Boating In the Birthplace of Confederation

Brackley Beach PEI National Park

Until 1997 the only way to visit Prince Edward Island was by boat. Today, it’s still the best way to enjoy the tiny island that gave birth to a nation.

Over the course of four days in September 1864, representatives from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario) gathered in Charlottetown to discuss the idea of bringing these diverse colonies together and forming a country. These discussions laid the foundation for what ultimately led to the Confederation of Canada in July, 1867.

Today, PEI continues to influence the rest of Canada as a vacation playground, known for its laid-back attitude, carefree pace, remarkable food scene and tremendous recreation opportunities. That’s especially true if you choose to explore the island the old-fashioned way – by boat.

Boats have been part of Island life for centuries. Although commercial lobster boats working the seafood trade continue to dominate most harbours, a growing number of leisure boats can be seen in virtually every port today as a new generation of Islanders choose to connect with the sea. Marinas with outstanding facilities for recreational boaters now ring the island, making PEI an enticing destination for long-distance cruisers. After all, how often do you have the chance to circumnavigate an entire province?


Since no point of land on Prince Edward Island sits more than 16 kilometres from the sea, boaters enjoy tremendous access to virtually all of the Island’s best destinations with a perspective that’s second to none. A couple of bicycles onboard puts every point of PEI within reach.

If you’re looking for gridlock, you’ve come to the wrong place. Forget about lining up for slip assignments or fuel here, life in PEI moves at a far more civilized pace than it does on the mainland. It’s a great place to get away from it all, and especially if you spend a night on the hook. In many places, you’re more likely to share your anchorage with seals and bald eagles than with another boater.

French RiverFrench River

And for those who want a more cosmopolitan experience, that’s also just a short ride away. Tie up in downtown Charlottetown and you’ll find the best of PEI’s most populous city lies within easy walking distance from the harbour – as it was when John A. MacDonald and crew arrived for the Charlottetown Conference in 1864. Self-guided walking tours let you explore the city’s magnificent architecture and history at your own pace, and discover a truly unique place that celebrates its past while striding firmly into the future.

Charlottetown’s historic waterfront district, with its brightly-painted, woodsided buildings and statuesque sandstone warehouses, has been transformed from a one-time commercial centre into one of Canada’s most charming downtowns, with beautiful homes, a vibrant shopping scene and a number of outstanding restaurants. It’s unlike most urban centres that are dominated by chain stores and corporate restaurants, this is Canada the way it used to be, with the majority of businesses and restaurants operated by the families who own them.


In spite of Charlottetown’s many attractions, the best of PEI is to be found in its small towns and fishing villages. The Island’s trademark red soil takes its colour from the high iron oxide content, which rusts on exposure to air. You’ll see it everywhere, on rural roads and all along PEI’s expansive sand beaches. Indeed, the Island’s beaches are among its greatest attractions and by late June or early July, the water is the perfect temperature for a refreshing dip. It sounds surprising but warmed by the sun, the shallow waters off PEI’s beaches are the warmest north of the Carolinas.

North RusticoNorth Rustico

The beaches are also a great place to see wildlife, whether it’s crabs and sea life trapped in tide pools by the outgoing tide, or an almost endless variety of birds. Indeed more than 330 different species of birds can be seen on PEI, from giants like great blue herons, ospreys and bald eagles to offshore sea birds like gannets and petrels and shorebirds including endangered piping plovers. With such incredible diversity, it’s little wonder that PEI attracts bird watchers from all over North America.

If you prefer more active pursuits, then be sure to pack your golf clubs, since PEI offers more than 30 outstanding courses to choose from. For the most part, booking a tee time is easy, and green fees are comparatively cheap – the tough part is dealing with the sea breezes and simply keeping your eye on the ball, as the ocean views tend to be more than just a bit distracting.

