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Best Seven Things to Do for Tourists and Visitors to Prince Edward Island (PEI)

I want you to visit PEI, and not only enjoy your stay, but take away some great memories.  I am an Islander by Choice (or a Come From Away), having moved here from Nova Scotia Bluenose country in 1990, and still enjoy touring the Island and all of Atlantic Canada.  My wonderful wife and I enjoy travelling, sightseeing, outdoor activities and live entertainment, and we travel without children, so this will be my perspective.

While tourist operators would love you to visit outside of the busy season, objectively, July and August are when you will find the most activities to do.  Of course, that means you should book your accommodations early – we do fill up.  My top seven things to do I think are special to PEI, and are not based on sponsorships or other influences – just my likes!  I hope it is a help to you.  And of course, when you arrive, feel free to ask a local for advice – we tend to be a friendly bunch.

For more details on locations, times and other activities, visit he PEI tourism web site or telephone 1-800-463-4734.

  • Lobster Suppers – Take in an old-fashioned community lobster supper. Consider New Glasgow Lobster Suppers for a table service meal, or Fisherman’s Wharf in North Rustico for buffet style or table service. After your New Glasgow meal, take a stroll through the Gardens of Hope park near the PEI Preserve Company (also a restaurant and gift shop (www.preservecompany.com), and in North Rustico, stroll the excellent boardwalk along the Bay behind the restaurant.
  • Anne of Green Gables / Live Theatre – Take in the musical Anne of Green Gables show at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. (You can also visit the gift shop and the Art Gallery). If you have already seen the show, check to see what other shows are playing at the Centre.   They offer top quality musicals full of fun the whole family and not to be missed. For Anne of Green Gables or Lucy Maud Montgomery fans, there are many historic places and museums to visit, especially in the Cavendish Area.  If you are a theatre enthusiast, check out the Victoria Playhouse in Victoria-by-the-Sea; Summerside’s Harbourfront Theatre; the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown; the  Guild in Charlottetown, or, the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico for theatre options.  The Island is full of “small halls” that have regular local entertainment also.
  • Beaches – Visit our many beaches for a walk, swim, relaxing break or just to see how nice they are.  We may not have palm trees and bath water temperatures, but our North Shore beaches will rival beaches anywhere for their quality.  North Shore beaches tend to be the prettiest, with lots of sand and high dunes, but the South Shore beaches have the warmest water. Explore the side roads (some paved, some narrow clay roads) along the North Shore and find many secluded beaches and scenic views. The most popular beaches are the national and provincial parks (my provincial favourites are Basin Head near Souris and Cabot Park near Summerside; national park beaches such as Brackley, North Rustico, and Greenwich are popular, but Cavendish is the most popular with tourists because Cavendish is the hot spot of other tourist activities in the summer (theme parks, shopping, golfing, kid’s activities, etc).  Locals all have their favourite beaches to get away from the crowds (Cousin’s Shore and Blooming Point, as examples).
  • Concerts / Local Entertainment – For a real taste of local culture, take in a Ceilidh (pronounced “kaylee”). You will be entertained by local singers, step dancers and lots of fiddle music, with locally made refreshments at the intermission. They take place almost every evening in local communities throughout PEI during July and August, and less frequently year round.   Some of my favourites are Fiddlers’ Sons, Kendall Docherty, the Ross Family (Johnny Ross), Richard Wood, Gordon Belsher, Courtney Hogan, Meaghan Blanchard, and lots more I am forgetting at the moment.  If you are visiting in June, check out the Festival of Small Halls happening from tip to tip.  Ask locally or check with the tourist information location near to where you are staying.  You can also read the most recent addition of the Buzz magazine on their web site here.  It is a monthly PEI entertainment magazine and contains listings of what’s going on.  Another must do is attending a concert at the College of Piping in Summerside for some great Scottish entertainment, including Scottish dancing and bag piping.
  • Scenic Drives / Sightseeing – Take a scenic drive to enjoy vistas of rolling hills and valleys, farm land, red cliffs and beaches. I particularly enjoy driving the shore roads, especially in Eastern PEI (Points East Coastal Drive) and the North Shore. Away from the shore, one drive that I think gives typical scenic views is the  drive from Charlottetown through Wheatley River on the New Glasgow Road.  From Charlottetown, take Highways 2, 7 and then the rolling hills, valleys and vistas of 224 to arrive in New Glasgow.   While there, take a few minutes to visit and take in the fabulous view from the Glasgow Hills Resort and Golf Club .  (I am not a golfer, but we have a lot of beautiful courses on the Island too.)
  • Hiking / Cycling and Canoeing / Kayaking – Stroll or cycle along the Confederation Trail, starting and ending anywhere from tip to tip on the Island.  If you like to kayak or canoe, there are lots of rivers.  Some of our favourites with easy access are the Morell River (access in by the highway in Morell), Clyde River (New Glasgow, access next to the lobster suppers), Winter River (access in Corran Ban from the #6 Highway ), Campbell’s Pond (access on Campbell’s Road – turn off the #224 on a clay road immediately before New Glasgow with access at a boat ramp near the dam – and very sheltered for a windy day), Covehead Bay (access  at Shaw’s Hotel and Cottages in Brackley Beach (we ask first)), Trout River near Stanley Bridge (access from a boat launch on the Trout River Road) and Stanhope Bay (access along the road side).
  • Charlottetown and Free Family Entertainment – Enjoy lots of free entertainment in downtown Charlottetown (http://www.discovercharlottetown.com/) . During July to mid-August, the Young Company of the Confederation Centre of the Arts perform a musical with singing and dancing in the amphitheatre; the Confederation Players re-enact a scene from 1864 Confederation meetings dressed as the Fathers and Mothers of Confederation; the merchants at Peake’s Quay (pronounced “key”) on the waterfront provide free concerts by local entertainers afternoon and early evening; and there is often free entertainment on Victoria Row (Richmond Street) for your enjoyment while you dine in an outdoor patio of one of the many restaurants. Stroll the waterfront in Charlottetown, from downtown to Victoria Park. While on the Boardwalk near Victoria Park, visit the flower gardens (free) at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence (known as Fanningbank) and take a free tour of the home if you are there at the right time.  In Summerside, stroll downtown at Spinnakers Landing and visit the Summerside web site for listings of events.

