Prince Edward Island formed some 15,000 years ago when built-up silt from freshwater rivers was uncovered by receding glaciers. This combination of events created fertile rolling hills and a coastline that’s a mix of sandy beaches and red sandstone cliffs – an absolutely beautiful place for a road trip. The shape of the island lends itself nicely to three separate loops that can be connected to circumnavigate all of PEI.
North Cape Coastal Drive
Total route distance: 350 kilometres
Summerside to Cap-Egmont. Start your journey at the narrow section that divides the northern part of the island from the rest. The road to Cap-Egmont passes Linkletter Provincial Park – a great place to take a walk, St Nicholas where you’ll find the largest concentration of Acadians on the island, and the end of this stretch has both the Cap-Egmont Lighthouse and the popular Bottle Houses that are fun to stop and visit.
Cap-Egmont to West Point. Cross the Haldimand River and head towards Abram-Village where Acadian festivals are held and continue on past Arsenault Pond to St Chrysostome where miles of sandbars appear at low tide. At Egmont the road heads inland a bit to Mount Pleasant and continues north. Avoid the tempting turnoff at the collection of rivers that feed Black Banks Cove and keep travelling north to Mill River Provincial Park. After a short break, head towards O’Leary and the Canadian Potato Museum and then to West Point.
West Point to North Cape. Pass the wind farms at West Cape and travel along a stretch of gorgeous coastline on your way to Skinners Pond, where Stompin’ Tom Connors spent his youth. Seacow Pond is named for the walruses that once lived in the area. As you drive, you are heading towards the North Cape – the longest natural rock reef in North America.
North Cape to Lennox Island. Travel south to Tignish to see the pristine beach and visit a community that has been around since the 1700s. Stop to enjoy the Kildare Capes and Jacques Cartier Provincial Park on the way to Alberton where the museum has great displays on fishing, farming and fox fur. Continue along the road, stopping at the small towns and scenic viewpoints until you reach the turnoff to Lennox Island. This short detour takes you to the largest Aboriginal community on the island and offers tours, walks and plenty of culture.
Lennox Island to Summerside. Stop in Bideford for the Shellfish Museum, Port Hill to see the Shipbuilding Museum and say hello to the alpacas at Birch Hill before returning to Summerside to tackle the centre portion of PEI.
Central Coastal Drive
Total route distance: 253 kilometres
Green Gables Shore. Made famous by author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the shoreline is as picturesque as she describes in the Anne of Green Gables books. From Summerside, head towards Kensington and then towards the coast. Cabot Beach Provincial Park is a good place to take a beach break before continuing on to take in the gorgeous views out to sea and the rolling hills on the island. Several areas are designated parkland and here you can view PEI just as it’s been for many years. The Green Gables farmhouse can be visited inside PEI National Park along with the Lake of Shining Waters and other landmarks from the story. Also be sure to stop in at the Glasgow Glen Farm Artisan Cheese Producers and wander the boardwalk at North Rustico. There are beaches along most of the route in addition to dune walks and fishing villages. The entire drive is best taken slowly with plenty of side trips to see what may lie just over the hill.
Red Sands Shore. The route runs along the Northumberland Strait side of the island which means a calmer ocean and gentler waves at the beaches. As more visitors tend to travel the northern route, this road has fewer crowds and offers a more peaceful side of PEI. Some of the best views can be seen from Confederation Bridge and Gateway Village at the foot of the bridge has an information centre and a lot of shops to wander through. If art is your thing, stop in Victoria-by-the-Sea – a delightful fishing village that attracts artists and has plenty to see if you explore the streets. End this segment in Charlottetown, the provincial capital and largest city on the island.
Charlottetown. Spend some extra time to explore the province's capital with a walking tour and make sure to visit Victoria Row with its charming brick buildings. A boat cruise will show you a lesser-seen side of the city and the Farmers' Market provides a taste of what grows around the island. Keep an ear out for street musicians and pop into a pub to see who’s playing that day.
Points East Coastal Drive
Total route distance: 475 kilometres
This section takes you around the most natural part of PEI with several fun stopping places to take a break from the car. The Orwell Historic Village provides a fascinating insight into the farming communities that were the first on PEI and has farm animals that kids love to visit. Roma at Three Rivers is another historic site that interprets the life and contributions of Jean Pierre Roma, a Frenchman from the 1730s. There are many beaches along the route that are inviting for both swimming and strolling along the sands – another great way to stop and stretch your legs. If your legs are up for stairs, visit the six lighthouses that are open to the public and get some amazing views along with your history. Point Prim is the oldest on the island and Panmure Island has PEI’s oldest wooden lighthouse."For those with a little more time to spend, there are hiking trails all along the coast and several world-class golf courses.
Summertime in Prince Edward Island is not to be missed and a coastal drive is the perfect way to explore the many villages and historic sites that the island has to offer. Whether you have a month to spend, or just a weekend, you’ll find plenty to do and see around this scenic province.
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