Prince Edward Island Tourism
The World’s Best Mussels, a Unique History and the Flavor of Scotland
“Quick, what comes to your mind when you think of our visit to Prince Edward Island?” My wife, Kathleen closes her eyes for a moment. “I think of the name the first nation people gave it, the land cradled on the waves.”
What a perfect name. Then I see the red soil that reminds me of Sedona, Arizona, the wild flowers in such profusion. I hear the bagpipes and I remember thinking that we had stumbled upon a bit of Scotland in North America. It’s so romantic.”
“What about you,” my sweetie asks. “Actually, I think of that brew pub we went to, the Gahan House, where we scarfed down heaping plates of those fresh Island Blue mussels. Remember them sort of swimming in that incredible buttery sauce. Man . I never tasted mussels that good.” Kathleen rolls her eyes a little……. “GUYS!” is all she says.
A couple of Californians, we have a nodding acquaintance with parts of Western Canada but we are neophytes when we venture into Canada’s Maritime Provinces. We intended to spend a week in Nova Scotia and then return to Maine but, on a whim, decide to take the ferry over to Prince Edward Island.
We could have taken the newly built and quite spectacular Confederation Bridge from the mainland but we were in no hurry. Besides, it’s a pleasant little forty minute ride coming to P.E.I. on the water.
One of the first things we learn about the island is that history buffs consider it to be the birthplace of Canada. Back in 1864, about the time the United States was on the verge of splitting into two countries, representatives from the various territories came together at Charlottetown and made the decision to forge the new nation of Canada.
It wasn’t until some years later that the deal was ratified but it all started here in this very small and unlikely island where Kath and I were just sort of hanging out and taking in the sights. We were impressed to be standing on such hallowed ground.
Since we’re in a history mode, we drop by a place called “Founders Hall “down on the Charlottetown waterfront. Despite its sort of musty name, Founders Hall is not your Dad’s museum. It’s slick and modern, full of interactive stuff that makes history come alive.
We learn that the First Nations people were enjoying those marvelous lobsters and mussels for thousands of years before the Europeans came. Jacques Cartier was apparently the first European to discover this little gem of an island.(in 1534) He named it Ills St. Jean.
When the Brits took it over, they called it St. John’s Island then later renamed it Prince Edward Island in honor of the fourth son of King George 111. Both the French and English should have left well enough alone and let it retain its original and much more picturesque name.
One thing we did know about Prince Edward Island is that it is Anne of Green Gables country. So, with our nine year old grand daughter in mind, we felt we had to check out the childhood home of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s girlhood home in Cavendish and bring a souvenir back to Rachel.
The Anne of Green gables homestead, looking as sweetly bucolic as it was to Lucy Maude, attracts over 350,000 visitors annually. While we were there, the gift shop was doing a booming business in Anne of Green Gables’ souvenirs and books translated into just about every European language.
The biggest seller though is the Japanese language version. Anne of Green Gables is apparently very popular in Japanese schools where it is used in teaching English. I guess the story of a lonely little orphan girl living with her grandparents and her dreams on a remote island has a universal appeal.
It didn’t take us long to discover that P.E.I. has a lot to offer visitors besides history and a children’s classic. This small beauty of an island (It’s only 140 miles long and 40 miles wide at its widest point) offers plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking around the National Park, kayaking to magical little islands and….. some of the greatest golfing in the world.
“Score,” Canada’s premier golfing magazine, calls P.E.I., with its thirty golf courses, the best golfing destination in the country. My wife and I kicked one another for not knowing beforehand that P.E.I. is a golfer’s heaven.
Driving past the picturesque Glasgow Hills Course, one of P.E.I.’s newest and best, and knowing we hadn’t left ourselves time to so much as tee up a drive, we wept, as only frustrated golfers can weep, and vowed to return some day with clubs in hand.
If you decide to spend some time on the “land cradled by the waves,” be smarter than we were. First, give the Tourist Board a call at 1-888-P.E.I.-PLAY have them send you their Visitors Guide and second, plan on staying more than a couple of days. It’s a jewel of an island.