Well I can’t believe it’s already October. Summer seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye and I still haven’t put up my travel post on the wonders of Prince Edward Island.
Back in July I went on my last vacation of the summer with my family to the beautiful Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.). This beautiful island province is known for it’s red sand beaches, fishing ports, yummy lobster and the story of Anne of Green Gables.
Spending a week on the island was just enough time to see most of its great wonders. Starting in the capital of Charlottetown we took a figure eight shape around the island, visiting all four points and touring most of the major towns and island destinations, from Cavendish to the Confederation Bridge.
There was so much beauty, yummy eats and new experiences to be had on the island that I would like to write about it all here, but in the interest of time and for the sake of your attention span I have decided to break things down into a simple list.
Top Ten things to do in P.E.I in the summer:
Eat as much ice cream as you can from COWS – and buy some shirts while you’re there.
If you’re from the west coast of Canada or have ever visited Whistler, then you have probably had a super creamy waffle cone from COWS. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that COWS is in fact an East Coast creation.
A family run business, the creamery has been creating tasty ice cream cones since 1983, when they started selling ice cream on the Cavendish Boardwalk. With great flavours like Wowie Cowie (vanilla ice cream with English toffee marble, chocolate flakes and moo crunch) and Gooey Mooey (burnt sugar ice cream with English toffee, English toffee marble, caramel cups and chocolate flakes) Cows ice cream is both fun and tasty. The use of old fashioned mixing methods (using a slow mixing process that keeps air out and uses 16% butterfat) helps create the super creamy taste, and using fresh cream and real eggs to create the homemade waffle cones makes COWS so special.
If you can’t eat diary or ice cream just isn’t your thing COWS is also fun because of their parody shirts. The creamery is unique because of its great apparel options. While at the factory and the two or three other COWS shops we stopped into along the way I picked up some new Cows apparel. Two of my favourite purchases were a grey soft comb t-shirt with a picture of a sprinkle waffle cone that reads “Life is better with sprinkles” and a pink night t-shirt dress that reads ” Namoost-Hay in bed” with a picture of a cow in a yoga pose on the front.
Visit some actual cows (on a farm)
One of the great wonders of P.E.I. is it’s farming industry. While on the island you have to visit a farm or two and meet a few friendly cows. Cows, I have discovered over the past year, are some of my favourite creatures. They are very intelligent, curious and compassionate. I have pulled over to farms in my travels and have had cows come run up to me to check me out, sniff my iPhone and wag their tails.
While on a drive we pulled over to take in some views and stumbled upon a farmers field with some lovely black and white cows lounging in the sun. As we approached the fence the cows became curious, and hopeful that we might have a snack or two for them, and bounded over to the fence to check us out.
These curious black and white creatures gave us a good look and let us pet them carefully. Some were a bit shy and others were quite bold, looking out for the shy ones and making sure they were between us and the wary.
Go see Anne of Green Gables on stage once or twice!
As the birthplace of Anne of Green Gables, P.E.I was home to the author L.M Montgomery who lived in Cavendish with her grandparents after her mother’s death and used her life and the beauty of the island to inspire the story of little orphan Anne.
The people of P.E.I. are very proud of the author and her work, and rightly so. While in Charlottetown we say not one but two wonderful productions of Anne of Green Gables, ones by a local thereat group and the other one was a national production.
Anne and Gilbert: The Musical, is a local production put on by a non profit arts and culture group called The Guild. In a small one room theatre a cast of new and emerging artists puts on a wonderful, high energy show that
Montgomery is one of Canada’s greatest exports, her work is popular all over the world and especially so in Japan. Living on the island inspired Montgomery’s most famous work Anne of Green Gables, most famously known for its 1984 film rendition
Eat a lobster or two or three
Lobster season on the island runs twice per year, with the first from May to the end of June and the second from August until October. We were lucky enough to catch the last week of the lobster season and be able to watch the lobster fishermen go and check on their traps.
Traps are set at the beginning of the season and left out in the water until the last day of the season where they are collected and brought into shore. Lobster fisherman keep very early days, heading out long before sunrise (around 3 or 4 in the morning) to set new traps and check on their existing ones. All traps are marked by colourful buoys that are unique to each fisherman.
