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.