By Stefania Moffatt, Contributing Blogger
A visit to a gentle and beautiful spot such as Prince Edward Island (PEI) must be enjoyed slowly. Time needs to be set aside to admire each field and each pebble along the beach. I would be pressed to find a more beautiful place in Canada, perhaps the world.
We mulled over our trip to PEI for a couple of years. We wanted our girls to be the right age to appreciate “all things Anne” and more importantly, understand and appreciate the beauty of the island. To begin planning for such a trip a decision needs to be made if you can fly. Deciding whether to drive approximately 15 hours with children in the car is like deciding whether to take the drugs during labour. Take the drugs. Fly if you can.
I like to travel and so do the children. Deciding how much time to spend in one place is always a dilemma. I find seven days is never enough, but two weeks may be too much. Ten days is optimal. That gives you enough time to unwind, enjoy the setting, but not get bored or too tired of carting the kids everywhere you go.
When we arrived at the Charlottetown airport my oldest daughter proclaimed, “This is the best vacation EVER!” I should explain that the airport is very small, but the replica of a cow in the waiting room clearly made an impression on the kid.
About six months before our trip, which was at the end of June, we rented a cottage. Figure out what your needs are prior to booking. A separate bedroom for the kids is always nice, so is a good-size kitchen (since you’ll be making most of your meals) and a comfortable family room with a television is a plus. While nothing is ever too far away from any place on the island, selecting accommodations that are central is a good idea. Our cottage was about 20 minutes from Summerside. We got around easily using a rented car.
So we started off our vacation having a walk around Charlottetown while sampling ice cream from Cows Creamery. I’m not a huge fan of ice cream, but Cows ice cream is described as super premium ice cream because of the finest ingredients and minimum air content. Simply put, you’ll feel satisfied but not gross after eating Cows ice cream.
We didn’t arrive in PEI with a set itinerary (a first for us). We planned our days based on the weather and our general energy level. Our girls, ages five and seven, are big Anne of Green Gables fans. A good tip is to expose your children to Anne before arriving to the island. When my girls saw Anne at Avonlea Village it was like seeing an old friend.
I think that Avonlea Village for an Anne aficionado is a perfect setting to spend the day. Arrive early so you’re there for when Matthew picks up Anne at the train station and then you follow Anne through her crazy antics. All admissions include the opportunity to return a second time to experience the program again (Tip: Break up your visit to the village into two half-days). Remember to pack a picnic since the restaurant on site doesn’t accommodate for various dietary preferences.
If you still need more Anne there’s also the Green Gables Heritage Place in PEI National Park where you can explore the house or even walk the Haunted Wood. And of course, visit Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Homestead.
In the span of less than two weeks it’s impossible to see and appreciate all the various beaches surrounding the gentle island. We managed to check out Cabot Provincial Park, Cavendish Beach, Basin Head Provincial Park and Belmont Beach. When selecting the beaches to visit we chose based on the beauty of the beach but access to washrooms and a shower (to get the sand off our feet) were deciding factors. Many beaches have snack bars, but the food selection is limited to fried food and some sandwiches. Always best to pack a picnic with plenty of water.
My favourite beach was Basin Head Provincial Park (located east of the town of Souris). I can honestly say that it is the prettiest beach I have ever seen. This is the place to hear beautiful, quartz sand squeak beneath your feet. But any beach in PEI will provide refreshment for the soul; they’re all lovely, peaceful and clean.
We did spend a considerable amount of time driving across the province and admiring the scenery. This was easy to do since the province offers so much “scope for the imagination” to quote Anne and my seven year old. A very pretty city to visit is Summerside with its Baywalk Waterfront Trail System and Spinnaker’s Landing with its cute shops and waterfront.
While the weather during our vacation was amazing there were a couple of rain days. We used those days to see a movie, drive to Confederation Bridge, enjoy a tour of Cows, walk the shores of Belmont Beach, check out Fort Amherst and shop. Otherwise, much of our time was spent outdoors.
There truly is so much to see in PEI. It’s deserving of the name: The Gentle Island. You can literally arrive with no plan and have an amazing vacation.