Prince Edward Island Is One of the Best Places to Travel in 2023 — Charming Towns, Coastal Trails, and Lobster Suppers Included

The Atlantic Canada province packs a powerful punch when it comes to scenic hikes, seafood, and small-town charm.

Prince Edward Island may be Canada’s smallest province, but don’t be fooled by its petite size. What this eastern Canadian island lacks in square mileage, it makes up for in spectacular coastal drives, pristine shores (there are more than 90 beaches), and hiking and cycling trails that usually lead to something delicious (think: freshly shucked oysters, lobster rolls, and award-winning ice cream). 

Along with being affectionately nicknamed "Canada’s Food Island," PEI is best known as the setting of the novel “Anne of Green Gables.” Every summer, visitors flock here to step into the peaceful, storybook world that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s fictional town of Avonlea. And thanks to its red sandstone cliffs, quaint towns dotted with folk art mailboxes, and pastoral rolling hills, its views don’t disappoint.

It’s almost impossible to take a wrong turn on this 140-mile-long island. And even if you do, you’ll likely be met with a friendly islander that will point you in the right direction. PEI residents are deeply passionate about protecting their fragile ecosystems and heritage formed by Acadian, Celtic, and Mi'kmaq cultures, just to name a few, leading to a wealth of unique and sustainable experiences. 

Come for a long weekend or stay for a week — even then, you’ll barely scratch the surface of all there is to see and do. Here’s how to plan the perfect trip to Prince Edward Island, also named one of the best places to travel in 2023 by Travel + Leisure editors.

How to Get to Prince Edward Island

Ferry to and from PEI

Tourism PEI/Emily O'Brien

Prince Edward Island is easier to reach than it seems, especially if you’re visiting the neighboring Atlantic Canada provinces beforehand. Drive across the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, take a 75-minute ferry ride from Nova Scotia (Northumberland Ferries operates this service between May and December), or fly into PEI’s capital city of Charlottetown through Toronto or Montreal. You can also travel by train with Via Rail or Amtrak (via Montreal) to Moncton, New Brunswick, or Halifax, Nova Scotia, and continue your journey to PEI by bus or rental car. You’ll ideally want to have a vehicle to get around the island, which is easy to navigate as long as you’re comfortable with roundabouts. 

What to Do on Prince Edward Island

Explore Charlottetown and nearby small towns.

View of Victoria Row in Charlottetown

Tourism PEI/Stephen DesRoches

If you’re only in PEI for a few days, the capital city of Charlottetown is a central place to base yourself. Head to the pedestrian walkway of Victoria Row to have breakfast at Receiver Coffee Company and pop into craft shops before exploring the historic district. In the afternoon, visit microbreweries like Upstreet Craft Brewing and The Gahan House, or enjoy ice cream and a self-guided factory tour at Cows Creamery. In the evening, check out the harborfront area of Peake’s Wharf, a great spot for live music, artisan shops, and seafood restaurants. Eating a lobster roll at Water Prince Corner Shop is a must.

Three people kayak on PEI in autumn

Tourism PEI/Stephen DesRoches

Beyond Charlottetown, you’ll want to check out other nearby small towns. A 30-minute drive west will bring you to Victoria-by-the-Sea, a historic fishing village that’s been revitalized by artists. A visit here is best paired with a kayaking and clam-digging tour with By-the-Sea-Kayaking, fish and chips from Richard’s Fresh Seafood, and sweet treats from Island Chocolates.

Drive 30 minutes north of Charlottetown and you’ll find North Rustico, also known as “the Crick,” Here, you can join a deep-sea fishing or kayaking excursion and access Prince Edward Island National Park before enjoying a lobster supper at Fisherman's Wharf or PEI mussels at the Blue Mussel Café.

An hour east of Charlottetown, you’ll find charming Murray Harbour and Murray River, where many entrepreneurs have set up shop in recent years. Have a hearty breakfast at The Home Plate Restaurant & Bakery and stop at the boutique Newman Estate Winery.

Take a coastal drive.

