How to do Prince Edward Island in Less than 24 Hours

Prince Edward Island used to be the pinnacle of my vacation dreams. When I was a kid, all my friends and their families flocked there for sunshine, beaches and good, wholesome, squeaky-clean family fun. You’d stick the kids in the van, listen to Abba and drive all the way there. In my mind, PEI was as foreign as Japan.

Confederation Bridge

OMFG.

When Cailin and I did our road trip to Guysborough, it wasn’t until late in the evening when we decided to give PEI a whirl because I needed to live out some childhood fantasies. We had to take the 12.9 kilometre beast of a Confederation Bridge. It was terrifying. I screamed. (Cailin has it on video.)

PEI has kickass tourism, maybe the best in Canada. The whole island goes through great lengths to please tourists and they do a damned good job. They even hired Regis & Kelly last year to visit and film on the island, garnering the interest of people worldwide and creating revenue that exceeded the predicted profit by more than $22-million.

On the other hand, when you show up in late September when tourism season is officially over, everything is already shut down. You become that tourist, the weirdo walking around Cavendish Beach in a raincoat during a storm. Worth checking out that beach, by the way. It has red sand.

Cavendish Beach

I imagine this place looks a lot different at the height of summer.

The whole province comes with the subtitle “The Gentle Island.” (Something I learned: Never, ever refer to Newfoundland as “the island.” Prince Edward Island people will hunt you down and CUT YOU.) They stick to this wholesome, family image with a vengeance. When you first cross the bridge, you’re met immediately with the famous Cow’s ice-cream stop, boutique shops and endless references to Anne of Green Gables. I hate that redheaded bitch, but more on that later.

After an impromptu lobster dinner at Cailin’s uncle’s house where he insisted on giving us Road Rockets, we pulled up at Hostel HI Backpacker’s Inn in Charlottetown late in the evening. We scored discounts for being bloggers and were treated like celebrities. We loved it.

HI Hostel Charlottetown

Welcome home.

We took our beers and settled into the hostel’s ridiculously awesome games room: an outdoor shed with pool table, vintage video games and a huge stack of records. I sat next to a friendly German who had spent over a year travelling Canada and had fallen in love with the place. She had been to every province and every TERRITORY…but not Newfoundland. I cried and handed her my business card.

HI Hostel Charlottetown

Our BFFs.

Levi, the lovable 20-something hostel owner, challenged me to a game of Pac-Man. If I won, I’d get a free room for the night. I didn’t. Two other young chaps joined in for a beer, along with two Australians, and before we knew it we had a fantastic little crew assembled.

For such an extremely tiny town, Charlottetown has a rocking nightlife. Cailin and I were separated from the group and sat at a table in a pub being accosted by old men until finally our friends showed up, including the 7-feet tall Aussie. The old men scattered like cockroaches.

Naturally, we went bar hopping. On a Wednesday night. In Charlottetown. We went to the sleezebag Velvet Underground, loaded up on platters of cocktails, and drank until the bar shutdown at 2 a.m. Then we went back to the hostel and carried on. Yes, we were THOSE backpackers.

I don’t know what happened to our friends. Cailin and I awoke the next morning, room spinning, and figured it was time to get the hell out of PEI. We just had one last, required, classic island stop: the Anne of Green Gables house.

I’m sure Anne was a darling, sweet girl for her time. But all I remember is reading one quote as a child (I can’t for the life of me find it anywhere) about how she hated her red hair, and I’ve carried an ongoing grudge since then.

Anne of Green Gables house

No, that isn’t me being a raincoat weirdo.

I wanted to check out the famous house where Lucy Maude Montgomery wrote her bestselling books anyway. The house is set up like it would be back be in Anne’s day, and then there’s the Haunted Woods and an agricultural barn museum thrown in the mix. The whole thing was both creepy and amusing: it’s like she actually exists, and people freaking worship her. At any rate, it worked. I bought the first book, tried on a wig and teared up a little during the video presentation.

And upon further investigation, I’ll forgive her anti-redheaded stance based on this quote alone:

 

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

– Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gable

If that doesn’t speak the traveller’s language, I don’t know what does.

  • February 09 2011

    Candice, I guess I have to visit Prince Edwards Island. You did quite a bit in a day and you got hammered, I love it. Sounds like a blast I wish I was with you on this trip with Cailin. So it seems like it lived up to your childhood fantasies?

    • February 14 2011

      I think so, yes! Although I guess my childhood fantasies wouldn’t include bar-hopping…

  • February 09 2011

    I loved visiting PEI, I wish I’d given myself more than one night. I went in May before tourist season, so none of the Anne of Green Gables stuff was open. Although I did totally creep around Summerside. The Confederation bridge was pretty cool, and the red soil totally freaked me out… well not enough to scream or anything.

    Love the quote. That’s pretty much why I travel.

