10 Things to See and Do on Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada and is known as The Gentle Island.
It is one of the eastern provinces of Canada, and is 175 miles, or 280 kilometres, long. Its total land area is 2184 square miles, or 5656 square kilometres and its main industries are agriculture, fisheries and tourism. It is home to just over 145,000 people.
PEI is a popular tourist destination for families, nature lovers, foodies and golfers, and there is a wide variety of things to see and do on a vacation to this island. Peak tourist season is in the summer months of June to August.
Getting to PEI
There are two ways visitors generally travel to PEI - by plane or by car. If driving to PEI, you have a choice of getting from the mainland of Canada to the island by either taking a ferry from Nova Scotia or by crossing the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick.
Confederation Bridge is an 8 mile (12.9 kilometre) curving bridge that allows travellers to drive from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. The drive across the bridge takes about ten minutes. The bridge took four years to build, and cost one billion dollars. It is the longest bridge that crosses ice-covered water in the world, and was first opened to traffic in 1997.
Things to Do on a Vacation in PEI
1. Explore the Beaches
Prince Edward Island has over 1100 miles of shoreline, and much of this coastline is beach. Depending on what part of the island you are in, the beach may be made up of white, brown, pink or red sand. The unique red sand beaches in some areas of PEI are caused by their high iron oxide content, which rusts on exposure to air.
Most of the beaches on the island are accessible to the public and you can easily spend every day of your vacation discovering a different beach. Each one has its own unique character.
Cavendish and Brackley beaches are very popular beach destinations for tourists, with their warm water and proximity to family friendly tourist attractions. Basin Head attracts tourists to its "singing sand" beaches, and there are several provincial campgrounds that have excellent beaches as well.
While these areas can get quite busy during peak tourist season, it is not difficult to find more secluded beaches on the island. There are dozens of beaches marked on the PEI maps, and many smaller unmarked beaches just waiting to be discovered. When we vacationed in PEI several summers ago, we were the only people on a few of the beaches we found.
2. Sample the Local Seafood
Prince Edward Island is a seafood lover's dream. Opportunities to eat locally caught fish and shellfish abound, and the prices for in-season seafood are very reasonable.
Whether you prefer lobster, oysters, mussels, clams, crab, fish or scallops, you are sure to find lots of delicious seafood options while in PEI.
3. Hit the Trails
PEI has hundreds of kilometres of trails to explore, making it ideal for cyclists and hikers of all levels.
The Confederation Trail, the portion of the Trans Canada Trail that runs from tip-to-tip of PEI, is over 350 km (200 miles) long. Its flat groomed surface that is suitable for both cyclists and hikers. On it you will enjoy views of rolling countryside, discover quaint villages and travel beside rivers.
Many towns have their own community trails and walking tours to explore, and many of the roads designated as Scenic Heritage Roads offer wonderful biking and hiking routes.
PEI National Park is one of 42 national parks in Canada, created by the Canadian government to protect wilderness areas across the country. There are three hiking trails in the park, and I highly recommend the Greenwich Dunes Trail to all hikers and nature lovers. The 4.5 km trail, much of it along a boardwalk through the wetlands, affords spectacular views of the rare mobile parabolic sand dunes. The dunes are definitely a must-see.
PEI also has over twenty Provincial Parks, some with campgrounds and some intended just for day use. Many of these parks have their own hiking or walking trails.
4. Enjoy Water Sports and Activities
Being an island, you are never far from the ocean while vacationing in PEI. As you would expect, there are a wide variety of water sports and activities to be enjoyed.
- deep sea fishing for cod, herring, mackerel or tuna
- fresh water fishing
- seal watching
- beach combing
5. Go Shopping
Prince Edward Island is home to many different artists and crafts people, who find inspiration in the natural beauty of the island.
Explore the island's many artist studios, galleries and shops and discover a variety of unique treasures including pottery, paintings, jewellery, woodwork, folk art, sculpture, glass work, photography, textiles, clothing and more.
In the summer, shoppers flock to the shopping outlets in Cavendish and the malls and stores in Charlottetown.
If visiting in late September, you can participate in the island's annual Studio Tour.
Several towns also hold weekly farmers markets in the summer months. These are great places to shop for fresh produce, herbs, flowers, baked goods and arts and crafts.
6. Take a Scenic Drive
Despite its relatively small size, PEI is a very diverse island. Much of the diversity of the island can be experienced by taking a scenic drive, particularly along the coastline.
There are three different scenic driving routes that have been mapped out to help visitors explore the island. These are:
- North Cape Coastal Drive
- Points East Coastal Drive
- Central Coastal Drive
These drives are well-marked by signage, and will afford you some spectacular views and take you to a variety of points of interest along the way.
7. Play Golf
With over 30 golf courses to choose from, PEI is a popular destination for golfers. The courses are not crowded, and offer beautiful views.
Courses like Brundenell River, The Links at Crowbush Cove and Dundarave are well known and considered to be some of the best golf courses in North America.
There are also several 9 hole golf courses suitable for beginners and families.
8. Learn About Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is a well-known book written by Lucy Maude Montgomery and published in 1908. It was set in Prince Edward Island, and more than 50 million copies of the book have been sold since its publication.
Many visitors to the PEI are interested in learning more about the place that inspired the author, and you can find attractions celebrating the history of Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maude Montgomery across the island.
In Cavendish, you can tour the Lucy Maud Montgomery Homestead and visit the popular tourist attraction of Avonlea Village.
You can see Anne of Green Gables - The Musical in Charlottetown, or shop at the Anne of Green Gables store for souvenirs. There are even Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Shops which are worth a visit. Their chocolate covered caramels are to die for!
9. Visit a Lighthouse
If you like lighthouses, then PEI is the place for you! There are over 40 lighthouses on the island. Each one is unique, and they offer fabulous photo opportunities.
Seven of the lighthouses on the island are open to the public. Many of them have museums attached and picnic grounds or walking trails nearby. They offer a great opportunity to learn about the area's history and you can climb the lighthouse tower steps for some spectatular views of the ocean and surrounding landscapes.
These are usually great spots for bird watching. You may even be able to spot seals frolicking in the water from some of the lighthouses.
PEI Lighthouses open to visitors are located at:
- Cape Bear
- East Point
- Panmure Island
- Point Prim
- West Point
- Wood Islands
10. Attend a Festival
Prince Edward Island is home to a number of different festivals throughout the year, which celebrate the many different cultural and musical influences of the island.
The welcoming and friendly people of PEI make these festivals a great experience for island visitors.
Some of the island's annual festivals include: Cavendish Beach Music Festival, Charlottetown Summerfest, Montgomery Theatre Summer Festival, PEI Fall Flavours Festival, Highland Gathering, Blue Grass festival, and a jazz festival.
Two Thumbs up for PEI
These are just some of the things you can do while on a vacation in Prince Edward Island. There is definitely more to this island than you might think, and it`s a wonderful place to explore and discover its natural beauty and some of its hidden treasures.
PEI is truly a beautiful place to visit, and I highly recommend it as a vacation destination for families, nature lovers and anyone looking for a relaxing getaway.
To get your own PEI Visitor's Guide, visit PEI's Tourism website.
Have you ever vacationed in PEI?
© 2012 Kathy Sima