I’ve been a bookworm since I was a little kid, when I’d get lost in the Little House on the Prairie books and that children’s Bible where the characters had the weird googly eyes. Besides being hypnotized by Moses et al, one of my all-time favorite book series was Anne of Green Gables. Even though I’m such a rule follower, I loved reading about Ann(with an e)’s spunkiness and sense of adventure, and the TV miniseries was next level awesome. So much so that as an adult, my friends Julia, Kathy, and I would have sleepovers, eat pizza, drink beer, and watch it on Netflix. When I found out that Meagan Follows was at Toronto ComicCon, I bought a last-minute ticket for that day JUST so I could take a selfie with her. And I wore my hair in braided pigtails. At the age of 33. Anyway, El and I have heard all about the beauty of Prince Edward Island, where Anne of Green Gables is set, and nearby Nova Scotia. We had a long weekend in August, which happened to be my birthday weekend, and decided it would be the perfect time to do another classic Court and El road trip.
I’ve learned the best way to plan a road trip is to figure out the “What to See” first and then figure out your route based on those locations. The best and cheapest way to get to the east coast of Canada was to fly to Halifax, so we got there late Friday night and stayed in a hotel by the airport. We decided to do the longer drive (about 3.5 hours) first thing that morning and crossed through northern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to get to the Confederation Bridge, the only way to drive in and out of Prince Edward Island. The drive was more forested than we’d expected, and New Brunswick had a lot of fun colorful houses and farmland along the way. Although it was long, the Confederation Bridge was a great way to see the red sands of Prince Edward Island stand out in the Atlantic Ocean.
We were staying in Charlottetown, PEI’s biggest town, and the drive there was adorable: lots of green farmland and colorful quaint houses similar to the ones in New Brunswick. The closer we got to Charlottetown though, the more commercial it got with strip malls lined with Wal-marts and Bed Bath & Beyonds. I don’t know why that was disappointing to me, probably because my inner child demanded that everything look like it was from the late 19th century. It was just about lunchtime when we got to Charlottetown so we decided to try out a local favorite, Papa Joe’s. So glad we did because I had what may have been the best bacon burger of my life. I’m talking “slide down the booth like you’re melting because it’s so good” level. El said his club sandwich was also really good, so Papa Joe’s should definitely be your first food stop in Charlottetown. We also tried our first PEI craft beer, Do Gooder American Pale Ale from Charlottetown’s Upstreet Brewery, a promising start to our mini-vacay.
The forecast was looking iffy for the weekend, and that day’s weather was sunny and warm, so we rejigged our itinerary to visit all the outdoor must-sees before we lost the sunshine. First Stop: Lucy Maud Montgomery’s, the author of the AOGG series, homestead. About 40 minutes away in the cliffside town of Cavendish, the homestead was EXACTLY how my brain pictured it: gardens, woods, and wildflowers growing along white picket fences lining acres of green pasture. The homestead bookstore had some of her letters and plenty of Anne souvenirs to buy, but the best feature of the homestead were the plaques of LMM quotes that lined the paths around it. There’s a path that leads the kilometer or so to Green Gables, so we crossed through the “Haunted Forest” of spruce trees and saw the familiar white and green house come into our view. The closer we got, the legit more excited I got.
From the woods, you climb about ten stone steps to get to the actual Green Gables home. As we walked up to the house, “Anne” was smelling wildflowers and posing for pictures with people. Unreal excitement coming from me obviously. The house itself was adorable and painted white with a dark green roof and shutters. We did a quick tour through it and saw “Anne”, “Matthew”, and “Marilla’s” rooms, each all decked out in old-times decor and accessories. Afterwards, we walked around the grounds and sat by the barn drinking a cold bottle of raspberry cordial. Unfortunately, it was non-alcoholic, so I couldn’t totally recreate the drunken Diana scene. I’ve had enough of those in my day though so that’s probably a good thing. The crew took Matthew’s buggy out of the barn while we perused the huge gift shop. I got myself and my little cousin a copy of Anne of Green Gables because how cool is it to get Anne of Green Gables FROM Green Gables?!? Not cool at all, you say? Well then.
