Not only is Canada’s smallest and greenest province known for its patchwork colours, gentle rolling landscapes and miles of pink sandy beaches, punctuated by iconic red cliffs—it is also the birthplace of Canada! It will come as no surprise then, that when Canada takes the world stage celebrating the country’s 150th
year of Confederation this year, Prince Edward Island will occupy a front row seat and everyone is invited to tag along.
2017 on the island
Celebrations kick off with the City of Charlottetown’s New Year’s outdoor party and will continue throughout the following 12 months. Parks Canada will be offering free admission to all its parks and historic sites for the entire year. During the summer, the Confederation Centre of the Arts will showcase “The Story of Confederation,” including a variety of experiences depicting the birth of the nation such as: “The Confederation Chamber Experience” in the centre’s upper foyer; guided tours and historic vignettes presented in innovative ways by the Confederation Players; and Parks Canada’s stunning new 20-minute film A Building of Destiny
. But that’s a mere taste of what’s in store.
A food lover’s paradise
Hardly a month goes by without new restaurants, food tours, and culinary experiences sprouting on the scene. To wit: HopYard in Charlottetown is one of the newest kids on the block and features craft brews from all over North America. With a menu that changes every two weeks, you are apt to find imaginative dishes like Bahn Mi Belly Tacos and Bulgogi Burgers. Bonus: select a song from over 500 vinyl records for the bartender to play (www.hopyard.ca).
There are several places to learn how to cook like a pro, including The Table in New London, a popular culinary studio with hands-on cooking classes. Culinary Boot Camps—including classes for kids—are a big hit at Holland College, regarded by many as Canada’s premier culinary institute.
Food is so important on the Island that the entire month of September is devoted to a food festival titled “Fall Flavours.” Without a doubt, the Island has become an international culinary mecca (www.fallflavours.ca).
Serene to Sensational
The beauty about P.E.I. is that you can be as laid-back as you please or as busy as you want. Looking for a secluded beach? Check. Or maybe you’d like to chat with someone who knows how to make cheese or chocolates. Check and check. If dancing the night away or shopping till you drop are on your wish list, no problem. Love theater and musical productions? You’ll be spoiled for choice. If you play your cards right, you can even learn how to place great bets at the raceway. It’s all here. Just ask the locals.
Sleep in the trees at Treetop Haven in Mount Tryon! Five tree pods are fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, BBQ and personal hot tub; only 15 minutes from the Confederation Bridge (www.treetophaven.ca).
As craft beer is made on-site, Moth Lane Brewing in Ellerslie on the North Cape Coastal Drive offers a water view—and oysters (www.peiflavours.ca/culinary-trail/entry/moth-lane-brewing).
Chef Duncan Smith and his wife Coreen Pickering provide unique food items and events under one roof at their gastro-pub, Broadway 45, in Kensington (www.peiflavours.ca/culinary-trail/entry/broadway-45).
LOT 45 Pub & Eatery in Souris, overlooking the beautiful Colville Bay in the Northumberland Strait, has created a lot of excitement with homestyle meals in a casual atmosphere (www.lot45.ca).
This year, The Charlottetown Festival features the 53rd
season of the Guinness record-setting production of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical
as well as the sensational musical, Million Dollar Quartet
in the 1000-seat theatre, and Bittergirl: the Musical
in the cabaret (www.confederationcentre.com
Taste the Town is a leisurely three-hour culinary walking tour of Charlottetown establishments. Sample some of the Island’s unique food and beverages along the way. Throughout the capital city, you’ll also find a network of walking trails and waterside boardwalks, craft and specialty shops.
Look for numerous miniature dream catchers that have been integrated into one gigantic dream catcher that is on display in Charlottetown as part of the 150th
Atlantic Canada’s longest-running dinner theatre is hugely popular and continues to combine good food with funky performances at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel and the Brothers 2 Restaurant in Summerside, where they originated (www.roddvacations.com/feast).
Although the city of Summerside is smaller than Charlottetown, it also has a bustling waterfront replete with indoor and outdoor theatres, interesting boutiques and places to eat. The musical production Highland Storm
continues to get excellent reviews. Held at the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, the show features Highland bagpiping, step-dancing, fiddling and snare drumming (www.collegeofpiping.com).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Be prepared to be mesmerized by the rare parabolic dune system in the Greenwich Dunes area of PEI National Park, which also acts as a stunning backdrop to an extensive trail system that includes a floating boardwalk. Remember that entrance to the park is free!
