North America > Canada > Atlantic Canada > Prince Edward Island
- For other places with the same name, see Pei (disambiguation).
Prince Edward Island (or PEI) draws visitors from around the world who come for its beaches, golf courses, pastoral beauty, relaxed pace, and, of course, to see the island that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write the Anne of Green Gables books.
It is Canada's only island province, and the smallest one by both area and population, with only 150,000 inhabitants. A rich farmland, the island was one of the first parts of Canada to be settled by Europeans.
PEI has three counties:
- Prince, the western third of the province
- Queens, the central third of the province
- Kings, the eastern third of the province
- 1 Charlottetown —a pretty, tiny capital city, and host of summertime performances of Anne of Green Gables the Musical
- 2 Summerside — the second-largest community, home of the Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island
- 3 Brackley Beach-Stanhope — Beach area 15 minutes north of Charlottetown
- 4 Borden-Carleton — PEI end of the Confederation Bridge and gateway to the island
- 5 Cavendish — largest seasonal resort area in Prince Edward Island; home to Lucy Maud Montgomery, writer of Anne of Green Gables
- 6 North Rustico-New Glasgow — a rural farming villages known for their Lobster Suppers
- 7 Kensington — including the north shore of the island between Malpeque Bay and New London Bay, and the Anne of Green Gables Museum
- 8 Souris — the ferry terminal for the Magdalen Islands
- 9 Montague — tree-lined streets, tranquil river and stately buildings
- 10 Georgetown — a natural deep water port
- 11 Wood Islands — the ferry terminal, PEI end of the Northumberland Ferry and gateway to the island
- 1 Prince Edward Island National Park — over 65 km of shoreline, including beaches, red sandstone cliffs and rolling sand dunes along the island's north shore, it covers much of the central north coast and tourist destinations
"The island", as locals call it, is well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches, dunes and potato fields. It is also the home of the gregarious Anne Shirley from Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables.
It was part of the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq First Nation (Indigenous) people. They named the island Epekwitk, meaning 'cradled on the waves'; Europeans represented the pronunciation as "Abegweit". The Mi'kmaq's legend is that the island was formed by the Great Spirit placing on the Blue Waters some dark red crescent-shaped clay. There are two Mi'kmaq First Nation communities on the island today.
In 1604, France laid claim to the lands of the Maritimes, including the island they called Île Saint-Jean, establishing the French colony of Acadia. By the early 1750s, 5,000 Acadians lived on the island. After French forces were defeated at the siege of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in 1758, the British took over the island, and began to deport most of the Acadians from the island, as they had to those living in what are now Nova Svotia and New Brunswick. Many Acadians died in the expulsion en route to France. The French ceded the island, and most of New France to the British in the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
During and after the American Revolutionary War, from 1776 to 1783, the colony's efforts to attract exiled Loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies met with some success. A large influx of Scottish Highlanders in the late 1700s also resulted in the island having the highest proportion of Scottish immigrants in Canada. This led to a higher proportion of Scottish Gaelic speakers and thriving culture surviving on the island than in Scotland itself, as the settlers could more easily avoid English influence overseas.
In 1798, the British named the island colony for Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria.
In 1864, representatives of four British North American colonies met in Charlottetown to discuss a union of the colonies. PEI's capital thus became the "Birthplace of Confederation", and the group of men became known as the "Fathers of Confederation". The Dominion of Canada was formed three years later in 1867, although PEI did not join the dominion until 1873.
PEI is recognized for its red soil and sand that emerges from the break down of red sandstone. The high iron content of the sand gives it its rusty colouring and prominence. As the islanders say, "There are no white dogs in PEI."
The climate of the island strongly influenced by the surrounding seas, and is characterized by changeable weather throughout the year. It has some of the most variable day-to-day weather in Canada, in which specific weather conditions seldom last for long.
During July and August, the average daytime high in PEI is 23 °C (73 °F); however, the temperature can sometimes exceed 30 °C (86 °F) during these months. In the winter months of January and February, the average daytime high is −3.3 °C (26 °F). The usland receives an average yearly rainfall of 855 millimetres (33.7 in) and an average yearly snowfall of 285 centimetres (112 in).
Winters are moderately cold and long, and the island usually has many storms (which may produce rain as well as snow) and blizzards. Springtime temperatures typically remain cool until the sea ice has melted, usually in late April or early May.
Summers are moderately warm, but rarely uncomfortable, with the daily maximum temperature only occasionally reaching as high as 30 °C (86 °F). Autumn is a pleasant season, although storm activity increases compared to the summer. There is ample precipitation throughout the year, although it is heaviest in the late autumn, early winter and mid spring.