After saying goodbye to Anne (no, we really said goodbye to “Anne”), we drove to the nearby Cavendish Beach and its famous red sandstone cliffs. For being PEI’s most popular beach, it was surprisingly quiet, so we had plenty of space to walk on the extremely soft sand. The red cliffs were stunning, and the whole area, part of Prince Edward Island National Park, was really beautiful. It had apparently rained just before we got there, so the sand was compact and perfect for sitting and relaxing.
Our “hotel” in Old Downtown Charlottetown was actually an old Victorian mansion that was comically opulent and gaudy AF. I’m talking next level Romanov shit. After dropping off our stuff and reading Dickens to each other in the parlor (we didn’t actually do that), we decided to check out a few craft beer places around the corner.
At both Hopyard and Craft Beer Corner, neither one of us was too impressed with the selection on tap. The spaces themselves are super cool, and Craft Beer Corner almost felt like an ice cream shop, but the beers themselves (Upstreet Pilsner and PEI Brewing Company’s 1772 IPA) weren’t anything to write home about. Dinner at Pilot House, however, was. We sat at the bar, and the bartender gave us some travel tips for going around the island. The food itself was also great, and I’m still thinking about the maple sugar butter they have for their bread.
Cow’s Ice Cream shop was kitty-corner from Pilot House, so it was naturally our next stop. Apparently this is the best ice cream in Canada and was recommended by more than one friend. The shop smelled like almond extract and loaded with what seemed like a 1,000 t-shirts for sale, each with a different theme and cow pun. There was Cow Wars, Dr. Moo, and even Cowflix. The ice cream was as delicious as advertised, and we wolfed down our Cookie Monster (me) and brownie swirl (El) waffle cones in no time. The cones are made in the shop and tasted so so fresh. Definitely recommend. Charlottetown is an older crowd, so we closed the night with a beer at Hunter’s Ale House where we sat next to a few chapters of US Hell’s Angels. They were obviously also there to see Green Gables.
It was a good thing we did the bulk of our outdoor spots the day prior, because there was a heavy rain for most of the morning. Once it started to lighten up, we drove to the town of Montague to check out its microbrewery, Copper Bottom Brewing Company. Montague’s Main Street was very small townesque, and Copper Brewing Company is set on a hill overlooking a little river that is almost identical to the town Donegal in Ireland. The rain had stopped by then, so we people watched and tried their tasty Parkman beer from their incredible deck area.
Basin Head Beach, home of the famous “singing sands”, is on the southeast coast of PEI and was our next stop. Along the way, we stopped at a farmhouse restaurant, 21 Breakwater, and had lunch while watching the ferry to Les Isles de Madeleine depart. The food was great, the view was perfect, and our food experience in PEI thus far had been superb. The area around Basin Head Beach was surrounded by so many lush trees and cliffs, and the sand was just as soft as Cavendish Beach. Even though the water was too cold to actually swim, the whole area was made for photo ops and relaxing.
We continued our drive to the easternmost point of the island, and walked up the cleverly named East Point lighthouse. A cute little red and white structure with obviously an incredible view of the ocean, we were surprised that it was manned all the way up until 1989. As we climbed to the top, we learned about several big 19th century shipwrecks off the coast where every person (more than 500 people) miraculously survived. On the route to and from the lighthouse, we saw more than one sign for “dairy bar take-aways” and guessed that that’s what they refer to as ice cream shops in PEI. We also passed by blueberry, mussel, and firewood stands on the side of the road and plenty of little water inlets and oceanfront property. There’s no coastal road on the northern part of the island, but the scenery was no less fantastic.
When we got back to Charlottetown, we stopped at both Upstreet Brewery (classic hipster microbrewery) and Gahan House (the vibe of a New England oyster house) in downtown Charlotteville to relax and try some of their beers. The downtown area was crowded with people watching the live jazz band play outside of Confederation Library. Fun fact: there are lots of references to all things Confederation in PEI, including their license plates (“Birthplace of Confederation”), because it was in Charlottetown where delegates decided to unify Canada into one country. There were plenty of downtown restaurants packed with people, but we unfortunately chose one with forgettable flatbread. We decided to redeem our evening with Cows again and tried the cookie dough and something called “Fluffer Udder” for El. Fucking majestic stuff at that place.
