The capital of Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, is quite possibly one of the greatest places on earth. A travelogue of sorts.

You’re in the rat race. You leave the house at 5.45 am to avoid sitting in traffic for two hours. You deal with whatever emergency your day throws you. You leave work, run to the store, pick up the kids, hurry home, whip up something not-as-healthy-as-it-should-be, decide you’ll rather wear the smelly sweater one more time than do a load of laundry, and collapse in front of the box. You fade out halfway through the Netflix show. And tomorrow it starts all over again…

You’ve secretly been yearning for a getaway. A slice of paradise… or failing that, maybe just a nice, quiet, peaceful island… maybe not too far from civilization and creature comfort but far enough away for things to go at a slower pace, for people still treating each other with genuine warmth, and for nature to invade every nook and cranny.

We found that place and we’ll let you in on our secret. But rather than a checklist of sights, this is our personal collection of impressions and favorite haunts gathered over a six month stay, and an ode to a place we’ve fallen in love with… and that you will love just as much once you venture here. Settle in for a long read.

Prince Edward Island from the air - Photo: Steven MacDonald

Photo: Steven MacDonald

Literature buffs know Prince Edward Island (or simply PEI) via Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 classic novel set on the Island’s northern shore. All others who couldn’t immediately pinpoint it, take heart, you are in good company. In fact, it is even occasionally left off of official maps altogether – a fate it shares with New Zealand. But thanks to TV you’ve surely heard of “Anne With an E – well, this is where Anne hails from.

PEI is Canada’s smallest province, and unless you are a geography major (or, by good fortune, Canadian), chances are that you would even have a hard time pointing out its neighboring provinces Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Known as the Maritimes, these three provinces form the South-Eastern corner of Canada, with PEI embraced by its two neighbors. The Mi’kmaq tribe, the Island’s original habitants, called it Epekwitk or Abegweit (“the land cradled on the waves”.)

Google map of PEI

Statistics nerds will revel in the surprising facts that PEI is closer to Western Europe than it is to Vancouver, BC on Canada’s opposite coast, and that the distance from here to the North Pole is almost exactly the same as from the South of France. PEI measures 220 km (140 mi.) east to west, and a maximum of 65 km (40 mi.) north to south; it consists of the main island plus 231 minor islands, and makes up a paltry 0.1% of the Canadian territory. For comparison: it takes up but a sliver of Central France, and it fits into Ireland twelve times over.

Even if PEI is situated on the same latitude as Northern Italy, winters here are a long, harsh and cold six month affair – this is Canada, after all. That said, the Island does have a relatively mild climate on annual average, which earned it the nickname of “Garden of the Gulf” (along with the less flattering “Spud Island” moniker, courtesy of its main crop.)

Getting here isn’t all that easy and usually requires a couple of connecting flights (or an ocean liner… this being a popular cruise ship destination) but it’s more than worth it. We have been fortunate to spend enough time here to see the city wake up from hibernation, stir, stretch, and spring into action, pass a long and hot summer (hurricane Dorian included) and eventually wind down again to the quieter season.

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When you come from a typical busy, hectic, loud European or American city which is packed to – and beyond – capacity with people, cars, businesses, concrete, and noise, and where seasons are marked mostly by commercial events, this gentle transition from late winter to a verdant spring, a flamboyant summer, and finally a symphony of fall colors under a silky blue sky is a stark reminder of the influence that the rhythm of nature has on life when it is allowed to just be.

The snow-free season generally lasts from May through October, and Islanders are determined to make every single hour count. Not to say that these hardy folks here aren’t just as outdoorsy during the winter but they soak up the sun while it lasts as if to squirrel it away for later.

Of the 140,000 islanders, roughly one third lives in and around the capital of Charlottetown. Like many places along North America’s eastern coast, PEI was settled in the late 1700s by the Irish and Scots. They followed in the footsteps of the French before those pushed on to Quebec. The succession didn’t happen quite so peacefully though, as a battery of cannon still overlooking the harbor witnesses.