    • February 14 2011

      I know, I loved how some of the shirts were dyed red with the mud. Too cool! Wish it were warm enough to actually enjoy that beach…

  • February 09 2011

    Woo woo! you just got me excited for my little PEI trip. I’m headin’ there next weekend after the free Sloan & Matt Mays show! Can’t wait to cross the confederation bridge. My grandma always talks about it like its the Pyramids of Giza. “It’s an engineering marvel Corbin, it’s magnificent!” – “Yes Grandma, indeed”…classic Bernice.

    • February 14 2011

      I swear to god, every time I read this comment, it makes me laugh a little more. Classic Bernice. I might start quoting that.

  • February 09 2011

    only just skimmed, as i’m very distracted this evening…
    but my skimming brought a few thoughts to mind…
    a) don’t even get me started on the lack of respect Newfoundland had for PEI. I say I’m from PEI and people still call me a mainlander. I want to cut them.
    b) YOU’RE WELCOME. ( ;) )
    c) I’m still intending to road trip there this summer. In June. Come with me!!!

  • February 09 2011

    ps. there are countless quotes from Anne regarding her hatred of her red hair. She considered it her “life long sorrow”. I could find you oodles. ;P

    (and funnily enough, my love of Anne caused my love of red hair…)

  • February 09 2011

    Candice you left some a parts!! While spending a night in Guysborough we triple fisted some beers from the bar and took them up to our rooms and after we swapped out the mini ice buckets for a gynormous champaign sized ice bucket for our beers we merrily drank and social media-alized and googled and possibly alcohol induced decided to go to PEI which was a 5 hour drive from where we were. On the way there you were also excited to visit New Brunswick but I thought you were crazy and told you all you needed to see of it was the 2 hours we were going to drive through it to get to the bridge haha
    and then remember that guy from BC…..? ;)
    hahaha I’ll stop talking now
    loves ya
    xo

    • February 14 2011

      Okay, some parts I HAD to leave out…geeeez! Hahahahaha.

  • February 10 2011
    Susan D

    Hmm. Maybe I should give PEI another chance.

    I went there as a kid and I didn’t think much of it. I’m not a Anne of Green Gables fan and I enjoy the scenery in Cape Breton more than PEI (I’m probably biased). The red dirt was pretty cool and I’d love to see the bridge (I went to PEI before the bridge had been built). Everyone who goes to PEI seems to really enjoy it so it was probably my awkward youth that put a cloud on the trip. There is a picture of my wearing a unicorn/lightening shirt and a fanny pack. Yeah…………..

    Maybe I’ll go for a Cape Breton-Moncton-Halifax-Charlotte Town vacation this summer. You’re more than welcome to come along. :D

    • February 14 2011

      Baaahahaha unicorn shirt. I think you just gotta appreciate PEI and CB for their different qualities…EXTREME different. I’m more of a mountainy, green-hilly girl myself. :) But I loved PEI, would love to go back and spend more time there…

  • February 10 2011

    It wasn’t until last year that a couple of Canucks on a tour with me informed me that PEI stood for Prince Edward Island and I was like “ohhh so THATS what PEI has meant all these years!”.
    It looks like a really quaint, down to earth kind of joint. I think when I eventually get my arse over to Canada I’ll have to stop by and kick around in the sand.

    • February 14 2011

      Hehehe yes, “Prince Edward Island” is a mouthful sometimes. Totally recommend a visit!

  • February 10 2011

    Prince Edward Island is adorable – Charlottetown, Summerside, all the little villages scattered around….

    • February 14 2011

      I know! “Adorable” is totally the word.

  • February 10 2011

    I adore Anne of Green Gables!!! This is a trip that’s been on my list from the time I was a little redheaded girl. Still haven’t made it, but have just lived vicariously through you. :-)

    Thanks!

  • February 10 2011

    okay. read it right properly tonight. and now i’m homesick for PEI :(
    When I go there this summer I’ll be taking Janessa to all the little villages and spots I love… whether she’s found them on her own already or not ;P
    But if you want to see creepy… check out the graveyard LM is buried in… I’ve seen tourists scale the fence to go leave flowers on her grave. The worldwide love for Anne (especially in Japan) is unreal.

    When I worked there for the summer it was the 100th anniversary of the first books’ publication. I was in Anne heaven :)

    Cavendish Beach is definitely better in the off season… too crowded otherwise :(
    And you may call ch’town extremely tiny, I call it just right ;D

    (though, really? velvet underground?! ;D you’ll have much better options in the summer ;) ).

    ps. you must have known i’d have way to much to say about this when you posted this ;P

    • February 14 2011

      YESSSSS I wanna go back. Woot.

  • February 10 2011

    As with all your posts about Canada, this makes me only want to go more. Need to get up there again soon!

    • February 14 2011

      Come to the east coast this time!

  • February 10 2011

    Interesting fact about Anne of Green Gables – the Japanese are in love with everything Anne. In the summer you will see bus-loads of Japanese tourists checking out the house. It turns out the book is on the school curriculum.

    I didn’t drink myself silly on my trip last summer – but I was a total hog when it came to seafood – lobster this and scallop burger that. Wonderful food.

