One looking for a new Getaway—that freeing space in time where responsibility does not exist—might do well to travel ashore to a province in Atlantic Canada called Prince Edward Island. You ask for it—beaches, golf, cuisine, culture, adventure—you got it.
Dr. Elizabeth Emory, expert scholar on Anne of Green Gables, calls Prince Edward Island “the end of the world and the beginning of the world.” The magical home of the mischievous redhead who epitomizes childhood does exist, and still has the same delightful essence, even 100 years after Anne Shirley first came on the scene.
The green, sloping fields, the salty fresh air, the red cliffs and winding red roads. The land itself is like no other, and the people of PEI know it. Life slows down here; the pace is gentle, friendly, homey. It is not an exaggeration to say it may even be life-changing. It’s certainly a place of calm, of comfort, of renewal. Whether you’re frolicking through the lavender fields, traveling back to 1732 at Roma, a National Historic Site with entertaining reenactments, or peddling along one of the island’s sundry bucolic trails, you have the feeling that time has slowed, that life is easy, and happy.
For a not-so-large island (175 miles from tip to tip), there is no shortage of things to see and do on Prince Edward Island. By very nature of it being an island, PEI has, of course, its share of beaches. But these aren’t just any beaches: here there are red and pink sands on the south shore, picturesque lighthouses, and the beach that sings—literally, walking on the white sands of Basin Head produces a sound akin to song. Whether you’re looking for a romantic sunset stroll, or the squirting holes that call to clam-diggers, PEI has a beach for you.
One might very well argue that the island is equal parts sand and green for the long stretches of beach that surround the island rolling green hills cover its center. Many of these rolling green hills make up the more than 30 golf courses that have earned PEI the title of Canada’s number one golf destination. Golf fiend or casual putter, there is a golf vacation for every skill level or budget, and since so many courses are crammed onto such a small island, it’s easy to play a little golf and still have time for other island experiences from antique shopping to deep sea fishing.
A lively music culture may not seem synonymous with a peaceful, bucolic island, but on Prince Edward the two go hand in hand. In addition to the music and dance performances that take place at the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, PEI is host to a long parade of music festivals all throughout the warmer months. The songs get underway in May, with an annual Highland Gathering hosted by the College of Piping and the tunes keep coming on through October, with the Jazz & Blues Festival, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, and countless outdoor concerts in between. A particular highlight is the Charlottetown Summerfest (June 30- July 4), with its abundance of family fun and a special Cirque du Soleil performance.
But no matter the time, there is music to be had. To find out what’s going on during your visit, check out The Buzz, the free monthly arts paper available everywhere. If festivals are your thing, you can find a full list of them here. From jazz to bluegrass to bagpipes, there’s a jig to be danced for every set of fee that sets foot on the island.
It starts with seafood. Think oysters, lobsters, mussels, fresh produce from island farms, then puddings, cakes, warm fluffy doughnuts. In short, Prince Edward Island does food—and does it well. And in keeping with the island’s love of festivals, food is represented with a few of its own, including the International Shellfish Festival in September, and Fall Flavours, a nirvana of local preserves, beers, and overall eating frenzy. The beauty of the festival, too, is in the discovery, and in the process—the 150-plus events invite foodies to “Pick and Press” and to savor island flavors through informational and delicious workshops. It’s an ideal way to get a flavor (gratuitous pun) for the island.
Places to sleep on the island run the gamut from campsites on the beach to plush hotels. The Dundee Arms is one of the latter, a gorgeous 1903 mansion in Charlottetown that also happens to swing on the greener side (from $150 per night). Of the same era is the Briarwood Inn, a homey 1911 heritage home equipped with free wi-fi, charming renovated cottages and a lodge on the verdant property (from $59.95 per night). Or for a truly unique experience, one might consider a farm vacation on Springwood farms, where packages (from $240 per night) get you lodging, meals, and time on the farm to participate in or observe hay “making,” sheep tending, and other farm chores. Or, you can simply relax on the farm swing. Whatever you choose, it’s a great way to recharge far away from the noise of the city.
How to Get There: Taxis and several tour buses are available to take you from the Charlottetown Airport to your desired destination on the island. Acadian Bus Lines offers daily bus service from Moncton, New Brunswick to Borden-Carleton, Summerside and Charlottetown with connections available from most destinations in North America, and a number of companies offer shuttle services by van to and from Charlottetown (and selected other Island locations) and Halifax. These companies operate from various locations and on different schedules; contact each for details about their specific services. Once on the island, a car may be helpful, but there are plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, and other means of getting around.