Red sandstone cliffs. Sandy beaches. Lobster. Anne of Green Gables. If you’re visiting Prince Edward Island, here is a fun list for you: 29 coolest things to do in PEI!
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the smallest province in Canada, but big in our hearts. PEI is “the Birthplace of Confederation,” where Canada was founded in 1867. It’s home to our beloved Anne of Green Gables and The Hockey Song. They grow the best potatoes, and make the best fries (very important). And PEI is simply a very pretty island filled with very hospitable people.
My husband and I visited in early October, in hopes of seeing the brilliant changing of the leaves. We saw a bit of the red leaves and very few tourists, but unfortunately many sites and tours had closed for the season. So, keep this in mind for your own visit.
PEI has quite a rural, small village vibe. Its capital city, Charlottetown, has less than 50,000 residents, and the next largest city, Summerside, has less than 15,000. However, little villages are scattered all over the island. To the north is the Gulf of the St. Lawrence; to the south, Northumberland Strait and the 8-mile Confederation Bridge linking PEI to mainland Canada.
Why are PEI’s cliffs red? SO red!! PEI has red cliffs because of the iron oxide in the soil that “rusts” as it’s exposed to air. Contrast this with PEI’s vivid greenery and deep blue sky, and you have some splendid colors!
And TIP: Be sure to pack bug spray and a windbreaker! You’ll need them both frequently along this list of coolest things to do in PEI.
Okay, here we go …
29 coolest things to do in PEI
1. Explore 3 scenic coastal drives in PEI
Topping the list of coolest things to do in PEI – and providing a great intro to the area – is touring its coastline. PEI’s 1100 miles (1800 km) of coastline is truly what makes its scenery so lovely. To make the most of it, plan for three days of driving with lots of stops: the east coast (295 miles/475 km), central PEI (157 miles/253 km) and west coast (217 miles/350 km).
All three drives are packed with brilliant red cliffs, soft sandy beaches, cute villages and historical lighthouses. Eastern PEI has PEI’s oldest lighthouse, singing sand and a floating boardwalk. Central PEI has Cavendish, amusement parks and a drive-in. Western PEI has a museum about potatoes and one of the few lighthouses you can sleep at.
A great source for planning your routes is TourismPEI.com.
2. Count the lighthouses on your PEI drive
PEI has 63 lighthouses, with 35 still operating. While driving PEI’s lovely coastline, why not see how many you can find? Which will be YOUR favorite?
If 35 is a little much, here are the top 4 lighthouses to visit in PEI:
- East Point Lighthouse: A cute white-and-red octagonal lighthouse and my favorite gift shop. Climb to the top to see the tides of Northumberland Strait meet the Gulf of St. Lawrence; this is most fascinating at high tide. The only Canadian lighthouse built in 1867, it’s “Canada’s Confederation Lighthouse” standing at 67 feet.
- Point Prim Lighthouse: It’s PEI’s first and oldest operational lighthouse, built in 1845, and unique due to its round brick construction. Climb to the top of this 60-foot National Heritage site for great views of Northumberland Strait.
- North Point Lightstation: Experience the power of the wind and tides. There’s a nice walking trail alongside red cliffs (about 4 km roundtrip), museum on wind energy, and a restaurant offering ocean views – and if you’re lucky, seals! This 63-foot octagonal lighthouse was built in 1865. Bring your windbreaker!
- West Point Lighthouse: A unique black-and-white striped, square-tapered lighthouse, plus an inn and a beach for incredible sunset views. West Point Lighthouse is PEI’s tallest at 67 feet 8 inches and built in 1875. Climb to the top for more terrific views.
Note that lighthouses are typically only open during the main tourist season (May to September). A helpful post on PEI lighthouses is from WelcomePEI.com.
3. Discover YOUR favorite beach on PEI
Along with lighthouses, PEI’s 1100-mile shoreline has plenty of beaches to explore, too. PEI has a remarkable 23 beaches. Discovering your favorite is certainly one of the coolest things to do in PEI.
My favorite beach on PEI is one that gets little publicity: Red Point Provincial Park. Apparently it’s a local family favorite for camping in summer because of its organized activities, but we were the only ones here in early October. Red Point Provincial Park has soft white sand with cute mounds of tall wispy grass and a rugged red rock at one end that beckons you. THIS became my happy place.
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4. Trod along PEI’s singing sands beach
Only 5 minutes up the road from Red Point Provincial Park is a popular white-sand beach: Basin Head Provincial Park. Part of what makes Basin Head beach so cool is the “singing” you hear when walking on it. This singing, or rustling sound, is because of the silica that’s in the sand. If possible, go when it’s been dry for a few days or you might not hear it.
