Maritime Wrap-up: Prince Edward Island

As I see it, there are four areas of interest in visiting Prince Edward Island. First, they are known the world over for their mussels…any seafood restaurant or raw bar worth its seasoning will at some point feature “PEI Mussels” on the chalkboard as a special of the day. The second reason is for the long expanse of beautiful red sand beaches, some of which make up PEI’s one and only National Park. The third reason to visit is if you have an odd curiosity about potato farming, as PEI produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes. And the fourth reason would be “All things Anne.” For those who may not know (myself included up until now) the 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables, which sold 50 million copies was based on Prince Edward Island. A large museum complex bears the title. I had mild curiosity, but no one attraction was calling to me. Okay, well, maybe the mussels.

There are two ways to access Prince Edward Island. One can go by ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia, or via the Confederation Bridge, an eight mile span across the Northumberland Strait to New Brunswick. In both cases, you only pay when you exit the island. Since the ferry is more expensive than the bridge, I chose to enter via ferry, and exit across the bridge.

With tourism being one of PEI’s largest industries, the island is well laid out in tourist routes, cordoned off into four separate scenic drives. As with all the Canadian Atlantic provinces, there is a free tourist map accompanied by a guidebook available at the Visitor Centers. The map illustrates each of the four sections drawn in color coordinated routes on the map, each section wrapped in a different color of road like tidy little bows. The large center section of the island is dividend down the middle into the Red Sands Shore Drive to the south and the Green Gables Shore to the north. On the west end is the North Cape Coastal Drive, with Points East Coastal Drive at the opposite end. Although Prince Edward Island does not appear to be that large, to do all four scenic drives would mean 669 miles. So I start down the middle…

The scenery through the interior of the island is serenely pastoral. Rolling green hills, terraced potato fields edged in borders of brilliant yellow canola blooms. Steeply gabled farm houses punctuated by bright polka-dotted flower beds sit squarely in the middle of the fields, surrounded by farm equipment indicative of the independent farmer. The peaty, iron smell of the freshly plowed rust red soil reminds me of making mud pies in the red sandy dirt at my grandmother’s house.

Not having one specific attraction that I want to see here, I decide to make my focus the lighthouses, knowing they would likely bring me to some scenic coastal areas. However, I soon realize that the PEI Lighthouse standard, white clapboard squarely flared towers trimmed in red, topped with a lone white maple-leaf all start to run together. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for the same egg. So after a couple of days of driving the ribbon roads, my craving for mussels now satisfied, I make my way toward the Confederation Bridge bound for New Brunswick.

Crossing the 75-minute ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island

Boarding the 75-minute ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, No reservation required.

First sight of landfall coming off the ferry, Wood Islands Lighthouse.

First sight of landfall coming off the ferry, Wood Islands Lighthouse.

Pastoral scenes driving across the island south to north.

Pastoral scenes driving across the island south to north.

Potato fields dominate the scenery, as PEI produces 25% of Canada's potatoes.

Potato fields dominate the scenery, as PEI produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes.

Sacks of potatoes sold on the honor system along the roadside.

Sacks of potatoes sold on the honor system along the roadside. I still can’t believe the US Border Control did not make me surrender my PEI souvenir.

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Although PEI is known for an abundance of fresh seafood, they are best known for their PEI mussels.

Although PEI is known for an abundance of fresh seafood, they are best known for their PEI mussels.   A drive-by shot over a bridge where they are cultivated.

Don't miss the Blue Mussel Cafe! I went there twice! The owner is a a delight.

Don’t miss the Blue Mussel Cafe! It was so good, I went there twice! The friendly owner is a delight. He’d never owned a restaurant before, and now he is #1 on TripAdvisor.

They were divine!

They were every bit as tasty as I had anticipated!

PEi is also known for both white and red sand beaches. Here you can see both, with white in the background and red in foreground.

PEI is also known for both white and red sand beaches. Here you can see both, with white in the background and red in foreground.

The best of the red sand beaches can be seen at Cavendish National Park.

The best known of the red sand beaches is Cavendish Beach inside PEI National Park.

Note "Hole in the Rock."

Note “Hole in the Rock.”

The gulf stream waters around Prince Edward Island keep the water temps higher than the rest of the maritimes.

Due to the Northumberland Strait’s shallow depths, PEI boasts of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas.

PEI has a project underway with volunteers from the local High School to protect the eroding dunes. They use recycled Christmas trees to trap the shifting sands and discourage climbing on the dunes.

PEI has a project underway with volunteers from the local High School to protect the eroding dunes. They use recycled Christmas trees to trap the shifting sands and discourage climbing on the dunes.

Walking paths through Cavendish National Park.

Walking paths through PEI National Park.

A "floating boardwalk" along one of the National Park trails.

A “floating boardwalk” along one of the National Park trails.

PEI's famous "Cows Creamery" sells butter, cheese, and of course what is billed to be "Canada's Best Ice Cream."

PEI’s famous “Cows Creamery” sells butter, cheese, and of course what is billed to be “Canada’s Best Ice Cream.”

While known for their dairy products, Cows Creamery is also famous for their tee-shirts featuring a culture of cows.

While known for their dairy products, Cows Creamery is also famous for their tee-shirts featuring the culture of the common cow. Tee-shirts are printed in house, and are part of the self-guided factory tour.

One of Cows Creamery's tee-shirt designs. The caption reads, "Common Cow paying homage to local literary hero," Anne of Green Gables, of course.

One of Cows Creamery’s tee-shirt designs. The caption reads, “Common Cow paying homage to local literary hero,” Anne of Green Gables, of course.

If you are a fan of Anne, you might be interested to know this is the birthplace of the author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, born 1874.

