PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: SPOILED FOR CHOICE
Spoiled for Choice
Canada’s smallest province is certainly a colourful place. Ringed by clear blue water, P.E.I. includes emerald-green fields, iconic red cliffs and beaches blessed with white or pink sand. Like the palette, the vacation possibilities here are varied and, as a result, the Island attracts people with many different interests.
A FOOD LOVER’S PARADISE
Without a doubt, Prince Edward Island has become an international culinary destination. All of September is devoted to a “Fall Flavours” festival, and hardly a month goes by without new restaurants, food tours and culinary experiences sprouting on the scene. There are also places to learn how to cook like a pro, such as The Table Culinary Studio in New London with popular hands-on cooking classes. Culinary Boot Camps—including one for kids—are a big hit at Holland College, regarded by many as Canada’s premier culinary institute. Need something to wash down all that fab food? The province’s craft breweries, wineries and distilleries have you covered (www.tourismpei.com/culinary-pei).
NIRVANA FOR ANNE FANS
Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was born and buried in P.E.I., introduced her title character in 1908; in print ever since, her beloved book has sold more than 50 million copies. But it is not only readers who adore the feisty red-haired heroine. Playgoers have given Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, now in its 54th season, a record-breaking run at the Charlottetown Festival. Fans also flock to the Cavendish area to visit themed attractions such as Montgomery’s Cavendish home, the recreated Avonlea Village and,
of course, Green Gables Heritage Place, which features the bucolic 19th century farm that inspired her setting (www.tourismpei.com/anne-of-green-gables).
A FANTASYLAND FOR FAMILIES
Anne sites aside, the Island has a lot to offer families. Beach babies, for example, could spend their entire trip on Island strands, although there are also lighthouses to climb, bike and boat trips to take, plus enough enjoyable festivals to fill any calendar. P.E.I.’s national park and 22 provincial parks often offer free, familyoriented activities. Classic vacation venues, many of them concentrated around Cavendish, have their own appeal: Shining Waters Family Fun Park, Sandspit Amusement Park, and Ripley's Believe It or Not! are all perennial favourites. As if that isn’t enough, Experience PEI runs cool hands-on programs that combine entertainment and education (www.tourismpei.com/pei-family-fun).
MORE IN STORE
And that’s just the beginning . . . Pretty, comparatively flat terrain, coupled with top-notch facilities, make P.E.I. popular with both cyclists and golfers. Wedding parties come as well, attracted by the postcard-perfect vistas and pastoral atmosphere, while anglers are lured in by the prospect of catching species that range from brook trout and mackerel to big bluefin tuna. If dancing the night away or shopping till you drop are on your wish list, no problem. Love theater and musical productions? There’s no shortage of options. Want to immerse yourself in the local culture? You can tick that box here, too, thanks to a broad menu of innovative experiential activities. So whatever your passion, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom is celebrated through exhibits and entertainment at a new centre bearing his name (www.stompintomcentre.com).
After completing a $7.2-million renovation, this year Culinary Boot Camps returns with new kitchens (www.culinarybootcamps.com).
Thirst quenchers include craft beers from Copper Bottom and artisanal sodas from Day Drift Craft Soda (www.copperbottombrewing.com; www.daydriftsoda.com). Four types of mead made by the new Island Honey Wine Company give visitors more reasons to say “cheers” (www.islandhoneywine.ca).
Now open in downtown Summerside, Hub 223 includes 20 minimalist, kitchenette-equipped “micro living” suites (www.hub223.com).
Like unique accommodations? Treetop Haven has five treehouse-inspired geodesic domes in a wooded setting (www.treetophaven.ca)
Unveiled last year, Charlottetown’s stylish Sydney Boutique Inn & Suites mixes heritage character with modern comforts (www.sydneyinn.com).
Last year’s sesquicentennial celebrations only underscored the role Charlottetown played in Confederation. Top attractions like Province House and Ardgowan, both national historic sites, were central to the events, while Confederation Landing and the Confederation Centre of the Arts—a waterfront recreation area and world-class cultural centre, respectively—reflect its legacy. But this place appeals as much to foodies as history buffs, thanks to its vibrant restaurant scene. Throughout Charlottetown, you’ll also find walking trails, waterside boardwalks and specialty shops (www.discovercharlottetown.com).
Although the city of Summerside is smaller than the provincial capital, it also
has a bustling waterfront replete with indoor and outdoor theatres, interesting boutiques and eateries. Acadian influences are apparent here, as are Celtic ones. See the latter come to life each summer at Highland Storm, a rousing summertime show featuring bagpiping, step-dancing, fiddling and snare drumming that’s held at the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of
Canada (www.exploresummerside.com ).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Be prepared to be mesmerized by the rare parabolic dune system in the Greenwich Dunes section of PEI National Park, which also acts as a stunning backdrop to an extensive trail system that includes a floating boardwalk (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pei).
