Prince Edward Island, like much of the Maritime provinces, tends to get overlooked as unimportant and uninteresting. However, it has a lot to offer visitors, and there are some wonderful events and activities on the Island that can make a trip here very worthwhile. Here are 10 great things to do while you're visiting PEI.
1. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Ever wanted to see the beauty of PEI from overhead? PEI Balloon Adventures, located in Hunter River, offers open-basket hot air balloon rides that can give you a wonderful bird's-eye view of the Island. With much of the Island being farmland or gently-rolling hills covered with trees, the scenery can be beautiful in just about any season. From the green of spring and summer to the brilliant red and orange foliage of fall, a hot air balloon ride can be a way to experience nature from a new vantage point. This is the kind of experience that will create amazing lasting memories, and is a unique thing to do when you visit the Island.
2. Take a Guided Tour of Lennox Island
Prince Edward Island has an interesting history, and much of that history has to do with the Mi'kmaq who lived here long before white people arrived on these shores. Lennox Island, located in the northwest part of PEI, has a Mi'kmaq cultural centre where you can arrange a guided tour of the island. The nature trail you'll be guided on winds around the forests and shores of the relatively small island, and you'll get to learn a lot about local history, traditional uses for the forest and the plants within it, and all sorts of interesting information about the area. With a guided tour you get so much more than just a walk through a beautiful place (though that is absolutely part of it), but you also get a fascinating history lesson and the chance to learn about a place that many generations of people have called their home.
3. Summerside Historic Ghost Walk
If you come to the Island later in October, you should make a point of coming to Summerside for a day and participating in the annual historic ghost walk.On this ghost walk, you get to have a guided tour of some of the city's historical locations that are associated with dark and creepy occurrences, and the guides tell those stories to send tingles down the spines of attendees. The walk isn't too strenuous (the guides make a point to keep it manageable for the people they're guiding), but the whole event might be too much for some younger children, so keep that in mind if you plan to participate. It's really interesting, and fun, to look at some of the darker side of local history this way.
This ghost walk is very popular, so make sure to get your tickets in advance.
4. Attend the International Shellfish Festival
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that an island has a lot of options for seafood. It might be a surprise, though, to hear that PEI hosts an international shellfish festival every year. It might seem a little hokey to watch an oyster-shucking event, admittedly, but even that isn't something you'd get to see every day.
The big draw, though, is all the food and music. Live entertainment, often multiple bands each day! Chefs both local and internationally-famous attend the festival, to demonstrate recipes. You can learn about aquaculture and how shellfish are harvested. It's not just seafood, either: 2017 had a lot of events that were given over to PEI's famous potatoes (which may also sound hokey, but just wait until you try some varieties of potato chowder).
It's a multi-day event that really draws crowds from near and far, so if you're on PEI in September, it's worth checking out.
5. Eat some Ice Cream from Cows
Cows is a local dairy company that is probably best known for its handmade ice cream with a high amount of butterfat, making it a very smooth creamy treat in the summertime. They started as a single store on PEI but have since expanded to multiple stores across Canada, but even so, there's nothing quite like going where it all began. Ice cream isn't all they make, however -- they also have a line of clothing that's filled with pop culture references mixed with cow puns. The ice cream, though, is what people come for. It's even won awards, and Reader's Digest placed it on their list of Top 10 global ice cream shops to visit!
(Local secret, though: while not nearly as famous as Cows, Holman's Ice Cream Parlour in Summerside is attracting a lot of attention lately, with many locals calling their handmade ice cream even better that what Cows makes. I'm personally more fond of Holman's than Cows, and the people who run the parlour are wonderful friendly people.)
6. Drink some Moonshine
People mostly think of moonshine as some sort of illegal alcohol brewed in the backwoods. And, yes, that is absolutely true. But it has been legalized in many places, and PEI boasts the first legal moonshine distillery in Canada! Myriad distillery advertises itself as not being the first makers of shine, but certainly the first legal one in Canada, and due to regulations, the only way you're going to get to taste their products is to go right to them. They do tours and tastings free of charge to small groups, so this distillery is absolutely worth taking a trip away from the cities to visit. You won't find anything else like it.
7. Visit the Haunted Mansion
You can't drive through Kensington without encountering this Tudor-style mansion and all its spooky glory. The Haunted Mansion tells a story of a dark history with a mad doctor, and the house itself has 3 floors to explore, filled with twists and turns and creepy imagery. The lowest floor has even recreated some of old London's winding streets, which adds a very Jack-the-Ripper feel to that section. There's a beautiful garden onsite, filled with hidden interactive attractions, as well as a couple of carnival rides if you want a break from the spooky atmosphere.
They go all out for Halloween, too, ramping up the level of their scares in the late evening to the point that they don't recommend it for young children.
Kensington isn't far from Summerside, so if you're there for the Ghost Walk mentioned previously, take a side trip to the Haunted Mansion to make your October visit that much more memorable.
Of course, these aren't the only things worth doing on the Island. Anne of Green Gables stuff is everywhere here, understandably, so if you're a fan of L M Montgomery's books, you can get merchandise just about anywhere (especially in Charlottetown). There are a lot of hiking trails and parks to visit, local festivals and events, farms where you can meet the animals (I'm fond of the goats and alpacas, myself), and plenty to do to keep visitors entertained while they're here. What I listed here only scratches the surface of what the Island has to offer. But these are the things you don't find advertised as often as Anne of Green Gables, for instance, and listing all the smaller things would take an age. I wanted to narrow it down to some worthwhile and unique experiences that you might not hear about elsewhere.
Besides, saying you came for the Haunted Mansion sounds a lot more exciting than saying you came for the potatoes!