    Wonder if Cailin’s uncle knows my friends Beryl & Bernie Doiron (who seem to know everyone) – they threw a redneck party – PEI style last summer and we were there as they made the preparations. The potato gun aimed at the beer cans, Deliverance played outside, even CBC was called in to do an interview…

    PEI is one lovely, friendly laid-back province. I’m glad you got a chance to return.

    • February 14 2011

      Hahaha Leigh, I was actually going to include that in my post but didn’t wanna make a generalization. I’ve heard all about THAT crazy phenomenon though!

      A redneck PEI party sounds amazing, btw.

  • February 11 2011

    I am sure I would just love PEI. I actually briefly looked into going there a few summers back when I was thinking about traveling to Nova Scotia. Both are as foreign to me as Japan too, I’m afraid. Some day I am definitely going to get there.

    • February 14 2011

      Okay, you cannot plan a trip to PEI and NS without heading up to NFLD either! Hehe.

  • February 11 2011

    Even though I was only a short car ride away I’ve only been to PEI once and it was during the Anne of Green Gables festival – although I didn’t know that and every hotel we went to was booked full!

    Fortunately one of the hotels had old motels they were only really using for staff to sleep over and offered it to us.

    East Coast hospitality win again.

    • February 14 2011

      Hahaha, that is an AMAZING story. Please write about it.

  • February 11 2011

    You certainly crammed a lot in for a 24 hour period, but then, I would expect no less of you and Cailin. :-) So you weren’t one of those redheaded kids who hated looking different from everyone else, huh? Maybe the kids in your school weren’t quite as vicious as the kids in mine. When I was a kid, being different in any way made you a target. I only learned to appreciate being a redhead once I grew up and didn’t need to worry about that shit any more.

    • February 14 2011

      Hehe, redheads are so common in Newfoundland, we barely stand out! I actually LOVE going to new places just to soak up the attention i receive for my hair colour. We redheads gotta stick together!

  • February 11 2011

    Reading your blog is dangerous. I am adding so many places that I want to visit!

    • February 14 2011

      That’s precisely what I’m going for. :)

  • February 12 2011

    What Anne of Green Gables isn’t real. Crap.

    • February 14 2011

      I know, I was heartbroken too. Sigh.

  • February 15 2011

    Now I totally want to go to Charolettetown. It think it would be a ton of fun to tag along with you and Cailin. I was a big Anne of Green Gables Fan and auditioned a few times for the Charolettetown Festival. I wanted to play Anne! Never got it and now I hold a grudge:)

  • February 15 2011

    Candice, darling…I grew up on PEI and also a distant relative of Lucy Maud ontgomery herself.Let me tell you…If you ever want to go back to the island, please, please let meknow, and I can tell you the must do’s and how you get there’s, to make your experience the best it could possibly be, OKAY??
    Firstly, It’s booming July to mid Aug. I usually go home around the middleof July and staying into the first week of Aug. That is when the sun is shining and the beaches are full of people. As much as tourists like Cavendish beach, the LOCALS completely avoid it…1) Because you have to pay to get in, it’s a National Park 2) You can’t bring your best furry friend and 3) You can’t drink your beer in peace. Our favorite beach was Thunder Cove, a gorgeous place just outside of Darley on the North Shore. This past winter though, we had several unexpected wind surges, before ice had packed the sea and our beloved beach and it’s amazing red cliffs collapsed onto one another. Huge disaster. The sea literally meets the bottom of the cliffs now. We are hoping some restoration wil come in the spring. The other end of the beach where there were onlydunes, got away unscathed.
    Anyway, the best bars to frequent are Hunter’s Ale House (usually rockin bands), Baba’s Lounge (tiny bar, awesome ppl, bands…ask for “Sweet O’s”!!) and take a trek down “Victoria row’, a cobblestone street that is lined with great restaurants, and nightlife entertainment. No douchebaggy, watered down, teenyboppers to be found.
    Anyway, I could go on, aboutthe best restaurants and all of that, but I will save all of that in case you decide to go again.
    Let meknow, and I’ll tell you how to have the best time ever!!!!

  • February 15 2011

    Beautiful!!

  • February 15 2011

    Hi Candice, I LOVED Anne of Green Gables as a kid. I’m usually chicken when it comes to traveling north because I’m a winter wus, but have heard great things about PEI. Thanks for the post!

    Charu

    • February 22 2011

      Thanks, Charu! Come during the summer, it’s much nicer. :)

  • February 15 2011

    That game room ROCKS! I want to go to that hostel and that island just for that game room. Though, I think I’d have to skip the whole raincoat thing. When the temperature drops below 60, I start to melt. or freeze. or something.

  • February 15 2011

    Hysterical! I love your writing Candice. It has a refreshing punch no other blog I’ve read has. As a born and bred Wisconsinite, I’ve never had the desire to go to Canada other than making the quick step over the border to exploit the early drinking age (which I did famously in Windsor when I was a freshman at Michigan State.) You, however, have put Canada on my travel wish list, and it’s even sharing 4th place with Morocco. (Well, that’s debatable.)

    Cheers!

  • February 18 2011

    Hahaha, thanks guys! Lyndsey, the next time I go back, I’ll do things right! Thanks for the tip. :)

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