Cyclists can pedal from one end of the Island to the other, and GranFondo PEI, sponsored by Cycling PEI, is fast becoming a premier event (www.granfondo-pei.ca).
The P.E.I. portion of The Great Trail— the Confederation Trail—stretches 435 km (270 mi.) from Tignish in the west to Elmira in the east, and connects to the Island’s two entry points (www.tourismpei.com/ pei-cycling).
Golf enthusiasts agree that P.E.I.’s courses are spectacular. There are more than two dozen to choose from, and they are all within an hour’s drive of each other (www.golfpei.ca).
Aside from golf, the Island is known for its authentic experiences, including fun with falcons, going clam digging or out on a lobster boat, helping with farm chores, doing a GPS adventure, or owning a racehorse for an evening (www.experiencepei.ca).
Throughout the Island there are endless opportunities to get up close and personal with nature. Kayaking, paddle boarding, biking, and birdwatching—to name just a few outdoor activities—are offered in many regions. No equipment? Don’t worry; the Island has several outfitters that set you up (www.tourismpei.com).
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
The Arts & Heritage Trail is an Island-wide guide for authentic P.E.I. cultural experiences with elements such as museums and historic sites, performing arts venues, special events, theatre, galleries, craft shops and artisan studios (www.artsandheritagepei.ca).
To get a taste of Acadian culture, visit Abrams Village or Roma at Three Rivers for festivals, exhibits and tours galore (www.villagemusical.com; www.roma3rivers.com).
A trip to the Acadian Museum in Miscouche will also introduce you to the fascinating history of the French pioneers (www.museeacadien.org). Music and dance have long been embedded in the culture as evidenced at soirées and concerts all around the Island.
Be sure to visit the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Centre for powwows and other related events, to learn more about the Island’s Indigenous heritage (www.lennoxisland.com/attractions/culturalcentre; www.ncpei.com/events).
Art in the Open highlights Charlottetown’s visual arts scene and the Island’s diverse cultural traditions. It also engages visitors and the community in the creation and appreciation of art in its various forms (www.artintheopenpei.com).
MUST SEE, MUST DO
The FireWorks Feast at The Inn at Bay Fortune is a seven-course meal where everything is cooked in a 7.5-m-long (25-ft.) wood-burning, fire-breathing stove that has an integrated smokehouse, hearth, grill, plancha, rotisserie and oven (www. innatbayfortune.com).
Jigs & Reels provides an authentic P.E.I. experience with a world-class musician
(J.J. Chaisson—also known as “The Fiddling Fisherman”) on his lobster boat. They’ve even had weddings on board! (www. fiddlingfisherman.com).
Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove is the first in the province to produce absinthe, a potent green spirit made from carefully selected herbs and produced in small batches. It is shrouded with history and mystery (www.deeprootsdistillery.com).
The entire world seems to know about COWS ice cream. It’s available at several locations in P.E.I., but the best place to visit is COWS Creamery on the outskirts of Charlottetown. Sign up for a tour which is educational, fun and delicious (www.cows.ca).
The 350-km (217-mi.) North Cape Coastal Drive is full of contrasts. It’s quickly getting a reputation as the Canadian Oyster Coast. There is everything here from Mi’kmaq and Acadian communities to secluded beaches and towering wind turbines (www.northcapedrive.com).
The 253-km (157-mi.) Central Coastal Drive—which includes Green Gables Shore and Red Sands Shore—covers key Anne sites and much of PEI National Park, plus communities ranging from commercial Cavendish to quaint Victoria-by-the-Sea (www.centralcoastalpei.ca).
The 475-km (295-mi.) Points East Coastal Drive is dotted with lighthouses and lined with 50-odd beaches. There are timely attractions, too—among them Orwell Corner Historic Village and Roma at Three Rivers National Historic Site (www.pointseastcoastaldrive.com).
Kids of all ages love making sandcastles, and Maurice Bernard is the expert in residence at PEI National Park. Ask staff when he’s expected to be around or sign up for Experience PEI’s “Sensational Sandcastles” program to get a lesson from the master. If you just want to admire the creations, drop by in mid-July for the park’s annual Great Island Sandcastle competition (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pei; www.experiencepei.ca/sensational-sandcastles).
MALPEQUE HARBOUR • SHUTTERSTOCK/ZELJKA
RAPESEED FIELD, GREEN GABLES SHORE • SHUTTERSTOCK/VADIM PETROV
152,000Charlottetownwww.tourismpei.comCharlottetown Airport,8 km (5 mi.) from downtown
CHARLOTTETOWN • SHUTTERSTOCK/DARRYL BROOKS
PEI NATIONAL PARK • TOURISM PEI/HEATHER OGG