With 4 nights on the island, we had plenty of time to relax, see some of the must do sites and discover some of the out of the way gems.
Cycling and kayaking the red cliffs…
Our first day in PEI was an active one. After a sleep in and breakfast, we drove to North Rustico Harbour in search of a bike hire place we’d read about. Within minutes, we had signed up for 4 hours of self-guided bike hire for the morning and a guided kayak trip for the late afternoon.
It was a nice comfortable cycle on a bike path on the top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. The sands of PEI take on a distinctive hue of red from an abundance of iron. The soft red sandstone has eroded over time, producing about 500 miles of rosy red beaches from which the red cliffs rise and are topped by luscious green fields. Two sisters staying at our bed and breakfast had also hired bikes for the day, so we kept bumping into them at all the lookouts.
Whilst cycling around one of the estuaries, we spotted a bald eagle sitting on top of one of the trees. Whilst we’d seen so many on the West Coast, both in BC and Alberta, this was the first (and proved to be the last) in the Maritimes.
The weather for our evening kayak was spectacular. It was extremely wind-still and the water was brilliantly clear (even though it did have a rather pungent aroma of dead stuff!). There were only six of us in double kayaks, so a nice small group. Everyone was pretty mellow and had some kayaking experience, so it made for an easy-going time. We did a similar trip to what we’d done on the bikes, except this time we were at the bottom of the red cliffs rather than the top.
It’s all about Anne (with an “e”)…
For any lovers of Anne of Green Gables, need I say more??!!
For the others – Anne of Green Gables is a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a classic children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. Set in the late 19th century, the novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, a vivacious red-headed 11-year-old orphan girl, who was mistakenly sent to two middle-aged siblings; originally intending to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Avonlea is based on Cavendish, a town on PEI where the author was born and grew up.
Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages. The book is taught to students around the world, including Japan, where apparently, they are obsessed with Anne. Rumour has it that many Japanese tourists, when visiting the island, burst into tears on finding out Anne isn’t real.
There are a number of places related to both LM Montgomery and to Anne that can be visited. We decided to dip ourselves in the Anne experience and headed to Green Gables, declared a National Historic Site in 1985 and looked after by Canada Parks (beneficial to us as we had purchased an annual parks pass which gave us free entry).
The Green Gables farm was owned by the MacNeill family, who were cousins of author Lucy Maud Montgomery. The farm’s name is derived from the rich dark green paint of the gables on the farmhouse. Montgomery visited the farm as a young girl and based the location of her books on it. We took a stroll along “Haunted Woods”, “Lovers’ Lane”, and “Balsam Hollow.”, from which the author drew inspiration and lovers of the books will recognise. Sadly, a golf course now runs through the middle of the “Haunted Woods” and there is a busy road alongside, so it didn’t feel quite as I’d imagined.
In the middle of our cycle, we stopped off at Avonlea Village. In addition to the original schoolhouse she taught in, the Minister’s residence and the 1872 Historic Long River Church, Avonlea Village offers replications of houses and shops from the time of Anne of Green Gables. A bit cheesy but a good place to reward ourselves with a giant ice-cream from Cows Creamery – a famous PEI institution.
Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, has been running in Charlottetown, PEI’s capital, for more than 50 years. The world’s longest running annual musical theatre production is now in its Guinness Record-setting 54th season. We couldn’t resist spending an evening of heart tugging and funny bone tickling entertainment as we watched Anne come to life on stage. There was even a Green Gables house (and furniture) made entirely of sugar on display in the foyer of the theatre.
Our trip to Charlottetown…
Apart from our visit to the theatre, our trip to Charlottetown was a relatively low key affair. After breakfast, we headed off on the coastal road, taking the long scenic way into town.
We had our first view of the Confederation Bridge, the 12.9km span linking PEI with the mainland (New Brunswick). It is quite incredible looking across the fields and seeing a bridge disappearing across the water into the distance.
Next stop was Island Chocolate Shop in Victoria by the sea, a quaint little preserved fishing village. We relaxed and enjoyed a hot chocolate made of proper melted chocolate. We also went into a shop where they use the special red sand from PEI to make beautiful carved candles, particularly for special occasions such as weddings.
The Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site gave us lovely views over a number of lighthouses as well as over Charlottetown. It also presented us with the harsh truth about the deportation of the French from PEI. A plaque commemorates as an event of national historic significance, the tragic deportation of French and Acadian inhabitants from the island in 1758.
Charlottetown proved to be much more picturesque than expected, with well-maintained colourful houses lining many of the streets. The huge St Dunstan’s Basilica is named for St. Dunstan the Anglo Saxon saint from Glastonbury. Having not come across many churches named after this saint, this was significant for Glenda as she grew up going to St Dunstan’s Primary School and the adjacent Church in Benoni, South Africa.
There was a wedding taking place, so we couldn’t go in but enjoyed the festivities and had the privilege of hearing the bells – they were only restored last year.
Although a grey and windy day, we still enjoyed a walk along the waterfront watching some of the watersports and seeing a coast guard boat come in.
Feeling a bit tired of fish and lobster, we had asked our bed & breakfast hosts for a recommendation for lunch. Soon after 3pm we were feeling a bit peckish, so headed to The Old Triangle Irish Pub for a rack of ribs and a Malbec. We had a great time chatting to the Irish-Canadian server and watching finishers arrive from the Charlottetown Ultimate Race (like the Amazing Race).
It was a late night, heading home after the show. Unfortunately it was raining too, so a bit hairy as the roads are narrow and dark. Glad to be home, hop in bath and bed. Zzzzz!