Canada’s smallest province might account for just 0.1% of the country’s area, but Prince Edward Island makes up for its diminutive size with a wealth of attractions, from its infamous Anne of Green Gables legacy to its mind-boggling 1,100km of pristine shoreline.
Due to its small size and gorgeous coastal roads, one of the best ways to explore the island is on a road trip. This five-day itinerary takes in some of the island’s most enticing and enchanting areas to give you a (tiny) taste of how good life here can be. Take in friendly communities, quaint towns and pristine red-sand beaches; feast on some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted – and even stay in a lighthouse.
How to get to PEI: There are three ways to get to Prince Edward Island. Drive across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, catch the ferry from Nova Scotia, or fly into Charlottetown.
Day 1: Charlottetown to West Point
Start your day exploring the historic buildings and seaside views in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island’s capital city. Although you’ll probably want to linger here, there’ll be more time to explore Charlottetown at the end of the 5-day itinerary. Instead, it’s time to head east to one of the island’s most charming villages.
Just a 30-min hop from Charlottetown, picture-perfect Victoria by the Sea is a historic fishing village that has been revitalized in recent years by its artistic and creative community. Stroll the quaint, colourful streets and take in the galleries, studios, a playhouse and even a tiny chocolate factory. Enjoy lunch at The Landmark Oyster House, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with the oyster and seafood selection, and then slowly make your way west to West Point.
Although it’s a decent drive, we promise that the West Point Lighthouse Museum and Inn is worth it. Not only is its black-and-white striped form one of the island’s most iconic sights, but you can tick ‘sleeping in a lighthouse’ off your bucket list. Time your arrival for the gorgeous sunset; check out the magnificent views over the Northumberland Strait; then fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves. In the morning, be sure to climb to the very top of the lighthouse, taking in the excellent museum exhibits and explanatory signage along the way.
Day 2: The West Cape to the North Cape
Today is a leisurely drive along Route 14 up PEI’s westernmost coast, passing magnificent red capes and miles-long beaches, stopping for photos and breathtaking views at West Cape lookout and Skinners Pond Beach.
Skinners Pond Beach is also home to the Stompin Tom Centre, a toe-tapping treasure trove of Canadian musical history that traces the story of iconic entertainer Tom Connors. Take in the free live entertainment daily from 1pm-2pm (or later in the day, book in for a musical dinner) and don’t miss the karaoke booth where you can sing and record your own song.
Either stop at the Stompin Tom Centre for lunch or get back on the road and continue on to the very tip of the island with a visit to the North Cape Interpretive Centre. Here you’ll be able to see the colliding tides where the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait meet and learn about the importance of wind energy. There’s also a lovely 5.5km return nature trail (complete with interpretive panels) and a restaurant that serves up decent food with outstanding views.
A 30-minute drive south from the North Cape is the newly renovated Mill River Resort, where you can stay the night. Choose from the hotel or campground (there’s also a golf course, indoor pool, spa, volleyball and tennis courts to enjoy, too), and while you can opt for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, another excellent option is just 15-minutes drive away in Alberton. Here you’ll find the Northport Pier Restaurant that overlooks the beautiful harbour, where local seafood and delicious desserts are served up with stunning views and a casual vibe.
Day 3: Central Coast Drive
Head towards the Central Coast, stopping for an early lunch at Malpeque Oyster Barn to eat the freshest oysters – and mussels, scallops, haddock and lobster – by the water (note: it’s pretty small so worth booking in advance if you can). Then continue along the Central Coastal Drive where you’ll find some of the most incredible ocean views on Prince Edward Island (Tip: stop for photos of the tiny fishing village of French River, or the Cape Tryon Lighthouse that overlooks spectacular sandstone cliffs.)
Although there’s beaches-a-plenty, we recommend making a pit stop at Cavendish Beach to walk on its bright red sand and admire the impressive rock formations. It’s also right by Green Gables Heritage Place, where you can indulge in all things Anne. Explore the house that inspired Green Gables, and walk in the Haunted woods or stroll down Lovers Lane. There’s also on-site re-enactments and interesting exhibits of LM Montgomery’s life.
Next, drive along PEI National Park from Cavendish (stopping to explore the small town of North Rustico, if you have time, or the excellent The Dunes for a spot of shopping), ending your day at Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a gorgeous 19th-century summer retreat-turned-hotel that’s packed with history and antique furnishings. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge stayed here when they visited PEI in 2011; you too can feel like royalty as you descend the sweeping central staircase at Dalvey for a sumptuous dinner in The Macmillan Dining Room.
Day 4: Dalvey-by-the Sea to Greenwich
Spend a relaxing morning at Dalvey-by-the-Sea, lounging on a sofa near the fire or by the lake in an Adirondack chair. If you’re feeling more active, explore the hotel grounds or rent a bicycle from reception and cycle the (flat) bike path along the coastline.
Make a pitstop for lunch at Richard’s– a simple fish shack with insanely fresh seafood. Queues start early, so be prepared to get there well before the 12pm opening time.
From here, it’s around an hour’s drive to Greenwich PEI National Park, where you can hike the Greenwich Dunes Trail to view the spectacular parabolic dune system rising above the white sandy shores.
In late afternoon, head back to Charlottetown, where you can choose from a range of accommodation; we recommend the Holman Grand for its central location, good-sized rooms and excellent service.
Day 5: Charlottetown
Spend the day wandering the capital’s historic core, punctuating your exploration with breakfast at Receiver, a lobster-roll lunch at Dave’s Lobster (followed by ice cream at Cow’s Creamery on Peakes Wharf), and dinner at Sims or Terre Rouge, depending on where you can get a reservation.
Be sure to visit Province House (or the neighbouring Confederation Centre of the Arts, while Province House is temporarily closed for conservation work) to learn about the city’s history as the birthplace of Confederation; and St Dunstan’s Basilica to admire the ornate architecture. In the evening, take in the Anne of Green Gables musical for a final farewell to one of PEI’s most famous exports.
What are your favourite things to see and do in PEI? Let us know on our FB page or in the comments.