Red sand beaches. Seafood galore. Anne of Green Gables! Prince Edward Island has been on my Canada bucket list for a long time, along with the rest of Canada’s East Coast. While it might be the smallest province in Canada, there are amazing things to do in Prince Edward Island and beauty that surpasses anything I could have imagined.
Growing up in central Canada, I knew many families that took summer vacations in the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island. It’s got a reputation as a family destination, but I’m here to tell you that Prince Edward Island isn’t only for family travel. Grab a friend or significant other and your wallet (for lobster) and pack your bags. These are the best things to do in Prince Edward Island, set up as a few different daily itinerary options. Put these days in any order that you like, and enjoy your time on Prince Edward Island!
What to Expect in Prince Edward Island
People are incredibly friendly. The East Coast is the best of Canada when it comes to hospitality. I don’t think you will find a kinder group of people in Canada than the people you will meet on Prince Edward Island! One evening, a couple of women out with a new puppy even made a special detour to say hello to my boyfriend, who was down the path taking photos but really wanted to meet their dog. We found everyone very gracious, and relaxed compared to city living.
Early to bed, early to rise. Compared to a big city (I’m from Ottawa, Canada) I found that things in Prince Edward Island happened early. Restaurants and shops in the small towns will often close by 5PM or 6PM. Breakfast is served beginning at 8AM in most bed & breakfasts and will be finished by 9 or 9:30. Even in Charlottetown, we were amazed at how the energetic evening waterfront bars cleared out by 10PM. If a venue or restaurant is important to you, make sure that you check the operating hours so that you don’t miss it.
It’s best to rent a car. Prince Edward Island is best visited with a vehicle. There are a lot of beautiful areas but all relatively small, so you can explore in a couple of hours and then move on to another place. Driving in Prince Edward Island is a little different than elsewhere. While in my home city it’s considered standard to go a little over the posted speed limit, in Prince Edward Island I found that most drivers actually did stay below the posted speed limit. It’s a transition, but you get used to it.
Getting to Prince Edward Island
Flying to the East Coast. Prince Edward Island is a great addition to a larger East Coast of Canada trip. Start with a brief visit to New Brunswick to see the Hopewell Rocks, drive across Confederation Bridge to enjoy 3-4 days in Prince Edward Island, and finish in Nova Scotia with a weekend in Halifax. My trip consisted of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, so I partnered with Porter Airlines for the journey. I flew in to Moncton, rented a car there, and was able to return the car to Moncton (no other-city drop-off fees) before taking the train to Halifax.
Porter offers non-stop flights between many Canadian and U.S.A. cities to East Coast destinations including Saint John and Moncton in New Brunswick, and Halifax in Nova Scotia. Check out where they fly. Flying with Porter was a great experience. Personal items (like a backpack or a large purse) are permitted at no extra cost, and free snacks and drinks are provided on board. Drinks includes wine and beer! I have to say, it’s a very glamorous experience to enjoy a glass of white wine in-flight. Flights from Ottawa (prices may vary by departure city) to East Coast destinations on Porter Airlines cost about $400 round trip in the summer. I discovered that you can also use Aventura Points towards Porter Airline flights if you book through CIBC Rewards, to cover part or all of your flight.
If you wish to visit only Prince Edward Island, you can fly in and out of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Driving to Prince Edward Island: If you are arriving and/or leaving Prince Edward Island by car, you will have the opportunity to drive across the Confederation Bridge. One thing that is important to know is that while there is no tariff to cross Confederation Bridge going to Prince Edward Island, there is a $47 tariff to leave Prince Edward Island by car.
Disclosure: I received a media rate from Porter Airlines. I enjoyed the flight and will travel with Porter Airlines again!
Where to Stay in Prince Edward
There are a lot of really sweet bed & breakfast hotels in Prince Edward Island. The following are hotel recommendations that fit really well with the activities and daily itinerary suggestions in this post. We absolutely loved these hotels. The ones in Victoria by the Sea and St Peter’s Bay had so much charm and character, and I can’t recommend them enough. That said, I have to be completely honest and say that we found it overwhelming to change hotels every night (we actually stayed at two hotels in Charlottetown, I’ve included the one we preferred). My recommendation is to primarily base your trip out of Charlottetown + one overnight in either Victoria by the Sea or St Peter’s Bay so that you can get an early start to the next day, and enjoy the small town experience.
The Orient Hotel Bed & Breakfast – Victoria by the Sea. This charming, historic bed & breakfast is located in Prince Edward Island’s storybook town of Victoria by the Sea. There are one bedroom or two bedroom suites available, all with their own amenities and hot breakfast is served in the morning.
The Inn at St Peter’s Bay – St Peter’s Bay. This lovely inn is right on the waterfront and has beautiful gardens on the property. The inn consists of adjacent cottages, so you will have your own front door with a spacious interior and bathroom. Enjoy your meals up at the main building. Even if you don’t stay here, I definitely recommend stopping in for lunch or dinner because the food is fantastic.
