As you might know, geography has never been my strong point- and so, while to do the Anne stuff we probably should have stayed in Cavendish, on the Central Coast of PEI, we are instead out on the Northeastern point- called North Lake- and I'm thrilled by our (remote, rural, nearest town is 30 minutes away) decision.
And so, a recap:
Day 1: Drive
We left NYC on Thursday, last week, and drove on day 1 to Portland, ME. This drive was ridiculous. All map apps suggested it would take about 6.5 hours. It took almost 9. Now, again, we have a toddler, we stop whenever he needs to blow off steam, but most of that was traffic in MA. MISERY. But, our hotel was fine, we had a good night of sleep, and we stopped at Len Libby Chocolate in the morning for some fuel (of the chocolate variety). Their claim to fame is a life-sized chocolate moose. It was indeed life-sized.
Day 2: Drive
We drove to Fredericton, NB- crossed the border into Canada, and drove some more. Fairly quick drive-but we'd booked for the wrong night, and that was complicated for about an hour.
Day 3: Drive
We drive to PEI! Uneventful drive- just long. And we arrived at the Gateway Village after crossing the Confederation Bridge. Gateway Village is a tourist trap- get in and out as quick as you can. We spent some time here, as we were waiting for my parents who were about 40 minutes behind us, and because there is a playground and we needed to let the tot run for a bit. From here, we drove to our beach house in North Lake. It was about 90 minutes from Gateway Village. We stopped in Charlottetown for groceries- at Soeby's. Food was pricier than we expected, but they had a good "Atlantic" (read, local) section. We finally arrived to our house and it was marvelous. We chose to stay at the North Lake Beach House, which I found through a random google search.
I was relieved that:
1. There was an actual house,
2. It was as gorgeous as described
I'd been paying cash through the mail for months and toward the end of what felt like an interminable drive began to worry about there not really being a house there since I couldn't find any online reviews of the house except ones that referred to the address when it used to be a restaurant!
The house is magnificent, it has steps down to a beach that overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence and a red sand beach.
Now about the drive: I'm pretty sure if you don't have a toddler, and if you have more car-sitting stamina then we do, you could do this in a day or two tops. We chose to take 3- because 6-7 hours in a car is about max for us, and when we add in the breaks we need for the kid, it's always longer.
About our location: If you are coming to PEI to solely do Anne things- you probably don't want to stay out east. It's gorgeous- beyond words gorgeous- but REALLY far away from things. If you need to do "stuff" that involves other people, restaurants, and activities, you'd probably prefer to stay in Charlottetown or Cavendish.
Day 4: Vacation! We were so relieved to not be in a car. After a lazy morning, we headed down to the beach in front of our house. It was utterly peaceful, and the water was surprisingly warm. We spent the day playing in the sand with our son, walking along the shore, and chatting with my mom. Down the beach to the west of us a bit were some tidal pools- they gave us loads of snails, crabs, and baby lobster to look at. Our son was enthralled by all things beachy. We took no pictures, left our phones in the house, and just checked out.
|My hubs and son walking toward the lighthouse|
Later in the afternoon, we headed into Souris, the nearest large town to see what was there and pick up some more groceries that we hadn't gotten on the way into town. We also decided to check out the Souris Lighthouse. This was cool-and my son loved it. Despite living in Staten Island, home of the Lighthouse Museum, I've never actually been inside a lighthouse. I was psyched. This lighthouse, allows you to climb all the way to the 4th level, and climb out a tiny hole to the outside. (We opted to stop just on the top level and not go outside). There is a small exhibit of sea glass, which was pretty neat, and the tour guide, upon hearing our son liked animals, invited us to stop by her "Hobby Farm" up the road. There was also a lighthouse light you could switch on and off. A small gift shop with a really nice selection of sea glass jewelry rounded out this experience.
Day 5: Anne Day!!!
Ok. Here is what we were visiting for! We drove 14 hours (+) to see sites related to Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the ever fictional Anne Shirley. From our house out east it took about 2 hours to get to the Cavendish area. If you're like me, and want to see how closely related fictional areas might be to the areas that inspire them, here's a great map with some convincing descriptions of the area/fictional area. The drive was long and slow, but exceptionally pretty. The plan had been to get to Green Gables (in PEI's National Park) at 10, do the house, do the trails, and head to New London for LMM's birthplace, then take a carriage ride at The Anne of Green Gables Museum.
|long line of people|
We didn't manage it quite that way. First, Green Gables opens at 9am, and I thought it opened at 10- so we didn't leave our house early enough (this happens with toddler). By the time we got there it was 11:15, and it was PACKED. Parking was almost non-existent-the attendant suggested we come back at 1, but we couldn't because we'd booked "Matthew's Carriage Ride" at 1pm at the Museum, 25 minutes away. Are you doing the math? This meant that by the time we parked, and bought our admission tickets we had about an hour to see Green Gables, the grounds, and hike a bit. The house was a long line of people waiting to get in and then moved rapidly once you were inside.
