In 1908, L. M. Montgomery published “Anne of Green Gables,” the story of an adventurous red-haired orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to live with the middle-aged siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Anne won the hearts of millions of readers and so did the lovingly described landscape of Prince Edward Island.
Today, Prince Edward Island — Canada’s smallest province — has become a popular destination, not only for Anne fans but for nature lovers, photographers, and beachgoers. The tourist season runs from May to October, although hardy adventurers may want to experience the island in its wintry glory.
1. Visit Green Gables.
The green-gabled farmhouse that inspired Montgomery still stands and is now part of Prince Edward Island National Park. At Green Gables Heritage Place, visitors can tour the house and meet an actress playing red-haired Anne. From March to September, you can participate in daily events like old-fashioned games, arts and crafts, and Sunday picnics.1 Nearby is the site of Montgomery’s childhood home. While the farmhouse where she wrote several of her books no longer stands, visitors can explore the trails, fields, and gardens.2
2. Drive around Prince Edward Island.
True Anne fans may be disheartened by the commercial aspects of Green Gable's tourism. But, as writer Ann Mah puts it, “it’s still possible to glimpse Montgomery’s Island, to wander it's red clay lanes and dappled woodland copses, to admire the farms fronting the silvery sea. You just have to know where to look.”3 Mah suggests renting a car to explore the island’s farmsteads, forests and tiny towns.
3. Tour Charlottetown with the Confederation Players.
In 1864, representatives of the colonies of British North America met in Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island, This conference led to the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867, which united the former colonies into a single Dominion of Canada.4 Canada marks the 150th anniversary of this event in 2017, making it the perfect time to take a historic tour of Charlottetown with the costumed Fathers and Ladies of Confederation.
Charlottetown of Prince Edward Island
4. Visit Prince Edward Island’s lighthouses.
One of the best things to do on PEI is visiting its many picturesque lighthouses, which once helped ships navigate the seas around the island. There are dozens of lighthouses, and many are home to museums and craft shops. The oldest is Point Prim, a brick-built tower that stands at the entrance to Hillsborough Bay.5
5. Hit the beach.
Few people go to Canada for a beach vacation, but Prince Edward Island boasts “500 miles of the warmest beaches north of the Carolinas,” according to its tourism board. It’s not exactly tropical — the average water temperature in August hovers around 64 degrees F — but the red sand is inviting. At Basin Head, people say the sand “sings” when you walk on it.6
You won’t find super-luxury hotels in PEI; just classic, comfortable inns. Dalvay By The Sea offers 25 guest rooms furnished with antiques, and, the hotel emphatically states, no TVs or phones. The historic lodge appears in the 1990s “Anne of Green Gables” movies as the White Sands Hotel.
Dalvay By The Sea Hotel
The Holman Grand Hotel is one of the best hotels in PEI, with modern, simple décor and spacious rooms. Its location in downtown Charlottetown makes it easy to walk to the town’s historic attractions. If you want a centrally located inn with a more intimate feel, the Hillhurst Inn B&B is popular for its classic décor and sumptuous breakfasts.
The Beach House Inn, in the north shore fishing village of French River, is a charming bed-and-breakfast with two cottages and seven rooms in an 1830s house. There, you can have breakfast overlooking the water, then stroll to a private beach five minutes away.
Unsurprisingly, Prince Edward Island is known for fantastic seafood — and the best-known place to try it is the Claddagh Oyster House in Charlottetown. Fresh, raw oysters are a highlight, as well as locally caught halibut and salmon. Terre Rouge Craft Kitchen is a temple to local island cuisine. On the ever-changing menu, you may find lobster, lamb, seafood chowder, and charcuterie. And finally, for a low-key but unforgettable meal, head to Richard’s Fresh Seafood in Stanhope for a lemony lobster roll.
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