North America

Prince Edward Island: What more can be said?

Fort Amherst Lighthouse | Photo credit: Tourism PEI

Except … Plan your trip. You won’t be disappointed!

The smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island is famous for red sand beaches, potatoes, and the irrepressible Anne of Green Gables. It also is known as the “Birthplace of Confederation.”

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is steeped in history and heritage. The Island is known as the “Birthplace of Confederation” because the capital city, Charlottetown, is where the idea of Canada was born. But the history of PEI dates back to when early European settlers arrived mainly from Scotland, England and Ireland.

The Island – as it is often referred to – was first discovered by Europeans when French voyager Jacques Cartier explored what would become the Maritime Provinces in the 1530s.

The present name of Prince Edward Island was adopted in 1799 to honour then Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn – the father of Queen Victoria and younger brother of King George IV.

And as you probably aware, Prince Edward Island is where newlyweds The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, also known affectionately as Prince William and Catherine, chose to visit during their recent tour of Canada. (Rumour has it that Catherine wanted to visit the land of Anne of Green Gables).

True or not, the Royals were welcomed with open arms and enthusiastically toured the Province that has charmed so many before them … Such is the experience of every visitor to this small but enchanting sliver of Canada.

Prince Edward Island is located on the east coast of Canada and connected to the mainland by the Confederation Bridge.

You can expect a variety of landscapes that include coastal cliffs and beaches, forests, rolling farmland, pastoral rivers, and the ever present waterways. You’ll experience a sense of peace and quiet, of an unhurried, timeless lifestyle.

Celebrated primarily as a summertime destination, the islands seasonal weather is as diverse as the island landscape. Islanders enjoy four very distinct seasons, all bringing innumerable choices of activities which in their varying phases personify the essence of life in the province.

Throughout the year, nature displays an ever-changing array of colours. You may find roadsides abloom with lupins and wild roses, while fields fill with fireweed, daisies, brown-eyed susan, Queen Anne’s Lace and other wildflowers. Wooded areas are home to the provincial flower, the delicate “Lady Slipper”.

The Essence of the Island

Abram Village anchor | Photo credit: Tourism PEI/Leona Arsenault
Photo credit: Tourism PEI/Leona Arsenault

One can feel the hospitable charm of the local inhabitants of the south eastern area, which is predominantly the Irish and Scottish heritage of the region. Ceilidhs, (pronounced ‘kay-lees’) originated as “kitchen parties” and have grown into popular events. For anyone who can play an instrument, sing or dance in the traditional style, they will find that the many ceilidhs provide an opportunity to perform, thus capturing the true essence of these spontaneous musical gatherings.

The native Mi’kmaq people of the area honor their spiritual traditions during the Abegweit Pow Wow held annually in mid August. The Cliffside views from the Panmure Island grounds provide an ideal backdrop for this celebration. And all are welcome to to attend. And bring your bathing attire … the Panmure Island beach is an excellent swimming beach.

Kilts and cabers abound at the annual Highland Games held in early August in Eldon at the Belfast Highland Provincial Park. Piping, highland dancing and traditional athletic competitions pay tribute to the Scottish heritage of the Island.

And the lighthouses … For centuries, lighthouses have been symbols of hope, safety and refuge. Nowhere is their presence more valued than on Prince Edward Island. Although it is only 224 kilometres from North Cape to East Point, the coastline stretches for 1,760 kilometres. Strategically located along the sandy beaches, or standing sentinel atop high red cliffs, there are approximately forty-five lighthouses still guiding mariners away from dangerous reefs and into safe harbours.

At present there are seven lighthouses on Prince Edward Island open to the public. Visitors can climb into their Lantern Rooms to view the working light. Four are museums having collections of lighthouse-related artefacts.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables | Photo credit: Tourism PEI/© John Sylvester Photography
Photo credit: Tourism PEI/© John Sylvester Photography

A visit to the Island would be incomplete – to say the least! – without visiting The Green Gables farmhouse, from which author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew her inspiration.

Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, is the bestselling novel (50 million copies) by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Set in 1878, it was written as fiction for readers of all ages, but in recent decades has been considered a children’s book. Montgomery found her inspiration for the book on an old piece of paper that she had written at a young age, describing a couple that were mistakenly sent an orphan girl instead of a boy. Montgomery also drew upon her own childhood experiences in rural Prince Edward Island. Montgomery used a photograph of Evelyn Nesbit, which she had clipped from New York’s Metropolitan Magazine, and pasted the framed clipping on the wall of her bedroom, as the model for the face of Anne Shirley, the book’s main character. Since publication, Anne of Green Gables has become a world-wide phenomenon, and it all began in Prince Edward Island.

During a visit to PEI, you can do more than just witness the Island way of life. You can live it. The simple pleasures … You can work side-by-side with chefs, artisans, fishermen, farmers, musicians, and a host of people who defy categorizing, but who love what they do and want to share it with you. You might get your hands dirty. You might also get your shoes wet. And your knees stained. But the memory of your Island experiences will last a lifetime. And you will return home and relate your adventures and stories to all your friends, neighbours and relatives and begin by saying “You won’t believe what we did in Prince Edward Island!”

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