Being an island, PEI has limited access by car.
The monumental Confederation Bridge, almost a visitor attraction in itself (viewing stations on the New Brunswick side offer good photo opportunities), crosses the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and PEI. It's reached from the mainland on TCH Route 16 near Aulac, and stretches 13 km across open water to the island. The toll of $47.75 toll for a car, $19.00 for a motorcycle (2019 rates, 2-axle vehicle, $8.25 for each additional axle), is collected on the PEI side when returning to the mainland. Travel across the Bridge as a pedestrian or cyclist is possible via the passenger shuttle service which travels between Borden-Carlton, PEI, and Cape Jourimain, NB. The price for the shuttle is $4.50 for pedestrians and $9.00 for cyclists (this price includes the bicycle as luggage). The first article of luggage is free and every additional piece of luggage is $4.00 (not including luggage attached to a touring bicycle). Apprehensive drivers (drivers who wish not to personally drive across the bridge for any reason, often a fear of heights) may choose to pay a fee of $40.00 to have a Bridge employee drive their vehicle across the bridge. There is no stopping allowed on the bridge and is open 24/7 year round, with the exception of severe wind conditions which may close the bridge for an indeterminate amount of time.
There are a number of car ferries to PEI:
- Northumberland Ferries Limited, ☏ , crosses from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands about once every hour and a half, from 6:30AM to 7PM (a return trip is $20 per passenger, $17 for seniors and free for children, $79 per car or camper up to 20 ft (6.1 m), $41 for motorcycles, and $20 for bicycles. Same as the toll bridge, only the way out from PEI is charged: taking the ferry from Nova Scotia is free). The ferries do not operate during the winter months (January-April).
- CTMA, ☏ , runs ferries from Cap-aux-Meules on Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, to Souris about once a day ($40 per passenger or $75 per car).
Throughout the summer months, cruise liners stop in Charlottetown for one-day visits.
Travellers from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can travel on Maritime Bus which has stops including Summerside and Charlottetown.
- Air Canada/Air Canada Express (Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto)
- WestJet (Toronto)
- Sunwing Vacations (Puerto Plata)
Non-metered taxi service is available within the city limits of Charlottetown and Summerside, as well as in most large communities. Most taxi companies are willing to provide transportation to rural areas of the island as well, but be prepared to pay a higher rate for this service. Kari ride sharing operates in the whole island.
The city of Charlottetown operates a public transit system that provides bus transportation at a cost of $2.25 to various locations around the city. Although the service does not extend very far beyond city limits, it does provide fast, reliable transportation to most locations within them. There is little intercity public transport: T3 on line Charlottetown-Kensigton-Hunter River-Charlottetown
In the summer cycling is popular. Although most roads do not have wide shoulders or designated bike lanes, drivers tend to be quite courteous to cyclists. The landscape consists mostly of rolling hills; there are few steep hills to climb. Additionally, the Confederation Trail stretches from one end of the island to the other. Built on a disused rail bed, the trail has low grades and is reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. Cycling maps, sample itineraries and other cycling resources are available from Tourism PEI, MacQueen's Island Tours (based in Charlottetown), and Atlantic Canada Cycling.
Outside of walking, hitchhiking or cycling, a vehicle is almost mandatory to travel the island, especially in winter.
Tourism in PEI often focuses on beach, seafood, music and the Anne of Green Gables House (in Cavendish), which especially appeals to visitors from Japan, for whom this is the third or fourth most popular destination in North America (after the Grand Canyon and Banff, Alberta and often ahead even of Niagara Falls). L. M. Montgomery's book, Anne of Green Gables, has become a major part of the Japanese school curriculum, and as such the Green Gables historic site is a major attraction for Japanese tourists.
Cape Bear, at the southeastern tip of the island, is formed from high cliffs that offer a good location for photography and viewing seals. During World War II, the lighthouse at Cape Bear was used to spot German U-Boats. Cape Bear was also the first land station in Canada to receive an SOS from the Titanic in 1912.
The Ghost Ship of the Northumberland Strait is a legendary ghost ship believed to sail the Northumberland Strait by nightfall engulfed in flames. Many ships ventured out on rescue missions to this burning ship. Reportedly, the ship always receded from view. Witnesses across the island will testify to sightings of this phantom ship.
The cliffs surrounding High Bank in Kings County in eastern PEI provide sweeping views along the Northumberland Strait of Nova Scotia and Pictou Island.
Malpeque Harbour is a bay in Prince County. It is the source of famous oysters, and of many postcards and posters of the picturesque fishing boats, colourful barn-shaped boat houses, and neatly stacked lobster traps. Arrive in late afternoon or early morning for the best light on the water.
