As much as the local economy of Prince Edward Island is dominated by agriculture, with a heavy assist from tourism, one can’t help but wonder where all the artists are. Driving around, it seems that every landscape deserves to be painted, every lighthouse photographed. The island’s combination of small fishing communities, large independent farms, and dramatic coastlines, all connected by roads that wind through hills blanketed in wildflowers, begs to be captured.
The Homestead Trail
We encountered some of our favorite views while biking along the Homestead trail, located in Prince Edward Island National Park, on the island’s north shore. The trail, which is a little over five miles long, winds its way through all types of environments – forests, fields, marshes, and beaches. Arriving just before sunset afforded us perfect light to take in the area.
Unfortunately, it also provided me a big fat reminder to always “be prepared.” Rule Number 1: Always take the good camera. I was happily taking photos with my iPhone, which generally does a pretty good job, when we looked up and saw this:
Yup, that’s a bald eagle. If I’d had a better camera with me, you wouldn’t have to just take my word for it. Dammit.
When you’re traveling, you’re constantly on the receiving end of suggestions for where and what to eat. We’ve gotten some stellar tips over the past year, but unfortunately, we’ve had to let a lot of suggestions go. Eating out all the time quickly gets expensive and we can’t live like we’re on vacation if we want to continue doing this.
However, when we receive the same tip from multiple people, we tend to ignore silly things like “budgets” and just go. In PEI, we heard the same advice over and over, so, as our Excel spreadsheets whimpered sad protests in the corner, we headed out the door.
Confession time: We’re not that into lobster rolls. I know, I know… But seriously? Admit it. They’re overrated. Lobster in general isn’t all that flavorful (as compared to something like snow crab legs or mussels), in order to cook it, they boil it (the most boring way to prepare any food), and, according to common wisdom, the way to make a “great” lobster roll is to use as little dressing (also known as “flavoring”) as possible. So you take a bland food and you prepare it in a bland way and then you shove it in a bland white roll and everyone drops $20 on a sandwich before proclaiming it “life changing.” Now put your pitchforks down and come over to my side. Deep down, you know I’m right.
Anyway, after spending these past few months in Maine and Eastern Canada constantly being told that the best local restaurant was this lobster roll place or that lobster roll place, we were excited to get to PEI and receive recommendation after recommendation for Blue Mussel Cafe, a casual seafood restaurant known more for its non-lobster roll offerings than anything else. Scallops, haddock, halibut, chowder, mussels… Sign us up!!!!
We sampled several items from the menu including a thick, flavorful, complex seafood chowder, a large bowl of PEI mussels so fresh they were probably chillaxing in the ocean an hour before we gobbled them up, and a seafood charcuterie plate piled high with fresh salmon, smoked mackerel, multiples types of cheese, and various fruit compotes. So much better than plain boiled lobster on white bread. So. Much. Better.
Another bike ride on the north side of the island led us to the frequently recommended Richard’s Seafood. While Richard’s has several options on the menu, they are famous for their fish & chips, and let me tell you, it was hands down the best we’ve ever had. Light and crispy breading (really light and really crispy) over super fresh fish and a side of completely unnecessary but oh-so-yummy fries. Pro-tip: just split an order. It’s way too much food for one person.
Finally, we went to a Lobster Supper. This is a type of restaurant popular in the maritimes that I’d initially dismissed as a tourist trap. But when we were repeatedly directed to go – not only by other RVers, but also by our campground hosts and the bartender at Blue Mussel Cafe (who was born and raised on the island), we decided we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.
We went to the oft-recommended New Glasgow Lobster Supper. When we arrived there was a line out the door, probably because in addition to your main course (options include lobster, steak, halibut, scallops, and others….), you get mussels, multiple types of salad, clam chowder, tomato basil soup, rolls, and dessert. Everything is “all you can eat” except for the main course.
It’s a good opportunity to stuff yourself silly if you’re feeling the need (and given the people we saw leaving the restaurant still wearing their plastic lobster bibs, apparently many folks eat themselves right into a food coma).
We polished off one round of everything and left full, but not bursting, which was nice. The service was great, the food was solid, the environment lively, and overall, we had a really good time. I’m glad we decided to go.
More Mead Please
In addition to stopping by a local purveyor of cheese, we also stopped by a brand new honey wine place.
We first had mead last year in Massachusetts and really loved it, so when we saw a sign for this shop while driving through the area, we decided to stop. The owners are a husband and wife who moved to Prince Edward Island after visiting the island and falling in love with it. They bought a large parcel of land and started planting an organic farm, which, during our visit, was producing an impressive array of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
And, just a few weeks prior to our visit, they’d opened the tasting room for the mead they’re now producing. The views from that small building were gorgeous.
They were both incredibly personable and happy to talk about their business and their plans. The husband took us on a tour of the grounds, showing us the various crops they’re growing as well as their fleet of lawn-mowing sheep….
We walked away with a couple bottles of mead and some serious respect for this energetic, creative, and determined couple.
Truth be told we didn’t spend much time in Prince Edward Island’s capital city. We did visit the very popular Charlottetown Farmer’s Market, which is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the year. It was impressive, but extremely crowded, which made it difficult to stop and look at the wares. We did manage to grab some veggies and a quick bite to eat from the local vendors though.
Afterwards, we headed to the Confederation Arts Center to see an exhibit about the founding of Canada. There’s a lot of stuff going on this year related to Canada’s 150th birthday. Most noticeable for us has been the free access to the various parks, museums and other facilities we’ve visited over the past month. We would have happily paid to visit any of these places; Parks Canada and the Provincial governments all run first rate operations, and we’ve felt very welcomed everywhere we’ve been.
In any case, embarrassingly, neither Kevin nor I were particularly well versed in Canadian history, so we decided the least we could do was go visit this exhibit at the Arts Center to learn more about our neighbor to the north. The exhibit was well worth the visit. We walked away with a solid understanding of how Canada came to be and why they are all so damned cooperative and nice.
Our plan was to then explore Victoria Row, the popular pedestrian area of the city known for its outdoor restaurants and shops, but it was raining and pretty miserable when we left the Arts Center, so we decided to call it a day.
Prince Edward Island
All in all, we had a busy week on PEI. We biked a lot. We ate a lot. We took a ton of photos. We thoroughly enjoyed our time…. even when they charged us $65.00 to leave. That’s right…. you pay a GINORMOUS toll to cross the eight mile long Confederation Bridge from PEI to New Brunswick. $45 per car. $65 for an RV towing a car.
But… we’re good. We knew about it beforehand and just added it to the cost of visiting the island. In our view, it was worth it for the very fun week we had. We’ve now moved on to lovely Nova Scotia and are busy running around the incredibly gorgeous Cape Breton Island. More on that soon.
Where we stayed: New Glasgow Highlands Campground