The smallest province in Canada has the most adorable capital. With a lovely waterfront and well maintained heritage homes, Charlottetown will capture your heart.
The next stop on Our Great Canadian Roadtrip brought us to the quaint island of Prince Edward Island. For a small island province, we found a lot of places to explore.
There are two ways to get to Prince Edward Island (PEI) by car; over the bridge and on the ferry. Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the word that crosses ice-covered water. From north-eastern New Brunswick, Confederation Bridge travels 12.9 km over the Northumberland Strait to reach the southern shores of Prince Edward Island. Complete with hills and turns, it’s unlike any bridge we’d been on before. The ferry connects Woods Island in the eastern end of the province with Caribou in Nova Scotia. Due to Covid-19 restrictions we weren’t able to get on the ferry.
Our connection to Confederation Bridge began years ago. In the 1990s when companies were bidding for the contract to build the bridge, the contract required the winning company to build a second project in Canada. The company that built the bridge chose to develop Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, BC. Kicking Horse is our home base in the winter. Crossing the bridge meant that now we’ve seen both parts of the contract.
Fifty kilometers from Confederaion bridge is the charming capital city of Charlottetown. It’s a great walking city so give yourself plenty of time to wander around its historic downtown and waterfront. Quiet streets are lined with colourful heritage homes and row houses. One of our favourite streets is Great George Street. In addition to the pretty homes the street is also home to St. Dunstan’s Basilica. The distinctive tall spires of this National Historic site can be seen from many spots in the downtown.
Just around the corner from Great George Street is the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner. The Victorian Era brick buildings on Victoria Row are filled with restaurants and shops. The street in front has been turned into a pedestrian-only walkway and gives Victoria Row the perfect atmosphere for this charming city.
A few blocks away you’ll find Peakes Wharf. It’s a busy place where colouful wooden buildings are home to restaurants, ice cream shops, craft stores and tour operators. Boats are docked in the calm waters in front and beside it is the small Confederation Landing Park. Peakes Wharf is a great spot to spend an afternoon.
From the wharf continue to walk along tree-lined Water Street where large heritage homes stretch out to the waterfront. The largest of these homes is Government House. Built in 1833 the grand house is home to the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island and is kept secluded behind a row of hedges.
As we were walking through the neighbourhoods a local man suggested we look inside All Souls’ Chapel. Attached to St. Peter’s Cathedral, the exterior of the small chapel is quite unique. The walls were built with chunky red stones made from Prince Edward Island Sandstone. Built in 1888 it is now a National Historic Site. Inside the unique design continues with wooden carvings, coloured tiles, decorative murals and three stunning stained-glass windows. An arched doorway at the front leads to an elaborate stone altar.
Green Gables and Cavendish
Undoubtedly the most visited and most famous site on Prince Edward Island is Anne of Green Gables House in Cavendish. If you’re a fan of the books, you won’t be disappointed by the site. The house, The Haunted Woods and Lover’s Lane are just how you picture them. At least they are how I pictured them. We arrived early so there weren’t many other tourists yet, but we noticed one small fan. A young boy arrived with his parents, carrying his Anne of Green Gables book. He walked up to the house wide-eyed, stunned to be inside his book.
Green Gables Heritage Place is operated by Parks Canada. There is a fee to enter or you can use your Parks Canada Annual Discovery Pass. We found our annual pass very useful on this trip.
Cavendish Beach is just a few blocks away from Green Gables. Sand dunes cover the ground leading to the long sandy beach. Even the lifeguard stands are cute at this popular summer spot. Cavendish Beach is a part of the larger Prince Edward Island National Park. If you enter the park gates a little further east of Cavendish Beach the coast changes from gentle sand dunes to ragged bright red cliffs that PEI is known for.
After visiting Cavendish don’t forget to visit another Anne of Green Gables spot in New London. There you’ll find a small museum in the house where L.M. Montgomery was born. She’s the author of the Anne books.
The countryside around Cavendish has some of the nicest scenes. Small hills are filled with green fields planted on top of bright red earth. Villages with lovely heritage buildings and bright fishing shacks add to the quaint scenery. These country views are a part of PEI’s charm.
Tips for your trip to PEI
• The island is not large, only 225 km (140 miles) long and at most 65 km (40 miles) wide therefore, driving distances in PEI are quite short. We often looked at a map of where we were going, and arrived much earlier than we expected. Even though it’s a small island there is a lot to see so plan to spend at least 3 days. We recommend staying at least one night at The Bryanton’s Bed and Breakfast in Kensington.
• If you’re driving we suggest taking the ferry to get to PEI and the bridge to get off because it’s more economical. Both options are free to get to PEI, but the ferry charges $82 per vehicle, and the bridge charges only $48.50 to get off the island. If you are already in New Brunswick and want to do the trip in reverse it will work just as well. If you’d rather fly, Charlottetown has an international airport.
• For the best pictures of Confederation Bridge, stop near Cape Jourimain in New Brunswick or North Carleton, PEI
• PEI has an HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) therefore 15% will be added to most purchases.
Coming Next – Scenic Lighthouses on Prince Edward Island
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