Tiny Prince Edward Island might be Canada’s smallest province but it boasts a massive amount of coastline, about 1,100 miles worth. It’s impossible to visit without feeling the powerful influence of the ocean and shoreline and, from eating lobster to looking for lighthouses, there are so many ways to explore this beautiful maritime destination. I had my very first PEI coastal experience when I was eight years old and I successfully begged my parents to deviate from our vacation plans to take a trip to the beach. To be honest, I picked a pretty chilly day to make my plea, but I still remember that rich, red sand! It’s fair to say that I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve been back to PEI many times in the ensuing years, including during a 2021 press trip, and each visit brings its own discoveries and rewards.
If you’re heading to PEI, you can surely hang out on the beach just like eight-year-old me. A day of crafting sandcastles and searching for shells is as good as it gets! But if you want to be a little more adventurous, here are some memorable ways to explore this coastal paradise.
1. Reflect On A Fisherman’s Life in Rustico
At the Rustico Bay Promenade, you’ll find a pretty park and a nice boardwalk but there’s another reason to visit. The area is home to a unique piece of art. A statue placed in the water depicts a 1920s Acadian fisherman bringing a 30-pound codfish home for supper, celebrating 250 years of fishing in the area. The only artwork of its kind in eastern North America, the piece is both eerie and also very much at home in its surroundings.
Speaking of fishing in Rustico, the nearby North Rustico Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Supper features the island’s longest salad bar at 60 feet, plus all-you-can-eat mussels, seafood chowder, desserts, and rolls to complement the lobster, steak, seafood, and rotisserie chicken dinner options. It’s a great place to get your lobster fix.
2. Get Cozy And Colorful In Victoria-By-The-Sea
With fewer than 100 full-time residents, this cozy seaside village is the perfect place to escape from the daily grind (not that there’s ever too much stress on Prince Edward Island). With brightly colored houses of coral, olive, and lavender, a working wharf, and a nice selection of artistic haunts (including galleries, studios, and a theater), Victoria-By-The-Sea seems like it could be the setting of the next Hallmark movie. Must-see places include the seasonal Richard’s Fresh Seafood (which operates one of the oldest lobster shacks on the island and also does a mean plate of haddock and chips) and Island Chocolates (its “factory coffee” consists of hot coffee which is poured into a mug coated with melted Belgian chocolate and whipped cream. Try to visit on a Sunday if you can, as chocolate waffles are served with fresh fruit and honey butter syrup!)
3. See The Power Of The Sea At Mackenzie’s Brook
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a coastal view in PEI that isn’t lovely, especially if you’re in Prince Edward Island National Park. But one park-based scenic lookout is particularly stunning and well worth putting on your bucket list. Mackenzie’s Brook is home to a naturally occurring sea arch. This large round hole in a section of red sandstone that juts out into the sea is one of the most impressive that I’ve ever seen. A visit here makes for a great photo op, but don’t delay. The pounding waves will gradually change the shape over time until there’ll be just two separate sections of rock.
4. Visit A Lonely, Lovely Lighthouse
Can you get off the beaten path on a tiny island? Yes, you can — especially if you visit the Cape Tryon Lighthouse. This little lighthouse, white with red trim, feels a bit lonesome in its isolated spot along the north shore, surrounded by large fields and the foreboding sea cliffs. But it feels quite a bit friendlier when you learn that this pretty spot was the inspiration for Captain Jim’s lighthouse in Anne’s House of Dreams (part of the Anne of Green Gables series). The unpaved country road leading to the lighthouse is a bit challenging in places (which is travel writer-speak for being really, really glad my little car didn’t get stuck. Think twice before tackling this route if it’s muddy!) But ultimately, it was an extremely rewarding trek. If you keep a journal, this would be a wonderful place to sit, write, and watch the ocean waves.
Pro Tip: Not too far away is the seasonal Sou’West restaurant in New London, which makes for an excellent road trip refueling spot. They have wharf-side waterfront views, delicious pan-fried haddock with veggies, lobster sauce, and mashed potatoes (all from the island, of course), and a strong selection of local beer.
5. Stroll Among The Singing Sands
I wouldn’t dare weigh in on which of PEI’s many provincial parks has the most beautiful beaches but when it comes to unusual beaches, Basin Head Provincial Park is surely the winner. This pretty spot is famous for its “singing sands.” I can personally vouch for the fact that when you walk over the sand, it does indeed squeak and squawk and sing!
The science behind the phenomenon is the high silica content of the sand. When heated up by the sun, it emits a squeaking sound when pressure (like footsteps) is applied. It’s such a fun place to explore and, even when you’re not making “music,” it’s a gorgeous beach to visit and has terrific amenities (including onsite food and a fisheries museum).
6. Scream For Ice Cream At East Point
East Point Lighthouse has a number of claims to fame. For one, it’s known as Canada’s Confederation Lighthouse, as it is the only lighthouse established in the same year as Canada itself, back in 1867, that is still in operation today. Additionally, it marks the eastern point of PEI’s tip-to-tip tour for those driving from one side of the island to another (yep, you can get a certificate for doing so!) But the sweetest thing of all is that the lighthouse is home to an ice cream shop. A branch of Cherry On The Top Creamery operates seasonally in the lighthouse (with a second location in Souris). Talk about a delicious destination!
7. Paddle In Paradise
Exploring PEI’s coast by foot, bike, or car is wonderful but when you take to the water, you’ll see the island from an entirely new perspective. Birds and animal life abound and photo opportunities are everywhere when you paddle along PEI’s shores. Small businesses like Kingfisher Outfitters in Morell offer visitors the chance to experience exactly that. It rents kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and canoes (and gives guests the chance to take a shuttle up the Morell River and paddle downstream — a gentle alternative to anyone who doesn’t exactly feel like hitting the ocean). You can borrow equipment for as little as an hour or stay a while and join in a sunset group paddle.
8. Putter Around St. Peters Bay
St. Peters Bay is a seaside community that isn’t technically by the sea at all. As its name suggests, this small community sits on the island side of a bay. It’s part of the coastline but not exactly part of the beach and thus it’s not on everyone’s radar. But it should be! This is one of my favorite spots on the island.
St. Peters Landing, a collection of mostly seasonal shops built on reclaimed land after a 2005 restructuring project, is a delightful stop. The Black & White Cafe is an oasis for bikers and hikers who are tackling sections of the Island Walk and Confederation Trail, which run through the community. This is the place to grab a flavored latte, a breakfast burrito, a fresh muffin, and some of the biggest Nanaimo bars you’ll ever see. Its neighbor, Fritz Chocolates, is a good place to pick up some hot chocolate bombs (a sphere of chocolate that contains hot chocolate powder, which gets released when you drop it in hot milk.)
9. Go Golf At Green Gables
Prince Edward Island may be small but its golf scene is mighty and you won’t have any trouble finding a golf course with a stupendous view. But there’s a reason that Green Gables Golf Course has been delighting golfers since 1939. The ocean vistas are gorgeous and the surrounding woodlands are pristine (perhaps not surprisingly since this is technically part of a national park). There’s a real sense of history here, as the course hugs the perimeter of Green Gables Heritage Place (setting for the famous Anne books) and golfers will often see hikers making their way along the property’s “Haunted Walk,” as it cuts through the course in a few places. Summer twilight rates are a bargain at $60 when you consider the gorgeous sunset that’s included.
How to see more of Prince Edward Island: