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Prince Edward Island: Canada's Secret No Longer

 By Rita Cook (ritacook@wwwiz.com)

 Until recently, Prince Edward Island, the smallest Canadian Province, was one of Canada's best kept secrets mainly because you couldn't get there by car, you had to take either a ferry or an airplane (http://www.airnova.ca or http://www.aircanada.ca.)

But after the nine-mile Confederation Bridge joining Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick was built, traveling to the island is easy (http://www.gov.pe.ca/visitorsguide/gettinghere/locatormap.php3) and more people are discovering the charm of the island.  The bridge is the longest multispan bridge in the world crossing the Northumberland Straight between Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick and Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island.

It didn't take me long to discover that the island pace was slow and the beauty was real as I settled into an old bed & breakfast in Charlottetown that I still believe is haunted.

Late into the night I strolled down the streets of Charlottetown, not only feeling safe, but feeling like the world outside Prince Edward Island didn't exist.  It was at the B&B that I realized just how bread and water could be transformed into hot tea with cream and toast–my new favorite delicacy.

Visiting Prince Edward Island, many are surprised by the diversity of the small Canadian province (http://www.peisland.com/where.html).  There's 25-miles of National Park including beaches, dunes and salt marshes.  The island has also made quite a name for itself in the golf community with 14 well-tended courses.  The Links at Crowbush Cove were recently rated 4.5 out of 5 by Golf Digest.  While I don't golf myself, I stopped at the Links and soak up a few minutes of sun on the course.

No matter if you're interested in walking down a quiet, country lane, sinking your toes into the warm sand along the shore, or just taking in a local festival, Prince Edward Island offers everything (http://www.peionline.com).

It was on Prince Edward Island that I found my other favorite delicacy, lox and bagel with cream cheese.  In just about any restaurant on the island–http://www.peisland.com/retailrest.html–you'll find this on the menu and you can expect it will be the freshest lox and bagel you'll ever eat. In fact, one of Canada's top 12 restaurants is on Prince Edward Island.  Eat at The Inn at Bay Fortune for an upscale dinner worth every penny.

And, just like on every island, you'll find lighthouses (for a listing call (902) 859-3117) that you must visit, scattered among the timeless, seaside villages that reminded me of stories I'd read as a child, but never expected to find in real life.

For hikers, there's the Confederation Trail, 175-miles of some of the island's most scenic landscapes. If you're not up for hiking there are the PEI scenic driving trails.  I took the Lady Slipper Drive and saw harbors, lighthouses and visited the Potato Museum and MacAusland Woolen Mill.  Follow Route 19 along the Northumberland Shore to get an idea of the green hills and tiny fishing villages that give the entire island its magical feeling.

And like every seacoast community, the towns on the island each have their own special flavor.  And with that, come the local celebrations.  Every Saturday night local musicians play and ``The Ceilidh at the Irish Hall" is a weekly event.

The average temperature on Prince Edward Island is about 57F in May, getting as high as 73 in August and then back down to 54 in October.  For an instant report on the current weather conditions check out http://www2.gov.pe.ca/weather/index.asp. Prince Edward Island is also home to the world-famous Anne of Green Gables.  She's popular all right, and there's a musical of the same name that has been running in Charlottetown for 33 seasons.  While you might not expect Broadway on this little island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, think again.  I enjoyed it and found myself humming several of the tunes for days.

People come from all over the world to see Anne of Green Gables and the replica of her house is found in the region called Anne's Land. Starting with Anne's Land there are six distinct regions on Prince Edward Island.  The regions are Anne's Land, Sunsets and Seascapes, Ship to Shore, Charlotte's Shore, Bays and Dunes and Hills and Harbors.  The island has been divided carefully and placed into one of the six categories and visitors can choose areas that pique their interest the most.

Anne's Land also includes portions of Prince Edward Island National Park with sandy beaches and saltwater marshes.  Resorts such as Dalvay-By-The-Sea and Stanhope-By-The-Sea are historic testaments to the island's history and heritage.

Bird watching is also popular on this part of the island with eagles and ospreys often visible.

          The Sunsets and Seascapes region offers a look at the proud tradition of the island. It's here that islanders still fish and farm like their ancestors did.  The Sunsets and Seascapes region is part of the landscape of Lady Slipper Drive where old churches and lighthouses are common sights.

The Acadian culture is still strong in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and it's in Tignish that you'll find many Acadian and Irish traditions still being kept today. 

Ship to Shore is located near Summerside, a thickly populated Acadian region of the island.  In August the area offers the Festival Acadian Agricultural Exhibition, full of music and dancing. Charlotte's Shore is considered the gateway to the Garden of the Gulf.  This part of the region is home to the Confederation Bridge, and for many visitors, their first look at the island. 

          Charlottetown, the capital, is about 30 minutes from the bridge and it's often called the birthplace of Canadian Confederation. The town has done a wonderful job of restoring the old buildings lining Queen Street, Victoria Row and the entire downtown area.

          Bays and Dunes is full of nature.  It's located in Kings County and home to many tiny inns and quaint restaurants. The Links at Crowbush is here and for another change of scenery I traveled to Mount Stewart to take advantage of the excellent bird watching opportunities.

          The last region is Hills and Harbors.  Coastal cliffs give way to sandy beaches and farmland in this area.  Farmers still live out their days on farms overlooking acres of green-patched land. It's peaceful here and the Point Prim lighthouse, recorded as the island's oldest, is made of circular brick.  Scottish settlers made their home here and the festivals and practices in this region pay homage to those customs.

          In every region I found an array of tearooms, shops and charming attractions that were different than anywhere else in Canada. No matter where you end up staying on the island, a charming time awaits you. For more information and a vacation planner check out: http://www.gov.pe.ca/visitorsguide/index.php3.  Currently, the U.S. dollar is worth $1.43 Canadian. For an up-to-the-minute look at what's going on check out the IslandCam (http://www.gov.pe.ca/islandcam/index.php3). 

 Rita Cook is a freelance travel and entertainment writer, as well as the freelance editorial director of ``Insider" magazine. She lives in Los Angeles and her most recent project, besides traveling, was producing a feature-length mockumentary called ``Marty & Virginia."

 

 

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