If you’re a literary loving, adventure seeking gal, chances are Prince Edward Island has been on your travel radar since you’ve been about nine years old. This tiniest province of Canada is home to some pretty huge things. Literary legend Lucy Maud Montgomery loved PEI so much she made it a permanent home – well, at least for her most beloved character, Anne of Green Gables. Anne’s spirited zest for life has been attracting visitors for over 100 years, visitors who are inspired by the spunky orphan herself, as well as by Montgomery’s loving depictions of a wholesome countryside with sea-swept shores.
If you’re less of a reader and more of outdoors gal, PEI will hold endless appeal. It’s the perfect destination for hiking, swimming, cycling, kayaking, deep sea fishing, running, and more. The friendly residents are welcoming and helpful and the lovely scenery is a photographer’s dream. But how can you see it all and do it all on a budget?
Getting There and Around
Transportation is the most expensive part of a trip to Prince Edward Island. No one ends up here accidentally! I recommend arriving through New Brunswick by the Confederation Bridge and leaving with the ferry to Nova Scotia. (This recommendation is based on the extensive selection of fudge available at the ferry terminal when you leave PEI!)
Having your own car is essential on PEI, as there is no public transportation between communities and only the capital city of Charlottetown offers a transit system and widespread taxis. Splitting the cost with some road trip partners is an easy way to help keep your budget on track.
If you’re planning to get around by bicycle, you can often negotiate a rental with the price of a week-long cabin rental or B&B stay.
When To Go
Fall and spring are ideal times to go. The scenery is lovely, the prices are reasonable, and the weather is perfect for athletic pursuits. Summertime offers all of this and more – the beaches are perfect for swimming and lounging, all service providers are in full swing – but there can be a few downsides as tour buses overwhelm the hot spots. My favourite time to visit is late August and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get the best of summer and fall
Where to Stay
If you’ve ever been tempted to go camping to save money, PEI is a great place to try it out. The campgrounds are small, clean, friendly, and full of amenities. My absolute favourite is Cabot Beach Provincial Park. An oceanfront view is yours for about $25 a night!
Bed and breakfasts abound on Prince Edward Island and you can find excellent value in the more rural areas, where many family farms have been converted to host guests
Where to Eat
The best places to eat in PEI are found in the most unlikely spots, like in church basements and community centers. Fundraising dinners, where massive portions of homemade food can be had from $10-$20, are common across the island. You can expect lobster, roast turkey, roast beef, or spaghetti and meatballs – all followed by delectable desserts.
You might expect that PEI is one of the last places on earth to find first class Lebanese food but there’s been a large Lebanese community in PEI for decades and their culinary legacy is a real treat. Lebanese restaurants share the same philosophy as the community fundraising dinners – big portions, handed-down recipes, and fantastic prices.
While PEI is famous for fishing and farming, the products of their dairy industry are my absolute favourite treats. The award winning cheddar cheese, creamery butter, and phenomenal ice cream from the fun folks at COWS is a PEI staple.
What to Do?
What NOT to do!? You can be lazy on the beach reading a book or visit all of the island’s literary hot spots. You can spend your time visiting historic sites or taking in modern art and theatre in Charlottetown. You can indulge you every athletic whim outdoors and challenge yourself with new activities.
If you’re heading to PEI for all things “Anne” I have some tried and true tips to offer. Many visitors are disappointed to learn that Cavendish (home of Green Gables National Historic Site) isn’t so much a community but more a collection of businesses and sites. While there are nearby cabin rentals aplenty, you’ll likely find better deals and a more authentic touch further away Cavendish. My favourite place to visit is the Cavendish post office. It has the distinction of being both a regulated post office and a museum. Lucy Maud herself once worked here but the tour buses never think to stop in, giving visitors a much more personal experience.
What Are You Waiting For?
Prince Edward Island has everything a grown up could ever want – but the kid in you will be happiest of all! I go to PEI every chance I have and I’ve never been disappointed. I can’t wait to go back again this summer!