In the 1700s Murray Harbour in southern Kings County became an important Canadian port for the fishing trade. Today, Murray Harbour is still a fishing community. Local fishermen cast around the harbour for lobsters and scallops.
St Peter's Bay is bordered by the 360 ha (900 acre) Greenwich Dunes on one side, and is full of row upon row of buoys used for mussel farming.
PEI is Canada's #1 golf destination. It draws golfers from around North America and the world to its 25 courses.
Victoria Playhouse in picturesque Victoria by the Sea presents up to 85 live theatre and performance events each season. The playbill includes a mix of established classics and new plays by young playwrights.
A Prince Edward Island bike tours starts in Cape North and winds its way through Malpeque Bay, along the Bay of St. Lawrence, to the most easterly point of the island, passing through many lovely villages, including Cavendish, North Rustico, Brackley Beach,and Stanhope.
Basin Head is a popular beach which also has a bridge that you can go and have some fun jumping off of.
Scenic drives: one of the best ways to experience island life is to meander along the various back roads and highways, adding your own diversions here and there. Tourism PEI promotes three scenic drives: North Cape Coastal Drive, Blue Heron, and Points East Coastal Drive. All are unique and shed a glimpse of different aspects of Island life. Cycling is also a great way to see PEI and the areas covered by the scenic drives. A good first stop for cycling information and resources is Tourism PEI.
Experience PEI ☏ is provider of authentic experiences, connecting visitors with interesting islanders, and unique, hands-on adventures.
The Charlottetown Islanders are a major junior hockey team. They have had a few players play in the NHL or AHL. Former Rocket Maxime Lapierre plays full time for the Vancouver Canucks.
Churchill Arms FC is an amateur men’s soccer club out of Charlottetown. They were stand-ins for PEI at the Canadian National Soccer Championships in 2008 to 2013.
The University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) have teams in Atlantic University Sport division, and the Canadian Inter-university Sport division. Teams involved in UPEI include Men's and Women’s soccer, Women’s Rugby, Field Hockey, Men and Women’s Basketball, Men and Women’s Hockey, and Swimming.
During winter and early spring (January-May) most stores remain closed on Sundays although all essential services are available. Between the end of May and December, stores are open on Sunday. Given the island's large tourism industry, there are many, varied souvenir shops all over. Some of the more impressive are Prince Edwards Island Preserves in New Glasgow, Vessy's Seeds in York, The Dunes in Brackley and The Magik Dragon in Murray River. These shops carry locally produced art work, food and clothing items.
The traditional tourist restaurants serving boiled lobsters with all-you-can-eat coleslaw still exist, and can be a lot of fun, but those looking for a more refined or exotic meal now have several options.
Malpeque oysters are known around the world for their large size, soft flesh and sweet, mild flavour. Eat the freshest possible Malpeque oysters at the Malpeque Oyster Barn, Malpeque Harbour, near Kensington.
Lobster suppers are a very popular dining experience and ubiquitous on the island. These meals are built around a main course of locally-caught lobster and usually include appetizers, soups, salads and desserts. Look for a large, red lobster claw on the front lawn of a church or social club, or a hand painted sign at a crossroad. New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is one of the most widely advertised restaurants for the lobster dining experience.
Widely recognized as the best dining on PEI is the Inn at Bay Fortune near Souris. The menu was developed by chef Michael Smith, and his Food Network series The Inn Chef was filmed at the Inn. The restaurant has been awarded three stars (the maximum) by the Where to Eat in Canada dining guide.
If you choose to cook your own meals at a rental cottage or a camp site there are large grocery stores around the island.Atlantic Superstore (in Charlottetown, Summerside, and Montague) and Sobeys (in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague, Stratford, and West Royalty) are the largest grocery stores in the province, and both carry a wide selection of staples and international imports. Sunday shopping is permitted during the summer season. Also, there are two Walmarts in the province, in Charlottetown and Summerside.
The legal drinking age in Prince Edward Island is 19. Bars, clubs and liquor stores will typically ask for a government-issued ID from anyone who looks under 25. Retail alcohol sale on the island is restricted to the government-controlled PEI Liquor Commission. Their stores carry a reasonable selection of wine, beer and liquor. Ask about PEI wines produced by Matos and by Rossignol.
- The ferries to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Nova Scotia: the one to Nova Scotia could be a shorter route if you go to Cape Breton Island. However, Confederation Bridge remains open year-round and is the fastest, cheapest and most convenient way back to the mainland.
- There are daily flights between Charlottetown and Montreal, Toronto, and Halifax.