PEI Cannon

But the steady presence of the British Islanders and their hard-work ethic is still visible wherever you turn – in the predominant Victorian architecture; the pride of home and garden that everyone takes; the bustling, no-frill, no-nonsense industriousness; and the tenacity in coaxing the red soil into abundant production. The streets are so clean you could picnic straight on the asphalt, and drivers are so courteous they stop when you even as much as look on the other side of the road.

By now you probably can’t wait to explore this pretty, quirky, harbour-hugging town. Pardon us: city! Yes, indeed – Charlottetown proper may only have 35,000 residents but it does have city status!

Its natural modesty makes one tend to initially underestimate this remarkable place. Don’t be fooled … as you get to know Charlottetown, and those layers of modesty gradually peel away, what is revealed is an internationally oriented city which has played a crucial role in Canadian history. IF PEI is known as the “Birthplace of Confederation, it was right here, in Charlottetown’s Province House, that the nation of Canada was born.

PEI Founders Gathering

Founders Gathering – photo by Natja Igney

The first thing that strikes you is a tremendous sense of peace and the Islanders’ genuine friendliness. Here, the pace is unhurried. People still make eye contact, smile, and say “hello” to strangers in the street, invariably followed by commentary on the weather (and hint, whatever the conditions may be, it is always a “nice day today”). And if you respond in kind, you’ll soon find yourself in the middle of a pleasant chat and have made a new friend. Locals are proud of the Island they call home, and happy to share insider tips, anecdotes, or simply a beer with anyone who is ready, and it’s through them that we’ve gotten to know what we call “Charlottetown in Six Acts”.

Act I – Step into Charlottetown’s Living Room

Downtown Charlottetown is miniscule by big-city standards – a rectangle of a few city blocks – but it’s lively and animated. You won’t find many multi-chain shops or restaurants here… preference is given to small mom & pop stores with many a treasure to be found inside.

The heart and soul of this area is the Confederation Centre, home to a modern arts museum, the 1,100 seat Homburg Theatre, a gallery, and several event spaces. Its brute grey concrete architecture is a screaming mismatch with the neighboring Victorian era red brick façades but the gardens surrounding it soften the blow to some extent.

Right next to the Confederation Centre is Victoria Row, Charlottetown’s outdoor living room in summer. A whimsical reference to Monty Python’s Flying Circus at the entrance reminds you that you’re about to enter a place to chill and have fun. Cafés and restaurants, a stage with live music, and interesting little stores vie for your attention. The city’s history is omnipresent, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even come across a trio of fine gentlemen in period costumes. Calling themselves “The Honest Politicians”, they will happily share with you the story of the days leading to the historic Union in 1864 that made Canada, Canada.

While spring starts late and slow, summer suddenly jolts the city into a whirlwind of activities. Festival galore. A veritable marathon of food, drink, sports, art, music, nature, heritage, tradition, kids, trade, and anything-else-under-the-sun themed festivals, way past Labor Day in September, some even stretching to Canadian Thanksgiving in October. And there is theatre almost round the clock – some public rehearsals and sessions start as early as 8 am! Be prepared to double and triple book your schedule, there is just so much going on all across town. And much of it happens right here at the Confederation Centre and its vicinity.

Some of the top events even make international press. Last year (2019) the headliner was Kronborg, a rock opera adaptation of Hamlet, directed by the supremely talented Torontonian writer, director and actress Mary Francis Moore. A fan favorite since 1974, and the only production in the history of the Charlottetown festival to ever be produced on Broadway, this year’s revisited version truly rocked the rafters. But as soon as the curtain fell on the last show, Mary Francis hastened across the street to direct the other Island classic, Anne of the Green Gables. And because all good things come in threes, the ABBA hit musical Mamma Mia is the third non-negotiable staple of the annual Charlottetownian theatre season.

The arts are generally a big deal in Charlottetown, and the Island has produced quite a few remarkable artists. One of them, with claim to international fame, is sculptor Gerald Beaulieu. You’ll stumble upon one of his monumental outdoor installations right by the Convention Centre. Made from old tires, this oeuvre called Where the Rubber Meets the Road features two shockingly realistic crows, each over five meters in size – sobering metaphors for the incompatibility of nature with a man-made environment. More of Gerald Beaulieu’s œuvres are sprinkled all across town – watch out for his larger-than-life-sized heron, bluefin fish, and other sculptures.

