Though Prince Edward Island may be Canada’s smallest province – and have the smallest population, at just 143,000 – it punches way above its weight when it comes to tourism. The welcome is warm and casual, the heritage strong and colourful, and you’ll find the island sense of humour can be wickedly funny. If you can drag yourself away from the tiny perfect provincial capital of Charlottetown you’ll find picture-perfect farms and welcoming beaches. Here’s a sampler of island activities:
l) Enjoy seafood. Whether it’s a brimming lobster roll, a tray of fresh, salty oysters or plate of mussels in a sauce just made for bread-mopping, you’ll never go without seafood in PEI. Even better, hosts such as Experience PEI have put together a host of ways to experience the food, from dining with a lobster fisherman on board his own boat to a clam dig and feast.
2) Admire all those lighthouses (and maybe even sleep in one). There are 63 lighthouses on the island, many open to the public and you can even sleep in West Point Light House Hotel – the tallest light house in the province. It’s a moving story of community commitment to restore it and turn it into a hotel and museum. There are just 13 rooms and only one in the lighthouse proper, said to be haunted (Boo!)
3) Hit the links. Despite its compact size, PEI boasts almost 30 courses, from family-friendly to as challenging as you want. They include the well-known Crowbush Cove which is set on the dunes of the north shore just a half-hour from Charlottetown and is famed for its authentic links experience, thanks to eight holes that are either alongside or have views of some of the island’s famed beaches.
4) Check out the live entertainment. From professional theatre in Charlottetown to countless ceileighs (pronounced “kaileys”), informal and sometimes impromptu parties held in kitchens and church halls across the island and open to the public, there’s a vibrant entertainment scene. If you’re a country and western fan, you’ll want to check out the brand new Stompin’ Tom Connors Centre in the hamlet of Skinners Pond where he lived which features live music, dinner theatre and lots of fun.
5) Did we miss Anne of Green Gables? Even if you’ve never read the books or seen the TV series, it’s hard not to fall in love with Anne just a little bit when you come here. Take your cue from the countless Japanese tourists for whom PEI is a must-see thanks to their fascination with her. Green Gables House is a major tourist attraction on the island (its visitors last year outnumbered the entire population of the province), there’s the Anne of Green Gables Musical at Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts, and an abundance of Anne-themed souvenirs throughout the island.