The Hotel on Pownal – Charlottetown. This hotel is an awesome choice for Charlottetown. The rooms are beautiful, continental breakfast is included, and the location is great. It’s a short walk to everything that you will want to see during your stay in Charlottetown, and merely blocks from the best restaurants.
Things to do in Prince Edward Island
The Red Sands Shore
Whether or not you have the opportunity to drive across the Confederation Bridge, you definitely want to see it. Stopping by the Confederation Bridge is one of the essential things to do in Prince Edward Island, because this bridge is so famous. It’s an impressive 13-kilometers long, crossing the water from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. Visit Chelton Beach Provincial Park, Seacow Head Lighthouse, or St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in North Carleton for great views of the bridge and a stunning photo op.
Victoria By The Sea
My boyfriend Nick and I absolutely loved Victoria by the Sea. If ever there were a small town straight out a post card, this is it. It’s very small (about 4 lots) and picturesque. Visit By-The-Sea-Kayaking & Adventures for kayak, paddle board, and bike rentals, or even a clam digging experience. Stop in to the Victoria Seaport Lighthouse Museum, a small museum housed in an operating lighthouse that traces Victoria’s history. When you’re ready to eat there are three restaurants in town. Beachcombers and Lobster Barn are on the wharf, and Landmark Oyster House is in the middle of town. End your visit at Island Chocolates, a café and chocolate shop where the chocolate is hand-made on site. Have the cheese cake if they’re serving it!
Skmaqn- Port-la-Joye — Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada
Continue along the Red Sands Shore to Skmaqn – Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst, a National Historic Site in Rocky Point. This site was one of the first military fortification on Prince Edward Island under the control of France and then Britain, and one of the first Acadian settlements. You’ll see that it’s very well suited as a point of entry for settlers to the island. From here, you can see the Charlottetown Harbour and you will see that there was no way to reach the harbour without passing Skmaqn – Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst. The ruins of the fort are still visible, and interpretive panels tell of the fort’s history. It’s been there for quite some time – it was originally established in 1720, long before Canada was a country. There is no entry fee.
Overnight option: Stay in Victoria by the Sea and wake up early to go kayaking! The Orient Hotel Bed & Breakfast
Points East Coastal Route
Greenwich National Park
The place that most surprised and amazed us, and that absolutely must be on your list of things to do in Prince Edward Island is Greenwich National Park. This place is a Canadian treasure. What makes Greenwhich National Park so special is the transition between different landscapes. One moment you’re walking through a forest, then next over a marsh-filled pond on an extensive floating boardwalk. There are spectacular, parabolic sand dunes rising up around the water, and when you cross the dunes you arrive at a stunning white sand beach. There’s a photo of the board walk below. Daily admission is $7.80/ adult. We only spent about 2 hours here, doing the hike out to the pond and dunes. Had we realized how amazing the white sand beaches were, we definitely would have brought our swimming gear and stayed longer! Have lunch at the The Inn at St Peter’s Bay, it’s right down the road from the park entrance.
Where there was once an extensive railway system in Prince Edward Island, there is now an extensive system of paths called the Confederation Trail. It spans all over the island, and you can walk or cycle on the trail. The most beautiful stretch of the Confederation Trail is from St Peter’s Bay to Morrell, not far from Greenwhich National Park. There are bike rentals available for $25/ hour or $35 / 6 hours in St Peter’s Bay. We met some people who cycled Confederation Trail and then rode to Greenwhich National Park (about 30 minutes) as you can bike through most of Greenwhich National Park, just not the board walk. Confederation trail is lovely, but if I had to choose then I would suggest spending more time at Greenwhich National Park because it’s more unique to Prince Edward Island. That said, if you’ve always wanted to cycle Confederation Trail – this is the best place to do it!
Georgetown & Montague
Get started on a Points East Coastal drive with a visit to Georgetown, Prince Edward Island. We enjoyed having drinks at the Wheelhouse in Georgetown, there’s a great patio overlooking the water. When you’re ready for dessert, walk over to the Maroon Pig. This place is really fun – there is an art studio and a bakery located behind a house. It’s a unique set up that you need to see for yourself. Shoreline Design is right across the street and a great place to stop if you want an authentic island souvenir as they sell jewelry that is all made on-site.Stop for yet another refreshing drink at the Bogside Brewery in Montague and try a local craft beer made with island-sourced ingredients. Brewing is all done on site.
