Road Trip to Prince Edward Island
October 10 - 13, 2006
I had more vacation time than I could carry over to 2007 so I decided to take a week off in October. What to do? Where to go? I didn't want to stay home and do nothing all week so I thought maybe a road trip to nearby Prince Edward Island would be nice. I called Mom and asked her if she wanted to go. I didn't need to ask twice!
You know what happens next! Research, web surfing, decisions, where to stay, what to see, and finding accommodations was a bit tricky as we didn't want to stay up under the eaves and have to be climbing too many stairs. I also discovered that Bed and Breakfasts and Inns seem to have mostly double/queen/king sized beds rather than twin beds (unless you stay in the room up under those eaves). I did find one that had a couple of small cottages on the grounds, one of which had two double beds and a sitting room area. Sold! The Beach House Inn at French River was in a beautiful spot, on New London Bay and our unit came with breakfast every morning which was well presented and filling.
But I get ahead of myself.
We hit the road on a sunny Tuesday morning, the day after Canadian Thanksgiving. We first headed to Amherst near the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border and had a lovely lunch and a visit with friends of mine. We drove past some really gorgeous old houses on the way out of the town afterwards. We drove across the marshes and turned off for the road to the Confederation Bridge, connecting PEI to the rest of Canada. There's a big visitor centre and lots of shops just on the other side of the 13 km. Bridge and we stopped there for a look. I was having problems with a sore back so I couldn't stand around for lengths of time which did cut into our shopping time a bit, unfortunately.
Armed with our map, we decided we should try to find the Inn which seemed to be a bit off the beaten track. The bay that the Inn is on is on the western side of an area that includes the well known Cavendish resort areas and beaches which are on the central and eastern side of the north central shore of the Island. French River is on the eastern side. It's a little fishing village and we drove through that and down a small back road to the shore where the Inn was. It's very quiet aside from the calls of crows and seabirds. It's a 5 minute walk to the water and there's a little lighthouse there as well.
The Beach House Inn is an old farmhouse that now has a handful of lovely rooms and a few small cottages on the grounds, as I said. Two of them are weekly rentals and self-catering and the other two are Bed and Breakfast units. There is a free video library in the main house though most of the movies on tape are older. We found a few to our liking though. The Tv in our suite worked but had no reception for actual television channels. It was just there in case we wanted to watch videos.
We checked in and had a rest and then got directions to a restaurant in nearby Stanley Bridge which was about a 10 minute drive away. PEI tourist attractions, craft shops and restaurants are seasonal and most are shutting down by the mid to end of October for the winter. There are a few that stay open. We were still within the "open" season and October is a great time to go! You can see the beautiful fall colours, the grass is still green, the weather is still pretty good and there are hardly any crowds at all. Rates are often a bit lower which is a bonus. You can still golf if that's your interest but swimming is probably out though the beaches are still very walkable.
We ate at Carr's Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge. It's also got an aquarium in the complex though we didn't bother to see if it was open. Stanley Bridge is a working fishing village and we sat by the window and watched the fishing boats come in . We even saw a bald eagle fly past over the water! The restaurant specializes in seafood but they had burgers and pastas and salads too. I had fish and chips and it was quite possibly the freshest fish I've ever had. Mom had a burger and we shared a bread pudding with rum raisin sauce.
Back to the Inn before dark so we can find the place! We picked out a movie and watched that before heading to bed.
WednesdayIt's a beautiful day. Sky is clear and blue and the sun is bright. The air is a little crisp but the sun is warm. Breakfast this morning started with a freshly baked croissant, followed by blueberry pancakes and sausage I think. Some hot tea and coffee shored us up and we were on the road.
We decided to drive to nearby Kensington but went a long way around, a more scenic route. Just as we left French River, we saw a blue heron in the marshy area just past the wharves where the boats are. This route is actually called the Blue Heron route in the tourist maps. We were driving and the road was bendy so we didn't stop to try to take a picture.
We drove over the rolling hills and could see the coastline along the Gulf of St. Lawrence now and then. We found Cabot Beach Provincial Park and though it's closed to campers now, we could drive in and out by the cliffs for some photos.