The Island’s indigenous population also contributes to the thriving arts scene albeit it in a more discreet manner. One of the best known First Nation artists is Melissa Peter-Paul, a Member of the Mi’kmaq tribe. She perpetuates ancestral artisanal savoir-faire in her ornamental artwork, best represented in her intricate quillwork.

And then there is young Lauren Graham. All of 11 years old, she is talented enough to have just had her paintings featured internationally – and in Nice of all places, at the renowned Gravis Art Gallery. She may quite possibly have set a record for being the youngest PEI – if not Canadian – artist to exhibit abroad. And rumor has it that she may be invited to the 2020 FIAC in Paris. Definitely one to watch…!

Lauren Graham at Gravis Art Nice

The other epicenter of activity is the area around Peake’s Wharf and Confederation Landing where one event chases another all throughout summer. Daily outdoor concerts anyone? Street buskers? Dancers? Acrobats? Face painters? Fire eaters? Great little hole in the wall restaurants, or mom and pop stores? Incoming cruise ships that dwarf the cityscape? You’ve come to the right place.

Music also plays a big part in the lives of Islanders… why, most of them are of Gaelic origin and born with the musical gene. It’s hard (and probably not fair) to pick favorites here but IF we must, there are two musicians who have really captured our hearts.

One of them is Roy Johnstone, arguably the Island’s most accomplished Irish fiddlers (pictured on the left) who “has the heart of a poet, the spirit of an adventurer and plays like the Devil,” as the Atlantic Gig Magazine captured it so succinctly.

Roy Johnstone at Triangle Pub PEI - photo B McInnis

Photo: Brian McInnis

When this multi-award-winning artist isn’t touring the world upon invitation of governments and cultural organizations, you can catch him & friends for an acoustic session most Sunday afternoons at the The Old Triangle Ale House, one of the best Irish pubs (with the freshest Guinness) in town. Discover your inner Irishman and be prepared to step along!

The other Island musician on the fast track to international fame is Jonny Rae Arsenault. Influenced by his traditional Acadian roots, this young singer and guitarist effortlessly jumps from Johnny Cash to Eric Clapton, and masters Celtic guitar picking like no other. He is in fact so good that the Island’s Lieutenant Governor Antoinette Perry – Queen Elizabeth II’s local representative – invited him and fellow musician Zakk Cormier to perform at her annual garden party…

Act II – What’s Cooking?

On PEI, food is right on a par with arts and culture, and seafood is at the heart of the action. World-famous PEI mussels, scallops, oysters, and lobster are the main staple of every self-respecting restaurant, no matter how humble. Fish & Chips are non-negotiable, chowder is a Must. (And move over, Maine, this is what a good lobster roll really tastes like!) Islanders use whatever products and produce their land and shores yield. But a generation of young and ambitious chefs is eagerly pushing the envelope, and if you wander up and down Queen Street you’ll find a few eateries that tickle the more sophisticated or experiment-happy taste buds. International cuisine, mostly Asian, is also making a timid showing here and there.

Our favorite “eat, drink & be merry” places, in no particular order:

The Pilot House : Nom nom nom! An unpretentious but lovely pub slash gastro bistro just off of Queen Street, run by Richard Court, probably the nicest restaurateur in town. Here, they really know how to spruce up a humble salad to gourmet level or tease out every last bit of flavor of salmon. And the fries are in a league unto themselves. The biggest problem here: with so many fantastic things on the menu, you simply cannot decide what to take. But you can never ever go wrong.

Brits Fish & Chips : Not the swankiest place in town but a nice enough hangout and above all, the best and freshest “FeeChee” in Charlottetown, along with a nice selection of other utterly yummy things straight out of a fishing net, stable or garden patch.

Fishies on the Roof PEI

Fishies on the Roof : This is a place where you don’t come for the food (although it’s nice enough) but for the unbeatable panoramic view over the city which is more than worth the steep climb to the rooftop. Great after-work or pre-theatre or Sunday afternoon chill-out place.

