It's been said that islands are worlds unto themselves, and that coming to an island is to come to another world. Nowhere is this truer than coming to Prince Edward Island. There’s a certain “islandness” here; evidenced in how people walk, talk, work and play. It’s an infectious thing, but illusive—like trying to catch a seagull or the ocean spray in your hands. But that’s all part of both the mystery and the magic of Canada’s smallest, greenest province.
No place is more than 16 km (10 mi.) from the sea and P.E.I.’s iconic red cliffs and pink sandy beaches are seldom out of sight. Fishing, farming and tourism are the major industries; each has its own unique characteristics—and characters!
Food takes centre stage here. It is so important that the entire month of September is devoted to an Island-wide food festival titled “Fall Flavours,” and there is always something new in the culinary realm. For example, Michael Smith—internationally renowned Chef—purchased The Inn at Bay Fortune last year and is happy to be back where he launched his career in the 1990’s. For the restaurant, Chef Smith has also created FireWorks: a method of preparing food 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
Foodies continue to rave about “Taste the Town,” a leisurely 3-hour culinary walking tour of Charlottetown establishments, sampling some of the Island’s unique food and beverages along the way. Culinary Boot Camps—including classes for kids—are a big hit at Holland College, considered by many as Canada’s premier Culinary Institute (www.hollandcollege.com/culinary_bootcamps
NATURE AT ITS BEST
Be prepared to be mesmerized by the rare parabolic dune system in the Greenwich Dunes area of PEI National Park, which also acts as a stunning backdrop to an extensive trail system that includes a floating boardwalk.
While golfers have been coming to P.E.I. for generations, cyclists can peddle 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
Throughout the Island there are endless opportunities to get up close and personal with nature. Kayaking, clam digging, lobster fishing, paddle boarding, biking, and birdwatching—to name just a few outdoor activities—are offered in many regions. No equipment? No problem; the Island has several outfitters (www. tourismpei.com
Explore the Story of Confederation
within the striking new replica of Province House’s Confederation Chamber located in the capital; experience guided interpretation and historic vignettes presented in innovative ways by the Confederation Players.
The Robinsons Island Trail System (locally referred to as R.I.T.S.) is now complete. This 5 km (3 mi.) multi-use stretch in PEI National Park has various options for hikers and bikers depending on skill level or time (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/pe/pei-ipe/visit/robinsons.aspx).
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. (www.fiddlingfisherman.com
This year, The Charlottetown Festival features the 52nd season of the Guinness record-setting production of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical
, as well as Atlantic Canada premieres of both the worldwide smash hit, Mamma Mia!
and Toronto Soulpepper Theatre’s award-winning musical, Spoon River
Upstreet Craft Brewing, a new artisan brewery, showcases unusual flavours in its downtown Charlottetown shop. The city’s newest eateries include Local 343 on Water Street and Receiver Coffee Co. on Victoria Row. Both feature locally-inspired eclectic menus and take-away options.
Atlantic Canada’s longest-running dinner theatre is hugely popular and continues to combine good food with funky performances at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel and the Brothers 2 Restaurant in Summerside, where they originated (www.roddvacations.com/feast
For a more intimate venue, The Guild showcases seasoned and emerging talent including art, dance and theatre productions (www.theguildpei.com
Throughout Charlottetown you’ll find a network of walking trails and waterside boardwalks, craft and specialty shops.
Although Summerside is smaller than Charlottetown, it also has a bustling waterfront replete with indoor and outdoor theatres, interesting boutiques and places to eat.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
The P.E.I. portion of the Trans Canada Trail—the Confederation Trail—is now complete. Stretching 444 km (276 mi.) from Tignish in the west to Elmira in the east, it also connects to the Island’s two entry points (www.tourismpei.com/pei-cycling
PEI Coastal Tours & Experiences offers excursions with experts, ranging from Aboriginal forest walks to tonging for oysters in Malpeque Bay. There is something for all ages and interests including tie-ins with farming, fishing, art, music and culture (www.peicoastal.ca
In Summerside you can enjoy the 7 km (4 mi.) Baywalk along the Bedeque Bay or stroll through the wooded Rotary Friendship Park. Two heritage walks in the historic downtown area of the city will appeal to those interested in historic architecture.
