Let’s Go Exploring! Atlantic Provinces Part 3: Prince Edward Island

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This is a 3 part series. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

When we researched the Atlantic provinces, Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) immediately jumped out at me. And it wasn’t just the endless stretches of sandy beaches, the world-famous Malpeque oysters, or Anne of Green Gables (for those of you who haven’t seen “Anne with an E” on Netflix, go watch it now!), there was one unique thing that made me immediately add P.E.I to our itinerary.

And that thing is…Church Lobster Suppers.

Now, I’m not a big lobster fan normally (rubbery textures aren’t my thing), but this wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill Red Lobster dinner.

This was a competition to see how much seafood chowder, bread, and strawberry shortcake you can stuff into your face while simultaneously digesting a gut-busting-two-pound-lobster.

So, less of a “supper” and more of a gluttony challenge. And all of this is done under the sanctity of God in the community Church basement.

This time-honored tradition started off as a way for the church to raise money, with lobster fisherman donating their catch of the day and neighbors gathering to cook chowder and dessert to make it an all-you-can-eat meal. Since then, it has morphed into a popular dining experience for locals and travellers alike.

And for this traveller, it’s known as “the only time I will ever willingly go to church.” And not only that, but pay to go to church. Well played, P.E.I, well played.

Less sermon, more salmon please.

And with that in mind, I headed for Charlottetown, P.E.I, bringing my stretchiest pair of pants, a muumuu-shaped t-shirt, and a complete lack of shame.

Sadly, my lofty expectations were quickly dashed as I realized the most famous Lobster Diner Restaurant, St. Anne’s, had shut down. The 2nd choice, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers was also closed. Apparently, they didn’t want to have huge crowds during the pandemic.

Sigh. So, I had no choice but to settle for lobster poutine instead.

(Wow, if that is not the most privileged sentence ever in the history of the universe, I don’t know what is.)

Luckily, as it turns out, Church Lobster Suppers were not the only place you could get a delectable lobster. We quickly discovered that not only can you get delicious fresh lobsters at the local superstore, but they will also steam it for you for an extra $1/pound. And sometimes, they even have specials, where they sell lobsters at ½ price at the end of the day.

Which is how we ended up eating entire lobsters for $10 each in the comfort of our Airbnb.

To make sure I’m not missing out on the restaurant experience, we also ordered lobster poutine at the local favourite, Churchill Arms.

And then after that, we were off to see those famous P.E.I beaches that everyone keeps talking about.

Except…we weren’t. Because there was no way to actually get to those beaches without a car.

And here’s where we had made our biggest mistake.

Thinking that Charlottetown was “one of the most walkable cities” in the Maritimes (thanks a lot, Google), and knowing that, post lockdowns, rental cars were rarer than albino leprechauns we returned our rental car. 

And not only that, but we’d also rushed to return it on time, paying a completely unnecessary $82 ferry fare, only to arrive a deserted parking lot.

Why did we do that?

Well, you see, to get to and from Prince Edward Island, you have two options:

  1. Ferry
  2. Confederation bridge

The ferry costs $80 and the bridge costs $50. We opted for the ferry since we were coming from Cheticamp.  Driving to the bridge would make us miss our 2pm deadline to return the car.

What we didn’t know was that you only get charged for LEAVING the island, not ARRIVING.

PROTIP: The most optimized way to travel is to fly in, or drive your rental car there, return it, then fly out. That way you don’t pay any exit fee at all.

Stupidly, we paid $80 to reserve a timeslot to make sure we get on the 12-noon ferry to avoid getting charged a late return fee for the car.

We had no idea that you could just show up, wait in line, and aboard the ferry for free since we were arriving at P.E.I, not leaving.

Granted, that wouldn’t ensure that we’d be able to get on the 12-noon ferry but turns out that didn’t matter.

When we arrived at the car rental lot, it was so empty you could almost see tumble weed roll by.

After a lot of running around, I finally found a cleaner for a different car rental company to ask what’s going on.

He told me “Oh, they don’t check the car until the next morning. You’ll get your deposit back then”

WTF. So, I paid $80 and rushed here for nothing? I could’ve just kept the car the whole night?

