[updated June 2019]
Canada recently marked its 150th birthday. The Fathers of Confederation first conceived the idea of a Canadian federation in Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island.
Atlantic Canada is a beautiful place will scenic landscapes and a land that produces a bounty of great, local PEI food.
Why Prince Edward Island
“I never want to live anywhere else.”
“This place is so special.”
“It’s is my favorite place in the whole world.”
I heard all of this and more in just my first 24 hours on Prince Edward Island.
This tiny island in the Atlantic Provinces on Canada’s eastern coast is unfailingly friendly and unassuming, and built on the humble backs of its residents. Most folks here are close to the land and use it to make their living.
The PEI food industry — primarily farming and fishing — is the single most important contributor to their economy. P.E.I. is famous for its oysters and mussels and visitors and locals have been enjoying “field to table” dining long before it was trendy. Here it’s just a way of life.
For the rest of this story, please head over to my Prince Edward Island article in the Chicago Tribune.
For a bit of history, lighthouses, beaches, and some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted, you must visit Prince Edward Island.
Don’t miss North American’s first Junk Boat tour: the Hai Long junk boat was built in China and sails through Hillsborough Bay.
Also, Ride Solar just launched the world’s first solar-powered dinner cruise and boat tour.
The Fiddling Fisherman
J.J. Chaisson, known as the Fiddling Fisherman, is a lobsterman who offers tours outside of Lobster season on his boat. This world-class musician also treats his guests to some fine fiddling music on his tour.
“I traveled enough as a kid with music that I knew this was my home,” said musician and fisherman J.J. Chaisson. “I love it here. This is where I want to raise my family.”
I stepped aboard Chaisson’s boat in Souris Marina for a popular experience dubbed Jigs and Reels. This isn’t just a ride on a little lobster boat; it’s an afternoon spent enjoying live, traditional music and being regaled with firsthand knowledge of lobstering traditions and personal stories. You feel as if you’re one of the family.
He and his wife offer tours around the bay July 1 through Sept. 30, starting at $56 a person.
Inn at Bay Fortune
The 15-room boutique, Inn at Bay Fortune is owned by New York-born Michael Smith, who’s become one of Canada’s best known chefs. He’s also a Food Network Canada star and cookbook author.
Set on a 46-acre farm by the bay, the inn is a culinary destination. Each night, the restaurant hosts a special farm dinner with an all-you-can-eat oyster hour followed by a family-style, six-course meal. Everyone gathers at FireWorks, the inn’s restaurant, at communal butcher-block tables to share food prepped in the open kitchen. The menu changes every day, based on what’s fresh from the organic farm and from a roster of Prince Edward Island farmers, fishermen, foragers and culinary artisans.
The restaurant’s young, eager chefs radiate enthusiasm about working with the 200-plus fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. Many of them are fresh out of the Culinary Institute of Canada in P.E.I.
“It’s a chef’s dream,” said one named Hunter, 19, while prepping our final course for the day: deconstructed s’mores in mini cast-iron pans.
Shellfish is a staple of Prince Edward Island food. In Colville Bay, young bivalves spend up to five years slowly maturing into market-ready oysters, while the nutrient-filled currents continually flush and feed them. The Colville Bay Oyster Company still uses manual cultivation; all of the oysters are harvested, graded and packed by hand.
“This is a hard place to make a living,” said founder and owner Johnny Flynn, “but a great place to live.”
Flynn described the oysters, which have a distinctive aqua-green shell, as “plump, briny and clean tasting; like distilled ocean.”
PEI State Park
PEI State Park at Greenwich is known for the Greenwich Dunes Trail, which includes a walk over a pond on an extensive floating boardwalk out to one of the Island’s most fabulous beaches. At the end of the trail you can view the spectacular parabolic dune system rising above white sand beaches. It’s an easy hike through different landscapes and there were very few people around.
There is a ton to explore and so much natural beauty in Canada. Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Guide to Backpacking in Canada for lots of tips and itineraries.
Where to Stay in PEI
The recently opened Sydney Boutique Inn and Suites offers 18 luxurious and elegant suites in what used to be a convent.
During my time on PEI, I stayed in the new, centrally located Holman Grand Hotel in Charlottetown.
I also recommend staying a night at the lovely Inn at Bay Fortune. The 5-star country inn was built in 1913 and recently renovated by new owners celebrity Chef Michael Smith and his wife Chastity. The grounds are lovely with its seaside setting, gardens, and farm.
Disclosure: During my visit I was a guest of TourismPEI.com, as always all opinions are my own.