There are lots of other things to do, and a review of the tourist literature or a call to a tourist bureau will give you more ideas.  We have lots of golf courses for golfers; museums for history buffs; deep sea fishing and seal watching tours as well as Charlottetown harbour cruises if you want to be on the water; horse races (harness racing format), and much more.  For local crafts and foods, keep your eyes open as you travel the roads; maybe pickup a brochure of locations of crafts persons at the tourist bureau.  Visit the farmers’ markets in Summerside downtown and Charlottetown Belvedere Avenue on Saturday mornings, and Queen Street in Charlottetown on Sunday.  Every weekend, there are lots of yard sales.

Many communities will have a festival/carnival during the summer, and if you are in Charlottetown in August, the Gold Cup and Saucer parade is one of the best old-fashioned parades you will see in Eastern Canada.  The Shellfish Festival in the fall is excellent as well.

Finally, you may arrive by ferry and depart by the Confederation Bridge, or vice versa.  However, if you are not taking the bridge, keep an eye out for various vantage points of the bridge as you drive along the south shore of the Island.  Or, visit Borden and turn left at the lights (to avoid accessing the bridge toll booth) and drive through the town to a park next to the bridge, and see a great view of this impressive structure that “connects Canada to PEI”.

I hope my comments help you enjoy to your stay in my adopted home.  If you have any comments, send me an email from my contact page!

Blair Corkum, CPA, CA, R.F.P., CFP, CFDS, CLU, CHS holds his Chartered Professional Accountant, Chartered Accountant, Registered Financial Planner, Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist as well as several other financial planning related designations. Blair offers hourly based fee-only personal financial planning, holds no investment or insurance licenses, and receives no commissions or referral fees. This publication should not be construed as legal or investment advice. It is neither a definitive analysis of the law nor a substitute for professional advice which you should obtain before acting on information in this article. Information may change as a result of legislation or regulations issued after this article was written.©Blair Corkum