When we stayed at the lovely Northport Pier Inn for a night we were able to wake early to hear and watch the fisherman leave the port for their daily work. The Inn is located right next to a former boat builders shop that has been turned into a marvellous restaurant, that serves lovely fresh seafood from those same fisherman we could see out our windows. While there I had a wonderful seafood chowder and we all shared a lobster and artichoke dip that was to die for with garlic, artichokes and lobster all baked into yummy cheese it makes me drool just thinking of it.
Speaking of seafood, I love a good clam chowder and P.E.I offered so many different variations I was both surprised and impressed. In every region we visited and every restaurant we stopped in, I could enjoy a different type of seafood or clam chowder. Some had salmon, some had potato, some had whole chunks of lobster while others had lovely lobster shreddings. Prince Edward Island is a seafood lovers dream and for this soup loving lady it offered much more than I could ever have expected.
Visit a red sand beach
A trip to Canada’s east coast would not be complete without a visit or two to their lovely red sand beaches. With an almost volcanic presence the sand at these beaches have a magical quality, they are so deep and dynamic. The red colour is caused by the high iron content in the soil and sandstone of the island’s landscapes. When exposed to sea air the iron content oxidizes and rusts creating the red colour in the sand.
One of the best beaches to enjoy the beautiful red sands from is Cedar Dunes. This provincial park beach can be found in the north-west corner of the island and is the home to the iconic white and black striped West Point Lighthouse. The brave can book a night or two stay in the lighthouse, for a true seaside experience; but for the rest of us a drive over and a walk along the sand dunes at this beach can make for a very memorable experience. While there watch out for bold little foxes, I mistook one for a dog because it walked right beside a cyclist, and tons of poison ivy. The saying on the island, to help you spot the itchy native plant, is “leaves of three, let it be”.
Visit Green Gables and walk Lover’s Lane
The central location in Anne’s story is Green Gables and so one must visit Gables on their trip to P.E.I. Because of its ionic nature, Green Gables is now part of a national historic site and located on a provincial park.
The green and white house, complete with white picket fence, can be found in Cavendish instead Prince Edward Island National Park. You can walk through the house, which has been set up much like it would have been in the early 1900’s when the book was first published.
Besides Green Gables, the national park includes many walks and trails that can help you gain a full experience of Anne. One of my favourite aspects of the book, besides wonderful expressions like being in the “depths of despair’, is Lovers Lane and at the park you can walk Lovers Lane while learning more about Montgomery’s world.
Dine at Inn of Bay Fortune and while you’re there stay the night!
This beautiful country inn, located on the east coast of the island right off of the Fortune River, has been owned by many famous theatrical types from Elmer Harris to Colleen Dewhurst – who played Marilla Cuthbert in my favourite version of the Anne of Green Gables film.
Now owned by acclaimed Food Network Chef , Michael Smith and his wife Chastity. Located on 46 acres of land, the inn has 10 acres just dedicated to their organic farm – where all the food for the famous fire feast comes from.
Before the feast we took a tour of the farm from the farm manager, Farmer Kevin. I was so impressed by all his agricultural knowledge and desire to help chefs connect with nature and use more parts of the plants they cooked with.
The Fire Feast is really the highlight of a stay at the Inn. The farm to table feast has been voted one of the best on offer in Canada, and if you are as lucky as we were you might even get there on a night Chef Micheal is cooking.
Sitting at long tables of about 30 people you indulge in fresh seasonal fare, all of which is presented beautifully and prepared over open flames. My favourite was one of the pork appetizers that was prepared in a old claw foot tub.
Drive the Confederation Bridge
My Dad is a real lover of all things urban planning, so anytime we go on a family trip near a new bridge, rail line or highway we have to check it out. Although not new, the Confederation Bridge is a must do on a trip to P.E.I.
Creating a link between the island and the mainland, the almost 13 kilometre toll bridge is the longest bridge of its type to cross ice-covered water (in the winter) in the world.
There aren’t too many views during your crossing, if you are in a standard sized car or SUV or if the weather is rainy and foggy, but it is still a thrilling ride. Once you come to the end of your journey the views looking back at the bridge are breathtaking.