than two hours. Take Highway 401 to Exit 509 for County Road 30 and follow it to arrive in the heart of Brighton. Alternatively, you can hop off the 401 at any time after Port Hope and follow County Road 2. It may take a little longer but it can be a more relaxing drive if you aren’t a fan of the big highways!
While some websites suggest taking the bus or train, this really isn’t feasible. The train nor the bus stop in Brighton but rather in Trenton which is 15 minutes away. Brighton itself is a small town that is easily walkable but you will need a vehicle to get to and from your accommodation and any other major destinations such as Presqu’ile Provincial Park. A car really is necessary for visiting Brighton.
What is Brighton Ontario Known For?
As with much of this area along Lake Ontario, apples grow in abundance and this town is no different. Brighton is known for its apples and naturally, a large number of farm stores where you can purchase them in late summer and early fall. Brighton is also known for Presqu’ile Provincial Park as it’s a popular place to get outside as well as enjoy some overnight camping.
Where is the Best Place to Park in Brighton?
There is plenty of free parking in Brighton, however much of the street parking is limited to 2 hours. There is a lot behind the LCBO in the same plaza as the Presqu’ile Animal Hospital that is free and has no time limit. If you’re planning on taking your time exploring and getting a bite to eat in the heart of town, this is your best option for parking in Brighton.
I’m Planning to Visit Presqu’ile Provincial Park as Well. Anything I Need to Do?
That’s great to hear and yes! You must reserve your daily vehicle permit (DVP) up to five days in advance in order to enter the park. This allows the park staff to control how many visitors are coming in to help do their job of protecting the park. You can show up without doing so, however you’re out of luck if the park reaches capacity! Head to their website to reserve your DVP to avoid any disappointment. You don’ want to miss out on one of the best things to do in Brighton Ontario!
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This post is brought to you in partnership with Bay of Quinte Tourism. While I was compensated for my time, all of the content and opinions here are honest and speak to my personal experience!