Canada: Prince of tides

Canada: Prince of tides

Image credit: Tourism PEI – Stephen Harris

Nikki Bayley savours the maritime flavours of Prince Edward Island

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Visitors to Prince Edward Island (PEI) will never find themselves more than 15 minutes from the sea. It’s a land of gently rolling hills and clay soil ringed by soft red and white sand beaches, dotted with picturesque lighthouses.

Its waters teem with some of Canada’s finest seafood from lobster and mussels to tuna and oysters, and that vivid red soil grows some of the best potatoes in the world, with the lush grass feeding some of the most prized cattle in North America.

Before 1997, Canada’s smallest province was accessible only by ferry or aircraft, but these days visitors can reach it via the eight-mile Confederation Bridge that links the island to New Brunswick.

If you are putting together an itinerary visiting Canada’s east coast provinces, be prepared for clients to fall in love with PEI’s easy-to-drive coastal routes, family-friendly beaches, fascinating history and sleepy small-town charm – its hospitality is legendary.

Sell: Literary landscapes

PEI offers beautiful seaside scenery, fresh and local cuisine, and slow-paced, small-scale tourism. Yet certain aspects make the island unique.

Among lovers of children’s fiction, PEI is famous as the home of Anne of Green Gables – heroine of the series of books by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Anne-based tourism plays a major role in the island’s fortunes: there is a long-running Anne of Green Gables musical, a Montgomery festival, an Anne museum, plus Anne shops and plenty of chances to dress up in that famous bonnet with a red pig-tailed wig. The books are hugely popular in Asia and many people from the region make the pilgrimage to PEI.

British visitors may not be quite so committed, but a visit to the Anne museum can provide a nostalgic trip down memory lane for those who read the books as children.

Golfers will love the island’s 25 courses – all within 45 minutes of each other. Its world-class greens have made PEI an International Association of Golf Tour Operators award winner, and given it a reputation as Canada’s number one golf destination.

PEI’s 685 miles of coastline boast plenty of pristine beaches. Those on the south shore have the warmest water and signature red-tinged sand. To the north, facing the Gulf of St Lawrence, there is rolling surf and white sand. Beaches in the Provincial Parks have lifeguards on duty in summer, when the sun-warmed waters tempt families to swim or kayak.

The island’s gently rolling hills make it a paradise for cyclists and hikers. Following a stretch of the 170-mile Confederation Trail, which runs across long-abandoned railway lines, is a great way to explore PEI’s many small communities.

Food tourism is another key draw. The September Fall Flavours Festival features more than 75 events with celebrity chefs, picnics on the beach and plenty of craft beer and oysters. The PEI Flavours website is dedicated to culinary experiences on the island, while the Culinary Institute of Canada is based here and hosts half and full-day cooking bootcamps.

Culinary Bootcamp - Cred Tourism PEI - Stephen Desroches.
Image credit: Tourism PEI – Stephen Desroches

See: Eat & meet

Nothing will give clients an overview of the island like a scenic flight. They will get stunning bird’s-eye view photos of PEI’s beaches and Confederation Bridge on a pleasure flight in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Thirty-five minute flights start at £80.

Visitors can also take part in a night of traditional entertainment that locals have been enjoying since 1888 at the Red Shores race track. They can experience the thrills of watching harness racing with the additional excitement of becoming the “owner” of one of the beautiful racehorses for a night.The package, which includes a tour of the paddock and buffet dinner in the grandstand, is bookable through Experience PEI.

PEI’s seafood is legendary, and visitors can get involved in catching and preparing it – or they can just eat. Lobster appears on the menu year-round, but the two main seasons, when catches on the wharves peak, run from May till the end of June and August to October. Hearty lobster feasts are served at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers from early June to mid-October.

This traditional family business serves all-you-can-eat buckets of ocean-fresh mussels, soups, salads and desserts, alongside salt-water-boiled lobster served in the shell with butter.

Those who want to get truly hands-on with seafood can take to the waves with oyster fishermen to learn to harvest the briny bivalves with tongs, and how to “shuck” like a pro. Prince Edward Island Culinary Adventures can organise a range of trips.

More adventurous clients will enjoy hardcore experiences such as the half-day Giant Bar Clam Dig, where they get to don snorkels and wetsuits to harvest clams that will be cooked up on the beach of a deserted island.

History buffs who visit during July and August can get to the heart of PEI’s role in the creation of modern Canada on a walking tour of Charlottetown with the Confederation Players. They will learn about the Fathers of the Confederation and how New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec met in Charlottetown in 1864 to form a new nation.

Stay: Boutique beauties

Dalvay By The Sea

The capital Charlottetown offers a range of accommodation, including the Hillhurst Inn, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. This lavish Victorian mansion has nine spacious suites with period furniture, with rates starting at £75 plus tax. The impressive breakfast menu includes such delights as French toast with caramelised apples, and quiche with roasted potatoes.

On the waterfront, the newly refurbished four-diamond-rated Delta Prince Edward has a gym, spa and pool. The modern and spacious rooms start at £92 plus tax.

A 30-minute drive from Charlottetown, Dalvay by the Sea (pictured above) was built in 1896 and stood duty as the White Sands Hotel in the Anne of Green Gables films. It’s a romantic spot, with no TV, phones or radios to disturb the peace – just the place for a digital detox. The antique-furnished rooms start at £109 plus tax.

Truly unique accommodation is available at the West Point Lighthouse – PEI’s tallest – overlooking the Northumberland Strait. Rooms start at £93 plus tax. Add-on packages include golf breaks, a lobster supper on the beach and a “spuds, fudge and tales” cooking experience.

Foodie clients will love the Inn at Bay Fortune on the east coast of the island, about an hour’s drive from Charlottetown. This property boasts the only restaurant on PEI that features regularly in listings of Canada’s top 50 for service and food. Home of the TV cookery show The Inn Chef, the Inn focuses on farm-to-table cooking using in-season local produce. Rooms start at £74 plus tax.

Find out more:

Sample Product

Trafalgar’s eight-day Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island tour starts at £2,455 including flights, seven nights’ bed and breakfast, door-to-door airport transfers and the services of a tour director. On PEI, the available activities include a tour of the island, a visit to Anne of Green Gables’ house and a Be My Guest dinner of local cuisine.

Prestige Holidays offers a five-day escorted coach tour of Prince Edward Island from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The price starts at £868, including four nights’ bed and breakfast and sightseeing.

Cox & Kings 14-day, self-drive Atlantic Canada Explorer starts at £1,395, including car hire but not flights. The itinerary takes in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEl, with stays in boutique accommodation.


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