In May of 2023 we spent 14 days cycling across Prince Edward Island, covering almost 500 km. We did a figure-eight loop of PEI, with the beginning, midpoint, and end of our journey in Charlottetown. We cycled on back roads, on dedicated bicycle paths in PEI national park, and on the Confederation Trail, PEI’s old railway network that has been turned into a cycling path.
Our “base camp” was the Great George hotel, a series of historic buildings that hosted attendees of the Charlottetown conference of 1864. Yes – the idea of Canadian Confederation was discussed by prominent proto-Canadians over tankards of brandy and rum in these very premises. The buildings just ooze Canadian history.
Today, the Great George is a boutique hotel. We stayed there a total of four nights (two on arrival, one after the first loop, and one night after the second loop). The staff was really helpful in accommodating us. They stored our big suitcases while we were out biking, and they had laundry facilities on-site which came in really handy.
The Great George hotel faces St. Dunstan’s cathedral.
Charlottetown is a collection of colourful houses, stately churches, and government buildings. It doesn’t really have a “big-city” urban vibe to it; rather, it is very quaint in many ways.
Church built out of local red sandstone.
Our cycling tour began at McQueen’s bike shop, where we rented bikes for our trip.
Our first destination was Victoria-by-the-Sea, a village with beautiful heritage homes, and with some top-notch seafood restaurants.
PEI oysters at Casa Mia
At the Lobster Barn: PEI mussels and… drum roll… lobster poutine! Yum.
The quiet back roads of PEI are ideal for cycling.
There were some good views of the Confederation Bridge near Borden-Carleton.
The Confederation Bridge is an amazing piece of civil engineering.
Summerside is PEI’s second-largest town. In its center is one of Canada’s finest collections of heritage houses, many of them built by wealthy ship-builders back in the 19th century. Selfie:
Stately heritage houses in Summerside.
This is the Lefurgey house, now a cultural center. We went in and asked if we could see the nearby Wyatt house, and they arranged a tour for us.
The Summerside Inn B&B, our hotel, was in one of the heritage homes.
Our room. Summerside Inn B&B.
Yours truly enjoying eggs benedict for breakfast. Summerside Inn B&B.
Kensington is a town in the interior of PEI, just northeast of Summerside. It is along the Confederation Trail, and its former train station has been turned into a pub. We did not stay here overnight, which may have been an oversight because it looked like a very nice town. But we did stop at the bakery for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun.
The Confederation Trail is a network of bike paths built on abandoned railway grades.
The Confederation Trail goes through forests full of singing birds, and past PEI’s iconic red-soil potato fields.
North Rustico is a pretty fishing port on PEI’s north shore. I had fun taking pictures of fishing gear at the wharf.
Some of the lobster boats have amusing names.
PEI National Park – Cavendish section
PEI national park occupies a stretch of the north coast of PEI. There are three distinct sections, separated by inlets that go deep inland. All thee sections have dedicated bike paths for cycling, but, due to the inlets, they don’t connect up.
We got some great views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the bike path.
Within the national park are some of PEI’s famous red-sand beaches, and red coastal cliffs.
The red rocks from which these sands are derived are Permian in age. They were deposited near the center of supercontinent Pangea.
Other than red sand beaches and lobsters, the thing that PEI is most famous for is Anne of Green Gables. Lucy Maud Montgomery published her wholesome tale about Anne of Green Gables in 1908. The setting of the book was inspired by a farm owned by Montgomery’s grandfather’s cousins, and this farm was also used for the film adaptation of the book. The farm house is now a tourist destination run by Parks Canada.
Hurricane Fiona barreled across PEI on September 24, 2022, causing catastrophic damage to PEI, particularly to its trees and forests. Most trees didn’t snap off, but were blown over, tearing their roots out of the ground. Just about every front lawn in Charlottetown had a tilted stump with a root ball sticking up. Many forests we saw were flattened, as if a nuclear bomb had gone off. It was a sobering reminder of climate change. Many of the locals we talked to told us that it took weeks to restore power to their homes. Amazingly, no lives were lost in PEI.
PEI National Park – central section
Diana at Brackley Beach.
Cycling near Stanhope.
Dalvay-by-the-Sea, built in 1895 as a summer home for an executive of Standard Oil, is now a boutique hotel. Our room had a wonderful view of the sea.
The last bit to Charlottetown was along the Confederation Trail.
Continue to part two of our tour.
Quite some time ago I heard about the Confederation Trail in PEI. I was keen to cycle it, but we never made it to PEI. Then, about a year ago, I heard about the Island Walk, a 700 km, 32-day hike styled after the Camino de Santiago. So when a cheap flight to Halifax came up, we said: Let’s go!