SUPER.

Anyway, so having given up the car and with no other cars available to book, we were essentially trapped in Charlottetown.

It was definitely walkable, but what the travel bloggers didn’t tell us was that all the good stuff was outside Charlottetown.

When we later met up with a reader and their spouse for drinks, they told us this is a common misconception. A lot of travellers (especially those who live in big cities) think P.E.I is such a small island, they can just walk or bike from one end of the island to the other. Ha! The fools. If we had only asked them this before we returned our rental car. Sigh.

Luckily, having navigated countless public transportation systems in Asia and Europe, Wanderer decided to try to hit as many of the places on our list as possibly by relying on public transit. And given the scarcity of bus routes, and the fact that buses only ran 3 times a day, it was no easy feat.

With the exception of hiring a private taxi for one day to explore the beaches, we were still able to hit up these spots during our time there:

Brackley Beach

If you want to get the quintessential Prince Edward Island experience, this is it. Long stretches of beach, sand dunes, a red and white light house in the background—what more could you possibly ask for?

Even though we were there in high season, the beach was so long, there was ample space to stretch out. Plus, it was undeveloped, so there are no loud nightclubs or restaurants to ruin the view. Just you and unspoiled nature.

Luckily, we brought sandwiches because the downside of unspoiled nature is you have fend for yourself. There were no restaurants or grocery stores within walking distance to get food.

Clam Digging at Tree Hill Beach

Clam digging at low tide is one of these fun excursions you can do on your own or as part of tour. Once you’ve harvested enough clams, you could start a fire and cook them right there, to be devoured fresh, straight from the ocean.

Our Airbnb host even lent us a bucket and garden shovel so we wouldn’t have to buy any equipment.

For sustainability purposes, you’re not allowed to fill more than one bucket each, and if the clam is too small, you need to put it back.

Turns out that wasn’t a problem for us, because the tide wasn’t low enough for us to find more than one clam.

Malpeque Oysters At Olde Dublin Pub

Our taxi driver gave us a fantastic local tip about the 4-6pm happy hour oysters at the Olde Dublin Pub on Sidney street. He even told us to ask to be seated upstairs because downstairs is the “fancy rip-off section”.

We were super lucky that even though we took the last bus at 5:30pm from Kinlock Park, we still made it to the happy hour with only 2 mins to spare! And not only that, the $1 oysters on order happened to be, Malpeque—exactly what I wanted. They have this crisp, cucumber-like flavour that I thought was super unique and delicious.

Fun fact: small Malpeque oysters are called “Little Willies”. Big ones are called “Uncle Willies”. *snickers*

Celebratory drinks after making it to Happy Hour with 2 mins to spare

Seafood Chowder and Lobster Poutine at The Churchill Arms:

I not normally a fan of pub food, but the poutine and chowder here was amazing! The best we’ve had in the Atlantic provinces so far. Even better than chowder at L’Abri in Cheticamp.

It was around this time, when I ate this deceptively simple looking dish that I realized why they said P.E.I has the best food in the Atlantic provinces. They’re right.

Cow’s Ice Cream

Known as Canada’s best ice cream according to Reader’s Digest, this P.E.I local favourite now has locations all over Canada, with the exception of Toronto, for some reason. Maybe they are scared of coming to a world-class city and getting crushed by all the world-class construction?

Anyway, whatever the reason is, I hope they open a store in Toronto soon, because the ice cream is so creamy and delicious!

I got the “Wowie Cowie” and the “Birthday Cake” and Bryce got the “Island Strawberry”.

In addition to the taste, I also like the quirky names of their flavors.  Next time I’m going to get the “Cookie Moonster” and “Cownadian Maple”.

So, how much did we end up paying for this experience?

