Prince Edward Island: The Anne of Green Gables Pilgrimage
26 June, 2017
Prince Edward Island (PEI) has been on my bucket list for a very long time. So, in 2015, when I finally decided to make the trip happen, I was psyched. Particularly since, for me, as for many others around the world who grew up reading Anne of Green Gables, PEI symbolized the hometown of the fictional Anne and her real-life author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Wheels and Deals
PEI is not the kind of place you can travel around using public transportation, as most of the island does not have any infrastructure to support it. Therefore the best way to see the island and to get the most out of your trip is to travel by car. Having your own set of trusty wheels will reward you with a breathtaking ride across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, dolphin-flipping ocean views on a Northumberland Ferry crossing from Nova Scotia, scenic rides along gently rolling hills and vast expanses of farmland, and the ability to stop and pet horses, cows, and rabbits.
Car Deals: I recently discovered the website, EasyTerra that will help you scout and book the best car rental deals. You can also rent a car in Canada through websites like Rentalcars.com or even through Booking.com, which has a partnership with Rentalcars.com.
If you want to get the most out of your trip to PEI, you will also need to book an Airbnb, as the hotels are mostly clustered around the provincial capital, Charlottetown. While the island-province is fairly small, you might find that the most efficient way to schedule your time is to actually stay in one part of the island (eg, north, south, east, or west) and make that your home base while exploring that section of the island, and then move to another Airbnb while exploring a different geographical region.
Hotel Deals: If you prefer to stay in Charlottetown or another major city, you could always still book a hotel, hostel, or bed & breakfast. I recommend Booking.com for the best deals.
If you are staying outside of Charlottetown, two little preparatory steps will ensure you get the most enjoyment out of your trip to PEI:
- Scout grocery stores and stock up
The closest grocery store may be miles and miles away, so searching for the closest grocery store on your way to your lodgings will ensure that you don’t go hungry. My particular strategy was to load up my trunk with boxes of nonperishables, camping-style, and then pick up perishable goods on a daily basis while in PEI. You don’t need to be quite as organized as I was. But if you are planning to stay more than a week, as I did, and you want to cut down on your restaurant bills, you will need to plan your days around a grocery store run.
- Bring mosquito armour
I kid you not––there is a veritable mosquito convention in PEI each summer. Due to the swampy nature of many parts of the province (outside of the concrete jungle of big cities like Charlottetown), mosquitoes proliferate and go hunting by the thousands and unless you want to become their breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will need to get armed. Before my trip, I went to my local pharmacy and literally bought every type of mosquito repellent I could find––the sprays, the lotions, the little fans you attach to your clothing, the citronella candles––you name it! Did they work? Nope. Not a single one of them (but my security setup with them would make for a very good comedy show, someday). There are simply too many mosquitoes in PEI, during the summer, to save you from being mosquito fodder. Or maybe it’s simply my particular hemoglobin makeup that makes me such a mosquito magnet. However, there were two things that did work: covering up with an impermeable, rainproof jacket, and staying in the sunlight when possible (mosquitoes hate sunshine). Good luck to you!
The Anne of Green Gables Museum
Obviously, my key priority in PEI was a pilgrimage to the Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner/Cavendish. If you grew up reading the Anne books like I did, then this will be your No. 1 too. I was in rapture during the entire visit––it is so cool to think that you are standing in the very places where Lucy Maud Montgomery and her fictional character Anne thrived! There is a whole industry built around Anne of Green Gables in PEI, in fact. And though, for its massive appeal, the actual museum is pretty tiny, there’s nothing tiny about Anne-mania in Charlottetown. I recommend visiting Charlottetown after your pilgrimage to browse the Anne of Green Gables shops and maybe even take in an Anne and Gilbert theatre show. However, no matter where you go in Charlottetown, there will always be a piece of Anne waiting for you. I found raspberry cordials for sale at an ice cream shop.
Chasing Beaches, Lighthouses, and Dinner
PEI was such a chill, relaxing place to be that I mostly decided my agenda for the day when I woke up each morning. It was simple enough: beach-lighthouse-eat-repeat. The only thing planned was the aforementioned Anne pilgrimage and the trip to Charlottetown. In between chasing beaches and lighthouses, there are beautiful country landscapes, scenic ocean views, and both little and big towns like Tignish, Summerside, Belfast, and Georgetown that are an absolute delight to explore.
- PEI red-sand beaches
PEI is renown for beautiful red-sand beaches, and since it is an island (the only island-province in Canada), beaches abundantly line the entire periphery. This means that it is very easy to find a private beach exclusively for you. Expect these to be unsupervised (no lifeguards) and a little messy with a lot of seaweed. If you don’t mind sharing your beach experience, there are also several beautifully maintained, popular beaches such as Cavendish Beach and Chelton Beach Provincial Park. In addition, Prince Edward Island National Park, which is fairly close to Cavendish and part of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site, has seven pristine beaches.
There are tons of historic lighthouses in PEI. Chasing them was one of my particularly enjoyable pastimes, because each one tended to be significantly different from the other, in terms of both architecture and location. I found lighthouses on beaches, on rocky cliffs, in the middle of farms, in the woods, and in private gardens. I was also able to enter a few of them and have a look around. If you are as fascinated by lighthouses as I am, you are in for a treat in PEI.
- Lobster and other seafood
I arrived in PEI with a long list of the best places to eat in the province (mainly in Charlottetown), as recommended by a good friend and PEI native. I didn’t have enough time to try them all, but maybe you can! The full list is as follows:
Richard’s Fresh Seafood, in Covehead Wharf, Stanhope, within PEI National Park
Terre Rouge, in Charlottetown
Fireworks, restaurant of the Inn at Bay Fortune, in Bay Fortune/Souris
Eden’s Gate Inc., in Georgetown
Point Prim Chowderhouse and Oyster Bar, in Point Prim/Belfast
More to Explore
If you are not keen on the chillaxing PEI travel approach of beach-lighthouse-eat-repeat and you need more vigour to your day, there are tons of specific activities and resources to help fill up your travel agenda. Visit Tourism PEI for comprehensive information on what to do.
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