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You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields or along the winding red roads of Prince Edward Island in a summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old stars are peeping out and the sea keeps its mighty tryst with the little land it loves. You find your soul then. You realize that youth is not a vanished thing but something that dwells forever in the heart.- LM Montgomery
Prince Edward Island is an unassuming little island off the eastern-most coast of Canada. Its history is one of Scottish immigrants and potato farming, but this little piece of land somehow speaks to my soul.
I feel very maudlin saying this because sentiment and I are not generally friends. A good pal of mine once said the the mountains replenish her, and I never understood that until we spent some time on the island of ruby, emerald, and sapphire (LM Montgomery’s words not mine). There is a feeling in this place that the trees and the wind want to talk to you if only they had words, or that there is something enchanted around each corner, and you are the one to discover it.
We first drove with our children to this beautiful island 4 years ago (17 years to the date after our honeymoon to PEI). We found it as enchanting and beautiful as ever, and we have decided that we needed to make a biannual pilgrimage to this place that has captured all of our hearts.
Prince Edward Island owes much of its fame to the precocious red-headed Anne of Green Gables, but this beautiful island has so much more to offer than just Anne tourism. For those of you unfamiliar with Anne of Green Gables, stop reading this right now and go pick up the books! Seriously!
The book series is about an orphaned girl named Anne who is adopted by an elderly brother and sister, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Anne has a gift for trouble and great depth of imagination. This series focuses on her life on the north shore of Prince Edward Island in the fictional town of Avonlea (generally considered to be Cavendish). This book written by Lucy Maude Montgomery, a PEI native, has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages. There are 6 sequels as well as other less known series, including my favorite “Emily of New Moon”. Many have said of Montgomery that the island she loved was as central to these books as the main characters. She personifies the island in a way that makes her readers know and love it without even setting foot on its shores. Are you excited to go yet??
Here are my top highlights starting with all things “Anne”! (If you don’t care about Anne part 2 is for you)
Green Gables Heritage Place:
Located in Cavendish off Route 6 this house was the home of Lucy Maude’s cousins that she said was an inspiration for Green Gables. On the site are the house and the barns (depending on time of year and day there are artisans making soap, whittlers, etc). Enjoy trails into the haunted woods and take a stroll down lovers lane. A must see for the entire family.
Just east on Rout 6 is the McNeil homestead where LM Montgomery lived as a girl. Not much remains from the original house beyond some of the foundation, but it has beautiful quotes throughout the garden and a nice trail to the post office where Montgomery worked. It tends to be less crowded and remains my favorite “Anne” site.
Tip: you can get a discount on your ticket if you bring your receipt from Green Gables.
Avonlea Village (Route 6 Cavendish)
This is not what it once was but is still worth a walk around. For quite a few years Avonlea Village was the best Anne attraction on the island, a collection of century-old homes and a church that are set up to look like the fictional Avonlea. Characters from the story would act out scenes from the book, and there were horse rides and music. It was the highlight of our last trip and a disappointment this time around. The buildings are still there along with pony rides, an evening event from time to time, but it’s not the same. However, if you aren’t comparing it to its former glory I think you would be really happy with it. Stroll around and send your kids on a pony ride. It’s a good long ride for the money. Eat a baked potato at Red Island Baked Potato. They are huge!
Anne of Green Gables museum
Farther afield from Cavendish in Park Corner (15 minutes west of Cavendish) is a museum run by Montgomery’s cousins. The home was one that was owned by cousins during her life, and Montgomery was a frequent visitor. They claim the salt water lake near the house was the inspiration for the Lake of Shinning Waters. You can take a carriage ride around it and tour the house that has a lot of original furniture including the bookcase that Anne uses to talk to her window friend Katie. There are also a few things that are prominent in the Emily of New Moon Books.
Tip: On your ride to Park Corner you will pass by a farm on your right located on a bend in the road that sells beautiful produce on the honor system. Grab some PEI potatoes, firewood, or my favorite, Elda’s strawberry rhubarb jam.
Anne of Green Gables the Musical
Last but certainly not least, go see the musical Anne of Green Gables or Anne and Gilbert in Charlottetown. Both are really terrific, but we all agree that we like the music in Anne and Gilbert better. These stories are truly suited for the stage and for music and you will be tapping your toes to “You’re Island Through and Through” long after you leave, and if you’re like our family pretty much the entire time we are on PEI!
check out the rest of PEI visit PEI Part 2