MAR­ITIME MAGIC

ON PRINCE ED­WARD IS­LAND, A MED­I­TA­TIVELY BEAU­TI­FUL AND RICHLY TRA­DI­TIONAL CANA­DIAN PROV­INCE OFF THE COUN­TRY’S EASTERN SHORES, LIT­TLE SEEMS TO CHANGE—UN­LESS IT’S FOR THE BET­TER.

DestinAsian - - FEATURES - By Gabrielle Lip­ton

On Prince Ed­ward Is­land, a med­i­ta­tively beau­ti­ful and richly tra­di­tional Cana­dian prov­ince off the coun­try’s eastern shores, lit­tle seems to change— un­less it’s for the bet­ter.

nights when I can’t fall asleep, I imag­ine my­self in the most peace­ful place in the world. It’s a small, thin stretch of beach, no more than 300 me­ters long, that sticks out into Rus­tico Bay like a stray wisp of hair. I lie alone on the golden sand watch­ing mid­night-blue waves lap against the shore. The tiny har­bor town of North Rus­tico sits across the wa­ter, its Cray­ola-col­ored fish­ing shacks ar­ranged in a tidy line, an old wooden light­house stand­ing guard nearby. Be­hind me is a short ridge of mar­ram-grassed sand dunes and my bike ly­ing on its side by a red-dirt road. The sun is warm. The only sounds are the roll and wash of the waves and the soft whoosh of the wind.

The beach I’m pic­tur­ing hasn’t changed since my dad first vis­ited Prince Ed­ward Is­land as a col­lege stu­dent in the sum­mer of 1974, driv­ing up the coast from New York and land­ing in Canada’s small­est prov­ince via ferry. He was so en­chanted that when he met my mom many years later, he brought her to its shores as well, and she too fell in love with the place. Just about ev­ery­one does. With its quaint fish­ing vil­lages and pic­turesque bays, flow­er­ing mead­ows and star-filled night skies, and end­less green quilt of fields dot­ted with clap­board farm­houses and barns, P.E.I. has an in­ef­fa­ble abil­ity to set­tle the soul.

From that first visit to­gether, every sum­mer of my par­ents’ lives, and then my life, was spo­ken for. First we rented a cot­tage with an old crab ap­ple tree and a field of tall, golden grass that stretched down to the west­ern shore of Rus­tico Bay. Then, when I was eight, we built a sum­mer­house of our own atop the red cliffs of Grand Père Point on the bay’s south­ern edge, look­ing out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence be­yond. My sum­mers were spent build­ing tree houses with other kids on the Point, rid­ing bikes to the beach, and ly­ing in fields dur­ing nights of flash­light tag, star­ing up at the crys­talline cos­mos as qui­etly as kids can man­age so as not to give away our hid­ing place.

The fields around our place slowly filled with more houses over the years, and the lights of Charlottetown, the is­land’s com­pact cap­i­tal, seem to burn a lit­tle brighter th­ese days. But on clear, moon­less nights, I’ll still wrap my­self in a blan­ket, go out­side to stargaze, and feel like it’s not me but the rest of the world that is hid­den far away.

It is a delu­sion to be­lieve that some places es­cape change, but on P.E.I. change seems to hap­pen at the pace of a wheel­bar­row be­ing pushed through the snow banks of one of its fe­ro­cious win­ters. Per­haps it’s out of stub­born­ness, which has long been in­grained in the is­land’s char­ac­ter. P.E.I. may be known as Canada’s birth­place for hav­ing hosted the Charlottetown Con­fer­ence in 1864, the first gath­er­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from what were then the Bri­tish colonies of Nova Sco­tia, New Bruns­wick, P.E.I., and the Prov­ince of Canada (present-day On­tario and Que­bec) to dis­cuss the for­ma­tion of the Cana­dian Con­fed­er­a­tion. But when that co­a­lesced three years later, P.E.I. ab­stained. It wasn’t un­til 1873, when a failed rail­road project left the is­land deep in debt, that it fi­nally be­came a part of nascent Canada.

The is­land has also long had steady sources of in­come that have given it the in­de­pen­dence to do as it wishes. The pas­sion­ate, red­headed hero­ine of Lucy Maud Mont­gomery’s much-loved 1908 novel

Anne of Green Gables has be­come the foun­da­tion of the sum­mer tourism in­dus­try, now rounded out with golf cour­ses, seafood sup­pers, and na­tional parks that en­com­pass fine pink-sand beaches and the warm­est sea­wa­ter in all of Canada. Agri­cul­ture and fish­eries are also eco­nomic main­stays. Lob­sters and pota­toes ac­count for a ma­jor slice of the ex­port pie, while the global food in­dus­try’s hunger for P.E.I.’s rope-grown blue mus­sels ap­pears in­sa­tiable; last year, the is­land ex­ported more than US$22 mil­lion worth of its ex­cep­tional mol­lusks.

How­ever, a surge of en­tre­pre­neur-driven change has also be­gun to brush up the is­land’s style re­cently, adding some jeans and hood­ies to its stan­dard wardrobe of lob­ster bibs and Carhartts. Rather than leav­ing home for cities like Hal­i­fax or Toronto, more young is­landers are de­cid­ing to stay or re­turn here and in­vest in P.E.I. as a place they want to live, aided by gov­ern­ment and pri­vate ini­tia­tives sup­port­ing start-ups and bud­ding pro­fes­sion­als. This has led to a grow­ing sup­ply and de­mand for things like ori­gin-fo­cused cof­fee shops, in­no­va­tive restau­rants, and a craft beer fes­ti­val. Th­ese aren’t ex­actly boom times, mind you—P.E.I. re­mains glo­ri­ously free of any name-brand beach re­sorts, clubs, or even a sin­gle high-rise. It’s sim­ply an ef­fort by is­landers to make their beau­ti­ful home a bit cooler, too.

“When I was in univer­sity on P.E.I. there were no craft beers,” re­called Michael Ho­gan, who, to­gether with part­ner Mitch Cobb, founded Up­street Craft Brew­ery on the out­skirts of Charlottetown in 2015. “It was only when I moved away to Hal­i­fax that I be­gan to know what a mi­cro­brew was.” Af­ter a few brief stints at brew­eries in Nova Sco­tia, a brew­ing course in Ot­tawa, and in­nu­mer­able batches of home­brew, Ho­gan and Cobb now pro­duce five flag­ship beers and a few sea­sonal re­leases, in­clud­ing a jar­ringly com­plex pale ale called Den­ovo Farm­house Sai­son. Their in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar beers are avail­able on tap and in the bot­tle at dozens of places on the is­land, but the best place to sam­ple them is at the source. Up­street’s high­ceilinged, wood-walled bar is the heart of the op­er­a­tion, de­signed

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