Photo: A sunset from our campsite at Northumberland Park, PEI, with Nova Scotia in the background.
When we left Shediac, NB, it was an hour’s drive to the thirteen-kilometer-long Confederation Bridge that connects the mainland to Prince Edward Island, over Northumberland Strait. My palms were sweating after the first kilometer while driving that bridge. I was happy to get to the other end – it’s not just long, it’s also very high.
Photo: The Confederation Bridge from the PEI side.
Prince Edward Island, ‘The Gentle Island’ is immediately recognizable, and memorable, for its gently rolling hills, crooked harbours that appear around every corner, red earth that falls in cliffs to the sea and, by patchworks of potato crops in every direction. Like New Brunswick, it’s also notable for vast expanses of lawn. It’s not uncommon to see five or ten acres of manicured lawn surrounding many rural dwellings. Most of the properties are unfenced so sometimes there’ll be forty or fifty acres of uninterrupted lawn.
We were just in time for the August long weekend and were lucky to get what was probably the last campsite in PEI, near Charlottetown. After setting up camp we hung out at the RV Park pool for awhile and then explored downtown Charlottetown by foot, mostly around the waterfront. We stopped at a happening-looking little pub, squeezing in with the locals for an hour, but mostly talking to a lone traveller from Australia.
Photo: The waterfront at Charlottetown.
A wrong turn on the way home took us through the area of town where tree-lined streets graced with well-maintained mansions bespoke understated wealth. We would have missed the area if we hadn’t been lost.
Back at camp we had a late dinner and a short campfire before hitting the sack.
During the night the woman next door was screaming and then moaning in what sounded like extreme agony. It went on for at least an hour. We had commented earlier that they didn’t look much like campers. They’d arrived as it was getting dark and were setting up a tent when I tried to make conversation. They were stand-offish and secretive though – their comings and goings shifty – appearing and disappearing late into the night. One of them would drive off and re-appear with someone else an hour later – strange goings-on. We saw them the next morning and they never mentioned anything, so neither did we.
It was sunny but cool in the morning as we toured the north side of the island and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s former haunts along the Cavendish coastline. We drove past the house at Avonlea but, as neither of us are Anne of Green Gables aficionados, we skipped the tours.
Photo: Our first glimpse of the beach at Cavendish, PEI, once one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s retreats.
Photo: A bed and breakfast along the Cavendish coastline.
Janice stuck her foot in the water at Cavendish but the wind was blustery and cool so she never took the plunge. At the quaint little town of North Rustico we approached a fish vendor on the dock so that Janice could buy some mussels. When she ordered a dozen the guy looked at her incredulously and said, “What, just a dozen?” She replied, “Yes, my husband doesn’t eat them.” Obviously exasperated, he counted a dozen into a container and then slapped them on the counter in front of us, muttering under his breath, “A dozen goddam mussels! Just take ‘em…no charge.” And with that we were dismissed as he turned to do other business. Janice, slightly bemused, thanked him and looking at me, smiling, turned to walk away saying, “My Daddy didn’t raise no fool. Free food is free food.” I’m not sure what the guy was thinking but a dozen mussels were plenty for Janice.
Photo: The still waters of North Rustico Harbour, PEI.
We stopped just up the road to take pictures, where some people were setting up to eat fresh cooked lobsters that they’d picked up at the grocery store. It turned out that they were motorcycling from Summerside, on the other side of the island. Through them we discovered that a lot of people carry their lobster tools around with them should the opportunity of fresh lobster present itself.
Photo: Kayaks at North Rustico Harbour, PEI, one of our favourite spots on the island, due to there not being so many tourists.
When we got back to camp we were not displeased to see that our tenting neighbours had vanished.
The next day we drove to Summerside where we stopped for lunch on the waterfront. Summerside’s inviting name belies the fact that the waterfront has an unpleasantly muddy, sea creature kind of smell and isn’t really very desirable for swimming.
Photo: Shops on the waterfront at Summerside, PEI.
We drove on to the Evangeline region, (don’t you love that name?) where the Acadians settled that part of Prince Edward Island. Despite just 2,500 souls inhabiting the region, wherever there are Acadians there are lots of charming, brightly painted dwellings. Colourful fish boats adorn almost every back yard. The ever-present, monumental-scale churches dwarf the surrounding communities. The attached cemeteries occupy some of the most desirable waterfront in the country.
Photo: The beach at Evangeline, PEI’s Acadian country.
We stopped at Abram-Village and stuck our heads in the community hall because we had seen a sign for a music festival there. We stood near the door and listened for a few minutes but decided the affair was too low key for us. We looped back to camp on Highway 2, through Mistouche. Along the way we stopped a couple of times to pick up firewood.
Later, I did some blogging while Janice whipped up Thai food for dinner.
That evening, while our laundry went ‘round, we took a walk to the waterfront to hear what was going on with the scheduled entertainment at the RV Park’s band shell. There was live music alright but, again, the music was old-fashioned and boring.
We were on our way back to camp when I heard a guitar being strummed in the distance. Janice and I wandered over and, much to my delight, a woman named Peggy was singing and playing beautifully, and with gusto. She had a strong, clear voice and was more than willing to have some accompaniment. It was already dark so, knowing we wouldn’t have long to play, I practically ran back to the trailer to grab the Cajon. She mostly did originals and Maritime songs but I recall a Dolly Parton tune and some Dixie Chicks. A few people gathered and the whole campsite was applauding and whistling by the end. Of course, it being a campsite, we got shut down at 11:00. It was a real joy though after two months without playing.
The next day was sunny and bright – a little too bright for me as I had celebrated my good musical fortune with a touch too much scotch. We hooked up and drove to Northumberland Provincial Park where we lucked out by getting the last spot that could accommodate a trailer of our size. We dropped the trailer and headed up the coastal route, called The Lighthouse Trail, stopping along the way to take in some of the lighthouses, one of which was the site from where Marconi delivered his first telegraphed message.
Photo: The lighthouse at Bear Point, along the Lighthouse Trail on the east coast of PEI.
We also stopped in historic Georgetown at a waterfront restaurant for fish and chips. The whole island is so darn picturesque but this setting, in particular, with the historic town, the calm bay and gently rolling hills, delivered the quintessential maritime experience. There was another point of interest to our stop at the restaurant, described in the photo caption below.
Photo: Janice tries to enjoy the perfect PEI experience at Georgetown. She orders fish and chips and a white Pino Grigio but the loudly abrasive muscle boy behind her is irking her no end so she ups and gives him the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” drill. Grabbing him by the ear she marches him to the parking lot, where, with a stern warning about his loutish behaviour, gives him a sharp smack on his tight little behind, sending him on his way.
We took a short-cut on the way back to Northumberland Park stopping to walk on what is one of the most beautiful beaches we saw in PEI. As I was still feeling a little hung over when we returned to the trailer, I napped while Janice washed the trailer. Later I got the unit hooked up so that we could make an early departure for the ferry in the morning. At the campfire I roasted some of the PEI spuds we’d picked up. They were really good.
Photo: Following the restaurant incident, Janice unwinds back at Northumberland Provincial Park with a stroll along the beach.
Photo: A typical red cliff dropping to the sea at the Northumberland campsite, by Wood Islands.
At 9:00 am the next day we boarded the Wood Islands Ferry bound for Nova Scotia…