Basin Head Provincial Park also has food shops, a children’s play area and a fisheries museum.
5. Stroll miles of boardwalk over Greenwich’s sandy dunes and marsh
Greenwich Trail is definitely one of PEI’s coolest things to do. Greenwich National Park has 3 hiking trails you can take, ranging from .75 miles (1.24 km) to 2.8 miles (4.5 km).
Most of the Greenwich Trail is a wooden boardwalk that meanders you over grassy sand dunes and ponds – yup, including about half a mile (700-m) floating boardwalk. Roundtrip, the walk will take 1-1.5 hours plus with a stop at the wide sandy beach, which is rarely crowded.
The interpretive center welcomes you with plenty of parking and a 3D presentation on how the peninsula was formed.
6. Walk the edge of PEI’s red cliffs
You can’t have a list of coolest things to do in PEI without talking about the red cliffs a number of times! PEI’s shoreline gives you plenty of places to stop and walk the brilliant red cliffs. Here are a few highlights:
- Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site (former French fort): Just south of Charlottetown overlooking the entrance to Charlottetown Harbour, the lighthouse-dotted trail offers plenty of fascinating lookout points.
- Red Point Provincial Park: The contrast between the brilliant red cliff and rock against the white sandy beach was breathtaking. My favorite spot in all of PEI.
- Prince Edward Island National Park: This 37-mile stretch of wide sandy beaches and dunes also has some fabulous red cliffs to explore in central north shore.
- North Cape: A short 2.5-mile hike along the edge of the cliff overlooks a massive rock shelf where the Gulf of St. Lawrence tide meets Northumberland Strait. Stop at Kildare Capes just southeast of North Cape for more fabulous red cliffs.
- Cape Egmont: Fantastic red rock formations and cliffs on both sides of the lighthouse. It’s along the south shore overlooking Northumberland Strait.
7. Take a kayak out on the water
I love kayaking. My husband, not so much. And on this trip through the Maritimes, I already got him out on a kayak near Lunenburg. So, this wasn’t going to happen again for me.
BUT it can for YOU! Here are two highly-rated options to get YOU out on the water in PEI; both are recommended for various skill levels:
- North Rustico on north shore with Outside Expeditions: Here, you’ll experience PEI’s brilliant red cliffs from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and might just catch a glimpse of seals. Rent a kayak, canoe or bike, or take a tour to learn about local history and sea life.
- Victoria on south shore with By The Sea Kayaking: Here, you kayak along the mostly calm Northumberland Strait to a sandbar where you learn how to collect clams. Then, you head back and make a delicious clam chowder to enjoy with your new friends. SUCH a cool thing to do in PEI!
8. Catch your own lobster … or tuna
Lobster fishing is something I was quite disappointed to miss by coming to PEI in October. Thankfully, we could still EAT a lot of lobster! Lobster tours are generally available July-August, and then tuna charters run September-mid October.
There are a number of highly-rated operators offering deep sea fishing and lobster adventures. Here’s a listing on tripadvisor.com to check out. Definitely one of the coolest things to do in PEI.
9. Golf a round … on all 27 courses on PEI!
PEI is widely considered Canada’s #1 golf destination, with more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in Canada! Not only do you have a great variety of courses, stunning scenery, food and friendly hospitality, but golfing here is also quite affordable.
General consensus seems to be that the top 3 golf courses in PEI are:
- The Links at Crowbush Cove (710 Lakeside Rd Rte 350, Lakeside): The only golf course in PEI to make Golf Digest’s Top 30 in Canada for 2020 (ranked 16). Built in 1993 and designed by Thomas McBroom.
- Dundarave Golf Course (82 Dewars Lane Rodd Brudenell River Resort, Georgetown): Built in 1999, this 18-hole championship golf course features PEI’s iconic red sandstone and is designed by award winning architects Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry.
- Brudenell River Golf Course (82 Dewars Lane, Georgetown): Built in 1969, designed by Robbie Robinson and accented by gardens, lakes and ponds.
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10. Sip your way through PEI’s wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries
One of the coolest things to do in PEI has to be sampling its many craft drinks. PEI has plenty of local wines, craft beers, spirits and ciders for you to enjoy! A very helpful resource in locating all of them (including maps) is liquorpei.com/local. Summaries are on tourismpei.com under Wineries/Distilleries and Breweries/Cideries.