The next morning was an early start to drive the roughly 3 hour and 50 minutes from Charlottetown to Peggy’s Cove in southeastern Nova Scotia. While jamming out to XM’s Lithium station, the ride down there reminded Elliot of northern Minnesota with all the lakes, rocks, and coniferous trees that lined the streets. And the signs for moose crossings. Let’s not forget the moose crossings.
It was clear we weren’t the only ones with the idea to visit Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia that morning, and there were plenty of cars lined up trying to park in the little fishing village. Peggy’s Cove is everything you’d picture a Nova Scotian fishing village to be: cherry red and white lighthouse, waves crashing on huge rocks, arts and craft shops, and colorful houses on little hills overlooking the small harbour that’s home to everyone’s boat. Even though there were some things to appease the tourists (plenty of lobster roll and cook your own lobster stands), the whole place was so Gramps-like that it made me smile.
We climbed the massive white rocks to get a better view of the lighthouse (fun fact: it was home to a Canada Post office until 2009, where they put lighthouse stamps on the mail) and ocean beyond it. It was a beautiful clear morning, so the lighthouse’s colors really popped against the blue sky. Because I’m an antagonizer, I chose to wear my Caps Stanley Cup champs t-shirt that day as a middle finger to Sidney Crosby’s hometown of nearby Halifax. Like he would actually care.
We were staying that night in downtown Halifax, about a thirty minute drive from Peggy’s Cove, at the famed Lord Nelson Hotel and Suites. Everyone we talked to recommended that we stay there, and it was actually pretty cheap to do so. We checked into the hotel, located next to the Halifax Citadel and the city park, and started the walk towards the historic district. It was really hot out that day, but there were still plenty of people buzzing around. Compared to Charlottetown, Halifax is a much younger city on account of its university. The city itself isn’t very big, and with few tall buildings feels more like a large town rather than a major city. It definitely had more of an historic feel, nowhere more so than at the waterfront. On our friend’s recommendation, we had some wings and beer at the Split Crow tavern. Supposedly the first establishment in Nova Scotia to be granted a liquor license in 1749, the Split Crow was also home to the province’s first murder charge. Some of the beers in Split Crow are even named after both the victim and murderer. Morbid.
We walked along the waterfront and across the “much shakier than I would have preferred” Sea Bridge to get to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Anchored outside of the museum is one of the original vessels, the Acadia, that provided aid right after the Halifax Explosion. I love me some maritime museums, and Halifax’s didn’t disappoint. The detailed exhibitions on the explosion, Franklin Expedition of the Terror fame, local shipwrecks, and how the dead from the Titanic were buried in Halifax were truly fantastic. The biggest exhibit was naturally dedicated to the Halifax Explosion, where in 1917 a Norwegian vessel collided with a French vessel carrying explosives to the war. The ensuing blast completely leveled Halifax and injured 9,000 people while killing 2,000. It was the largest man-made explosion before nuclear weapons and one of the worst maritime disasters ever.
After a rum flight at the Halifax Distillery across the street, we walked up the hill to the Halifax Citadel, where the city was founded, to get a better view of the city and the water. We grabbed some food at Your Father’s Mustache, a bar near the Lord Nelson, and visited the 2 Crows patio (the beer sucked) and the Stillwell beer garden, a spot that reminded us of the Crown & Shuttle pub in Shoreditch. Although we wished we had more time to spend in Halifax, we unfortunately had to call it an early night to make our 5:25am flight and bid adieu to the east coast.
I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I do plan out some pretty epic road trips, and this PEI/Nova Scotia one was no exception. So BEEP BEEP, bitches! But seriously, if you’re looking to geek out over Green Gables, walk around quaint fishing villages, climb up adorable lighthouses, and gorge yourself on delicious ice cream, there’s no better place than Canada’s east coast. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia will not disappoint, especially with its great food. Ironically, the one thing we didn’t eat while there? Seafood.
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