Reaching the Beach: Prince Edward Island for Families
This tour takes in a trifecta of the island's essential sights, giving each its due: Charlottetown, Anne's Land, and the lovely beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park. Kids will love all three places, and adults will feel a sense of tranquility they may not have known in years.
Days 1 & 2: Victoria and Charlottetown
Little Victoria makes a cute stop en route to the province's "big city." An hour or two and a cup of tea ought to do it, unless you're in the mood for some theater.
Take the Trans-Canada Highway 32km (20 miles) farther east to Charlottetown. The island's capital city has excellent restaurants, inns, a lot of history, and a plain friendly feel. Stay the night, or for several nights. Family activities here include the Confederation Centre of the Arts, which offers a constantly changing program of plays and performances (including an annual run of an Anne of Green Gables play).
There's also excellent window-shopping and a surfeit of parks in which to push baby strollers or exercise a pet.
From Charlottetown, follow signs west along Route 2 to Route 13, then turn north and follow Route 13 to
Day 3: Anne's Land
The village of New Glasgow makes a good stop while heading back to the center of the island. There's a championship golf course, nice views from the country roads looping over hillsides, and the Prince Edward Island Preserve factory, complete with a store and a good cafe. Kids might enjoy sampling the jams. Give this stop an hour or two if you like jelly or just need a break from driving the slow island roads.
Continue north along Route 13 to Cavendish, the island's most tourist-friendly and developed (many would say "overdeveloped") section. The fictional redheaded Anne of Green Gables is everywhere in this area, and some of the attractions related to her and the Anne books' authoress really are worth seeing -- especially for young girls and their mothers. Not interested in all that? There are plenty of other touristy attractions for kids in and around the village, including amusement parks like the Sandspit.
Where to stay? Numerous "bungalow courts" (small cottage compounds) dot the area, some with cooking facilities, good for frying up local fish, and little playgrounds, though my first choice might be to pitch a tent in the national park. This area is definitely worth a day or two with children.
From Cavendish, turn east on Route 6 and travel, through a series of tricky turns, to Prince Edward Island National Park.
Days 4-6: Prince Edward Island National Seashore & Souris
Some of the best beaches in eastern Canada line the northern shores of Prince Edward Island. You'll surely want to spend a few days here with the family walking the beach, snapping photos of glorious sunsets and purple lupines against the red sand, camping among the dunes, hunting down obscure fish-and-chips shops, and just generally kicking back.
You'll find a wide range of accommodations in these parts, from Victorian resorts to B&Bs to well-maintained campgrounds both within Prince Edward Island National Park and just outside it. Any family traveling in the Maritimes should camp together for at least a night; the quiet and fresh air should do you a world of good. The placid surroundings and warm waters here invite relaxation. While staying in and around the park, remember to take some scenic drives as well.
From the park, continue east on Route 6 to Route 2, turning east and continuing about 60 scenic kilometers (37 miles) through the cute towns of Mount Stewart, Morell, and St. Peters.
Finally you come to Souris. Some outstanding inns, scenery, and beaches lie near the postage-stamp town. If you're an outdoors sort of family, rent yourselves a bike or three and go exploring. Stay in a campground or in your pick of two of the island's most luxurious inns in the area.
On your way back to Charlottetown, nick the southeastern corner of PEI: Drop in on Georgetown, Montague, or Murray Harbour, each of which is worth a drive through (or even an overnight).
Locals are unfailingly nice throughout this island, an added bonus.
Return 80km (50 miles) along routes 2, 4, and 5 to
Day 7: Charlottetown, Once More
I like Charlottetown a lot, and believe it's worth a repeat visit while making a circuit of PEI. You probably didn't see everything on your first time through, anyway. Why not spend another night? Hit the Confederation Court Mall and wander the street snapping photos of the kids and look for souvenirs for friends.