Golf not your bag? Then pull out the bikes and go stretch your legs. Picking a route is as easy as consulting the provincial road map, with no shortage of glorious seaside journeys to choose from. Or try riding a section of the Confederation Trail, which stretches 273 kilometres across the length of the Island from Tignish to Elmira. Built on a former railway bed, it’s flat, safe and extremely well maintained, with small towns to explore every few kilometres and convenient parking access all along the way. Can’t fit a bike on your boat? Then rent one — there are dozens of places to rent bikes all across the Island.


Fish ShackFish Shack, North Rustico Harbour

If you’d rather stay close to the water, consider taking a guided kayak tour. Kayaking is popular in most harbours, including Victoria, Morell, Malpeque, North Rustico and Ellerslie, where local guides can teach you about the island’s unique estuary ecosystems and the local seafood industry. They’ll also explain those curious rows of floats seen dotting the surface of nearly every bay and cove, like swimming lanes in a pool. The floats reveal the location of mussel socks, used in the harvest of blue mussels for both local consumption and export all around the world. Every year PEI mussel farmers harvest a whopping 37 million pounds of blue mussels, so mussel farming is big business on the island.

Mussel Socks
Mussel Socks

PEI has long been known for its agriculture and seafood, so it comes as little surprise that the Island has developed into a bit of a culinary Mecca. Outstanding restaurants offering a dizzying array of fare can now be found right across PEI, and have given rise to a growing number of food festivals, including the PEI Shellfish Festival, Burger Love, Lobster Love and PEI Fall Flavours. There’s even a PEI Culinary Trail and some Culinary Boot Camps that allow visitors to fully immerse in a celebration of food quite unlike any other.

PEI might be Canada’s most compact province, but you’ll quickly find a week or two just isn’t nearly enough time to even try and fit it all in. With excellent marine facilities and magnificent shorelines leading to adventure in every direction, it’s the kind of place that leaves you enchanted — as you plan your return.

Things to Do in PEI


Malpeque Bay is famous worldwide for its superb oysters, and they’re featured in many of the Island’s restaurants – including the legendary Malpeque Oyster Barn, within easy walking distance of the town docks. You can also try Carr’s Oyster Bar, in the community of Stanley Bridge, where you enjoy shellfish on the patio as you watch great blue herons patrol the shallows. Or make your way to North Rustico and enjoy a fresh lobster dinner overlooking the harbour at the famous Blue Mussel Café – rated the finest seafood restaurant in PEI year after year.

Confederation TrailCycling on Confederation Trail at Montague


A Ceilidh — pronounced kay-lee — is a giant party, Islandstyle! These festive affairs feature spirited music, great food and beverages. Just about every small town on the Island has regular Ceilidhs throughout the summer months. Watch for signs or, better yet, ask around for the lowdown on what’s happening where.


East Point Lighthouse(Left) East Point Lighthouse


One would expect an island to have more than its share of lighthouses, and there are about 50 on PEI. Most are marked on the provincial road map. Many are open to the public, and the view from the top has to be seen to be believed.


PEI’s north coast provided the dramatic inspiration for Lucy Maude Montgomery’s timeless classic Anne of Green Gables. Much of the story is set at the Green Gables farm, located in Cavendish and now known as the Green Gables National Heritage Site. It’s a bit of a hike from the closest marina (take a taxi or enjoy a 12 kilometer bike ride through the National Park from North Rustico) but an interesting piece of Canadiana that attracts visitors from around the world.




Green Gables House

(Right) Green Gables House


Cardigan Marina
Tel.: (902) 583-2445

Charlottetown Yacht Club
Tel.: (902) 892-9065

Charlottetown Marina
Tel.: (902) 629-9806

Montague Marina
Tel.: (902) 838-4778

Murray Harbour Marina
Tel.: (902) 962-2427

Silver Fox Marina (Summerside)
Tel.: (902) 436-2153

Souris Marina
Tel.: (902) 687-2233

Stanley Bridge Marina
Tel.: (902) 886-2352

Victoria Harbour
Tel.: (902) 658-2975

West Point Marina
Tel.: (902) 859-2733



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