Where to stay and what to do in PEI

Hello and welcome to my third and final post about our Prince Edward Island vacation! This time I’ll be addressing two other important points, what there is to do in PEI, since it can vary by season, as well as where to stay, since your options will also vary depending on when you visit the Island.

Most people visit Prince Edward Island between late Spring and early Fall and there is a reason for this: The weather. Winters in PEI can be very, very rough and getting around can be difficult. I’m not saying you should not visit PEI at this time of year because Winter on the Island can be absolutely gorgeous, but be warned that if there is a snow storm while you are there, you will not be able to get around until all the snow is cleared away and this can take a few days because the Island shuts down during storms and they wait until the snow has stopped falling before clearing it away.

Your options for where to stay on the Island from October to June will also be greatly diminished since the vast majority of the cottages for rent in PEI are not winterized and are closed up by their owners once it gets too chilly and remain closed until the clay roads they are often on are well set late into Spring. Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to get your car stuck in the muck that the clay roads of PEI turn into in the Spring or after some very heavy rain. Cottages are amazing places to stay in Prince Edward Island though, I’ve stayed in one during three out of my four vacations there and have never had a bad experience. The one my Darling and I rented during our two-week vacation in July was by far the best-equipped cottage I have ever stayed in and its location in the center of the Island was ideal. I have a few pictures of it below and you can find out more about it from its VRBO listing here.

106T
107T Old Blooming Point School House cottage

So, while I prefer to stay in cottages or apartments when I travel because I love the freedom of not having to worry about where I am going to find my next meal, especially in the morning, I know that a lot of people love to be pampered in hotels and resorts. I am not exactly a well of information when it comes to hotels in PEI and I can say with 100% certainty that there is nary a resort to be had, nor a private beach unless you rent a very, very expensive cottage, I can recommend the two hotels I have stayed in on the island in the past. The Super 8 hotel in Charlottetown is where I stayed during my four-day trip to the Island in May of 2012 and it is a great mid-range hotel with a pool and free breakfast in the morning delivered by Tim Horton’s. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that! The location of the hotel is awesome, it is right across the causeway from Downtown Charlottetown and not even a five-minute drive from the Cow’s ice cream factory and a nice little strip mall with a great burger joint. The other hotel I can recommend is the Dundee Arms, a lovely hotel in a beautiful heritage building in old Charlottetown. My Darling and I stayed there for two nights during our July vacation and loved it, although the one downside to it is the exhaust outlet for the hotel’s kitchen which is quite loud and makes it difficult to sleep with the window open in about 80% of the rooms…sleeping is no issue with the windows closed however since the beds are very comfortable, or at least they are in the annex section of the hotel we stayed in. The food in the hotel restaurant is delicious as well and eating out on their terrace when the weather is nice is delightful.

Now, just in case anyone was going to ask about camping on Prince Edward Island, yes, it is an option. Campsites are plentiful for both RVs and tents, but do not forget your bug spray!!! Mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with in PEI from June onward and not in a small way. They will not bother you during the day or on the beach whether it is night or day, but as soon as you are away from the beach in the evening, watch out! The reasons that mosquitoes are so prevalent in Prince Edward Island are the abundance of stagnant water in farmers’ fields and the equal abundance of evergreens, which mosquitoes adore. I enjoy camping as much as the next girl, but I would not attempt it in PEI. You have been warned.

As for what there is to do in Prince Edward Island, as with places to stay, you options will vary greatly depending on when you visit the Island. A lot of places turn into ghost towns as of October, but the island’s greatest selling point, its scenery, is beautiful year round.

023T - Copy
St.Peter’s Bay

One of my favorite times of year to visit the Island, however, is from mid-June to early July, when the lupines are in bloom. Lupines have long been my favorite wild flowers and my Darling got a kick out of me squealing with delight when we started coming across them in New Brunswick. As you can see from the picture below, most lupines are purple, but they can also be white or pink and sometimes even yellow.

045T - Copy
Lupines in bloom in front of a church near Souris.

The road between St.Peter’s and Souris is a wonderful place for lupine spotting and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful on the Island and I make sure to drive it every time I am there.

Another of my favorite places to visit is in PEI is Victoria-by-the-Sea, a beautiful, quaint little town halfway between Charlottetown and Borden-Carleton. Its bay is a wonderful place to go for a dip or set off in a kayak, canoe or catamaran and it has some wonderful food and entertainment options. Its theater, shops and restaurants are open from mid-June to the first week of  September, but they begin closing for the Fall and Winter after that. You can visit the town’s website here for specific opening and closing dates.

076T - Copy
Catamarans waiting to be taken out for a sail in Victoria-by-the-Sea.