If you have a designated driver, you can easily add many of these stops into your coastal drives. If not, I found two operators offering combo tours (i.e. with more than one location):
- Hop/Sip/Swirl Prince Edward Island Tasting Tour (June to October): strong reviews with stops.
- PEI Winery Tours (winter tours, too): offers blended or strictly winery, brewery or distillery tours, but unfortunately has no reviews.
11. Make friends with 100 goats at Island Hill Farm
Goats make my list of coolest things to do anywhere. And MORE THAN 100 on PEI?! SO COOL!!
Only 20 minutes north of Charlottetown is a wonderful little dairy farm with new friends to meet. If you’re traveling with kids, Island Hill Farm will be a hit: they’ll meet more than 100 goats, a miniature donkey, alpacas and potbelly pics, and get to hold hens, bunnies and kittens. SO fun.
Visit the gift shop for wonderful locally made gifts and treats. Check out tripadvisor.com reviews for yourself!
12. Go amusement park hopping at PEI’s FOUR parks
Near PEI’s north shore are FOUR parks that are sure to make your kids’ list of coolest things to do in PEI. Each offers something unique and fun for families who need to burn off energy, and all have strong reviews.
All four parks are within 20 minutes of each other. Starting in Cavendish and moving west, you have:
- Shining Waters Family Fun Park (8885 Cavendish Rd, Cavendish): a waterpark with petting farm. You can get a combo pass that includes Sandspit (below).
- Sandspit Cavendish Beach (8986 Cavendish Rd, Cavendish): rides, including a roller-coaster and bumper boats, and go-karts.
- Burlington Adrenaline Park (1077 PE-234, Kensington): the longest go-kart track east of Montreal, plus kiddy karts, laser tag, bumper boats, airsoft and mini-golf. Not as crowded as Cavendish.
- Haunted Mansion (81 Victoria St W, Kensington): a Tudor-style home with carnival rides; family friendly!
13. Take in a double-feature at Brackley Drive-In
Here’s another super-cool thing to do in PEI: go to the drive-in! Such a classic experience.
The Brackley Drive-In (3164 Brackley Point Rd) has double-features, and shows the more family-friendly one first. It’s been restored to its original 1950s condition and sells concession.
Now, to make sure it’s a fun experience, remember to bring along a few important things: pillows, chairs, extra-warm blankets (even for warm nights), BUG SPRAY, radio (to hear the movie outside the car), hot drinks and your favorite munchies.
14. Linger in Green Gable’s Lover’s Lane or the Haunted Wood
My favorite part of the Green Gables Heritage Place was wandering through Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood. Along these two short, very pretty walks in the woods, you can get a sense of Anne. (Just ignore the “FOUR!” coming from the neighboring golf course.)
Know before you come to Green Gables that it’s quite a small site, rather underwhelming, and not really about Anne. It’s a celebration of her author and what inspired the story. You can easily see this site within an hour, and it’s open May to October.
I didn’t visit the museum (20 minutes west of Cavendish; open mid-May to mid-October). I suspect that the Anne of Green Gables Museum might’ve felt more like Green Gables, with its rolling fields, “The Lake of Shining Waters” and Matthew’s carriage rides.
15. Get into character at Green Gables’ Avonlea Village
Avonlea Village is a cute little loop of historical buildings that recreate the fictitious Avonlea from Anne of Green Gables. The costumed characters make this stop extra fun, and the cafes, coffee, ice cream and gift shop make it a great pitstop. There’s no entrance fee.
Open mid-June to early September. Check out Avonlea Village.
16. Watch Anne the Musical in Charlottetown’s live theatre
Chances are, Anne is part of why you’re visiting PEI. So, embrace it by seeing the classic PEI musical in the place that inspired this lovely story. Nothing could be more quintessential PEI than Anne the Musical.
In hindsight, I think the best way to experience “Anne” is to first see the musical (to rediscover the magic), and then visit the museum, Avonlea Village and Green Gables.
Anne the Musical performances only run June to September. Information and tickets are available at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
17. Potato farming … and PEI’s quirky museum
Here I thought this must be the only potato museum in the world, because it seems so odd … but turns out, there are a few others in Europe and North America!
As strange as this potato museum is to me, I think my parents (i.e. farmers) would LOVE this museum. The antique equipment, farm tours (by reservation only) and quirky gift shop cater to us both. But the BEST part of the Canadian Potato Museum? The KITCHEN!! You just know those fries are gonna be delicious.
Learn more about why travelers loved it on tripadvisor.com (some, surprised by how much!).
