We moved on to our next Canadian province by boat. Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the smallest province in Canada, located off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is connected to the mainland by ferry from Nova Scotia and a 13km bridge from New Brunswick. We chose to take the ferry onto the island, leaving Nova Scotia from a tiny harbour called Caribou.
The weather gods provided a nice sunny day for us to cross, so we could see the red cliffs of PEI well before the boat got close to shore. PEI is only about the size of Norfolk in England, so you can drive across the island in a matter of hours; the countryside is also the rolling gentle kind found in the UK. It was a jolly start.
We chose to stay in the capital city Charlottetown, which turned out to be a very pleasant town with a working harbour, nice cafes and pubs. It’s very small, but nice to stroll around, and of course a good base to explore the rest of the island.
PEI is famous for a few things – naturally there are lighthouses and lobster shacks everywhere you look. There are reminders everywhere that PEI is the birthplace of the confederation of Canada (even though PEI didn’t actually commit to Canada until 4 years after the creation of the new country) But most people outside Canada don’t know that it’s also famed for it’s potatoes. You can even visit The Potato Museum on PEI. Yes really.
But we can’t ignore the most famous person to come out of this tiny province, although she is fictional. Her name is Anne, and she has red hair.
Anne of Green Gables is one of the most popular books in the world and when you come to PEI she’s hard to miss. The most famous site to visit is the Green Gables house, which inspired author Lucy Maud Montgomery to imagine a headstrong red haired orphan arriving in the pastoral countryside. The house itself is quite an icon – but what is more enjoyable is exploring the trails in the woods around Green Gables. The house is surrounded by forests and streams, all of which the author walked when she was a child. It’s one of the greenest places I have been, with ferns covering the forest floor and maple and birch trees providing a canopy overhead.
Strangely, Anne of Green Gables is a massive book in Japan. It’s even on the school curriculum. I had been forewarned that the Green Gables site was full of Japanese tourist groups and sure enough, it was true. In fact, the day we went, most of the visitors were Japanese. It’s quite the pilgrimage to PEI from Asia.
Unfortunately for us, the weather in PEI turned pretty awful the moment we checked into our hotel. From what I could see, the beaches are beautiful, but with wind and rain coming at you sideways, we couldn’t really spend that much time outside. It was bad luck really, the locals kept telling us how unseasonably cold it was for mid June.
We left the water logged island via the Confederation Bridge, a relatively new and vital link between PEI and the mainland. Construction was only completed in 1997, and it dramatically improved access to the island as well as exports off the island. It took us about 10 minutes to make the crossing in the car, which was a stark contrast to the hour boat ride onto the island.
The next province, New Brunswick, waited for us at the end of the bridge, and it was onwards to Moncton.