One feature of Victoria that I particularly love is its lighthouse, which you can see below. I have loved lighthouses ever since seeing my first one in Cape Cod when I was about twelve years old. My father loved them too and I remember how he made a point of our visiting all the lighthouses we could when we went on our family vacation to PEI in 1998. The Victoria lighthouse is owned and maintained by the villagers of Victoria and as you can see, they keep it in pristine condition.

072T
Victoria-by-the-Sea lighthouse

I encourage you to visit as many lighthouses as possible in PEI, but don’t limit yourselves to the easy to reach ones, because if you do, you will miss out on some magical places, like the Cape Tryon light. I will admit that the road to this lighthouse is not for the faint of heart. It is a deeply carved and narrow red clay road and if you car is low to the ground, you will have to park it on the side of the main road and walk to the light. This place is worth the trek though, especially in July when the fields of barley on either side of the road are a beautiful, fresh green bordered by wildflowers. The lighthouse itself is just what you would expect a light on a solitary, out-of-the-way cape to be, weather-beaten and showing its age, but it gives off an aura of steadfastness that I love.

191T - Copy
The road to Cape Tryon lighthouse

I know that I have been giving you quite a few warnings about the clay roads in Prince Edward Island, but really, they are not to be missed. You just have to be logical about how and when you use them. They are actually one of the best ways to get from one place to another quickly in many situations, since most of the main roads of the Island follow the coast. Sometimes it is downright silly to follow the main roads when you can get to where you’re going much more quickly by cutting across the Island by a side road. If this opportunity presents itself to you and it has not been pouring for two days straight and you’re not driving a fancy, low-riding sports car, take it. You will more than likely be delighted by some of the scenery you will come across, such as this:

One of PEI's many charming red clay roads
One of PEI’s many charming red clay roads

As you can see, the road is well driven and well maintained and it was raining pretty steadily when we were on it. Just about 30% of the roads in PEI are unpaved, so they’re pretty hard to avoid and as I said, you just have to be smart about how you use them. Don’t drive down them at 100 km an hour and keep off them if it has been pouring rain for more than 24 hours or if it is any earlier than about mid-may and if you think the road might be too deeply carved for your car, leave it on the side of the road and take a walk. If you do get stuck in the mud on a dirt road, don’t worry. Walk for help and don’t be shy about knocking at the door of a house you just drove by or flagging down the farmer who is mowing down his field of hay, they will be happy to help, they are used to tourists getting stuck in the muck. The bottom line is, the pros of using Prince Edward Island’s dirt roads and what they lead you to far outweigh the cons, such as beaches!

My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.
My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.

Prince Edward Island is famous for its beaches, with good reason. There are at least thirty beaches on the Island, if not more and many of them are not listed, such as beautiful Blooming Point beach where our cottage was. Some of the beaches are supervised, some are not, but each one is unique, so do not ever make the mistake of going to PEI and sticking to just one beach. My Darling and I went to the beach ten out of the fourteen days we were on vacation and visited nine different beaches. One of our favorites was Argyle Shore for its warm water, proliferation of hermit crabs and lack of jellyfish. It is very rocky though, so bring your beach shoes and don’t be surprised by the lack of sand! Now, getting back to those jellyfish! The jellyfish in the waters off PEI are essentially harmless. They do sting, but they are not poisonous and all that is needed to soothe a jellyfish sting is plaster of damp sand. Try and avoid them, naturally, but don’t let them stop you from getting in the water! For a partial list of the beaches in Prince Edward Island, click here.

Sunset on Blooming Point Beach

Now, because no visit to Prince Edward Island is complete without it, yes, you should visit Green Gables. I have been three out of four of the times I have been to the Island and I do not get tired of it. The house is open from May to October with possibilities to visit outside those months by appointment. For more details about the opening dates and times at which Green Gables is open, you can visit this page. Now, why is Green Gables worth the visit? Because it is more than just a house! You can also visit the old barn to learn about life on Prince Edward Island during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, walk two beautiful trails and visit the gift shop and the snack bar. Green Gables is a fun, vibrant place and naturally a great place to go if you have children. A word of advice though: if you see a bus of tourists arriving at the same time as you do, either hurry to visit the house before they make it there, or walk the trails while they go through. Green Gables may look like a good-sized house on the outside, but it is full of small rooms and narrow hallways that make it difficult to visit when there is a crowd around.

Green Gables
Green Gables

And last, but most definitely not least, go stargazing. Prince Edward Island is beyond a doubt the best place I know of to take in the stars. The Island is almost exclusively rural, so there are very, very few street lamps and houses are usually set very far apart so any light from them will not hinder your view of the night sky whether you stop out by a farmer’s field or, like us, step out into your back yard.

The Milky Way above our cottage.
The Milky Way above our cottage.

So that’s it for this trip! If you ever have any questions about the Island, please do not hesitate to ask them, I’ll be more than happy to answer as best as I can.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Where to stay and what to do in PEI”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s