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Dear Deal Detective:
Help! I need a vacation from my busy life. Looking to take a week or so and visit Prince Edward Island in Canada. It would be me, my husband and 1.5-year-old son. We’re interested in a vacation rental and then taking lots of little day trips (i.e. scenic drives, bike paths and bike rentals, anything child-friendly, etc) that a toddler would put up with. We’d like our rental to be somewhere scenic since we likely will be spending our evenings cozied up there rather than out and about (again, due to the toddler!). We live near Boston and will likely drive to PEI, taking the CAT ferry part of the way. Any suggestions you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
You’re in luck! I spent a week in Prince Edward Island (PEI) a few summers ago. It’s a great place for a relaxing family vacation. I’ll address your multi-faceted question piece by piece.
I also chose to drive to PEI. It’s a pretty trip, with the route weaving along the Maine coastline and New Brunswick, Canada. However, it can be a long haul—about 11 hours from Boston. With a toddler, you may want to break up the drive over two days, spending the night at the Maine/Canada border; St. John, New Brunswick; or on Nova Scotia. And the island’s Confederation Bridge is a thrilling end to your road trip. It’s 13 kilometers long (about eight miles), stretches over the Northumberland Strait, and connects to the island from New Brunswick. It’s free to drive across, but you’ll get a hefty toll on your way out—it’s $41.50 to depart. Luckily, you won’t need to have exact change on you: Cash, credit, and debit cards are accepted.
You mentioned the CAT Ferry. The CAT offers service between Portland or Bar Harbor, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. From Nova Scotia, it operates the BAY Ferries line between Caribou, Nova Scotia, and Wood Islands, PEI (on the island’s Eastern side). The Caribou to Wood Islands trip is 75 minutes and costs $61 for a car. Like the Confederation Bridge, the ferry fare is only paid when leaving the island. Keep in mind you’ll have to make arrangements to get to Nova Scotia as well, and the CAT ferry routes there (from Portland or Bar Harbor, Maine), can be quite expensive.
For example, I tested a family of three, with car, aboard the CAT from Portland to Yarmouth in July, and was quoted a round-trip price of $665! And from there, you’d still need to get up to Caribou from Yarmouth to catch the PEI/BAY ferry. Ouch. The CAT Ferry website has a variety of interactive tools you can use to check routes, schedules, and prices for your trip. Depending on your schedule and budget, you may find it easiest just to drive it.
If all of this just seems too complicated, your family can always fly into Charlottetown and rent a car there. Use SmarterTravel.com’s price-comparison tool to check for the lowest airfares from multiple travel providers.
PEI is full of great vacation homes, and your family can choose from a variety of sizes, locations, and prices to fit your budget. Many of the tourist attractions can be found around Cavendish (home to all things Anne of Green Gables) and Charlottetown (the capital city). The eastern and western tips of the island are more remote and, as such, less crowded. Get a sense of the different regions, towns, and point-to-point driving distances by visiting the Prince Edward Island touring regions website.
Once you’ve settled on a region, you can find vacation home listings on the following websites:
Enjoying the scenery
My trip was filled with scenic bike rides, days at the beach, lobster suppers, and sightseeing in Cavendish and Charlottetown. Yours can be, too.
PEI really embraces bicycling—in fact, they dedicated a whole trail to the pastime. The Confederation Trail runs from point to point and offers shady scenery across the entire island. However, I found the island’s main roads just as enjoyable—you’ll get a variety of backdrops (farms, woods, and ocean vistas) and virtually no traffic. The whole island is conducive to leisurely, unplanned outings. Grab a map and your bike, and see where the day takes you. If you like a bit more structure, the PEI tourism board has put together several planned itineraries.
Of course, you may just want to take a few days and plop on the beach. Check out the possibilities, clearly mapped out, on the PEI Tourism’s beaches page.
The island may be best known as the backdrop for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s popular Anne of Green Gables series. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Anne’s publication, and the island is celebrating with arts performances, banquets, a country fair, and more. You may want to see if any events coincide with the dates you plan on visiting.
Finally, no trip to PEI is complete without a lobster supper. Possibilities range from modest church banquet halls to large family-style restaurants. Grab your bib and enjoy!
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