If you are a fan of Anne, you might be interested to know this is the birthplace of the author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, born 1874.

One of the many beautiful homes in Victoria-by-the-Sea, a historic town along PEI's south shore.

One of the many beautiful homes in Victoria-by-the-Sea, a historic town along PEI’s south shore.

The picturesque little village with its shops and waterfront restaurants is a popular but quaint tourist stop.

The picturesque little village with its shops and waterfront restaurants is a popular but quaint tourist stop.

Victoria Seaport Lighthouse Museum

Victoria Seaport Lighthouse Museum

North Rustico Harbour Light, built 1899

North Rustico Harbour Light, built 1899

New London Lighthouse (Range)

New London Lighthouse (Range)

Covehead Harbour Lighthouse

Covehead Harbour Lighthouse

Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. (I would fix this beauty up with a nice paint job if they would let me live here!)

Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. (I would fix this beauty up with a nice paint job if they would let me live here!)

Crossing the 8 mile Confederation Bridge over to New Brunswick.

Crossing the 8 mile Confederation Bridge over to New Brunswick, which carries the Trans-Canada Highway.

Prior to completion in 1997, the only way to access PEI was via ferry.

Prior to completion in 1997, the only way to access PEI was via ferry.

Maritime Wrap-up: Nova Scotia

I guess it’s a “given” that leaving a place like Newfoundland is certain to bring on a bad case of ennui. After a month of glorious solitude, scenic coastal roads, and serendipitous encounters with wildlife on “The Rock,” Nova Scotia didn’t really stand a chance. Like going on an arranged date with a preppy, plaid-clad provincial boy after a painful break-up with that long-haired “bad boy” from summer vacation. Continue reading

Things We’ll Never See Unless We Walk to Them

There are two ferry options to leave Newfoundland returning to Nova Scotia.  The first is the “short ferry,” a six hour passage into Port Aux Basque on the western side, back the way I came.  Then there is the “long ferry” that leaves from the eastern side of the island.  I have decided to take the long ferry back for several reasons.  I don’t want to backtrack on the Trans Canada Highway, driving the same interior road again.   And I really enjoyed the six hour passage coming over.  I wasn’t ready to get off the ship.  It’s rare for me to get to “ride” versus “drive,” and I enjoyed watching the ocean roll by from the comfort of my reclining seat.  But most importantly, returning via the long ferry will allow me to continue on down around the Avalon Peninsula a bit further. Continue reading

Mistaken Point…A Mistake?

Moving south along the Avalon Peninsula, I want to visit Newfoundland’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ecological reserve at Mistaken Point. This landmark got its ominous name from sailors who mistook the southernmost point for having rounded the point of Cape Race on their way into the port of St John’s, but instead slammed into treacherous rocks. There are some 50 shipwrecks still preserved in the icy waters off the shore of Mistaken Point.

But Mistaken Point now has new notoriety, Continue reading

Why Not More Picnics?

I’m up early from my boondocking spot at Cape Spear, because I want to be among the first to see the sun rise at 5:35am on the furthest eastern point on the continent.  But long before my alarm beeps to life, I wake to the long and low moan of the fog horn, warning of low visibility.   It’s like trying to see the sunrise with a white blanket over my head.   Oh, well, my consolation prize was getting to spend the night beneath another lighthouse. Continue reading

St. John’s – Jellybeans and Other Sweet Treats

Driving toward St John’s, Newfoundland’s capital city on the Avalon Peninsula, is a bit of culture shock.  It’s been three weeks since I’ve seen any semblance of “traffic,” so to roll up to the first stop light in so many days just seems odd, if not downright intimidating.  I’m eager to tour the city, but going from night after night of freedom in  remote boondocking spots to a crowded RV Park is tough to swallow, in spite of my desire to see the sights.

According to wikipedia, “Of major Canadian cities, St. John’s is the foggiest (124 days), windiest (15.1 mph) average speed), and cloudiest (1,497 hours of sunshine.) Precipitation is frequent and often heavy, falling year round.”   So I feel fortunate Continue reading

Wooden Boats to my Heart’s Content

Each of the “fingers” that extend from Newfoundland’s northern shore has its own personality.   Each has a scenic road that runs around its perimeter, all with their own “trail” name.   My next exploratory jaunt around one of these fingers is called the “Baccalieu Trail,” named for the small Baccalieu Island off the coast, most likely named after the Portuguese or Spanish word for cod.

But who can even remember “Baccalieu,” when you have such interesting town names along this trail!   There is Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Content, Cupids, and Continue reading

Photo-hike on the Skerwink Trail

The weather has been gray and drizzly since leaving Bonavista, but the forecast shows a brief window of relief. So I b-line it for the Skerwink Trail. It will mean hiking in the late afternoon, but it’s the only rain-free window for the next 24 hours, so I’m going for it. The trail is reported to have some muddy, slippery stretches along the cliffsides, and I don’t want to walk it in the rain.

The Skerwink Trail is a 5.3km/3.5 mile loop that skirts the perimeter of Skerwink Head, between Trinity Bay and Port Rexton’s Robinhood Bay. For what it’s worth, to quote Continue reading

Nuthin’ but Puffins!

The chance to see a puffin up close is haunting me, particularly after reading in the Newfoundland Travel Guide that it’s one of the only remaining places in the world where one can see them up close in the wild.  But it means a 30 mile drive back to Elliston in the rain, and still no guarantee. However, the weekend is now behind me, so crowds should have let up. I decide I will boondock at the scenic overlook just beyond the puffin site.  This will give me two opportunities, one later in the evening, and another the following morning if I don’t have success. Continue reading