Here’s how much we spent during our 4 days in P.E.I:

CategoryCost (CAD)Cost (USD)Notes
Accommodations:$118$95This Airbnb had tons of room, with 2 floors of space and was walking distance to downtown Charlottetown. Charlottetown had the least options in terms of Airbnb during high season, so we were lucky to snag this one a month in advance.
Food:$57 ($32 for eating out, $25 groceries)$46The restaurants in P.E.I were my favourite out of all the places we ate out in during our time in the Atlantic provinces. Probably would’ve spent more if the Church Lobster Supper places had been open but Atlantic Superstore came to our rescue with $10 lobsters. Yay!
Transportation:$60$48The bus was cheap at only $2/person, but it barely covered any ground in the city. Most of the time we were better off just walking. Other transportation costs included $70 for 1 day of private taxi service to/from Brackley beach, gas for the rental car, taxi to/from airport, and the $82 for the ferry. Just show up without a reservation to board the ferry into P.E.I, and you can avoid this fee.
Entertainment:$0$0We didn’t spend any money on entertainment because we mostly ate, went to beaches, and were stuck in Charlottetown.
Total:$235$189Although pricey, just the beaches in P.E.I were worth it. Next time we’ll plan better with the car rental and be able to get to more places.

Have you ever been to P.E.I? If so, what did you think?


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15 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Atlantic Provinces Part 3: Prince Edward Island”

    1. Funnily enough, I hadn’t watched “Anne with an E” before going to P.E.I so I didn’t know what all the hype was about. But now that I’ve seen it, will definitely go see it the next time we’re in P.E.I.

      It also didn’t help that the tourist shuttle buses going to Cavendish stopped running for 2021 🙁

  1. Fun! Loved the writeup. I don’t get the costs at the end though. You said $65/52 for transportation but in the comments you said $70 for a private car to the beach. Also, how do you spend $32 for eating out and $25 the rest of the time?

    Are these per day costs? You said it’s 4 days of spending. /confused

    1. yes, those are per day costs. I take the total for 4 days, and divide it by 4. Eating out is $32/day, cooking is $25/day. So, overall we spent $229 on food for 4 days, which is $57 a day ($32 of that for eating out, $25 of that for groceries).

      Transportation cost us $238 ($70 for the day taxi, $82 for the ferry, $46 for taxi to/from airport, $32 for gas when returning the car, and $8 for bus rides) for 4 days, so that should be $60/day. Yes, you’re right, I’m off by $5. I’ve updated the numbers.

      I see where the confusion is, it’s because I mention some of the costs in my notes but don’t list out extensively every cost incurred.

  2. We biked in NS, PEI and NB (latter for 1 day) over 2.5 decades ago. And camped with B ‘n B about 30% of time. I lost 7 lbs….and we did 1,000 km. which is alot when one remembers cycling involves returning on same road from where you came.. We were pleasantly shocked at a regular looking sandwich place in middle of afternoon, we ordered local mussels…. For $5.00, a heaping plate of 25 mussels.

    Then we discovered we were only 10 min. bike ride from the mussel processing plant that probably ships all over Canada.

    1. Wow, you biked 1000km! That’s insane. I need to do that and lose 7 lbs.

      Good call on ordering the mussels. They probably will cost way more than $5 now, even if it was close to the plant.

  3. Yes. I’ve been to PEI about 20 years ago. We must’ve been driving my dad’s car. Tried to go camping but got rained out (the “water levels rising inside the tent” kind of rained out). Did a quick visit to Charlottetown and left the next day. Maybe I should go back in December.

    1. Hm…not sure Dec would be a good time to go. The taxi driver told me they basically hibernate for the winter. Population is low and roads aren’t cleared often enough so everyone get their supplies and then just get holed inside until it’s warm enough to head out.

      Might shoulder season like fall or spring would be better to avoid the summer crowds (and prices) but not be snowed in.

      1. Yeah, usually I like shoulder season. But really I’m trying to figure out where to hang out in December before my place in Waterloo is available.

        I have been around Halifax between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and that worked pretty well. NS might be better than PEI, there are relatively more people.

          1. I’ve mostly lived in Waterloo since 2008 but this whole pandemic mixed things up. I think I barely missed teaching our fine hosts here. To be honest it’s not my favourite place to live. I usually characterize it as “surprisingly non-crappy.”

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