Visitors to Prince Edward Island owe it to themselves to at least think about picking up a copy of Anne of Green Gables at some point. If you don't read it, you might feel a bit left out of the fun -- and unable to digest the inside references that pepper aspects of local culture in these parts. (Gas stations in Cavendish even sell little Anne dolls -- which would be more than mildly disturbing anywhere else.) In fact, Anne has become so omnipresent and popular on the island that a licensing authority was created in the 1990s to control the crush of Anne-related products popping up everywhere.
In case you don't have time to read it, here's a little background. In 1908, island native Lucy Maud Montgomery published Anne of Green Gables, her very first book -- and an instant smash. The book is a fictional account of Anne Shirley, a precocious 11-year-old who's mistakenly sent from Nova Scotia to the farm of dour islanders Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. (The plot device driving this conflict? The Cuthberts had requested an orphan boy to help with their farm chores.)
Anne's vivid imagination and outsized vocabulary get her into a series of increasingly more hilarious pickles, from which she generally emerges beloved by everyone who encounters her. It's a bright, somewhat bittersweet story that touched a serious nerve and became such a hit worldwide that it spawned a number of sequels. (The book is still taught in many elementary schools in Japan -- I'm guessing it's Anne's always-plucky attitude in the face of crushing real-life circumstances that attracts her to the Japanese.) Whatever the reason, throngs of female Japanese tourists congregate in Cavendish each year to relive Anne's fictional life for a few days; you're certain to walk through the fields of their clicking cameras at some point.
As corny as all the accumulated attractions are now, though, there is a certain sweetness to both Anne's story and the landscape in which she lived. Except for the tourist tack, this area still looks more or less the same as it did during the era when Montgomery wrote Anne onto the page. If you can overlook the fact that Cavendish itself has basically been eaten alive by its fame, and you have a fondness for things English (or persistent characters in children's books), you might enjoy it here.
If you're a traveler who has never heard of Anne until this moment, and you're more interested in locating fine foods and scenic bike tours than the house where Anne "grew up," skip the town.
Cavendish has capitalized on its tourist allure with a handful of "museums" and theme parks to appeal to younger kids. All are located along Route 6 west of the intersection with Route 13. The small, manageable park known as Sandspit (tel. 902/963-2626) has go-kart racing, an 18m (60-ft.) Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, bumper cars, and the like. There's no admission charge to visit the grounds -- you can pay as you go. Rides cost three to five tickets, totaling perhaps C$3 to C$5 each -- but if you'll be here awhile it's easier to just buy a bracelet that covers all the rides for C$12 to C$22 per person (you pay according to height). The park is open daily from mid-June until Labour Day.
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.