When it came time to start planning summer vacation 2013, we didn’t really know where to start. We knew we wanted to take advantage of me being on the east coast, as this was an area we’d never gotten to explore. But since we weren’t very familiar with the area, we didn’t really have a list of places we wanted to go. Somehow, we ended up honing in on the Canadian maritime provinces. And thus, our trip was born.
First up: Prince Edward Island (PEI). With traffic and customs, it’s supposed to be about a 12.5-hour drive to PEI National Park, located on the northern coast of the island. When sheets of rain are falling from the sky, however, it becomes a 15-hour drive. And, with the change into the Atlantic Time zone, it may be dark when you arrive.
Which is precisely what happened to us.
We headed north out of Connecticut, stopping at rest areas in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine so my sister could put her feet on the ground in these states for the first time. We also stopped at the New Brunswick Welcome Center just across the border from Houlton, Maine, where we got to place the first (and only) map pin in Montana! From there, we followed the Trans-Canada highway through New Brunswick and across the 7.8 mile (12.6 km) Confederation Bridge that connects PEI to the mainland. From the bridge, there are supposed to be wonderful views of the Northumberland Strait. Thanks to the rain, we saw absolutely nothing.
By the time we reached the island, it was dark and sheets of rain were still falling. This was unfortunately also when we realized that our directions took us only part way to PEI National Park. So while I was busy trying to follow the tail lights in front of us in hopes of staying on the road, my mom and sister began reading every single sign. Thankfully, they spotted one for PEI National Park and we were able to make it to the campground.
PEI National Park stretches along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is divided into three sections. We camped at Stanhope Campground, located in the central Brackley-Dalvay section. By morning, the rain had stopped and the sky was beginning to clear, revealing our first views of PEI.
Just across the road from our campground was Stanhope Beach, where water from the Gulf of St. Lawrence laps at red sand. This was the first time we’d ever seen a red sand beach, and we took off our shoes and waded into the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the first time as well.
Next, we drove to the eastern Greenwich section of the park, home to Greenwich Beach and Greenwich Dunes. The beach was just a short walk away while the dunes trail is 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip and includes a walk across Bowley Pond on a floating boardwalk, which was a pretty cool experience.
From here, we headed southeast, out of the park and to the small town of Souris (pronounced sor-EE – like a Canadian apology with the emphasis on the second syllable), where we met up with a friend who was kind enough to show us around the eastern tip of the island. She took us to Red Point Provincial Park and East Point, where the Northumberland, St. Lawrence, and Atlantic tides meet. I’d never considered that tides met, so that was new. On a calm day apparently there are actual lines of the tides coming together, but the day we were there was nice and windy.
After a wonderful tour of the area, we said goodbye to our friend and set off to spend the rest of the day exploring the remaining segment of PEI National Park – Cavendish. When we first considered visiting PEI, my mom’s main request was to visit Green Gables. Green Gables is an old farm located in Cavendish – but it’s most famous for having inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. It’s not the house from the movie, but it is the one that served as the original inspiration for the books. Today it’s protected by the National Park and open to tours, though we arrived too late in the day to go inside.
It was getting late in the day now so we headed back to the Brackley-Dalvay section, stopping at viewpoints on the way back to our campsite.
As usual, one more day on the island would have been ideal. For only being there for a day, though, I’m pretty impressed with how much we managed to see. The next morning, we caught our final glimpses of the island as we drove south to Wood Island to catch the Northumberland Ferry to Nova Scotia.
Goodbye for now, PEI!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: PEI National Park is located in 3 disconnected sections along the northern coast of the island. The Island itself is accessible by ferry from Nova Scotia or by the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick.
- Fees and passes: $7.80/person/day or $19.60/car; Parks Canada Pass accepted
- Camping: Stanhope Campground (100 sites, $25.50 CAD per night) and Cavendish Campground (200 sites, $25.50 CAD per night). Reservations necessary.
- Hiking: there are multiple trails of various lengths, leading to forests, dunes, beaches, and an archaeological site
- Other: Green Gables (the house/farm that inspired the series of novels) is located in the Cavendish section of the park.