Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, is the land that captivated Anne Shirley, the main character from Anne of Green Gables. It’s still a place that reads like a storybook, where lifelong Islanders are the characters and cozy seaport villages set the scene.
As soon as you arrive in PEI, you’ll notice you’re on a different kind of Island time. There are no pretentious resorts or overpriced margaritas, just centuries-old lighthouses, National Park shorelines, and rose-colored dunes. Get yourself here, and you’re sure to leave with some lifelong memories. Here’s a preview of what’s in store.
1. Climbing the Island’s oldest lighthouse
In centuries past, transportation for PEI’s inhabitants took place largely by sea, and lighthouses were crucial for safety, trade, and commerce. Point Prim Lighthouse was the Island’s first, a red-topped beacon guiding ships past surprisingly far-reaching reefs into the Charlottetown Harbour.
The 175-year-old lighthouse is now open to visitors. Climb 60 feet up the narrow ladder and explore the small bedroom and kitchen where keepers of the lighthouse worked and lived. Grab a stunning view of Northumberland Strait and Hillsborough River from the twelve-sided gallery, and then head down to the small park for a walk on one of the short trails (you’ll get great views from these, too). Architectural nerds may notice something unique about the lighthouse’s construction: It’s both round and brick, a rarity in Canada.
Note: Point Prim Lighthouse is open seasonally.
2. Exploring the “Haunted Woods” at Green Gables
Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up on the Island’s north shore, where she wrote about a certain red-haired, spirited orphan. Anne of Green Gables has been translated into dozens of languages, selling over 50 million copies. It’s quite obviously an important part of PEI’s literary history.
At Green Gables Heritage Place in the Prince Edward Island National Park, you can explore the wooded area that was the inspiration for the novel’s “Haunted Woods.” Walk — or dance — along the trail, search for the babbling brook, and see if you can spot the cemetery where the author is buried. Of course, one of the main attractions on these grounds is the green-gabled house, a replica of the book’s title setting.
3. Singing with the sand
You can probably imagine singing to yourself while walking on the shore. But how about walking on a beach that sings back?
Go for a stroll at Basin Head Provincial Park beach and listen carefully for high-pitched melodic squeaks as you walk along. Once you hear the enchanted tunes, you’ll understand why Basin Head is called “Singing Sands Beach.” And with soft white sand that sings, you’ll also understand why this spot is considered one of Canada’s best beaches.
For the curious: The phenomenon has to do with the sand grains being highly spherical and largely composed of silica and quartz.
4. Biking the Confederation Trail
In the 1990s, PEI’s abandoned railway line was transformed into the Confederation Trail. You can bike or walk — or snowmobile come winter — along the “rolled stone dust” path, past waterside communities, over small bridges, between forest groves, and through fields of wildflowers for 270 miles (including multiple spurs). The gradient hits its max at 2%, making this trail friendly to small feet and strollers.
For a quick day trip, rent a bike in St. Peter’s Bay and cycle for nine miles following the shore toward Morell. Be on the lookout for wildlife, including the magnificent great blue heron, when you’re near shallow water. For something more challenging, go for the 33-mile stretch from Morell to Elmira.
5. Road tripping for spuds
If you pull into Charlottetown on an empty stomach, there’s one sure solution: dining on fresh taters. No meal in PEI is complete without a mashed, boiled, baked, or fried homegrown potato. Why? You’re on “Spud Island” now. This is and has been the biggest potato-producing province in the country for 200 years.
For crispy sweet potato fries, head to Peakes Quay Restaurant & Bar — they’ve got spectacular views of the Historic Charlottetown Waterfront. Otherwise, should you prefer a veritable quest to earn your spuds, go for a drive along the coast in search of potato stands on the side of the road. When in Rome!
6. Paddling to and through the Prince Edward Island National Park
Remember: You’re on an Island. The coast isn’t just there to look pretty. Consider going one step further and paddling a kayak or SUP board on one of the many (many) peaceful waterways, bays, and inlets for some serious memory-making.
When it comes to the Island’s best spots, a solid bet is North Rustico and the calm waters of Rustico Bay. Sign up for a guided tour, and soon enough you’ll find yourself next to the marshes and dunes of the Prince Edward Island National Park. You’ll splash past red sandy shores and lush green forests,