Tucked away in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just off the eastern coast of Canada, you'll find a hidden gem known as Prince Edward Island (PEI). Now, it might not be the tropical paradise that pops into your mind when you think of 'island getaway,' but trust us, it's a vacation spot that's worth your time. Picture this: red-sand beaches, mouth-watering fresh seafood, rolling green landscapes, and a vibrant, artsy capital city, Charlottetown. And despite being the smallest province in Canada, PEI is like a treasure chest, just waiting to be opened by visitors.
Remember those childhood days curled up with Anne of Green Gables? L.M. Montgomery's children's classic, available in 37 languages, probably rings a bell. The protagonist, a fiery redheaded orphan, is hard to forget. The book's idyllic setting, Green Gables, isn't just a figment of imagination—it's a real place, a farm on Prince Edward Island. Whether you're a fan of the books or not, Green Gables Heritage Center offers a fantastic day out. You'll find a restored 1830s farmhouse, beautiful forested trails to wander, and a visitors' center that's brimming with interesting tidbits.
Imagine crossing 8 miles of water on the Confederation Bridge, one of the easiest ways to reach Prince Edward Island. It's a literal must-do for many visitors. Completed in 1997, this bridge spans 8 miles and holds the title for the longest bridge across icy water in the world. You can hop on a shuttle as a cyclist or pedestrian and get from New Brunswick to PEI in around ten minutes. And don't forget to stop by the gift shop, Shop & Play, located just off the bridge. It's the perfect spot to snap a selfie with a life-sized Anne of Green Gables statue and an Anne dress-up area.
Now, let's talk beaches. With over 1000 km (or more than 621 miles) of shoreline, Prince Edward Island is a beach lover's dream. The island's sand varies from white to an unusual red, thanks to a high concentration of iron oxide in the rocks of PEI. The island offers some long shorelines perfect for lounging, while others, such as Argyle Shore, have tidal pools that'll keep kids fascinated for hours. And guess what? This northern island has some of the warmest water north of Florida. So, whether you're up for a swim or a paddleboarding adventure, PEI has got you covered.
Have you ever heard of dirt shirts? They're all the rage on Prince Edward Island. But why buy one when you could make your own? The shirts get their pleasant rust color from sand from local red sand beaches, which is abundant. Plenty of tours and experiences include making dirt shirts as an activity, but you can DIY your dye by mixing red sand and water and soaking a clean white shirt for around four hours. Add a tie-dye pattern to your dirt shirt using rubber bands, too, if that's your style.
Let's take a cultural detour to 'New Acadia.' The Acadians are descendants of 17th-Century French settlers in New Brunswick and PEI. The Acadians of the region returned from banishment to 'New Acadia' in the late 1700s, yet they're still known for their joie de vivre. French-speaking parts of Prince Edward Island include West Prince, Évangéline, Summerside-Miscouche, Rustico, Charlottetown, and Souris. You'll find French-influenced cuisine, music, and that all-important love of life in all these areas.
History buffs, this one's for you. The museums and historical attractions of Prince Edward Island are wide-ranging. If you're a gearhead, there's the Car Life Museum in Red Sands Shore. Maritime history geeks will want to visit Basin Head Fisheries Museum and PEI's various lighthouses. For anyone interested in learning about the first nations people native to this corner of Canada, Lennox Island Mi'kmaq Culture Centre illustrates their history and culture. There's even a Canadian Potato Museum—complete with giant potato—so truly, the museums of the island tick all boxes.
Thunder Cove Beach may be PEI's worst-kept secret, but it's still worth a visit. The cove was home to the constantly photographed Teacup Rock until a storm destroyed the sandstone landmark in 2022, but luckily, plenty of interesting sandstone stacks and cliffs are still standing. There are also caves along the cove's edge, but be careful if you explore; sandstone is soft and always shifting.
The Confederation Trail runs from one edge of the island to the other and covers about 449 km (279 miles) if you include all sub-branches. It's extensive because it runs along the old Prince Edward Railway lines, which used to transport people and goods to every part of this little Canadian province. If you're a bike lover, a cycling holiday on PEI could be a dream escape. Short rides, day trips, and cycle rentals are all options for everyone else.
Try clam digging if you don't mind working hard for your dinner and getting your hands dirty. Clams live in the sand around the south of Prince Edward Island and are accessible at low tide. Particularly popular spots include Maximeville, Pinette, Victoria, and Tea Hill. The best time to dig for clams is during a spring tide when the water is at its lowest, and you can get further out than any other time of the month.
The red sandstone cliffs of PEI are something to behold. Argyle Shore Provincial Park offers stunning cliffs looming over water that appears rust-red at dawn and dusk. You can also take a road trip following the curve of Prince Edward Island's red beaches by following the Red Sands Shore route markers. You'll find tidal pools, rolling farmland, and sleepy fishing villages along the way.
Glamping, RV adventures, and pitching a good old-fashioned tent are all options on Prince Edward Island. PEI National Park offers several campground options, or you can camp by the sand in Red Point Provincial Park. Winter camping is an option in a few spots, with heated yurts offered close to St Peter's Harbor and cliff-side cabins at Campbell's Cove.
The scenic trails of Prince Edward National Park are a nature lover's dream, taking you through lush forests, rolling dunes, and stunning coastal vistas. Once you're tired from all the hiking, you can dip at Cavendish Beach. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like red foxes, piping plovers, and bald eagles.
Prince Edward Island has the highest concentration of lighthouses in North America. An amazing 61 dot its coastline. Eight of the lighthouses are open to the public, including Cape Bear Lighthouse and Panmure Island Lighthouse. Each offers a glimpse into the island's rich history while also providing stunning panoramic views of the sea and farmland of PEI. So, whether you're a history buff or simply seeking Instagram-worthy moments, a visit to the lighthouses of Prince Edward Island is an absolute must.
Fancy a sandy serenade? That's what's in store at Basin Head Provincial Park. The sand produces a melodic sound as you stroll along the soft, white sandy beach. This is due to an unusually large amount of silica in the mix—a fact that doesn't detract from the magic, particularly if you look up and take in the incredible coastal views as you listen to the sand's tunes.
After all those PEI activities, you deserve a drink. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Barnone Brewery and Hop Farm, where you can experience the beer-making process from field to glass, or chill out with an IPA at the PEI Brewing Company. For the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island offers beer lovers many options.