Just off the eastern coast of Canada, the home of Anne of Green Gables is the perfect sleepy summer getaway: gentle tides, tolling meadows, fresh seafood galore, and—blessedly—no crowds. You’ve probably heard of Prince Edward Island, thanks to that precocious little orphan with the long, red braids, but you might not have the smallest Canadian province—just 175 miles from tip to tip—on the family-vacation wish list. Yet. The crowd-free island has more than 90 beaches, and because it’s sheltered from frigid northern waters on three sides by Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Newfoundland, the summers are warm and the water is totally swimmable. (Not to mention the dollar tends to go further there.) Stay on the North Shore—close to quiet beaches and an old-fashioned amusement park—and choose among our day-trip ideas, none of which takes you more than two hours from your hotel. Whether you’re into seal watching, bike riding, lighthouses, lobster suppers, or just strolls along stretches of unspoiled coast, you’ll have no problem filling your days.
The North Shore
From the small-town bustle of Cavendish to the peaceful beaches and hiking trails of PEI National Park, the North Shore has tons of attractions. Visit the real-life Green Gables, or brave the old roller coaster—or just the kiddie cars—at an amusement park with no lines.
Dalvay by the Sea: Spend your nights in a Victorian manor inside PEI National Park and across the road from the beach.
Richard’s Eatery: This classic clam shack has a deck overlooking busy Covehead Harbour. Watch fishing boats chug in and out and feast on the haul—from fried clams to lobster rolls to fish and chips.
Dayboat: Snag a spot on the deck and order the local smoked salmon, sweet-corn chowder, Pickle Point oysters, or just the blueberry-honey cobbler with ice cream. (5033 Rustico Road, Oyster Bed Bridge .)
St. Ann’s Lobster Suppers: The PEI lobster supper began as a fund-raiser in this church basement. Now, for about C$20, you get a decent-size lobster, all the mussels you can eat, seafood chowder, rolls, salad, and dessert. (Route 224, St. Ann.)
PEI National Park: Here you’ll find a breathtaking 25-mile stretch of dunes, sandstone cliffs, and salt marshes, plus hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, beaches (with lifeguards), and vast stretches of land without a soul in sight. You can also rent bikes and trailers at Dalvay for the five-mile bike path.
Green Gables Heritage Site: Green Gables, the real-life home of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s cousins, was the setting for her classic books. Tour the house (now a museum, furnished with period pieces to match the stories), and stroll through its barn and lush gardens. A gift shop sells all things Anne, including raspberry cordial and straw hats. (Route 6, Cavendish.)
Sandspit Cavendish Beach: With its slow Ferris wheel and a squeaky roller coaster, Sandspit is an old-school small-scale amusement park. No crowds—just corn dogs, kiddie rides, and a miniature train that circles the leafy grounds. (Route 6, Cavendish.)
The Dunes: This sprawling gallery-shop-café, founded by local potter Peter Jansons, is just south of PEI National Park, You’ll find Jansons’s slek, colorful wares, plus ornate jewelry and textiles and children’s books. The downstairs café has full menus for lunch and dinner and a patio overlooking a water garden. (Route 15, Brackley Beach.)
The Toy Factory: Housed in a century-old general store, this shop is bursting with goodies. Be sure to see the handcrafted wooden towys. The boats, planes, tops, trains, and pull toys are all made on-site from local maple and adorned with vegetable-based oil paint. (5607 Route 13, New Glasgow.)
Eastern PEI boasts some of the island’s best scenery: parabolic sand dunes, expansive beaches, and incomparable views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Rick’s Fish ‘N’ Chips & Seafood House: This straightforward place has friendly service, fresh fish, and chips cute from PEI potatoes. (Route 2, St. Peter’s Bay.)
Shipwreck Point Café: About the only place to eat between Greenwich National Park and Est Point Lighthouse, it has fish cakes and poutine. (Route 16, Naufrage Harbour.)
East Point Lighthouse: Climb to the top and pick up a ribbon. Pair it with one from the North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Center and get a certificate for having visited the island end-to-end. (Route 16, East Point.)
Greenwich National Park: Explore the great salt marshes from the floating boardwalk, and learn about the rare sand dunes at the interpretation center.
Basin Head Provincial Park and Fisheries Museum: This swimming spot is known as Singing Sands—the ultrafine sand squeaks underfoot. The museum has funky dioramas and fish taxidermy hanging from the ceiling.
St. Peter’s Landing: Duck into the cozy bookstore, the Turret Bell, for local kid favorites, like Bud the Spud and Lobster in My Pocket. The souvenir shops here sell everything from kites to goats’-milk soap. (Route 2, St. Peter’s Bay.)
Few visitors make it up to this windswept corner. But the North Cape windmills and the longest natural rock reef in North America are worth the drive.
Boat Shop Steak & Seafood Restaurant: Carved out of an old boat workshop, it has harbor views, a kids’ menu, and a nearby playground. (Northport Pier, Northport.)
Seaweed Pie Cafe: At this down-home roadside spot, you’ll find local specialties, like Acadian meat pies with butter-milk biscuits and lobster burgers. (Route 14, Miminegash.)
PEI Potato Mountain: This temple to one of PEI’s biggest exports features a 14-foot spud sculpture and creative exhibits. Kids can play farmer and whack potato warts. Also available: potato-sack toddler pants and tasty potato fudge. (1 Dewar Lane, O’Learu.)
North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Center: Walk along the rock reef to see waves from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Northumberland Strait on either side. There are also wind-power exhibits, an aquarium, and a seal-viewing platform. (Route 12, North Cape.)
MacAusland’s Woolen Mills: This family has been making goods from local wool for 140 years. Watch the looms in action, then buy a keepsake blanket. (38317 Route 2, Bloomfield.)
The provincial capital has a hopping harborfront, historic houses, and even a huge indoor pool and waterslide that are perfect should you get a rainy day.
Cows Ice Cream: Locally made ice cream with handmade waffle cones! (Peake’s Wharf, Charlottetown.)
Flex Mussels: No one cooks the bivalve with more flair and variety—from the simple garlic and white wine to lemon-grass and coconut milk. They also have basic fish and chips, and mini lemon-meringue pies. (Peake’w Wharf, Charlottetown.)
Orwell Corner Historic Village: Just 15 minutes southeast of Charlottetown is a restored 19th-century village. See the general store, schoolhouse, and blacksmith’s shop; pet farm animals; take a horse-and-buggy ride; and partake in hands-on ice cream and candle-making demos.
Capital Area Recreation (CARI): A lifesaver during bad weather, this indoor complex has a gigantic waterslide, an 8-lane pool with multiple diving boards, a shallow play pool, a hot tub, and parental-observation areas. Family day passes are C$15.
The Walk & Sea Boutique: Shelves are crammed with local wares, from Anne of Green Gables dolls to preserves. (Founders’ Hall, Prince Street, Charlottetown.)
Photos: Annie Schlecter