Cyclists love GranFondo PEI, a cycling event embracing the beauty of the region while increasing awareness of cycling.
Golf enthusiasts agree that P.E.I.’s courses are spectacular 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—many outdoors, including fun with falcons, feeding tuna, painting pictures, harvesting Irish moss and going on a GPS adventure (www.experiencepei.ca
). If you have time, you’ll want to explore lighthouses and find your way to the top of some of them to reward yourself with magnificent vistas.
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
The Arts & Heritage Trail is an Island-wide guide for authentic Prince Edward Island cultural experiences with elements such as museums and historic sites, performing arts venues, festivals, special events, theatre, galleries, craft shops and artisan studios (www.artsandheritagepei.ca
Many of P.E.I.’s smaller stages showcase big talent, such as the Trailside Café and Inn in Mount Stewart (www.trailside.ca
), The Watermark Theatre in Rustico (www.watermarktheatre.com
) and Harmony House Theatre in Hunter River (www.harmonyhousetheatre.com
To get a taste of Acadian culture, visit Abrams Village or Roma at Three Rivers for festivals, exhibits and tours galore. Music and dance have long been embedded in the culture as evidenced at soirées
and concerts all around the Island.
Art in the Open highlights Charlottetown’s visual arts scene, its downtown heritage spaces, its exhibition venues, and its 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
Delve into historic Charlottetown with a troupe of costumed young people for the Confederation Players Historic Walking Tours and re-enactments. Explore Queen Square or scenic Great George Street, situated around Province House National Historic Site, and other Victorian landmarks.
Take a Studio Tour and discover everything from folk art to fine art, a perfectly turned wooden bowl or an exquisite piece of jewellery (www.peistudios.ca
The musical production Highland Storm
continues to get excellent reviews. Held at the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada in Summerside, the show features Highland bagpiping, step-dancing, fiddling and snare drumming (www.collegeofpiping.com
Sample fine wines and liqueurs at Rossignol Estate Winery. Bonus: enjoy the on-site art gallery and panoramic view of the Northumberland Strait. If your timing is right, you may even be able to stomp on grapes and help make a batch of wine (www.rossignolwinery.com/Rossignol-Winery.html
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
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
Central Coastal Drive combines Green Gables Shore and Red Sands Shore. It is home to Victoria-by-the-Sea—a fishing village with great theatre, lots of charm and a gourmet chocolatier called Island Chocolates (www.centralcoastalpei.ca
Points East Coastal Drive is more secluded—perhaps because there are 34 beaches, 24 harbours, 12 provincial parks and PEI National Park, Greenwich. Step back in time at Orwell Corner Historic Village (www.pointseastcoastaldrive.com
Amusement parks galore like Kings Castle Provincial Park, Mill River Fun Park, Shining Waters Family Fun Park and Sandspit Amusement Park offer unique play equipment and activities for all ages. Kids can also build sandcastles with an expert! Ask the staff at Cavendish Beach when Maurice Bernard is hosting a sandcastle competition or sign up for Experience PEI’s “Sensational Sandcastles” (www.tourismpei.com/pei-family-fun
PARK PICK: GREEN GABLES HERITAGE PLACE
All ages fall in love with this special place and Canada’s beloved storybook character, Anne of Green Gables. Anne has a strong (and real!) presence here, with her straw hat, red-haired braids and long white pinafore. You are likely to find her dishing out ice cream which is always a treat. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books come alive here in the memory-filled rooms of this Victorian home. Bonus: the Balsam Hollow Trail has been redeveloped, retaining all of its beauty and mystery. There are bridges to cross and woodland vistas to discover in a truly enjoyable experience for visitors (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/pe/greengables/index.aspx
More info on National Parks and Historic Sites: www.pc.gc.ca