Montana’s BBQ and Bar : Hankering after a showstopping burger or rack of ribs? This is carnivore’s heaven and a smokehouse at its best. Pleasantly rustic-chic and cheerfully noisy, this is a great place to hang out with family and friends. A word of caution though, it’s also forever packed to the gills – reservations are a must.

Splendid Essence : If Charlottetown is not exactly packed with vegetarian and vegan restaurants, the few it has are quite acceptable, and they typically feature Chinese cuisine. This casual, no-frill-but-all-taste eatery, located in a quaint two-story Victorian home in the downtown area, really gets it right. Its huge selection of fresh and healthy vegetarian dishes won’t make anyone miss meat.

PEI Brewing Company : Fair warning, our bias may be showing because this is the place where we spent many a relaxing hour in the company of favorite people, great beer and yummy bar food. A decent cold one brewed onsite and served by friendly, cheerful staff in an ambiance that is as convivial as it is cozy, is a good enough reason already. But the company is civic-minded and gives back to the community any chance they get. Having your hop tea there supports a plethora of events and fundraisers for good causes from health research to youth sports team.

PEI Brewing Co staff

For those more inclined to browse a selection of food stalls, there is also the brand-new Founders food hall and market near the cruise ship landing dock, featuring some 20 vendors under one roof. While its older, well established counterpart across town, the traditional Farmers Market, focuses on organic, locally grown, seasonal produce and artisan products, Founders hall caters to urban foodies.

Right there, you’ll also find a stall belonging to a winery. This is a big deal, knowing that you can usually only buy your booze in government-run liquor stores. And an even bigger deal – this is wine made in PEI. Hard to believe but true – they do grow wine here in this South Eastern tip of Canada, and in fact a pretty decent one. Several provincial wineries serve the local market, but we have a soft spot for Matos, founded by a Portuguese couple that really knows how to make the most of the local soil. And although Island prices for alcoholic beverages are an eye-bulging sticker shock to unsuspecting Europeans or Americans, the Matos wines are fairly affordable. And if you enjoy Matos wines, you’re in illustrious company: Their rosé also happens to be among Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite, according to well-informed Palace insider sources.

Act III – Intercultural Mix ‘n’ Mingle

As small of a place as it is, PEI – and of course Charlottetown – is a melting pot of cultures. The indigenous Mi’kmaq population, consisting of the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations, was the first to inhabit this flat rock in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Today there are a little over 2,200 First Nation people living on the island, either on or off the two Mi’kmaq reserves. It is recognized by the Island government and population – and frequently recited in public events and spaces – that “this land is the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. And [we] acknowledge with respect the history, spirituality, and culture of the Mi’kmaq people who have lived here for over 15,000 years.” The indigenous people proudly celebrate and share their culture, and everyone is welcome to attend their pow wows.

Respect is a treasured quality here, and with it comes tolerance. Its roots are found in the Island’s history: The first European settlers came from France in the mid 1700s but most of them pushed on to Quebec. The French were followed by a wave of immigrants from the British Isles, and to this day, over three quarters of the Island population are descendants of Highland Scots, English, and both southern and Ulster Irish.

Gaelic roots are visible just about anywhere: from the ubiquitous Mc’s and Mac’s to Charlottetown’s Gaelic name “Baile Sheàrlot”. Inscriptions on monuments often come in English, Gaelic, French, and the Mi’kmaq language. Nearly every street corner in the old part of town is occupied by Catholic churches and Protestant kirks. And the Irish Settlers Memorial, made from 32 distinctive flagstones representing the counties the immigrants had originated from, faces the open harbour to look back out to the homeland.

Irish settlers memorial circle PEI

More recent arrivals, in the very early years of the 21st century, were Asians. Mainland and Hong Kong Chinese, Taiwanese, South Koreans, and Indians nowadays make for a noticeable contingent of residents, and they found their typical niche as shop or restaurant owners.

Another, somewhat unexpected group of new immigrants has also been warmly welcomed to the Island community: the Amish, who typically come here from other Canadian provinces, attracted by lower prices for farmland and a better quality soil. Every now and then you spot them in town running errands, always impeccably polite… but should you ever see one, remember that taking photos of them, however surreptitiously, is a big no-no. The horse, buggy, and traditional outfit may seem rather a sight to some onlookers, but just respect them for what they are – fellow humans peacefully going about their lives.