|the line getting shorter|
|Path up to a meadow|
After we visited the house, we made the choice to do the hike to through Lover’s Lane. In retrospect, we should have done The Haunted Wood, because we would have made it to the foundation site of L.M. Montgomery’s childhood Cavendish home- but… we didn’t. So- we hiked along Lover’s Lane. It was lovely. And we sprinted back to the gift shop/parking lot when we realized that it was noon because we had to head off to our next site.
|Lover's Lane, with running kid!|
|people felt compelled to carve or write on this tree. We didn't.|
|the little brook|
In the interest of time, we skipped LMM’s birthplace, though we drove past it, and we headed to the Anne of Green Gables Museum to check in for our 1pm carriage ride. The ride went around what LMM identifies in her journals as the “Lake of Shining Waters” and the property is the home of her cousins the Campbell’s. There was lots of fun bookish stuff here- among them, the blue trunk from The Story Girl, and copies of her books autographed to her family members. We chose to take the 1 hour ride because our son likes horses, and he enjoyed the ride with Matthew (Jack), and Molly (the horse).
|driftwood aisle, seashell heart|
The highlight of the ride was 15 minutes on a gorgeous secluded pristine white beach- which had a path of driftwood leading to a seashell sanddollar heart in the sand (The museum also seems to run a lucrative wedding planning business? Or partnership?). In any case, it felt magical.
It was really pretty. And empty. Us, and a dog and its owner.
|view of fields and lake|
|Is Anne real?|
I ran through the house while my family played in the tiny playground. The staff here weren’t really friendly, and very “don’t touch” even when clearly no one was going to do so. It was fun to see someplace that felt embued with LMM’s spirit. I love this quote about Anne and her realness!
The house of the AGG Museum (setting for Pat of Silverbush)
|Signed copy of Rainbow Valley. My second favorite.|
At this point, it was 2pm. Part of our plan had been to go and find fresh shellfish for dinner (and we’d packed coolers) so, we headed to Darnley for Basin View Seafood. Everyone was hangry and feeling stressed out and so we decided we needed food. A quick google search told me that we were only 15 minutes away from Malpeque Bay (think oysters), and so we stopped for lunch at the Malpeque Oyster Barn, and wound up bringing several dozen oysters back for dinner. A two hour drive home, another stop at a grocery store and we stumbled into the beach house and started shucking oysters for part of our really delicious dinner (steampot, scallops, oysters, corn, potatoes, salad).
Anne Day Takeaways: Stay overnight in Cavendish if you can swing it. Get to PEI National Park early. Leave ample time to do both hikes at Green Gables Heritage place and leave time to get to the LMM birthplace. I'd say a 30 minute carriage ride would have been fine- but the hour gave us beach playtime. By the time you make it to the AGG Museum, you are already close to Malpeque- just go and have some oysters!
|Dad and hubs shucking oysters|
Day 6: Basin Head Provincial Park
After four hours of roundtrip driving on Tuesday, we didn’t want to be in the car much on Wednesday. So we got up and out of the house relatively early and arrived at the Singing Sands of Basin Head by about 10:30. The hike down to the beach is either via gravel path, boardwalk, and sand or boardwalk steps, boardwalk and sand. When we got to the beach, we opted to park ourselves on the right hand side of the bridge, fairly close to the water. It was gorgeous.
The water was 64 degrees- so on the chilly side, but once you went numb you didn’t really notice. We played in the sand, and hung out, bought a kite, had a snack, and went home to fly the kite. It was really too windy for the kite, but we had fun with it anyway.
Day 7: Deep Sea Fishing
|Mom waiving at the boat|
|The kid not wanting to steer|
|looking at the fish in the bucket|
We had a super lazy morning and then headed out to Captain Jeff MacNeill’s boat, the Money Maid, literally down the street from our beach house. We’d booked an afternoon of Deep Sea Fishing. Me, my hubs, my son and my dad boarded for the 1pm departure. After a brief safety talk, we headed out into the water- there was a lot of down time on this trip. It was billed as deep sea fishing, but we spent at least 90 minutes looking for seal and whales (we saw a bunch of seals, and some porpoises), and then about an 45 minutes mackerel fishing. The fishing was good- between the 3 adults fishing in our group we caught about 9 mackeral. Everyone else on the boat was doing well too and everyone got to take home a large bag of filleted mackerel. It was surprisingly tasty- I’ve never had it cooked before.
|catch of the day|
My son thought the trip was fun, and though he was concerned that Captain Jeff was cutting the fishes, he was delighted when he announced “People and seagulls can share the fish” as the carcasses were thrown back into the water. Back at the house, as an added bonus, one of the local foxes came up on our deck right to the screen door.
Day 8: Photo Tour
I took a morning away from the family today and went out on a 4-hour photo tour of the eastern part of the island with Rusty Elliot, of PEI Photo Tours. He and his wife own Elliot's General Store.
We met at 8am, and had a grand 4 hours running around the island. I got a camera for Christmas, and this was a really exciting and fun way to break it in. I took over 200 pictures-and I'm on a really slow connection, so I'm not going to post any here.
I highly recommend this tour for anyone coming to PEI- especially if you're staying in another part of the island- this would be a great way to see the eastern end.
Tomorrow is our last day on the island- It's been a week filled with lots of fun, family, and love. Not quite sure how we'll spend our last day here - But I do hope we'll be back someday!