PEI SUFFERS FROM A GREAT DEAL OF STEREOTYPES. Small, gentle and quaint are the most common occurring themes. Land of the red-headed orphans named Anne who roam green gables is another.
This is all well and good if you are looking for something family friendly, somewhere to relive childhood literary dreams or enjoy a summer beachside destination to watch the sun go down. But what if you want an adventure? As in real, hard core outdoor adventure?
I set stereotypes aside and found out that for those wanting a human-powered adventure, this small gentle land where everyone seems to know one another is one to definitely put on their radar. Here’s why:
A bike lane connects the entire island, tip to tip.
When officials were pondering what to do with a former railway line that once bankrupted the island, they came up with a genius plan. Dismantle the rail beds and create a multi-use bike lane that connects the island tip to tip.
The freshly completed 410km section of the Trans-Canada Trail is an easy ride through rolling hills and tiny villages, and hardcore bike enthusiasts will enjoy the challenge of circumnavigating the island on a 850km route.
Don’t have a lot of time? Stick to these top three routes:
1. Gulf Shore Way East.
Stretching over 10km one way, this stunner of a route is flat and passes iconic PEI landscapes such as lighthouses set in grass-covered golden sand dunes, Victorian style summer residences, and in newly converted mountain bike paths that jet out to wind-blown spruce trees.
2. Gulf Shore Way West
Steps from Anne of Green Gables-famed Avonlea is a drool-worthy seaside route set above dramatic red cliffs and the sprawling sand dunes of Cavendish. Bonus sections include along boardwalk over a birding pond.
3. Confederation Trail (Morrell to St Peters Bay)
Pretty much legendary as the most scenic segment of the transformed rail trail, this area encompasses the true rural nature of PEI. Passing not even one large town, but running parallel with an oyster-filled bay and sprawling potato farms, the only sound you’ll hear is lobster boats on their way back into the harbor.
Paddle any condition your heart desires, from tranquil waters to gale-force winds.
Setting off from the red sandy shoreline of PEI requires only a minimal amount of planning. If you want to do it yourself but need to rent, head south to Victoria-by-the-Sea. You can check out lighthouses and the confederation bridge in the distance.
Want to do the North Coast? With strong gale force winds, you’ll need a guide with you if you don’t have your own boat. Pausing at secluded beaches beneath red cliffs in PEI’s famous Cavendish National Park area, the dramatic green grass, red cliff and blue water combo is motivation to keep you on the water exploring.
Even eating here is an adventure.
You’d be hard pressed to find an islander who wasn’t raised on shellfish. Any special occasion comes with a lobster dish or chowder, and those down with ingredients from the sea won’t go hungry. While many locals grab a shovel and a bucket, heading to the nearest sand bar in search for clams, many also know a man on a boat who provides nothing but the freshest ingredients for the dinner table.
Luckily for tourists, not far from bike lanes or kayak launch points are several world-class restaurants to refuel for the next adventure. Worth a stop is The Dunes Studio in Brackley, a spot that connects artwork with food masterpieces. With owners hailing from PEI and Bali, the menu mixes Asian curries with shellfish.
Landmark Café in Victoria by the Sea is also worth getting to no matter where you are on the island. Family owned and filled with trinkets from their global travels, you’ll feel like you’ve pulled up a seat to your favorite cousin’s restaurant who just happens to be an extraordinary chef. Try the haddock with beet salad.
Glasgow Farms is part cheese factory and part bakery. Perfect place to stock up on picnic supplies like a lobster blue cheese and gouda pizza after a long days cycle.
So the next time you are wanting to get away from it all, connect with nature, and have a memorable and Instagram-worthy adventure while you are at it, PEI definitely deserves to be on your short list of places to consider.
[Note: Rachel’s trip to PEI was sponsored by Prince Edward Island Tourism.]