And yet another “exotic” (and we do mean this most respectfully) group of foreigners has chosen PEI as its homestead: It is not unusual to see Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns around town wearing their traditional garb, and they gladly open their monasteries to visitors interested in knowing more about their lifestyle

Act IV: Gloria, Victoria Park

New York City has its Central Park, London its Hyde Park, Munich its English Garden… and Charlottetown has Victoria Park. If Victoria Row is “Charlottetown’s living room”, Victoria Park is its “family room”. In this waterfront-facing green space the size of an entire city district you can pitch a baseball (on no less than three fields), do a half-pipe in the skate park, go swimming, play tennis, walk in lush woods, watch aquatic wildlife at the magnificent Dead Man’s Pond, learn about local botany, sunbathe, or simply picnic on the grass in the company of seagulls or Canada geese.

Victoria Park Entrance PEI

And then there are more concerts and events in this park than you can possibly attend. Every weekend, and sometimes during the week, there is something going on – up and coming artists, open air cinema, market style festivals, family-friendly events, and every major holiday on the Canadian calendar, like Canada Day on July 1, is celebrated here, fireworks and all.

If you’re still up for it after partaking in all the festivities, step across Brighton Road, the park’s northern border, and explore the wonderful historic neighborhood of Brighton, the patrician residential area which has retained all its Victorian charm and glory. Here you are transported back in time, passing stately mansions on tranquil, tree-lined streets, with impeccably landscaped gardens, free-range kids engaging in bicycle races, and playful cats basking in the sun.

Brighton House PEI

Act V – Meet Some of Charlottetown’s Original Characters

While you’re in Brighton, there is one stop that you cannot, absolutely not, miss: The Brighton Clover Farm market. Stories have been written, songs have been sung, and tales have been told about this teeny tiny unassuming neighborhood store, and rightly so. This truly is Ali Baba’s, or rather Norman’s, cave. The owner, Norman Sahely, bought the store in 1974 and turned it into what reviewers unequivocally call “the best store in all of PEI”(!) This is where the mayor and other dignitaries come to pick up their groceries. While Charlottetown has no shortage of large, well-stocked supermarkets, Brighton Clover Farm beats any of them hands down, with thousands of products piled into a space no bigger than your living room, including a great selection of Middle Eastern products unavailable anywhere else in the province. Its real claim to fame though is the locally raised meat, hand-cut by Norman himself, and once you tried it, you will never buy your meat anywhere else.

Brighton Clover Farm Family PEI

Photo courtesy of the Sahely family

Although today the store is mostly run by Norman’s son Shadi and daughter-in-law Josephine, you can still find Norman, now a sprightly 70-something, toiling away there on any given day. And if you chat with him for a bit, expect to hear an amazing life story that starts in Lebanon, passes through Australia and the Caribbean, and ends up in Canada. Oh, did we mention that Norman’s daughter Christine Sahely is a famous musical actress in Toronto?

What Norman Sahely is to the food trade, Dave Currie is to the almost extinct business of shoe repair. If ever there was a famous cobbler, this is he! Pushing 80, he is still tending to his craft day in and day out. His shop, located in a small alley just off of Kent Street, is a third-generation, 116 year old treasure trove of savoir-faire and living history. The whole world seems to know Currie’s – people come from far-flung places like Japan or (in our case) France to get their leatherware expertly mended, and beyond that, be treated to entertaining insight into Island history. The best place in all of Charlottetown to while away an hour and re-emerge with good-as-new shoes AND newfound knowledge. And if we mentioned Norman Sahely’s famous daughter further up, we cannot neglect the fact that all of Dave Currie’s five sons have gone on to pursue impressive careers in politics, university management and the likes.