Scenic drive at golden hour along the PEI coast

Tourism PEI/Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Prince Edward Island has three coastal drives that link many of its small towns, iconic landmarks, and boardwalks. You can easily do these drives as day trips from Charlottetown or make a road trip out of them and stay at inns along the way. A great one to start with is the Central Coast Drive, where you’ll find the Green Gables Shore, including several of the beaches, towering sand dunes, and trails that inspired the book.

It’s a good idea to dedicate a day to the Points East Coastal Drive, where you can relax on more than 50 beaches, play a round of golf, hear the sound of "singing sand" at Basin Head Provincial Park, sample potato fudge, and visit historical sites like the Point Prim Lighthouse, Prince Edward Island's oldest lighthouse.

For something off the beaten path, try the North Cape Coastal Drive along Canada’s Oyster Coast, where the sunsets are just as memorable as the seafood, and Acadian and native Mi’kmaq cultures thrive. Along the way, you’ll find some offbeat attractions like The Canadian Potato Museum and The Bottle Houses constructed out of 25,000 recycled bottles by retired Cape Egmont Lighthouse keeper Édouard Arsenault. 

Hit the trails.

Sally's Beach, Prov Park PEI

Tourism PEI/Sander Meurs

The Confederation Trail runs tip to tip across PEI and can be traversed by foot or bicycle. Stretching about 170 miles, you can take a week or more to cycle the entire stretch, or just do a section. Other notable spots like the Homestead Trail, Cavendish Beach, and the Robinsons Island Trail System can be found within Prince Edward Island National Park. In 2021, The Island Walk debuted a new 435-mile walking and biking route that loops around the perimeter of the island and includes much of the Confederation Trail. It takes about 32 days to complete by foot, but can also be explored in sections. 

Go on a culinary tour.

Lobster on baked potatoes

Tourism PEI/Stephen Harris

A visit to PEI wouldn’t be complete without indulging in some of the local delicacies and learning about their cultural significance. Join the immersive Bannock and Clams experience on Lennox Island, home to the Mi'kmaq First Nation. Here, you’ll learn how to bake the traditional bread under the sand and enjoy freshly harvested Malpeque Bay oysters cooked over an open fire.

Combining music and food, the Village Musical Acadien puts on dinner shows throughout the summer, allowing guests to sample Acadian dishes like chicken fricot, meat pie, and hominy corn, and listen to traditional music. For the ultimate day at sea, try a Lobster Lovers tour with a fiddling fisherman in Souris, or opt to tong and shuck oysters as you hear stories from a seafaring local.

When to Visit Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island has a mild climate, and because it’s surrounded by water, it rarely gets humid. Most businesses are open between May and October, but summer is undoubtedly the best time of year to get out on the water and enjoy the beaches, with pleasant temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In the spring, when the lupines bloom, enjoy mild days (46 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as the start of lobster and theater season. The temperatures are similar in the fall, which is always a magical time on the island, as the leaves start to change color. During sunny September, the annual Fall Flavours Festival celebrates food and culture and includes the popular PEI International Shellfish Festival, also known as the “biggest kitchen party in Atlantic Canada.”

Where to Stay on Prince Edward Island

The Great George Hotel on PEI

Tourism PEI/Paul Baglole

In Charlottetown, The Great George hotel offers a mix of classic and deluxe rooms and luxury suites spread across 17 restored heritage buildings on a city block near the wharf. The original property dates back to 1846 and has retained much of its classic hospitality, from greeting guests with freshly baked cookies at check-in to hosting weeknight wine and beer receptions. 

Another boutique option is The Holman Grand Hotel, located in downtown Charlottetown, which comes with the added benefit of being connected to the Confederation Centre of the Arts, making it easy to attend events and performances. 

Full of historic charm, the five-star Sydney Boutique Inn & Suites is housed in an 1857 Notre Dame convent near the waterfront. Among its 18 suites are luxury apartments that feature full-sized kitchens, spacious walk-in closets, and en suite washers and dryers, making it a great option for extended stays.

Those looking for something more unique can opt to rent a “floating wine barrel” houseboat in the historic maritime village of Murray Harbour. Nellie’s Landing Marina offers e-bike rentals, allowing you to easily explore PEI’s southeastern wineries and cideries before enjoying a sundowner on the deck of your floating abode.

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