Somehow Prince Edward Island wasn’t even on my list of places to stop when I originally started planning a tour of Eastern Canada. But we ended up liking it so much that we changed our travel plans to stay longer. It might be my favorite place in Eastern Canada. (Shhh, don’t tell Nova Scotia.) I highly recommend visiting Prince Edward Island, especially in the summer. It’s uniquely inviting with it’s stunning ocean views and casual coastal charm.
Kayaking, kiteboarding, paddle boarding, there is something for everyone along PEI’s 1600 km of coastline. Avid bike riders can enjoy Confederation Trail, a 470 km trail network that runs the length of the entire island. There’s also golfing, summer festivals, live music, horseback riding at Brudenell Riding Stables or Venture Stables Trail Rides, summer camps, deep sea fishing and boat charters.
Prince Edward Island or PEI is approximately 140 miles wide by 40 miles tall (give or take 38 miles depending on how technical you want to be about water). While most of the deep sea fishing boats leave from the north side of Prince Edward Island, the ferry, airport and Confederation Bridge are on the south side of the island. Because of this, you will be most likely entering the island on the southern side, which is also the most densely populated part. Almost half of the population of the entire province resides in the capital, Charlottetown. Yes, you read that correctly, PEI is both an island and a Canadian province.
Charlottetown is centered between the Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick and the Ferry to Nova Scotia. Charlottetown is loaded with a mix green space, restaurants, heritage and culture. I recommend checking out Victoria Park and Confederation Landing. Rent a bike or surrey with fringe on top and peruse the city or if you’re not up for that, jump on the double-decker tour bus or see the city from the water on the Chinese Junk Boat or if you need to see Charlottetown from a boat and bus without moving your rump, hop aboard the ambitious amphibious Harbour Hippo.
Charlottetown is an enigma, because while it is a very quiet charming place, it also has Grayline tour buses, broadway style shows, restaurants, bars and the amenities of a much larger place. Everything downtown was walkable and it is a very manageable city to navigate as a tourist.
I recommend seeing the Anne of Green Gables musical. I know some people may read the word musical and be turned off, but it is actually a really good show. It’s claim to fame is that it is Canada’s longest running musical. Guiness Book of World Records calls it “the longest running annual musical theater production” ever. The tickets were affordable, we didn’t buy the best seats in the house, but still had a great view. The modern theater is medium sized, so I would imagine every section would offer good seats.
The drive from Charlottetown to Green Gables Heritage Place is stunning. Rolling green hills, well manicured farms, good roads, a picturesque countryside worth seeing. Even if you’re not that into literature and All Things Ann, it’s worth it to drive to the North Shore of PEI. Not only is the drive there inspiring, it is nice to see a well maintained 19th century farm. Also, it puts you right next to the beaches in Prince Edward Island National Park. The park is large and there is a lot to see, but Cavendish beach is only about 5 minutes away from the Green Gables Heritage Place. In the summer, it is breathtaking wildflower covered cliffs along the ocean.
Right next to Green Gables Heritage Place, is Avonlea Village which is a charming place to grab lunch or shop around. It looks much nicer than on their website. Everywhere you look on the north shore looks like a view that should be on a postcard.
If you’re a lighthouse aficionado, you’re in luck. According to CBC, “There are a total of 63 of them on the Island. About 35 are still active aids to marine navigation, more than 20 have been decommissioned, and seven are privately owned. Seven are national historic sites.” They are scattered all over the island and most likely wherever you are on PEI, you are probably close to one.
You will never be too far from a Cow’s ice-cream either. They started out as one shop on Cavendish Boardwalk, but now have grown to six locations on PEI. Their ice-cream is great, but there marketing is even better. Clever shirts and souvenirs line their gift shop. And while you’re at it, stop by a Moo Moo Grilled Cheesery. Or get an amazing lobster roll at Dave’s Lobster Charlottetown. Or go by Lobster on the Wharf if you want more seafood menu options. In the mornings, Receiver Coffee Co offers caffeine and culture in one historical location that is near the boats and buses.
There are lovely hotels, inns and resorts scattered all over Prince Edward Island. If you stay in Charlottetown, you can do day trips to explore the rest of the island. I highly recommend Sydney Boutique Inn and Suites, partially because of the location and welcoming staff, but also the space their suites offer is massive. But any hotel in this area of downtown would also be in a good central location.
- When researching Prince Edward Island, don’t confuse it with Prince Edward County, Ontario, which is a 14 hour drive away.
- There is an exit fee when you are leaving Prince Edward Island on the bridge or ferry. (Approximately $47)
- Canadian summer is July and August. (This means you might get better hotel prices in June, but it can also snow on PEI as late as June 6.)