The 2,200-square-mile crescent of Prince Edward Island (PEI) lies off the coast of New Brunswick in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The smallest of Canada’s provinces, the island makes its livelihood via shellfish and potato farming and, increasingly, tourism. Yet, despite a thriving tourist economy, PEI retains a distinct rural feel, a laid-back, pastoral quietude nothing short of enchanting. Last week, I described the water sports summer visitors can enjoy here, including sportfishing, kayaking, and swimming. This week, I offer a brief overview of land activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Most PEI activities described in this and last week’s column are seasonal, open roughly May through October (some June through September), with peak season being July and August.
Sally O’Neal Coates
Pedal To The Gravel
The sleepy, winding roads of PEI beckon bicyclists. A surprising number have decent shoulders, and residents tend to drive their cars at a mellow pace, making road biking a safe and pleasant option. (Though you may have to cope with a few tractors and other farm machines.) The terrain is gentle (the greatest elevation is about 500 feet) and tiny villages dot the landscape at frequent intervals.
But most bicyclists will want to leave traffic behind entirely and take advantage of PEI’s Confederation Trail. Nearly 300 kilometers of former railway bed have been graded and surfaced with crushed gravel for bicyclists and hikers. The trail runs nearly the full length of the island, from Tignish in the west to Elmira in the east, with spurs to the Confederation Bridge, Charlottetown, Georgetown, and Montague. A detached, scenic segment runs from Murray Harbor to Murray River.
Spur trail off the Confederation Trail near Summerside leads to Kiwanis Friendship Park.
Bike rentals are available all over the island. Several companies offer guided tours, including Outside Expeditions (800-207-3899, http://www.getoutside.com), Freewheeling Adventures (800-672-0775, http://www.freewheeling.ca), and MacQueen’s Island Tours (800-969-CUBA, http://www.macqueens.com), while others will help you plan your own custom, self-guided tour. Or simply rent a bike, pick up a copy of the Confederation Trail map available at most rental outlets and all visitor centers, and strike out on your own. For more rental outlets and cycling info, call 1-888-PEI-PLAY or log onto Internet URL http://www.peiplay.com.
Playing A Round
Golf enthusiasts will have no trouble pursuing their hobby here; locals joke that potato fields are turned into golf courses overnight. With over two dozen courses to choose from, there is something for all levels of interest and ability. The price is right, too; most greens fees are half that of urban-area courses.
Locals are justifiably proud of the Links at Crowbush Cove, an architect-designed course that takes advantage of a breathtaking location among sand dunes along the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the island’s north shore. This course, Mill River, Brudenell River, and Dundarave have all been awarded four or more stars by Golf Digest magazine and can be reached at 800-235-8909. But you’ll find nine and 18-hole courses all across the island, from St. Felix Golf and Country Club at the northwest tip (877-211-2328) to Eagle’s View at the southeast corner (902-962-4433).
To plan your golfing vacation on PEI (and even book your tee times), log onto Internet URL http://www.golfpei.com.
Birdwatchers will have plenty to see on PEI. Even amateurs can spot impressive blue herons in tidal flats and estuaries, while those with perseverance will check dozens off their list. Some 333 species of birds are known to inhabit or pass through the island. Popular spots for hoisting your binoculars include the Morell River near Peakes, East Point near the lighthouse, and Alberton to Murray Road along the Cascumpec Bay area.
Scenic vistas abound when driving PEI. Some red clay roads are maintained without asphalt for historic ambience.
Several companies offer gentle trail rides with unparalleled scenery. Brudenell Trail Rides (902-652-2396) has daytime and sunset beach rides in the Brudenell River Provincial Park north of Montague for $20 to $25. Specializing in families, north shore companies include Millstream Trail Rides (902-672-3100) at Brackley Beach, Cavendish Trail Rides (902-963-2824) at Cavendish, and Jeannie’s Trail Rides (902-964-3384) at Rustico. Rates here are competitive at just $10 to $12 per person.
When you’re tired of biking, hiking, paddling, and saddling, just grab your camera and your car keys and take a scenic drive. The red earth, green fields, and blue sea and sky make for “can’t miss” photo opportunities everywhere you turn. Throw in picturesque harbors and several dozen lighthouses, and you’ll want to make sure to bring plenty of film.
For more information on enjoying a Prince Edward Island Vacation, start by pointing your Internet browser to http://www.peiplay.com or http://www.peisland.com.
Sally O’Neal Coates is a travel writer based in Washington State. Her books include “The Unofficial Guide to Bed and Breakfasts in the Pacific Northwest.” Her stay on Prince Edward Island was made infinitely more pleasant and comfortable by staying at BayView Beachside Cottage, http://www.peiwaterfrontcottage.com, 1-800-208-2204.