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Prince Edward Island – 'Life is simply better when you add a little island'

Prince Edward Island (PEI) will draw you into its comfortable, more relaxed pace. The tiny island prides itself on home-grown cuisine, small town charm, world famous hospitality and natural beauty. The landscape encompasses red cliffs, golden beaches and rolling green hills.

The island has something for everyone. A broad and diverse past: First Nations, French Acadians as well as English, Irish and Scottish settlers all came here. There is a lighthouse trail to follow and plenty of museums to visit even one dedicated to potatoes! The island is quite flat so it is great for cycling, hiking and of course golf. It has some of the best beaches in Canada, pristine, uncrowded and great for families.prince-edward-island-holiday-001

We stayed for five nights in the capital, Charlottetown. Everywhere is accessible from here, the longest distance to the tips of the island is about 90 minutes' drive so Charlottetown is a great place to base yourself and travel for days out. It was lovely being able to unpack properly and we were soon living on 'island time'. I stayed at the Delta Prince Edward which is the largest hotel in Charlottetown and the only one on the waterfront. Minutes from everywhere it was in a perfect location. We experienced a culinary tour of the PEI tasting some of the best cuisine it has to offer. The only diet we followed whilst on the island was the See Food & Eat it one, we enjoyed lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner!prince-edward-island-holiday-002

On our first day we went on a short city tour and learnt some of its' history before stopping at Red Shores Racetrack and the Casino. Harness racing is very popular on the island and we saw some of the horses training. Lunch was at Peakes Quay which is a few minutes' walk along the broadwalk from the hotel. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ate here when they visited PEI as part of their royal honeymoon tour. I had lobster poutine which is best described as cheesy chips with lobster!

In the afternoon we were taken on a 'Taste the Town' tour of Charlottetown where we tried oysters, lobster tacos, mussels, locally made craft beer, olive oil and the world's best fries. Made from locally grown potatoes, they are hand-cut, double fried and made with 'love'. They were amazing! Earlier in the day we tried the world's best ice cream at Cows Creamery and Cow's Chips – chocolate covered crisps. They too are delicious!prince-edward-island-holiday-003


On our second day to work off some of the food we had consumed, we went on a 5km walk through a forest and over the floating broadwalk to the Greenwich Dunes. The beach was beautiful but we didn't get to paddle our toes because the sea was so rough. Having earnt our lunch we stopped for soup, sandwiches and blueberry pudding at the Inn at St Peters. On the way back to Charlottetown we stopped at Dalvay By the Sea, a historic hotel and for a quick photo at Covehead Lighthouse.

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This evening we enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip at Claddagh Oyster House. Upstairs there is a bar where they have live music most weekends and the restaurant is downstairs. They specialise in locally caught fish and shellfish. Halibut was in season when we were there, it was delicious and portions were also not too huge.

The following morning we travelled east to Georgetown and our Tranquility Cove Experience with Skipper Perry and his crew. I'm not a big fan of small boats but fortunately the bay lived up to its name as the sea was like a mill pond. We hauled crab and lobster pots as well as mussel socks before fishing for mackerel insight of PEI's oldest lighthouse, Panmure Island. It was great fun and we did get quite competitive. The crew then cooked our catch on a BBQ, the fish was the freshest and tastiest I have ever eaten, it was wonderful!prince-edward-island-holiday-005

Dinner that evening was a visit to Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers in North Rustico. Not for those wanting a quiet, intimate meal as the restaurant is designed to cater for groups and has a 60ft salad bar. In peak season they can serve over 600 lobsters a day! After some instruction from our host we were given the tools needed to enjoy our lobster supper – nut crackers and a long metal fork. It was delicious!

Our final full day in PEI we attended a Culinary Boot Camp at the Culinary Institute of Canada where they train chefs from all over the country. It was a fun bonding activity and would be great for groups to experience. On the menu was seafood chowder, meatloaf, savoury biscuits and roast vegetables followed by sweet biscuits or scones with blueberries, lemon curd and Chantilly cream. Under supervision we cooked it all and then ate it for lunch.

prince-edward-island-holiday-006That afternoon we travelled 35 minutes from Charlottetown to Cavendish. The island was made famous by Lucy Maud Montgomery's stories of a red headed orphan called Anne. Published in 1908, millions of the book's fans have made the journey to PEI to visit the magical setting. One of our guides moved from Japan to PEI and she said although she had visited hundreds of times, she still felt excited every time she went to Cavendish. There are Anne-related attractions all over the island and you can even see Anne of Green Gables – the musical in Charlottetown. It is Canada's longest running musical – 51 years! However Cavendish is where you'll find Green Gables Heritage Place – a house recreated from the books, Avonlea – the village of Anne of Green Gables and Montgomery's Homestead, where L M Montgomery's descendants still live.

We visited Green Gables Heritage Place which is a farmhouse previously owned by family friends who Lucy Maud used to visit when she was a child. The house has been recreated to represent the one in the stories and we were given a tour by our very own Anne before posing for photos with her. It was one of the highlights of the trip and brought the stories I remember from my childhood to life. There is so much to see you could easily spend the best part of a day exploring the sites around Cavendish.

Our final meal on PEI was in Charlottetown at the award winning Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar. We enjoyed some fantastic steaks and wonderful local craft beers from the PEI Brewing Company. My personal favourite is one called Beach Chair, it is a pale ale and was very refreshing after a hard days sightseeing and eating!

prince-edward-island-holiday-007Our stay on PEI was at an end and it was time to leave. We stopped to stretch our legs and for a photo opportunity at one final lighthouse in the quaint village of Victoria-by-the –sea before some last minute shopping at Borden-Carleton. I would recommend a stop here in either direction as there is a great tourist information centre as well as a good selection of interesting shops. You can also do as we did and have your photo taken dressed up as Anne of Green Gables!

Apart from flying there are two ways to get on and off the island. The first is the ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou in Nova Scotia, the trip takes 75 minutes. The second is the Confederation Bridge which opened in 1997. At 13km long, it is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice covered waters and joins PEI to New Brunswick. You don't have to pay to get on PEI but you do have to pay to leave -a good reason to stay!

As a Canada specialist I have been lucky enough to visit many parts of Canada, the scenery country-wide is awe inspiring, the wildlife and culture are amazing and people so friendly but PEI is unique. It is one of my favourite places and I can't wait to return.

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