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Canada 150: Maritime Magic on Prince Edward Island

SmarterTravel

This year our national neighbors to the north celebrate their 150th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating with them as they do. Each month we’ll focus on one part of their magnificent country and share it with you. From the sky-high trees and brown bears in British Columbia to the kitchen parties and codfish-kissing in the Maritimes, our toast to Canada will give you well over 150 reasons to make this the year you take the trip. This month we’re exploring red-haired orphans and red-sand beaches in Prince Edward Island.

Canada 150:  Prince Edward Island  

Chances are you’ve read the tales of the red-haired orphan who made this island famous. The Anne of Green Gables series put Prince Edward Island on the map, but if you stopped your exploration of the island at all things Anne, you’d be missing out. Red sand dunes, white-capped waves, proud farmers, and innovative chefs make it an incredible Maritime destination. Add theatrical productions, creative artwork, and community festivals with local pride at their heart, and you have the makings of a beautiful vacation.

The City: Charlottetown

You’re most likely to bump into a fellow awestruck visitor in Charlottetown during the peak spring and summer months. Visiting the island in the fall means you’ll skip the crowds and live like the locals. Most of the island’s touristy offerings simmer down in the fall before coming to an almost complete standstill in the winter. Your best bet to make the most of the season is to head for Charlottetown, where you’ll find a weekly farmers’ market and year-round, friendly accommodations. In early October, you’ll find a cozy retreat waiting at Chef Michael Smith’s Inn at Bay Fortune.  Staying there makes it easy to dine at FireWorks, where the chef showcases local ingredients, cooked over a fire and served family-style. Cheese lovers should visit Glasgow Glen Farm, where the artisanal cheese featured in the islands’ best restaurants is made. And at Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront—the spot where the country’s eventual founders would land in 1864—you’ll find live music and locals, no matter the weather.

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Go

Local Events: The quieter fall season gives locals a chance to recuperate from the summer rush and reinvigorate the things that make the island special. Local fairs and community offerings that most small towns enjoy welcome tourists who’ve stuck around. In October, you can get some spooky scares at Haunted Mansion in the town of Kensington.

Fall Foliage: Across the island you’ll find Heritage Scenic Roads that offer insight into the history of the province. Travel them with camera in hand for incredible shots of the auburn and gold leaves only visible in the fall. Prefer an experience that gets you even closer to nature? Explore the biking and walking trails that crisscross the island. Two to consider: The Confederation Trail, which goes across the province, and the Robinsons Island Trail System in Prince Edward Island National Park.

Farmers’ Bounty: Join the locals on an apple-picking experience or gather up a selection from the abundance of crops that are approaching their final harvests now. If you’re staying in an apartment or property with a kitchen, you can create great meals from the fall bounty of fruits, vegetables, and seafood.

Great Rates: Many Prince Edward Island accommodations offer unbeatable rates and vacation packages during the autumn months. From campsites and B&Bs to apartment rentals and boutique hotels, choices abound and rates are great.

 Golf: Rent clubs or bring your own. All golf courses on the island are open until October 31. Pleasant temperatures throughout the month make it a great time of year to take a swing.

Why It’s Great Other Times of Year

 History: Confederation Players walking tours will introduce you to Canadian history with a costumed historical figure as your guide. Or pop over to Province House to snap a photo of the historic building before visiting the Story of Confederation exhibit at Confederation Centre of the Arts next door.

Festivals: Every September, join the island’s best food creators at the Fall Flavours Festival. The month-long, island-wide celebration goes beyond the food on your plate to explore the culture, innovation, and know-how that come from years of farming, fishing, foraging, and cooking the island’s bounty. Want to focus on seafood? The International Shellfish Festival is described as “the biggest kitchen party in Atlantic Canada” and features seminars, samples, and dining focused on the ocean.

Point Prim Lighthouse:  The island’s first and oldest lighthouse was built in 1845 and is one of only a few round brick lighthouses in the country.  Climb to the top on a clear day for a view of the Charlottetown Harbour, and don’t miss the historical displays on your way up. Rainy days have benefits, too. You can head over to the Point Prim Chowder House, which serves some of the island’s best seafood dishes.

Anne, Anne, and More Anne: If you’ve got a fan of the books or mini-series in your travel group, chances are high you won’t be able to leave the island without exploring Cavendish. Cavendish is Anne central: You can sip on a raspberry cordial and potentially snap a photo with an Anne look-alike.  It’s here that you can find the home on which Green Gables was modeled (now a National Historic Site), walk in the Haunted Woods, or stroll Lovers’ Lane (as mentioned in the books). Down the road at Avonlea Village you can pop into shops and restaurants set up to resemble the quaint town from the book. Author and creator Lucy Maud Montgomery’s family home is available to tour in New London, and her gravesite is in Cavendish.

Victoria-by-the-Sea: This cute fishing village is a summer must. With tiny shops housing incredible art, vintage books, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs, you’ll want to bring your wallet. Come hungry, too. Lobster and other seafood are on the menu, and you can enjoy views from the outdoor patios of kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.

Get hands on with a local: Feel like getting a sense of what life is like for one of the locals? Choose your experience of choice (from fishermen to farmers to artisans) and book a tour that will have you learning a skill hands-on. Book a tour with Top Notch Charters, and you’ll learn how to fish for lobster with captain Mark Jenkins, right off the shores of Charlottetown. A full list of experiences can be found at ExperiencePEI.ca.

See a play: At the Confederation Centre of the Arts you can catch award-winning productions during the annual Charlottetown Festival. The 2018 Festival will run from June 7 to September 22 and include the 54th season of the international sensation Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, as well as Jesus Christ Superstar and more.

Take the kids: From Sandspit Amusement Park to Off The Wallz Splash Park, energy-burning summer fun for young kids won’t be a problem. Need to settle them down after a day of fun? Brackley Drive-In Theatre will introduce them to the pre-Netflix option.

If You Go Don’t Miss…

COWS Ice Cream: It’s hard to go anywhere on the island and not see someone with a cone in hand. There’s no need to even ask where they got it. COWS ice cream is synonymous with a trip to the island. The company focuses on using the same all-natural ingredients that it did when it came up with the recipe more than 30 years ago. Popular flavors include Wowie Cowie and Fluff ‘n Udder. And don’t stop at the ice cream. Chocolate-covered potato chips and pun-friendly T-shirts are great souvenirs to bring home.

The National Park: Prince Edward Island National Park is unique in that it is spread out along three distinct areas along the top of the island, bordering the Atlantic.  Seven supervised beaches, more than 50 kilometers of biking and hiking trails, and several incredible National Historic Sites make any area you choose to visit a good choice. The latest addition to the park is the Greenwich Peninsula. There you can hike the Greenwich Dunes Trail and visit the information center that details the parabolic dune system. PEI National Park also allows for camping experiences and RV travel. And in the summer, special programming (including lessons on how to build a sandcastle!) make the beach a great learning opportunity as well.

Remember: National parks and national marine conservation areas are offering free admission all year as part of the celebration of Canada 150. Request your free park pass here!

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.

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