Curries Shoe Repair PEI

And not to forget Carl Phillis… the well-read, artistic cemetery caretaker. Sadly, Carl, the “People’s Potter”, passed away on December 4, 2019 but he has left a tremendous legacy which lives on in the community. Other than a discreet clue in the form of a hand-scribbled note on his yellow safety vest saying “Civilization is powered by art”, it wouldn’t have easily occurred to you that this humble man who kept up the Old Protestant Burial Ground on University Ave was a walking, talking encyclopedia of local history, and an accomplished potter, sculptor and artist. Some of his flamboyant metal sculptures are displayed around town. One of them, titled “Celebration – Then and Now” is located at Confederation Landing as part of the famous Art Walk.

Act VI – Share the Love

Generosity, friendliness, and neighborliness – the defining traits of the citizens of this bonnie Island. It is reflected in the way people deal with each other, and also in how the community takes care of its own… and anyone coming here.

There is such a thing as free lunch… Want to chill on a park bench and could use a book? Check out the Little Free Library, a number of small book stands sprinkled all over town where you can grab a good read (and if you can, leave a book at the same time.) Got extra cans of food, an untouched sandwich, or maybe some spare toiletries? Put them in the Little Free Pantry, running on the “take what you need, give what you can” principle. The City of Charlottetown also participates in this civic “give a little, take a little” programme through planter boxes in Victoria Park, where vegetables, salad and herbs are grown and up for grabs, for free. (You can, if you want to, leave a donation – maybe some seeds or a bit of cash – at the nearby city equipment storage shed.) Share economy and recycling in action before Gen Z invented the term.

invitation to chill PEI

The lawn chairs. Best concept ever. As you wander around town, you’ll frequently see a front yard or a porch with two chairs side by side. Contrary to what you may think, they are not reserved for the resident family alone but beckon you, too, to stop, sit down, and rest. Some homeowners even go as far as putting out a jug of tea or a book for you to enjoy while you take a break from your ambulation.

The Netherlands Canada. As soon as winter is wrapping up, Charlottetown, and the entire Island for that matter, explodes in colours. Tulips everywhere! This may seem a nice but unremarkable fact at first… but wait till you hear the story behind it. During World War II, the Dutch Royal family sought refuge in Canada. In 1943, Princess Margriet was born here. In order to ensure that the infant was a Dutch citizen, as behooved her royal heritage, the maternal ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital was temporarily declared exterritorial. In 1945, the Netherlands thanked Canada for its hospitality by sending 100,000 tulip bulbs, followed by 10,000 more each year ever since, distributed to Island households everywhere. When hundreds of thousands of tulips come to life in May and June all at the same time, it is a botanical spectacle to behold.

TULIPS ON GREAT GEORGE STREET PEI by Brian McInnis

Flowers and colors galore. In fact, Charlottetown is so jam-packed with blossoming plants all throughout the warm season that you could easily mistake it for one big outdoor flower stand. As if to make up for the grey winter months, the tiniest patch of garden, land, or street corner is covered in plants from May through October. Spring produces garden flowers wherever you look, summer is drenched in every shade of luscious green, and fall is one of those spectacular Indian summer affairs that the world envies North America for. And even winter is vibrant rather than grey as the brightly painted facades of houses, adorned with lights, turn Charlottetown into one big jewel glittering in all colours of the rainbow. (One property is especially famous for its year-round spectacle of blooms and decorations… wander up Euston Street and you cannot miss it.) And Halloween is a season unto itself…

Halloween PEI

Epilogue – What about Sights? And Hotels?

Sights? Way too many for this format… Are you talking about the magnificent St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the majestic Province House, the beautifully preserved Victorian Beaconsfield Historic House, the picturesque light houses, the life-size bronze statues of local personalities strewn all over town beckoning you to sit with them…? Don’t forget to peek into the many splendid churches – our personal favorite being the tiny and somewhat overlooked All Souls Chapel, an annex to the better known St. Peter’s Cathedral, and a true historic masterpiece inside and out.

There are dozens of things to do and sites to see, not just in town but all across the Island. Not even to mention the spectacular sunsets the Island is famous for. So many more stories to tell…. but we suggest you refer to your trusted human, online, or printed tour guide for personalized information. The tourism office also has an excellent and very detailed info brochure. Based on many visitors’ unimpressed feedback in 2019 about the tourism office, we recommend though that rather than dealing with them directly, you simply download the brochure (or pick up a paper copy) and use that as your guide. Of course, you can always just wander and explore, it’s hard to get lost here.