18. Stomp to some Tom Connors
Stompin Tom Centre is a great lunch or dinner stop while exploring PEI’s west coast. It’s about 15 minutes from North Cape and 45 minutes from West Point. Visitors LOVE the live entertainment, informative exhibits and gift shop.
Tom Connors is a Canadian musical icon … mostly because of his classic The Hockey Song (just listen to his reception to feel the love!). Check out the reviews of the Stompin Tom Centre on tripadvisor.com.
19. Sleep in a Victorian mansion (PEI)
We stayed in central Charlottetown throughout our time in PEI. It was a convenient launching point for the three drives, but what really made our stay in Charlottetown FABULOUS was the historic inn I found: Fairholm National Historic Inn (230 Prince St).
We stayed in the Florence Babe Rogers Suite, which has a pretty round window overlooking the front, a fireplace and large washroom including a deep claw tub (plus separate shower). It’s an easy 10-minute walk to Water St (5 minutes to Province House) and includes an excellent full breakfast (changes each day), as well as reliable wifi and parking. Simply staying in this elegant mansion was one of the coolest things to do in PEI.
The great news is that Charlottetown has a fair number of historic homes-turned-inns. Here’s the Charlottetown search on expedia.com.
Interested in more great places to stay in PEI? Check out Best Hotels for ROMANTIC GETAWAYS in Eastern Canada.
20. Karaoke like a Charlottetown local
There are some really fun pubs just blocks away from the lovely Fairholm Inn. Hunter’s Ale House (185 Kent St) was fun for live music, but my husband loves rockin’ the Bon Jovi at karaoke. So, we then went next door to The Factory Downtown (189 Kent St) and he sang with the locals. I don’t karaoke well. So I drank 😉 Coolest thing to do in PEI for him.
In Charlottetown, they KNOW how to run a bar. They keep them open until 2 a.m.!
21. Nod to Confederation and veterans at Province House
Although Province House is still closed for renovations (expected to open in 2021), you can check out a Confederation exhibit next door at the Confederation Center of the Arts. Also, on the Grafton St lawn of Province House is a tasteful war memorial I gazed at for a long time.
For Province House renovation information, visit pc.gc.ca.
22. Find YOUR favorite cafe and pub in Charlottetown
Exploring the historical streets around Province House definitely makes the list of coolest things to do in PEI. Follow Grafton St to Queen St and down to Victoria Row (on Richmond St between Queens and Great George St) and around to Sydney St. On the way, stop at one (or three!) of the many cute cafes and pubs that entice you.
Here are three of our favorite spots:
- Small Print Board Game Café (119 Grafton St): Play a round of your favorite board game alongside a coffee or pint and snacks.
- Olde Dublin Pub (131 Sydney St): Fun vibe, friendly service and delicious shepherd’s pie and lobster stew (with lots of lobster).
- The Gahan House (126 Sydney St): A fantastic local brewery and pub. My favorite drink was the honey wheat ale (light and easy to drink!) and the classic shepherd’s pie was also delicious here (garlic mashed potatoes AND cheese … mmm).
23. Lobster, lobster, lobster
Lobster in PEI is sooooo good! And typically you order by the weight, which my husband LOVED. Eating lobster ALL. DAY. LONG. is definitely one of the coolest things to do in PEI.
Now, our experience was that lobster is a casual affair – no matter where we went, we got plastic bibs that made you feel pretty silly. But everyone around you is wearing them, too … and trying not to feel silly!
Our two favorite spots for lobster dinners were:
- Lobster on the Wharf (2 Prince St): The waterfront location can’t be beat, and it was extra busy from the cruise ship being in port. But once we got in, the service was very friendly and timely and the food was delicious.
- New Glasgow Lobster Supper (#604 Route 258, New Glasgow; N46° 24.618 W-063° 20.754): A fun family-friendly experience, with the full-meal deal: dinner rolls, soup, salad, lobster (only 1-lbers when we went; my husband was rather sad), dessert and coffee. I had the “mile-high” lemon meringue pie. It was all so good.
Two places I wish we’d tried (because they’re local favorites with fabulous reviews but were closed by the time we arrived) are:
- Richard’s (9 Wharf Rd, York; 10-min drive west of Dalvay Beach): A casual fish shack right on the water and known for its amazing lobster roll and fish and chips. Enjoy it on the deck or under a lighthouse at the beach across the street. Richard’s is busy, but worth the wait. Open May to September.
- Blue Mussel Cafe (312 Harbourview Dr, North Rustico): Delicious food in a rustic decor overlooking the water. It’s very popular, so be prepared to wait an hour. Open May to October.
