Prince Edward Island in Canada or “PEI” is called “The Gentle Island” for good reason. Its sandy beaches, pastoral landscapes featuring red earth embraced by emerald-green fields and woods lend it a peaceful, laid-back ambiance that’s a dramatic contrast to other parts of the rugged Atlantic coast like Newfoundland. Here are three reasons why you should visit Prince Edward Island.
1-Anne of Green Gables
No wonder this landscape provided inspiration for author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic, international bestselling children’s book, Anne of Green Gables. The red-headed imp of a girl was my and countless others’ heroine while growing up, and so it’s no surprise that my world-class destinations here include the Confederation Centre of the Arts, as well as Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada, which both have Anne connections.
Historically speaking, the smallest province in Canada was the birthplace of Canada.
The Charlottetown Conference was held in the capital city, Charlottetown, on September 1 to 8, 1864. Elected officials met to discuss the possibility of a Maritime Union but they didn’t stop there. When Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) members asked to join in, together they dreamed a grand notion: a confederation of the provinces which would become Canada. Three years later, the vision of Confederation was realized, and Canada was born.
Let’s take a glimpse into this gentle isle.
2-Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown
Imagine a colourful array of buskers, actors and musicians thronging an outdoor amphitheatre in the heart historic Charlottetown. Now imagine a cultural centre whose raison d’être is to celebrate Canada’s birthplace and you have the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Here find a theatre, art gallery, and an ongoing art education program through hands-on classes for children and adults.
The building itself has been recognized for being a superior example of brutalist architecture, which contrasts intriguingly to Charlottetown’s heritage buildings. In 2015, Architecture Canada and Heritage Canada National Trust awarded the Centre the Prix du XXe Siècle Award.
This prize recognized the fact that the Centre takes in a full block in the heart of the city, meaning that it’s both accessible and representative of being a symbol of the significance of PEI’s artistic community. And what a symbol it is. For instance, Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ has been running for 51 consecutive seasons, winning it Guinness World Record designation. In fact, more than 70 original musicals have been developed at this Centre since its opening in 1964.
So come. Celebrate the arts. Take in a musical or play at one of the Centre’s three theatres, and view the latest exhibits in the art gallery.
3-Prince Edward Island National Park
Because it’s one of the most-visited Canadian national parks, this stunning environment of dunes, beachfront, lagoons and woodlands requires constant ecological monitoring to ensure its delicate biodiversity remains protected from enthusiastic visitors.
Along the shore, sage-coloured marram grasses growing on dunes bend and nod, waving in the face of gusty offshore breezes.
“White horse” waves roll in, making their unforgettable background soundscape as holidaymakers stroll seemingly endless beaches. Children build sandcastles adorned with seashells and happily bury their parents up to their necks in sand – that enchanting, hilarity-filled pastime of youth.
Meanwhile, the park is noted also for its endangered species. Birdwatchers flock here to see an increasingly rare shorebird, the piping plover. They construct their nests on the beaches and in spring you may discover Parks Canada naturalists have cordoned off the nesting areas. No worries! Bring binoculars and just like Eric and I, you’ll possibly be delighted by the glimpse of a tiny fluff ball on skinny legs (a plover chick) dashing about on the sand. Use field glasses, too, while walking on boardwalks through wetlands to get a closer look at stately great blue herons as they stand patiently waiting, hunting fish.
Balancing the natural elements of this park is the creative wonder of Green Gables, the Cavendish area’s farmhouse home of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heroine, Anne of Green Gables.
Although not the author’s real home, the house was owned by her father’s cousin. Montgomery visited it often and wrote, “Cavendish is to a large extent Avonlea. Green Gables was drawn from David Macneill’s house, though not so much the house itself as the situation and scenery, and the truth of my description of it is attested by the fact that everyone has recognized it.” Parks Canada protects it as an important cultural symbol of PEI.
Katharine Fletcher is a book author and freelance author who lives in Quebec but has a soft spot for Atlantic Canada.