Cyclists can peddle from one end of the Island to the other, and GranFondo PEI, sponsored by Cycling PEI, is fast becoming a premier event (www.granfondo-pei.ca)
The P.E.I. portion of The Great Trail—the Confederation Trail—stretches 444 km (276 mi.) from Tignish in the west to Elmira in the east, and connects to the Island’s two entry points (www.tourismpei.com/pei-cycling)
Golf enthusiasts agree that P.E.I.’s courses are spectacular and they are all within an hour’s drive of each other (www.golfpei.ca)
. Aside from golf, the Island is known for its authentic experiences—many outdoors, including fun with falcons, going clam digging or out on a lobster boat, helping with farm chores, doing a GPS adventure, or owning a racehorse for an evening (www.experiencepei.ca)
Throughout the Island there are endless opportunities to get up close and personal with nature. Kayaking, paddle boarding, biking, and birdwatching—to name just a few outdoor activities—are offered in many regions. No equipment? No problem; the Island has several outfitters (www. tourismpei.com
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
The Arts & Heritage Trail is an Island-wide guide for authentic Prince Edward Island cultural experiences with elements such as museums and historic sites, performing arts venues, festivals, special events, theatre, galleries, craft shops and artisan studios (www.artsandheritagepei.ca).
To get a taste of Acadian culture, visit Abrams Village or Roma at Three Rivers for festivals, exhibits and tours galore. A trip to The Acadian Museum in Miscouche will also introduce you to the fascinating history of the French pioneers. Music and dance have long been embedded in the culture as evidenced at soirées
and concerts all around the Island.
Be sure to visit the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Centre, as well as the annual Abegweit Pow Wow in August, to learn more about the Island’s Aboriginal heritage.
Art in the Open highlights Charlottetown’s visual arts scene and the Island’s diverse cultural traditions. It also engages visitors and the community in the creation and appreciation of art in its various forms (www.artintheopenpei.com).
MUST SEE, MUST DO
The FireWorks Feast at The Inn at Bay Fortune is a seven-course meal where everything is cooked in a 7.5 m-long (25-ft.) wood-burning, fire-breathing stove that has an integrated smokehouse, hearth, grill, plancha
, rotisserie and oven (www.innatbayfortune.com).
Jigs & Reels provides an authentic P.E.I. experience with a world-class musician (J.J. Chaisson—also known as “The Fiddling Fisherman”) on his lobster boat. They’ve even had weddings on board! (www.fiddlingfisherman.com).
Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove is the first in the province to produce absinthe, a potent green spirit made from carefully selected herbs and produced in small batches. It is shrouded with history and mystery (www.deeprootsdistillery.com).
The entire world seems to know about COWS ice cream. It’s available at several locations in P.E.I., but the best place to visit is COWS Creamery on the outskirts of Charlottetown. Sign up for a tour which is educational, fun and delicious (www.cows.ca).
North Cape Coastal Drive is full of contrasts. It’s quickly getting a reputation as the Canadian Oyster Coast. There is everything here from Mi’kmaq and Acadian communities to secluded beaches and towering wind turbines (www.northcapedrive.com).
Central Coastal Drive combines Green Gables Shore and Red Sands Shore. It is home to Victoria-by-the-Sea—a fishing village with great theatre, lots of charm and a gourmet chocolatier called Island Chocolates (www.centralcoastalpei.ca).
Points East Coastal Drive is more secluded—perhaps because there are 34 beaches, 24 harbours, 12 provincial parks and PEI National Park, Greenwich. Step back in time at Orwell Corner Historic Village (www.pointseastcoastaldrive.com).
Kids of all ages love making sandcastles, and Maurice Bernard is the expert in residence at Cavendish Beach. Ask the staff there when Maurice is expected to be around or sign up for Experience PEI’s “Sensational Sandcastles.” Throughout the Island there are 22 provincial parks, and many have sections geared for kids. Other popular places include Shining Waters Family Fun Park and Sandspit Amusement Park (www.tourismpei.com/pei-holiday-fun).
ARDGOWAN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, CHARLOTTETOWN
Ardgowan is a gracious house from the 19th
century and was the home of William Henry Pope, one of the Fathers of Confederation. It is an example of a picturesque, large rural cottage from the Victorian era and was the scene of lavish entertaining during the historic Charlottetown Conference. The staff is eager to tell stories about this site and its inhabitants. The house and grounds have been restored to the period. Pope was an avid gardener and the property reflects his passion. Visitors are encouraged to stroll around the grounds and have a picnic. Parks Canada administrative offices for all the holdings on P.E.I. are located inside (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ardgowan).
National Parks and Historic Sites: