Easy Northeast Getaway: Prince Edward Island

by  Tyra Sutak | Sep 27, 2016

Prince Edward Island is the crown jewel of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, thanks to pristine beaches, fresh local seafood, and charming 19th century architecture. Only slightly larger than the state of Delaware, the island is easy to navigate in a short period of time, which is good because there’s a lot to see. From festivals celebrating the island’s dining and music scenes, to lighthouse tours and a look inside the birthplace of one Canada’s most famous authors -- there’s a little something for everyone in PEI.

What to Do

House of Anne of Green Gables / flickr

Most places you'll want to visit in PEI is no more than a two-hour drive from the island’s capital city of Charlottetown. So rent a car, make Charlottetown your home-base for your stay, and head out each morning to explore a different region.

Start out with a visit to PEI’s most popular tourist attraction -- the houses and landscape that inspired famed Canadian writer Lucy Maud Montgomery, of the Anne of Green Gables book series. From Charlottetown, head northwest towards the Green Gables Shore and the tiny town of New London where you’ll find the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery -- a late-1800s home filled with the late author's personal letters and belongings. From there, head to the Anne of Green Gables Museum, originally the home of Montgomery’s aunt and uncle, which inspired the setting of the novel. After touring the house, take a stroll through the nearby woods and shores of the real-life Lake of Shining Waters. Entry is $5.50 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 16. For an additional $6 per person, visitors can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the grounds. Finish out your Anne of Green Gables-themed day with a visit to Cavendish. The city is full of Anne-inspired shops, restaurants, and amusement parks and the Green Gables Heritage Place. There’s a $7.80 fee to enter the site, but once in, visitors can tour Anne of Green Gables' home, enjoy a picnic, and take a stroll down Lovers Lane. Swing by Sutherland’s Restaurant on the way back to Charlottetown for a bowl of fresh PEI Blue Mussels ($10) overlooking the water.

Next, head east to explore the island's iconic lighthouses and sandy beaches. A little more than an hour drive from Charlottetown, East Point Lighthouse boasts views of the Atlantic Ocean and the mountainous shores of Nova Scotia. Finish off your visit with a bowl of lobster mac 'n' cheese at the lighthouse cafe. As you make the loop back to Charlottetown, you’ll pass the entrance to the Basin Head Provincial Park -- home to a gorgeous beach where you can rent stand up paddle boards or just grab a chair and enjoy the afternoon sun. Stop at roadside farm stands and art galleries on your way back to town.

Last, spend a day exploring the historic city of Charlottetown. Start the morning with breakfast and a cup of coffee on the patio of the Receiver Coffee Co. in Queen Square, Charlottetown’s historic center. From there, take a self-guided tour of the city's historic buildings, including St. Dunstan’s Basilica, which originally opened in 1907; the Province House, where the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island has held meetings since 1847; and the Port-a-la-Joye-Fort Amherst, which dates back to the 1700s. After your tour, order PEI oysters and fish and chips at Brakish in downtown Charlottetown. In the evening, watch cruise ships sail in and out of the harbor, or wander the city’s main thoroughfare, stopping at Cows Creamery for homemade ice cream and The Guild theater (currently hosting Anne & Gilbert The Musical). Before your visit to Charlottetown is over, be sure to have a meal at Terre Rouge, a farm-to-table restaurant adding a modern touch to the island’s traditional ingredients.

Where to Stay

Prince Edward Island is home to many historic B&Bs, cottages, and hotels -- the majority of which offer waterfront views and local seafood restaurants on-site. We recommend the Dundee Arms Inn, a former Queen Anne-revival mansion converted into a 22-room boutique hotel in downtown Charlottetown, and the Rodd Charlottetown, built in 1932, which combines old-world architecture with modern amenities and has a rooftop patio where guests can watch electric sunsets.

Getting There

Regular flights to and from the Charlottetown airport via Air Canada make travel to Prince Edward Island simple. From the airport, it’s a 15-minute cab ride to downtown Charlottetown (cabs operate around the flight schedule, so it shouldn't be hard to catch one after you arrive). If a road trip is more your style, pack up the car and drive through New Brunswick and over the eight-mile Confederation Bridge. This architectural masterpiece crosses a vast waterway, connecting New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. The island is also reachable by ferry from Nova Scotia, landing in Wood Island, PEI. The scenic trip is roughly 75 minutes and is $71 round-trip for a vehicle and passengers.

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