I clicked the radio off as the bridge came into view. Ryan and I looked at each other anxious and excited… “This is awesome.” For the longest, quietest twelve minutes, we soared over the Northumberland Strait, and just like that, we were on Prince Edward Island.
We didn’t know what to expect exactly of Canada’s smallest province, but we figured we would spend about a week exploring what the island had to offer. More than two weeks later, we are reluctantly venturing onward, away from our new favourite home away from home.
Our first week was spent camping at trail heads and making new friends as we conquered the peaks and gullies of PEI’s interior. We fell in love with Charlottetown, her amenities and beautiful harbour front, and made the town our home-base for our entire extended stay. Day trips brought us to PEI National Park with its infinite beaches, the warm south shore shallows that inspired us to try kite surfing some day, and to the several well-groomed mountain bike trails that snake through the valleys everywhere in between.
Next, a harrowing 54km adventure on the Confederation Trail - from Mount Stewart to St. Peter’s Bay and back - in the thick summer heat provided unforgettable views of the countryside, two mega-sore butts, and proved that even a rail-trail ride can be a physical accomplishment. We now have an even stronger respect for the many bike-packers we’ve met along the road; God bless you legendary, mile-crushing, pannier slinging travel beasts and your buns of steel!
We rounded out our Island tour with two scenic multi-day road trips making a figure-eight from east to west and back again. We loosely followed the coastline, stopping at far-flung Point Prim to see the province’s oldest lighthouse, waded into the sandy waters at Cape Bear, reluctantly passed up Michael Smith’s incredibly tempting (expensive) seafood experience at the famous Inn at Bay Fortune, and washed away the heat (and our seafood sorrows) at Basin Head Provincial Park with an ice-cold shower.
We drove into the night toward Cable Head East where we wandered down a dirt path out to the water’s edge, slept the night, and revelled in a stunning sunrise over the glowing red cliffside. Day two led us back ‘home’ toward Charlottetown, with a brief stop in Greenwich and a trip down memory lane as we drove the section of The Confederation Trail we had biked just days before.
Resupplied and thoroughly charmed by the east of the island, we headed north west up Highway 2 towards Summerside. Just before Kensington, we stopped at a garlic farm where we were treated to fresh violet bulbs, a handful of free scapes, and a recommendation to buy seafood out of the back of a truck just up the road. We obliged. Sure enough, just ten minutes up the road parked outside of an ice cream shop, we found a busy fisherman with his small truck full of the day’s catch. He patiently answered our questions and hurriedly showed us how to shuck a quahog clam, offering it up for us to try on the spot. Find out how it went down in Part 2: Clams, Cliffs, and Critters.