Down into Kensington, a pretty town. We browsed in the Tourist Info centre and Mom stopped into a drugstore for a couple of things. We drove from there along route 6 back close to where we ate last night in Stanley Bridge and continued east. We had to take a detour along some clearly disused back roads because a bridge was out but the detour was well marked so we didn't get lost.
Through the Cavendish resort area to North Rustico Harbour, we got out and took some photos around the fishing boats but my back was pulling a bit and that made me a bit grumpy and disappointed. I wanted to be able to wander and browse and shop with east. Mom drove for awhile after that even though it doesn't bother my back to drive but it let me look around more and take photos while we were en route.
We continued up to where the big beaches are, Brackley, Cavendish and Stanhope. We earmarked a large craft and art store for later and stopped at a little lighthouse at a section of the beach area called Covehead Bay. This is all within the boundaries of Prince Edward Island Provincial Park. We got out and took some photos around the lighthouse of the red sand and vegetation and the water on the beach. The wind was brisk coming off the water but quite refreshing. Up the road a little further is Stanhope beach. It's huge! It looks like it goes for a few miles and the dunes along the road sheltering the beach are the highest I've ever seen, at least 10 feet high or more!
We drove a roundabout loop back to Brackley Beach and went back to that craft shop, The Dunes. Unfortunately their restaurant was closed but we took a bit of time to look around the artwork and crafts, all high end and pricey but really beautiful. Out back they had a water garden, with lots of sculptures scattered around. They actually have a pottery on site and you can see them working in the studio.
We drove back to North Rustico for a mid afternoon lunch at the Fisherman's Wharf which is a large restaurant that, on one side, caters to large groups coming for PEI's famous lobster supper. (There are restaurants all over the province that do this) The other side, a cosier family restaurant, is where we ate. That part still had some pricey items but we had a light lunch of chowder and I had a plate of mussels. There's a gift shop attached as well, as per usual, and was filled with a lot of the usual tat but had a few nicer items as well.
The whole area there has many attractions geared for the tourists, to pick up the overflow or keep people staying in the area occupied. You will find things like a Believe It Or Not museum, golf and mini golf, a replica historic village meant to represent the fictional Avonlea, a wax museum, a petting zoo and a museum of the strange and unusual. Lots of beaches and outdoor activities as well.
Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne series of books, grew up in this area. A relative owned the farmhouse that inspired her to write about Green Gables and the rest is history. The farmhouse was bought by Parks Canada in the 1930's and restored and furnished to resemble the fictional house. Bus tours by the dozen visit daily from June to October and I believe there are reduced hours for visiting in the spring and fall.
I have to say the Cavendish Resort area is a bit too over processed for tourists for my taste and I can imagine it must be just heaving with people in the summer, the high tourist season. If you really do want to go, this is the time of year to do it. There are reduced rates and no crowds at all. There were a couple of tour busses in the parking lot when we were there but it hardly seemed like there were many people around. The site itself is very nicely kept up with gardens, walking trails, the farmhouse and some other outbuildings on the property plus an interpretive center. We'd had enough of the dusty road by now and luckily the moving around and a few painkillers had my back resting a bit easier. We headed back to the Inn and made tea in the main house. I was going to try the short walk down by the little lighthouse but it was getting quite cold so we borrowed a couple of videos from the Inn's library for the evening. We had our snacks and settled in for the evening. Tomorrow we are going east to Georgetown for an overnight visit with my cousin. The pub was nearly empty as were most of the other interesting little shops in the village so we bought a few snacks at the little grocery store, got some stamps and got back in the car. Since it wasn't late, we ended up going to see the Anne of Green Gables site after all which is one of THE prime tourist attractions in PEI. We had a look in the farmhouse which was done up very nicely and in the gift shop but our visit was fairly brief over all.
It's a grey morning and it's chilly and damp. Glad we got our scenic drive done yesterday because there's going to be a wind and rain storm later. Breakfast was again very nice, I forget what it was but I think sausage was involved somewhere and we started off with a slice of melon.
We checked out of the Inn and packed up the car. I would recommend the Beach House Inn though I wish we'd had a kettle and tea/coffee makings in the room. There was a small fridge so if we'd known, we could have brought our own supplies and kettle in the car. I don't know if the rooms in the main house had any or not. You could make some in the kitchen in the house but they only had powdered coffee creamer and we didn't like to ask if there was milk available for the guests.
