Festival of Small Halls, Province-wide
TD PEI Jazz & Blues Festival, Charlottetown
JUNE - SEPTEMBER
Indian River Festival
Victoria Playhouse Festival, Victoria-by-the-Sea
Watermark Theatre Summer Festival, North Rustico
Cavendish Beach Music Festival
"Mermaid Tears" Sea Glass Fest, Souris
PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival, Rollo Bay
Summerside Lobster Carnival
Island Fringe Festival, Charlottetown
Old Home Week, Charlottetown
Tyne Valley Oyster Festival
AUGUST - OCTOBER
Fall Flavours Festival, Province-wide
PEI International Shellfish Festival, Charlottetown
PEI Marathon, Brackley Beach
Writer: Susan MacCallum Whitcomb
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 55th 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 21 provincial parks often offer free, family-oriented 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.
After completing a major renovation, the Culinary Institute of Canada opened a larger kitchen for its boot camps and demonstration classes (www.culinarybootcamps.com).
Summerside’s Evermoore Brewery and Bonshaw’s Riverdale Orchard & Cidery give visitors new reasons to say “cheers” (www.facebook.com/evermoorebrewing; www.riverdaleorchard.com).
Another stroke of good fortune! Power couple Michael and Chastity Smith open The Inn at Fortune Bridge—a six-room sister to The Inn at Bay Fortune—this summer (www.innatbayfortune.com/rooms/the-inn-at-fortune-bridge).
Opening mid-year, the new Green Gables visitor centre—with a gift shop and interpretative area—will be five times larger than the old one (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/greengables).
Set to launch this spring, Ride Solar will be offering the world’s first ever solar-powered ecotours and dinner cruises aboard the sun-propelled Isola Solaretto (www.ridesolar.com).
A global contingent of Acadians will flock to P.E.I and southeastern New Brunswick for the World Acadian Congress (Congrès Mondial Acadien), August 10-24 (www.cma2019.ca).
The 2017 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 too 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 at Great Scot!, a rousing summertime show featuring bagpipe-playing, 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
The famous local beaches aren’t just for swimmers, sunbathers and sandcastle builders. For instance, the rare parabolic dune system in the Greenwich Dunes section of PEI National Park also acts as a stunning backdrop to an extensive trail system complete with a floating boardwalk that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pei).
Hikers and bikers alike love the P.E.I. portion of The Great Trail—the Confederation Trail—which stretches 435 km (270 mi.) from Tignish in the west to Elmira in the east, and connects to the Island’s two entry points. Ambitious cyclists can pedal it from end to end, while competitive ones can enter the three-day GranFondo PEI event in August (www.tourismpei.com/pei-cycling; www.granfondo-pei.ca).
Great golfing is also par for the course on P.E.I.: after all, there are more than two dozen spots open to the public from May through October, and they are all within an hour’s drive of each other. The Links at Crowbush Cove, Dundarave, and Mill River are among the premier picks (www.golfpei.ca).
Throughout the Island there are endless other opportunities for visitors wanting a fresh-air fix. Kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, birdwatching, horseback riding—the list goes on. Enjoy a DIY (do it yourself) activity or join one of Experience PEI’s group offerings to try unique alternatives like sheep herding or clam digging (www.experiencepei.ca)..
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, theatres, galleries, craft shops and artisan studios (www.artsandheritagepei.ca).
To get a taste of Acadian culture, drop by the Acadian Museum in Miscouche for a history lesson; then head to Village Musical Acadien for traditional food and fiddle tunes (www.museeacadien.org; www.villagemusical.ca). Music is deeply embedded in their culture, and that joyful noise will be especially loud this summer as P.E.I. co-hosts the World Acadian Congress (Congrès Mondial Acadien).
If you’re in the mood for Celtic music, simply follow the provincial tourism board’s themed itinerary. Choices run from casual ceilidhs to professionally-staged shows—or even summer studies programs—at the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada in Summerside (www.tourismpei.com/pei-celtic-music).
To learn more about the Island’s Indigenous heritage, also be sure to visit the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Centre or attend drum-driven powwows and other related events held across the province (www.lennoxisland.com/attractions/cultural-centre; www.ncpei.com/events).
MUST SEE, MUST DO
From Cavendish’s tourist-friendly strand to the pristine dunes of Greenwich and Basin Head’s silica-rich “singing sands,” P.E.I. has a beach to suit every taste. Better yet, they’re lapped by some of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas (www.tourismpei.com/pei-beaches).
Many shellfish fans call P.E.I. Canada’s oyster capital because its prized Malpeque ones, drawn from the eponymous bay, have set the gold standard for more than a century. Sample them waterside or slurp some back at the Fall Flavours Festival (www.fallflavours.ca).
Conceived by celebrity chef Michael Smith, The Inn at Bay Fortune’s FireWorks Feast features multiple courses 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).
The entire world seems to know about COWS ice cream. Its 36 varieties are available at several locations in P.E.I., but you can get the inside scoop at 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.com).
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. You can 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 the third Saturday of July for the park’s annual Great Island Sandcastle Competition (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pei; www.experiencepei.ca/sensational-sandcastles).
ARDGOWAN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, CHARLOTTETOWN
Ardgowan, a gracious 19th century Gothic revival residence not far from downtown Charlottetown, was the home of William Henry Pope, one of the Fathers of Confederation. It’s an example of a large rural “cottage” from the Victorian era and was the scene of lavish entertaining in 1864 during the historic Charlottetown Conference. The interior—which now houses Parks Canada’s administrative offices for all P.E.I. holdings—isn’t open for public tours, but visitors are encouraged to stroll around the gorgeous grounds and perhaps pause for a picnic. Pope was an avid gardener and the sprawling property reflects his passion (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ardgowan).
National Parks and Historic Sites: