Introduction to Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is the smallest of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces. Located above New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the population sits around 155,000.
I love visiting PEI, and I ‘ve been going there since I was young. I imagine I’ll continue visiting PEI until I can’t any longer! For me, it’s the beauty and simplicity of the island. Where else will you find a potato stand at the end of a driveway selling potatoes on the honour system?
The provincial flower is the Pink Lady’s Slipper. I’ve never found one in PEI, but have found several in Nova Scotia. It’s a pretty flower.
Farming is a big industry in PEI (especially potatoes). Fishing and tourism are important industries as well. Prince Edward Island is famous for Anne of Green Gables, the red-headed orphan who author L.M.Montgomery brought to life!
Unlike Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, you won’t find any bear or moose (thank goodness, it’s a small island). Bear, moose, caribou, and wolves, all once found on PEI, long ago disappeared (due to habitat loss and hunting). You will likely see foxes and many bird species. Coyotes recently found their way to the island (via Confederation Bridge), but you are not likely to see any. The mosquitos are very real!
The best time to visit is in the warm summer months, especially July and August.
A Brief History
When PEI became a British colony in the 1700s, the only inhabitants were the Mi’kmaq. Interestingly, PEI did not join confederation on July 1, 1867, along with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec). The province joined Canada in 1873, and Charlottetown became the capital.
Charlottetown is considered the ‘Birthplace of Confederation’ or ‘Cradle of Confederation’ as the Charlottetown Conference held there in 1864 laid the groundwork for confederation.
The Mi’kmaq named the island Epekwitk, and Europeans would translate this to Abegweit, meaning cradled on the waves. The French, in the 1600s, claimed PEI (Maritime lands including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) for France and called the colony Acadia. In the 1700s England claimed PEI when France gave up its claim (terms in the Treaty of Paris).
In 1758 the island’s Acadians were expelled. This came three years after the expulsion of the Acadians in Nova Scotia.
In 1798 the island was renamed Prince Edward Island (from St. John’s Island), after Prince Edward, the father of the future Queen Victoria.
Confederation took place on July 1, 1867, but PEI did not join at the time. They joined six years later, in 1873.
One thing I love about Prince Edward Island is how laid back and relaxed it is. It’s rural and pretty, especially with fields of canola in full yellow bloom. Sharp contrasts of green fields and turned up red earth against a blue sky can leave you mesmerized. And the ocean, it’s always there to beckon you. Red or white sand, there are so many beautiful beaches!
Islanders are friendly and you can easily get lost in conversation. Summer brings tourists, many many tourists. Certain places are buzzing with activity the entire tourist season, but there are many hidden or out-of-the-way places you can escape to for a change of pace. I recommend getting in your car and driving. Go explore. Find a deserted beach or local pub and enjoy a sunset or a good meal.
Getting to PEI
Interested in visiting Prince Edward Island? There are a few ways to get here. Drivers can take either the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Borden-Carleton or cross by ferry From Nova Scotia’s Caribou to Wood Islands, PEI (75-minute crossing). Tolls are charged when departing PEI but not on arrival. The ferry is a bit pricier than the bridge. Ferry service is not year-round and runs May-December.
If you’re flying, there is an airport in Charlottetown (YYG), PEI. Depending on flight costs, you can fly into Halifax (YHZ), Nova Scotia, and either take a bus to the Island or rent a car (about a 3-hour drive). Alternatively, you can fly into Moncton (YQM), New Brunswick, and take a bus or rent a car.
Where to stay
Once you’ve decided to visit, you need to book a place to stay! Accommodations abound on this little piece of paradise. You have Hotels/Motels, Resorts, Inns and Bed and Breakfasts, Camping and RV parks, Cottages, Hostels, and yes, many AirBnB’s.
Being a past travel agent, I am hesitant about this last option. I have recently had 2 Airbnb stays in PEI, which went well. I had no issues and the hosts were great. Just remember they are not regulated like the other many accommodations. In really busy times, like Old Home Week, things get booked up, so it’s good to have options.
You’ll need to decide if you want to be in the city, or by a beach, on a golf course, etc.
I have stayed in cottages just outside Charlottetown, and cottages in Cavendish and Stanhope. I’ve stayed at many hotels like the Holiday Inn, and the Delta which is right downtown in a great waterfront location. I’ve stayed at the Mill River Resort on a golf course, and years ago I camped. Decide what you want from your vacation and make decisions from there.
What to do on Prince Edward Island
Tourism is big business on the island, and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. In Charlottetown, you have the downtown area, with restaurants, pubs, shops, and boutiques. It’s a very walkable waterfront and downtown area, with the Confederation Centre of the Arts providing great theatre.
The Confederation Trail for biking and hiking in summer, and snowmobiling in winter. When the trains stopped running in the late 1980s, the tracks were converted to this tip-to-tip trail. The 435 km trail is also used for geocaching and there are 1600 plus sites along the trail.
Another great draw to the Island is Cavendish. Shining Waters and Sandspit (water park and amusement park), and various other ‘touristy’ things to do with the family are lots of fun.
Every July is the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, drawing country music fans from all over for a 3-day weekend concert featuring top country performers.
A beach day is in order at Cavendish Beach, or one of several others along the shore if you’re up for exploring.
Anne Of Green Gables is the reason for many visitors coming to Cavendish. Author L.M. Montgomery grew up in Cavendish and used her love of the area as inspiration for her Anne of Green Gables Novels, featuring Anne Shirley and the town of Avonlea. There are several attractions including Green Gables Heritage Place and the L.M. Montgomery Homesite.
Besides these popular tourist areas, you have the rest of the island to discover. Other activities include fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, golfing, festivals, and events.
There is something for everyone in Prince Edward Island!
For more info on PEI attractions and accommodations you can visit Tourism PEI.