Road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada  —  August 2009

After two weeks of heat and humidity in Rhode Island, we were thrilled to jump in the car and point it north towards the border!

We left after work on a Tuesday night, and made it as far as Auburn, Maine before stopping for the night at a Residence Inn (which was surprisingly nice – brand new hotel, BIG room, free breakfast, what more could we want?)

On Wednesday we headed out bright and early and took the scenic route up the Maine coast to the border at Calais, and then on to St. John (New Brunswick) where we stopped for lunch. Two ships were in port at St. John that day (one Carnival and one Princess) and it was really strange to see everyone walking around exploring the port and to feel like a “local” because we weren’t hopping back on a ship to sail away.

From St. John it was an easy ride through New Brunswick to the Confederation Bridge – an eight-mile span (the longest in the world crossing ice covered water) that links Prince Edward Island with the mainland.

Once we made it onto the island, we headed to the town of Summerside, to check into our hotel – the Silver Fox Inn. This quaint Victorian B&B turned out to be a great home base for us. Summerside itself is more or less in the middle of the island, so it was easy to get to all the sightseeing we wanted to do, and the inn was within walking distance of all the shops/restaurants in Summerside. Staying in such a small inn does feel a bit like being a guest at someone’s home, though, so we felt a little bit weird about late comings and goings, or skipping out on breakfast in the morning. If you want to be a little more anonymous, there were larger hotels in the area.

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The next two days were spent circumnavigating the island. On Thursday we drove the “North Cape Coastal Drive” to Malpeque Bay (where the famous Malpeque oysters come from), Tignish, North Cape, West Cape, and the “Region Evangeline”  — the Acadian part of the island. On Friday, we drove the “Points East Coastal Drive” to North Lake (the tuna capital of the world), East Point, Souris, Spry Point, and more. In both cases, we were consistently amazed by the scenic vistas around every turn of the road. The island consists of amazingly green fields (like what I imagine Ireland to be), weathered farm houses, steep cliffs of red clay soil, rough rocky beaches, and calm blue inlets. The only part that’s really developed at all is the capital, Charlottetown, where there are malls, a university, and a busy downtown.

 

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On Saturday, my husband went tuna fishing with a good friend of his and I spent the day touring the middle section of the island. I had heard that this area, in and around Cavendish, was the tackier, more touristy part of the island (mainly because it houses the Anne of Green Gables museums, which are a major attraction). I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is a lovely area, and not overly tacky at all. It reminded me a little bit of Cape Cod, with its roadside ice cream stands and a couple of cute minigolf places for the kids. I skipped the Anne of Green Gables stuff (sorry, but I’m not a real fan), and opted instead to spend some time at the Prince Edward Island National Park, which was absolutely gorgeous. It has miles of seashore, sprinkled with campsites, hiking trails, beaches, and scenic overlooks, and was completely deserted when I was there.

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Sunday morning was an early one, as we had to get on the road by 6am for the drive back home to Rhode Island. We made great time, taking the most direct route on major highways through Canada and Maine, and were back home in about ten hours. If we had more time, I would have loved to have come home via Nova Scotia, and the catamaran ferry from there to Portland, Maine, but we’ll just have to do that next time!

For all of my photos, click here. 

And here are a few overall observations from this trip:

  • The island has several well-marked touring loops, and it’s pretty easy to follow the signs to the various towns/attractions, but a GPS is helpful. We paid a few dollars to download the Canada maps into our GPS, and were very happy we had done so.
  • We had planned to change US dollars in Canadian currency once we arrived in PEI, but the friends we were visiting (who spend a month or two there every year) advised us that it’s really not worth it right now, and they were right. At about 1.08 for the current conversion rate, by the time we paid fees to change it over we really wouldn’t have gained much. We found that every place we went took US dollars.
  • Having seen Charlottetown, I can say that it’s the least attractive part of the island. For anyone who visits PEI on a cruise (and docks in Charlottetown), I would strongly urge you to get out and see the rest of the island.