24. Enjoy Canada’s BEST ice cream
Now, doesn’t that claim just MAKE you have to try it? Laying claim to this fame is Cow’s. You can find them along Charlottetown’s waterfront and on the corner of Queen St and Grafton (you know, to give it another sampling).
I tried wild blueberry. It was certainly very good. For all locations in PEI and Canada, visit cows.ca. Literally one of the coolest things to do in PEI 😉
25. Say a prayer in St. Dunstan’s Basilica
I’ve been to very impressive cathedrals in Europe. While it doesn’t match their grandeur, I found St. Dunstan’s Basilica brighter and very lovely, with light colors throughout, pretty stained glass windows, ornate decoration and an impressive pipe organ. Unfortunately like so many old churches, a fire destroyed the original, which was completed in 1907; this lovely church was rebuilt in 1919.
Check out what other visitors say on tripadvisor.com.
26. Tour the historical Government House and Beaconsfield House
The Government House mansion was built in 1834 to welcome notable guests to PEI. It’s currently home to the Lieutenant Governor and has some pretty gardens. We were here too late, but if you’re visiting in the summer, travelers highly recommend taking the tour inside.
While here, also check out the Beaconsfield Historical House across the street. It’s the charming yellow Victorian-style home, which was built in 1877, and has an interesting tour for those who love old houses, furnishings and gift shops. Plus, the grounds along Northumberland Strait are fantastic. This area is only a 15 minute walk from Province House.
27. Explore quaint, super-charming Victoria-by-the-Sea
There are a number of super-cute, super-charming villages throughout PEI. You’ll find galleries, shops and cafes featuring plenty of local art – and chocolate. Mmmm.
My favorite little village is Victoria, along PEI’s south shore. First, it’s a fascinating place to experience Northumberland Strait’s low-tide by walking right on the ocean floor. Not as impressive as the Bay of Fundy, but still pretty great 😉 Second, it has a super-cute lighthouse with pretty gardens my mom would love, but note that you can’t go right to the top. And third, it’s a fun little area with cute shops and cafes to explore on foot.
Here’s an intro video of Victoria by Escapades with Emma.
28. Find your perfect PEI treasures
Among the coolest things to do in PEI is finding treasures to bring home. PEI is known for its maple syrup, berry-based jams and jellies, wild edible mushrooms, anything Anne, lighthouses, and Christmas wreaths.
Find your unique PEI treasures along Charlottetown’s Water St and Queen St. You’ll pass by the Downtown Charlottetown Farmers’ Market (Queen St across from Confederation Centre of the Arts), Anne of Green Gables Store (110 Queen St) and Anne of Green Gables Chocolates (100 Queen St). Farther along Queen St is the independent bookstore, Bookmark (172 Queen St) and a vinyl record shop, Back Alley Music (257 Queen St).
Me? I picked up the warmest and coziest winter gloves ever, handcrafted in PEI. Perfect for chilly Canadian winters.
29. Confederation Bridge in, ferry out … or vise versa
Simply getting to PEI makes the list of coolest things to do here!
Try both ways: an hour car-ferry ride to/from Nova Scotia, and the 8-mile Confederation Bridge that connects to New Brunswick. Both are pretty fun experiences.
Whether you come/go by ferry or bridge, you only pay when you leave. They say you’re paying for a roundtrip. So, it’s “free” to get to PEI but then you pay “double” when you leave. But note: if you reserve your spot on the ferry, you’ll pay the ferry roundtrip, plus when you leave on the bridge. So, either show up to the ferry without a reservation (an hour before departure, which was totally fine in early October) or take the bridge first.
Find details about the ferry at PEIferry.com.
Summary and Resources
And there you go! I hope you found something fun and inspiring for your own trip.
You likely noticed that a lot of the coolest things to do in PEI close down in or shortly after September. Now that I visited in early October when it was very quiet, I recommend coming in late June or early September to beat the crowds but still enjoy the best of the Island.
Helpful resources for planning a trip to PEI:
- TourismPEI.com: This site has a ton of helpful information for visitors. I suggest starting with the 3 scenic drives.
- WelcomePEI.com: Another great resource for visitors. My favorite section is the Local’s Blog.
- PEIferry.com: For ferry information to/from Caribou, Nova Scotia and Wood Islands, PEI
- TripAdvisor.com: My go-to source for traveler reviews of activities, restaurants and small hotels. Even if you can’t book something through this site, it still gives you helpful insight.
- Expedia.com and Booking.com: My go-to sources for booking accommodations. Usually I prefer Booking.com’s system (it feels cleaner to me), but Expedia.com tends to have more obscure inns and bed & breakfasts.
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