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Scenic lighthouses dot the shores of idyllic Prince Edward Island
Scenic lighthouses dot the shores of idyllic Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island Spotlight

Sandstone bluffs, pristine beaches, and the Atlantic's best bivalves, all served up with soft-spoken charm

By Lesley Riva

July 12th, 2010

Shaped like a croissant with a few bites missing, Prince Edward Island floats peacefully off the coast of New Brunswick. The smallest of Canada’s maritime provinces at just under 2,200 square miles, the island defies any preconceptions about harsh northern climates. The rocky Nova Scotian peninsula, solid bulk of Quebec, and hanging promontory of Newfoundland form a great embrace that protects the island from the frigid northern waters, so summer is warm and mild and the water is swimmable. The season is brief: Most of the inns and eateries that serve visitors don’t open until mid-June, and generally close up shop by mid-September. Yet even at the height of what would elsewhere be the summer rush, PEI remains low-key: just a lovely, uncrowded, unhurried place that has retained its rural character – rolling meadows and potato fields – and gorgeous unspoiled coastline.

The island is also a locavore’s delight, with farmers’ markets brimming with fresh baby radishes, tiny new potatoes, curly garlic scapes, and wild blueberries; plentiful local lobster pulled from the chilly waters; and a booming shellfish industry that stocks the pristine bays and coves with thriving beds of mussels and at least six varieties of PEI oysters. While upscale restaurants are scarce (largely owing to a lack of tourists to patronize them), there are a handful of great eateries and plenty of unpretentious spots serving up the likes of fresh scallop burgers, steamed lobsters, and fish and chips. The raw variety can’t be beat: Stop at a Malpeque Bay seafood shack and order a dozen on the half shell. When the oysters are this fresh, frills are superfluous. Even a lemon seems like overkill.

Be warned: This is not a destination for those craving crowds, shopping, or nightlife. But to cleanse the spirit with a walk on a windswept beach, bald eagles wheeling overhead, this is the spot. Throw in kayaking across sparkling bays, passing a curious seal or two; biking from lighthouse to lighthouse along red sandstone bluffs covered in wild roses; and some of the best golf in North America (10 of Canada’s top 100 courses are located right here), and one begins to grasp the island’s understated charm. 

Discover the understated charm and unspoiled coasts of Prince Edward Island with our slideshow by photographer Annie Schlechter. 

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