From tip to tip, you can drive across Prince Edward Island in roughly 2.5 hours, yet you could stay for days – weeks, months! – without ever running out of fun. PEI is home to Anne of Green Gables, red dirt and many of my favourite childhood & adult memories. In this post, I’ll share with you my recommendations for family fun in PEI!
Sandspit & Shining Waters
I’m happy to report that Sandspit and Shining Waters are open for summer 2020. They’re taking extra Covid-related precautions and must be booked in advance. You’re most likely to find me at Sandspit on the ferris wheel or the Scrambler…and who doesn’t love a carousel? Truthfully, I haven’t been to Shining Waters but my friends all assure me that it’s a great water park. If you hit up one of these attractions, you can take a quick look around Avonlea Village, which is very nearby.
Biking on PEI
I can’t emphasize this one enough: if you like biking at all, you must bike on PEI. The scenery is stunning and the trails are abundant. If you can’t take a bike with you, a quick Google search brings up lots of highly-rated Island bike rental companies. I have often enjoyed biking on the Confederation Trail, and this year I also tried out the Homestead Trail in Cavendish. You really can’t go wrong. Keep in mind that if you are visiting a provincial or national park (such as for the Homestead Trail), there will be a minimal entry fee required.
I know, I know. This one goes without saying. Still, it’s worth mentioning that there are two very different sides of the Island when it comes to beaches and the side you choose will depend on what you like best.
On the Northumberland Straight side of the Island (where you cross the bridge), the beaches will have that classic PEI red dirt, and the water is shallow and warm. My husband’s family has a cottage on this side of the Island and we rarely go anywhere else. That said, it’s not the best for lounging in the sand as the tide comes in and out daily, making the sand quite wet most of the time. Still, if your children are young, the warm water and shallow depths make this side of the Island very appealing.
On the north shore of the Island, beaches typically have colder water but lovely white sand. Some popular beaches include: Basinhead Beach (popular for tourists and locals alike, having both white sand and a wharf from which to jump), Brackley Beach, Cavendish Beach and (I have yet to visit this one but it looks great) Greenwhich National Park.
The Dunes Studio Gallery & Cafe
Although this might seem like an unlikely family activity, the gardens at the Dunes are so unique and beautiful that the kids always enjoy exploring and running around the property. There is no cost to visit the Gallery or the garden around back, but I bet you will fall in love with something in the studio and take it home with you! There are items for everyone’s budgets: from $5 magnets to $200 wooden bowls, from $7 earrings to $10k tables, and hundreds of paintings at varying prices in between. The cafe has good food but unless your children are more patient than mine, I have found the leisurely service pace unsuitable for my young family. The Dunes are only about 20 minutes to Charlottetown and there are lots of great places to eat there.
Even though you will probably run into some lighthouses just by being on the Island, it’s worth seeking out a few of them to enjoy them in all of their splendour. This year, we visited West Point Lighthouse for the first time. It was off the beaten track but well worth it! There is a lighthouse museum inside, which I assumed would be boring but proved very interesting! On top of that, you can climb to the very top of the lighthouse and look out over the coast, or towards the windmills. It’s breathtaking! Since a picture paints a thousand words, here are a few of the lighthouses we have visited:
Rainy Day Activities in PEI
Full disclosure: most rainy days, we don’t leave the cottage. Part of the charm of PEI for me is the slow pace. A rainy day means reading books, building puzzles and playing board games. That said, there is certainly lots to do in PEI on a rainy day. A friend wrote a blog post about rainy day activities around Cavendish, which you can find here. To this list, I would like to add that Summerside’s Credit Union Place has a wonderful indoor pool and walking/running track. While you’re in Summerside, be sure to check out my favourite kid’s clothing store called The Tickle Trunk. It’s a boutique store that carries some of our favourite brands, and they always have great sales. It’s one of the only places I purchase new clothing for my kids. Finally, I have it on good authority that The Butterfly House in New Glasgow is worth a visit.
Family Restaurants in PEI
Because we live a PEI cottage life, we don’t eat out for every meal, so my options are limited to the places I have truly enjoyed, along with a few that have come recommended to me. Personal family favourites: Terra Rossa (Charlottetown), the Brickhouse (Charlottetown), Founders Hall (Charlottetown) and Leonhard’s Cafe (Charlottetown – note: this is a brunch place and there can be a wait). Recommended by trusted friends: The Catch (O’Leary – near West Point Lighthouse), Stir It Up Vegan Restaurant in Founders Hall (specifically, the Mooseless Mac), Point Prim Chowder House (Point Prim), and the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers (New Glasgow).
Side note here: the attractive server at the Brickhouse spent the entire meal calling Dana “Love” – which is coincidentally what I call him – so if you’re sensitive about such matters, maybe get your husband to wear a “taken” sign during dinner.
Another list of my personal favourite restaurants is coming for “couples” places to eat. Stay tuned!
I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest heading to Cows Ice Cream! There are locations in Cavendish, Charlottetown, and Borden – and they make their waffle cones fresh! The aroma alone is alluring. Unfortunately for my family, they don’t have a peanut-safe option so we usually end up taking the kids to Kool Breeze in Summerside.
Where to Stay in PEI
The best course of action is to do what I did: namely, marry an Islander and hope that his family welcomes you every summer to his cottage! That said, I do have a few backup plans for you. I still think a cottage is the way to go when it comes to family time on the Island. A trusted friend told me that her family has stayed at many different locations on the Island and Cavendish Maples is by far their favourite spot; her recommendation is backed by hundreds of five-star reviews on Trip Advisor so I feel confident sending you there! Our family has had a great experience staying at the Delta Charlottetown. The kids loved the pool and the restaurant was very kid-friendly.
Additional Activities & Final Thoughts
If you’re still looking for ideas, consider deep sea fishing, strawberry picking (Unruly Pastures in Crapaud or Compton’s Berry Patch in Summerside), a visit to Maison de Bouteilles (Cape Egmont), or Beach Goats (Richmond). And despite all of the incredibly fun things there are to do in PEI, my top recommendation is to avoid over scheduling yourself. Part of the Island’s charm is the slower pace, and slowing down is my favourite thing to do on the Island. The Island will always be there, ready for your next trip, and the one after that…because PEI will always call you back.