We drove to Stanley Bridge first, because there were a couple of craft shops we wanted to browse in. One was only open because the owner was there doing paper work. They had less stock in as they were getting ready to close for winter but what they had was on sale. Same deal in the other gift shop, lots of items marked down as the season was at an end. The other shop had more of a selection and had some lovely things. Mom got a few things for Christmas presents and I bought a couple of egg cups and a wall clock that looks like the kind you'd find in an old fashioned rail station. It's plain, round, "yellowed" face and dark copper hands and Roman numerals. It's new though it looks like an antique as is battery operated.
We decided to drive into the capital city, Charlottetown. Charlottetown is historically important for Canada because it was here in 1867 that the country of Canada was incorporated, not just a colony of Great Britain anymore though we were and still are part of the British Commonwealth. Oddly enough, Prince Edward Island chose not to become part of Canada at that time and remained a colony for almost another 10 years. The city has some lovely old red sandstone buildings and the big granite legislative building all in the city centre.
We first went to the central visitor info centre on the waterfront (Charlottetown is on the estuary of three rivers feeding into the Northumberland Strait between the province of PEI and the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). We then found a vacant parking meter by a downtown mall, the Confederation Center that had some nice shops in it. We browsed a bit but while my back is slowly improving, I'm still not up for extended shopping which is again frustrating. Time for lunch.
We crossed over an overhead walkway and had lunch in a Mexican restaurant called Pat and Willy's. Excellent food though the service was a bit slow. Just as we came out after, the rain started. I did walk over a block and get a couple of photos of the legislature building and war memorial. Walking rather than just standing around actually helps loosen the muscles. We then headed out and hit the highway.
Rain. Wind. It was not a pleasant drive. We got across to Georgetown on the main highway and only stopped once for pies at a bakery in Montague. The last 10 km. were the worst for the weather but we got to Gayle's in short order. Their house is right on the Georgetown harbour. You can sit at the kitchen table and watch the boats come and go from the harbour a block away and watch the waves crashing on the shore.
We stayed in for the evening and listened to the wind rattle the window panes. Good company, hot stew, warm pie and vanilla ice cream and fresh rolls. Doesn't get much better than that!
Friday (the 13th)
Gayle and Peter run a little craft shop called Shoreline Designs. Peter makes jewellery from beach glass and sand dollars as well as carvings from sandstone. We had a look at all his items and heard all about the business that they've just started in the last year or so. It seems to be doing well. We have seen other beach glass jewellery since then and agreed it wasn't as nice as Peter's work.
Mom, Gayle and I drove around the area near Georgetown to see some of the nice scenic views. The weather is still overcast but warmer and hazy. It's very pretty there. Georgetown is actually one of the oldest towns on the Island, dating from the mid 18th century as a town proper. Montague nearby is larger but not as pretty. Another really lovely place not far from here to visit is Murray River though we didn't get there ourselves this time.
Time to leave to catch what I thought was the 1:30 ferry back to Nova Scotia. We got a bit turned around but got to the ferry and drove straight onto the boat after paying. (PEI has two routes to arrive if you are in a car, the Confederation Bridge and a ferry between Wood Islands and Caribou, NS. You only pay when you leave the Island though.) We rode up the elevator to the main lounge and sat down…. 5 minutes before the ferry started to pull out! It was only 1 o'clock! We didn't call ahead of time and I was going by the website listing that I had checked before we came over. I'm glad I didn't know or I'd have been a bit freaked out that we would be late and miss the ferry. There would have been a 3 or 4 hour wait this time of year for the next one. Would have been easier to drive to the other side of the island and take the bridge though the return route is a longer drive.
No matter, we made it. Mom had a coffee and we stood outside on deck for a bit. The drive through the New Glasgow area once we disembarked was spectacular. As lovely as the autumn colours were on the Island, they were twice as awe inspiring here! The only problem is we are on a fast highway and really couldn't pull over to take photos! The weather was dry but partly overcast, partly sunny or trying to be and quite hazy. We stopped in the town of Truro for fish and chips at Murphy's (highly recommended but watch out for the really (verbally) friendly staff!) We were home by about 5 p.m. I think and happy to get back to our own beds but we had a really nice few days' break! We'll have to do this again sometime when I'm feeling more up to doing more shopping and browsing!
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