There are two anecdotes however that we cannot keep a secret from you.

the two Mr Greys PEI

Photo by Natja Igney

John Hamilton Gray: If you are the bearer of a somewhat non-mainstream name and you work in public office, what are the chances to meet a fellow with the exact same name and calling in life? Well, by an odd coincidence, it did happen at the gathering of 23 delegates at the Charlottetown Conference in September 1864. The two Messrs. Gray hit it off, and their subsequent talks did much to advance the province and the union. A bronze sculpture across from St. Dunstan Basilica, complete with a copy of their original papers, immortalizes the encounter.

Water Street Bonded Warehouse: As you wend your way from Queen St. to the wharf, you’ll almost certainly walk down Water Street. Pause for a moment across from no. 91 – an imposing brick building which nowadays serves as a business center for the Chinese community. This three storey house has played a significant role in Charlottetown history. In 1866 its massive build withstood the disastrous fire that destroyed four surrounding blocks to the west, and stopped the fire from ravaging the area to the east. But in 1901 this same sturdy architecture made it the perfect spot to enforce PEI’s prohibition, much to the locals’ chagrin who hated to see perfectly good liquor literally go down the drain. This plaque explains the story:

Plaque stronghouse PEI

When it comes to a roof over head, remember that this is an Island where people are still very much in synch with nature, and they work hard to make a living. We therefore hope you will be a good and responsible visitor with an environmentally-conscious footprint, and you will support local businesses as best you can. There is ample choice for all tastes. If you want to sleep in the same rarefied quarters where Queen Elizabeth II rests her weary head, opt for the Rodd Hotel. Alternatively pick one of the many charming historic B&Bs with a personal flair, like One West Inn. 2020 will also see the much-anticipated arrival of the 105-room, boutique-style and budget-friendly Arts Hotel on Kent Street, a prime downtown location. If you need an Airbnb accommodation for an extended stay, contact us for recommendations.

Bonus tip for those travelling with animals: PEI is extremely pet-friendly. That starts with Air Canada where your four-legged companion is welcome in the cabin, and it continues wherever you go. Everyone stops to fuss over Fido and keeps a watchful eye on Miss Fluffypants’ excursions. However, should any mishap befall your dog or cat, give veterinarian Dr. Leigh MacDonald at Abegweit Animal Clinic a call. She is skills and compassion personified, goes way beyond the call of duty, and will mend your beloved friend in no time flat.

See You Later

Charlottetown – small in size but jam-packed with flavour, look & feel, and atmosphere. It is not a “If it’s Wednesday, it must be PEI” kind of place, it wants you to bring some time and stay a while, to take your time, to look behind the scenes, to connect. Because this city and this Island are, to put it simple, beautiful.

But – and we did save the best for last – there is nothing better that PEI has to offer than its Islanders. Nowhere will you meet friendlier, more generous people. Their hearts are wide open, they’ve never known a stranger. They are kind and neighborly folks who help a puzzled tourist with friendly information, invite newcomers to their homes, look in on elderly neighbors, and even collectively rally when a pet gets lost or homeless. They always have a smile on their face, and a kind word to share. Making friends with them is the easiest thing to do – they are curious about the world outside and want to hear your story. Here you are not a tourist or a visitor, you are a long-lost friend… family… at home away from home. You will always be welcomed with open arms as an honorary Islander. Your only problem – you’ll never want to leave again…

Brian on the Rocks PEI

Special thanks to CBC photographer Brian McInnis for kindly contributing to this article. Visit his website for more great PEI photos.

 

another grey line

All photos by Brian McInnis and Natja Igney; lead image by Brian McInnis; all other photos as credited

3 Responses

  1. J Scicchitan

    Charlottetown may see an influx of visitors after this article – I surely will make the trek one day! Great article Natja.

    Reply
    • natja

      thank you, J, much appreciated! I sure hope to see you there sooner rather than later.

      Reply
  2. Larry Cosgrave

    Just an awesome, committed, high work level article on a great town! Thanks for such fortitude!

    Reply

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