Charlottetown is a compact city that's easy to walk around in. Focus on three areas: the waterfront, the downtown area near Province House and the Confederation Court Mall, and the parks and residential areas near Victoria Park.
You're best off first heading to the information center, by the waterfront, for a little orientation and then starting your first tour right from there. That's because parking is generally scarce downtown, but relatively abundant near the visitor center, both on the street and in free and paid lots. At the visitor center, be sure to ask for a map and one of the free walking-tour brochures.
The waterfront is anchored by Peake's Wharf, a collection of touristy boutiques and eats that attracts hordes in summer. The complex offers good people-watching, plus a kid-friendly "marine touch tank" (watch out for the lobster spines), though it also has a somewhat formulaic "festival marketplace" feel to it and lacks true local character -- except for the free concert series, which features local tunesmiths and a folksy vibe. Next to the wharf is Confederation Landing Park, an open, modern park with a boardwalk along water's edge; lush lawns; and benches nicely situated for lazing about awhile with the kids. There's also a big marina, where you can scope out the pleasure craft.
From the wharf, stroll up Great George Street, one of the best-looking streets in eastern Canada with its leafy trees, perfectly scaled Georgian row houses, and stately churches. At the top of Great George Street, stop into the Province House and Confederation Centre of the Arts, then explore downtown's shops and restaurants.
For a pleasant walk affording fine water views, head southwest on Kent Street (just north of the Confederation Mall). At 2 Kent St., you'll see Beaconsfield (tel. 902/368-6603), a mansard-roofed mansion designed in 1877 by local architect William Harris for a prosperous shipbuilder. The architecture boasts an elegant mix of Georgian symmetry and Victorian exuberance, and rooms are furnished in high Victorian style. The home, operated by the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, hosts lectures and events throughout the year. It's open daily in summer from 10am to 4:45pm, and daily except Saturdays in September from noon to 4pm. Call ahead for opening hours if you'll be visiting outside of the July-to-August season; it's open sporadically at other times. Admission is C$4.25 adults, C$3.25 students, C$12 families, and free for children under 12.
From Beaconsfield, look for the boardwalk that follows the edge of the harbor for about a mile into Victoria Park, a quiet place of ballfields and grassy picnic areas. This walk along the water has unobstructed views of the harbor and Northumberland Strait.
Along the way, look for the handsome Government House (tel. 902/368-5480), also known as Fanningbank. Built in 1834, this sturdy white-shingled residence with eight Doric columns is set back on a broad lawn. It's the official residence of the island's lieutenant governor -- a former vocal soloist and choral teacher -- who serves as the Queen of England's personal representative to the province. The home is only opened to the public in July and August, on weekdays from 10am to 4pm, when there are guided tours on the half-hour. (The grounds are also open to the public, but again only in summer.) The place probably looks familiar to you if you've been in Charlottetown for a few days: That famous photo of the Fathers of the Confederation you see everywhere around town was taken on the front portico.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.