Lighthouses of the Points East Coastal Route
Choose a lighthouse to visit on the Points East Coastal Route before making your way to Charlottetown for the night. Panmure Island Lighthouse is Prince Edward Island’s oldest wooden lighthouse and now a heritage site. It’s only a 30 minute drive from Montague.On the South Eastern Shore, visit Cape Bear Lighthouse and Marconi Museum and the Wood Island Lighthouse with a stop at Fancy’s Coffee Country & Quality Goods in Murray River in between. Cape Bear Lighthouse is where Thomas Bartlett heard the first distress signal from the Titanic.Dreaming of a sunset dinner by a lighthouse? Point Prim Lighthouse and the Point Prim Chowder House are you for. It was surprisingly busy here, with a great atmosphere and located along a red sand beach with a view of Point Prim Lighthouse.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can drive this entire route. We only visited Panmure Island Lighthouse and Point Prim Lighthouse because it was getting later in the day. We found this to be enough after having spend the morning at Greenwhich National Park, and some things close early so don’t except to do it all.
Overnight Option: Stay at The Inn at St Peter’s Bay and be the first to arrive at Greenwhich National Park.
We wished that we had spent a bit more time in Charlottetown, so I have included Charlottetown as it’s own day. Visit historic sites in the morning, and go on a tour or shop in the afternoon. If you’re only visiting for 3 days, you can combine Charlottetown and the Green Gables shore by exploring Charlottetown in the morning and having lunch, then heading to Green Gables. This is what we actually did – it was great, we didn’t feel rushed but simply could have stayed at some of these places even longer!
Province House National Historic Site
Province House is currently under renovation, but you can visit an exact replica in the Confederation Centre of the Arts. There is also a video playing there that does a great job explaining the history and events at Province House, that ultimately led to the formation of Canada. There is no charge to visit. We spent about 30 minutes here and really enjoyed it!
Beaconsfield Historic House
Go on a guided tour of the Beaconsfield Historic House, which once belong to a wealthy Charlottetown resident. We loved this tour – it was only 40 minutes but it was really interesting and gave good insights in to what life was like on Prince Edward Island in the 1800’s. There is a $5 entry fee.
Enjoy some time exploring downtown Charlottetown. Victoria Row is a pedestrian street with great restaurants and often outdoor music playing. Victoria Park and the boardwalk are beautiful places to be at sunset. We enjoyed having dinner down on the wharf by the harbour, it is a very lively place in the early evening. Shop local on Water Street, Victoria Row, or Peake’s Quay, and visit the market in Founders Hall on the waterfront for more great food. Make sure you try Cow’s Ice Cream – there are a couple locations including across from Confederation Centre of the Arts and down on the Wharf. They’ve been rated the best ice cream in the world and I have to agree! Go for some of the unique, Canadian flavours.
We didn’t do any of the following ourselves, but there are also boat tours and bus tours in Charlottetown. Brewery tours are also available at PEI Brewing Co or Upstreet Brewery.
Overnight Option: I do recommend primarily basing your visiting in Charlottetown. We enjoyed our stay at The Hotel on Pownal.
The Green Gables Shore
Green Gables Heritage Place
Visiting Green Gables, the house that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, is a classic amongst things to do in Prince Edward Island. Anne was a young orphan girl who was mistakenly sent to live with an older brother and sister on Prince Edward Island, and wound up growing up on the island. If you’re not already familiar with Anne, then I suggest watching the 1985 made-for-TV movie starring Meghan Follows. It’s slow to start but it’s very funny, and you will come to understand why Anne is so well loved. The house at Green Gables is staged to represent some of the funniest moments of Anne’s story. Walk through the Haunted Woods, and down Lover’s Lane, other special places that Anne of Green Gables fans will recognize. Admission is $ 7.80 / adult. Tip: if it’s insanely busy when you arrive, just wait it out. Crowds go in waves due to tour buses.
Prince Edward Island National Park
Go right coming out of the Green Gables parking lot then left at the first intersection you come to and make your way in to Prince Edward Island National Park (also $7.80 / adult). The Gulf Shore Parkway is inside this section of Prince Edward Island National Park, and stretches from Oceanview Look-off in Cavendish to North Rustico Beach with several beautiful, scenic spots along the way. Rent bikes to explore the park if you want, and stop at each of the look out points as you go. Prince Edward Island National Park is very different than Greenwhich National Park – there is red sand here instead of white.
Photographers, if you are looking for a beautiful photo opportunity then detour over to French River. It’s only a short drive from Green Gables and the colourful, waterfront buildings reflected in the river make for great photos.
I suggest ending your time in Prince Edward Island National Park swimming at North Rustico Beach because from here you’re walking distance to a couple of great places to eat. The Blue Mussel Café is our favourite place that we ate in Prince Edward Island. There was a long wait for a seat come dinner time, so don’t wait until you’re hungry! If you go, get the Chowder Poutine. On The Dock is another great option located right next door. These places are both walking distance from the beach, so we actually left our car at the beach and walked, and then drove out of Prince Edward Island National Park later. The other place in the area that came highly recommend is Lobster Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Supper, also in North Rustico. Enjoy a sunset dinner by the water, the perfect way to end your visit to Prince Edward Island.
Thank you to Prince Edward Island Tourism for providing accommodations and activities during my visit! All opinions are my own.