Cavendish, Cows, and Country Music
Kicking off Summer
Hockey brought me to Prince Edward Island, but country music brought me to Cavendish.
While my son works for and attends a well-known island summer hockey school in Charlottetown, my daughter, and her friends come to Cavendish for a different reason, country music.
The Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF) is a three-day outdoor country music festival held each year on the weekend following Canada Day. The festival attracts tens of thousands of concert-goers along with country superstars headlining the event. This year’s concert featured Hunter Hayes on Friday night, Carrie Underwood on Saturday night and Eric Church on Sunday night. Of course, numerous other bands and entertainers perform throughout the three days, and if you enjoy outdoor concerts it’s a blast, rain or shine.
Previous years have seen big names such as Luke Bryan, Jon Pardi, Blake Shelton, and even Shawn Mendes! (yes I know, he’s not country). I attended only once, several years ago. My friend and I took our daughters to see Taylor Swift, back when she was still singing country.
Saturday was a mixed bag of weather, with rain off and on during the afternoon, but this didn’t dampen the mood. Concert-goers got soaked, dried off, then soaked again, but it cleared shortly before Carrie Underwood took the stage around 9 pm. I wasn’t at the concert, but headed back from Charlottetown with my son, and happened to catch the most beautiful rainbow along the way. I stopped for a photo, but my pictures don’t do it justice.
The Road to Cavendish
To be more exact, I should say the roads. There is more than one road that will lead you to Cavendish. The island isn’t that big, so you shouldn’t worry about getting lost, but maybe even welcome it. Welcome the beauty and the simplicity of this island. As you pass fields of green and yellow, of blue skies and the red sand beaches, rolling hills and pastures filled with purple and pink lupines, and of course, cows!
To us Canadians, Prince Edward Island is most notably known as the ‘Birthplace of Confederation’. The world may know PEI for other reasons like red sand beaches, potatoes, and Anne Shirley! Are you’re asking Anne who? I’ll explain better… that red-headed orphan girl that came to Green Gables to live, you know, Anne of Green Gables. Anne with an ‘E’!
Thanks to author L.M. Montgomery, her fictional Anne and Avonlea stole the hearts of many (mine included) and still does today. Lucy Maud was born in New London, PEI in 1874. She was raised by her maternal grandparents in Cavendish, which served as the inspiration for her beloved novel Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908). She died in 1942 in Toronto but it’s only fitting that her final resting place is the Cavendish Cemetery.
L.M. Montgomery Homestead, Green Gables, and the Anne of Green Gables Museum
I can’t count the times I’ve been to Cavendish. Growing up, it was the ultimate road trip vacation, only a few hours drive from home. I remember two camping trips to Cavendish with my cousins, one at age twelve, and the second at age fourteen. Back then, we went there for Rainbow Valley, an amusement park with water slides. And of course for Green Gables.
Over time, Rainbow Valley closed. New parks and attractions sprung up, and Anne’s popularity grew. Todays Cavendish is a busy summer tourist hot spot. L.M. Montgomery’s fiery red-headed character Anne draws tourists from all over the world, wanting to see for themselves the ‘Avonlea’ so vividly depicted in Montgomery’s books.
L.M. Montgomery Homestead
Anne of Green Gables may be a work of fiction, but the author drew on her love of Cavendish, where she grew up, as her inspiration to create the characters and setting. She was raised by her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill, after her mother’s death.
You can visit the L.M. Montgomery Homestead in Cavendish just off Route 6 near Cavendish corner. There is a small museum/book store, with many period items, photos, and books you can purchase. The day I visited I had a lovely chat with the young man working there for the summer, John Macneill. He knew his family’s history quite well and gave an interesting verbal recount along with a few stories. For a small fee, you can wander the grounds and view the foundation remains of where the house once stood. Walk the path to the Green Gables Heritage Place to see and learn more.
Green Gables Heritage Place
This is it, the famous Green Gables, where Anne Shirley came to live with Matthew and Marilla. This farmhouse was the setting for Montgomery’s story. In reality, it belonged to the Macneill’s, cousins of the author. Green Gables isn’t far from the L.M. Montgomery Homestead, and there is a path you can walk from one to the other (pay a combined fee at either attraction to take in both). I liked seeing Anne’s room and Marilla’s room, and all the items from a century ago.
I checked out other highlights while there as well: Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Woods.
The new Green Gables Visitor Center recently opened at the property entrance housing a gift shop, washrooms, and information area.
Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush
A twenty minutes drive west along the coast will bring you to Park Corner where the Campbell Homestead stands. L.M. Montgomery spent much time here as a child with her aunt (her mother’s sister) and uncle and cousins. The 110-acre homestead referred to by Lucy Maud as her wonder castle, has been in the Campbell family for more than 230 years. Called Silver Bush, Lucy Maud wrote two novels set here. She was also married at Silver Bush to the Reverand MacDonald. There are gardens, a museum, a view of the Lake of Shining Waters and Matthew’s Carriage Rides. If you can get here and have the time, it is worth it for Anne and L.M Montgomery fans.
L.M. Montgomery fans will want to stop here, the final resting place of Lucy Maud and her husband. Her mother and grandparents are also buried in the Cavendish cemetery not too far away. I stayed in a cottage close by and walked over to stroll around. The cemetery is not big, and a cement stone path leads you to her graveside.
Green Gables Post Office (Canada Post-Green Gables)
The post office on Route 6 at Cavendish corner is close to the L.M. Montgomery Cavendish Homestead. Mail sent from the post office gets a special Anne postal cancellation stamp. It’s only open from May until October, so don’t forget to stop in. Cavendish corner isn’t an official name for the intersection of routes 6 and 13 but is appropriate for this busy corner with accommodations, services, and attractions.
Avonlea Village is a re-creation of Avonlea with restaurants and shops. Not far from Green Gable Heritage Place, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival grounds are behind Avonlea Village. There is no entrance fee. You’ll find lots of places to eat and shop here but it is commercialized.
Anne of the Island
You could say that Prince Edward Island is my happy place, though I spend more time in Charlottetown than Cavendish. I love this place, this island, this land of Anne. Such beauty all around you; sunset on the north shore, a gentle breeze rippling over grassy fields, and the sound of ocean waves as they roll in.
Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts offers up Anne of Green Gables-The Musical, to satisfy all the Anne fans visiting the city. It’s the 55th summer for the musical, a testament to the enduring popularity of this character and the works of an incredibly talented Author.
Prince Edward Island is a beautiful place to visit in warmer months, even for those unfamiliar with the Anne of Green Gables novels. It’s great for road trips and making discoveries along the way. Small fishing villages offer restaurants serving fresh seafood, local craft shops, and art.
If your love of books, particularly those written by L.M Montgomery, should be the reason for your visit, do your best to get to as many of the attractions as you can. I offer this advice as some sites will be touristy and commercialized, like Green Gables and Avonlea Village (still visit them!). A few will be less so. L.M. Montgomery’s homestead, and the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush for instance. Yes, there are gift shops and some touristy things, but these places offer something besides the smaller to no crowds…
…A modern glimpse of the past and places that Lucy Maud loved so much they inspired an entire collection of novels and endearing characters. Mostly though, a feeling. The one that washes over you as you stand outside, a slight breeze whispering in your ear, and gaze across the Lake of Shining Waters. Home.