But when I sat down and looked at the realities of the Island Walk, I figured out it wasn’t for us. Much of it is road-bashing or slogging up a bike path. There is no coastal pedestrian-only hiking trail as there is in the UK. Also, there are many sections along the Island Walk where accommodations are not available. So, I figured – why not get bikes. With bikes we could cover at least twice the distance in a day as compared to walking, making it easier to go from B&B to B&B. This led me to construct an itinerary that connects PEI’s main sights and nicest B&Bs. I tried to build an itinerary that takes advantage of the cycle paths as much as possible and minimizes cycling along busy roads.
As mentioned, there are two types of dedicated bike paths in PEI: the Confederation Trail, which is an abandoned railway network turned into bike paths, and the cycle paths along the coast in the national park. On the following map, the Confederation Trail is shown in red, and the national park trails are show in green.
Here is a map of the route we followed. Roads are in black, Confederation Trail in red, National Park bikepaths in green. Starting in Charlottetown, we cycled the loop to the west in clockwise fashion, and the loop to the east in a counterclockwise direction.
Here are some notes on a day-by-day basis:
Day 1 – Charlottetown to Victoria-by-the-Sea – 41 km.
We followed days 1 and 2 of the Island Walk. This section was quite hilly, and we had strong headwinds at times. As a result, this section was more strenuous than I thought it would be. The first bit to Clyde River follows busy roads, but there are dedicated bike paths / sidewalks. The suburban scenery is drab. After Clyde River the scenery quickly improves. In Victoria-by-the-Sea we stayed at Ebbtide B&B. We really enjoyed our conversations with host Jean McCardle. Highly recommended.
Day 2 – Victoria-by-the-Sea to Summerside – 41 km.
We followed days 3 and 4 of the Island Walk. The first bit to Borden-Carleton was a pleasant ride, but the second half was an unpleasant ride along busy highways. We spent a day exploring Summerside on foot (day 2b?). Our accommodations were at Summerside Inn B&B. Recommended.
Day 3. Summerside to North Rustico – 58 km.
I had planned a shorter day of cycling, going from Summerside to Kensington on the Confederation Trail and then country roads to Burlington (hwy 101), New London, and Stanley Bridge, for a total of 47 km. But we had such a nice time riding the Confederation Trail that we followed it all the way from Summerside to Hunter River. From Hunter River we took highway 13 north to New Glasgow (wide shoulder) and then highways 258 and 6 to North Rustico. North Rustico has some excellent seafood restaurants. We stayed at North Rustico Motel & Cottages. Recommended.
Day 4. PEI National Park, Cavendish section – 31 km.
Using North Rustico Motel & Cottages as a base, we spent a day cycling along the dedicated bike path in the national park. Note that highway 6 from Cavendish to North Rustico is very hilly; the coastal route is much easier (and much more scenic) even though it is longer.
Day 5. North Rustico to Dalvay-by-the-Sea – 29 km.
We followed highway 6 to Brackley Beach, and then rode the dedicated bikepath though the central section of PEI National Park to Dalvay-by-the-Sea. The accommodations and dinner at this posh hotel were excellent, but we thought breakfast was disappointing.
Day 6. Dalvay-by-the-Sea to Charlottetown. 28 km.
We followed highways 220 and 25 to York, where we picked up the Confederation Trail. We then followed the Confederation Trail to downtown Charlottetown. We stayed at the Great George Hotel. Highly recommended.
Day 7. Charlottetown to Montague – 48 km.
We started our second loop by crossing the causeway across the Hillsborough River. Thankfully there is a bikelane now, which Google Streetview doesn’t yet show. On the east side of the causeway there is a route signed through to the Confederation Trail. We disregarded the signage and followed highways 21 and 215 to Mount Herbert. From Mount Herbert we followed the Confederation Trail to Kinross, where we turned onto highway 210 to Montague. In Montague we stayed at Lanes Riverhouse Inn. Recommended. Note that pubs and restaurants are closed on Mondays (we ended up getting food from a grocery store)
Day 8. Montague to Murray River – 36 km.
We followed highway 17/17A to Murray River. I had planned a detour to Panmure Island, but due to fierce headwinds we ended up short-cutting along 17A. At Murray River we stayed at the Olde Anchor B&B. Highly recommended. Be sure to try the fish-and-chips at the Home Plate (short walk from the Olde Anchor) and the seafood chowder at the Harbourview Restaurant in Murray Harbour.
Day 9. Murray Harbour – 25 km.
Using Murray River as a base, we cycled to Murray Harbour and Beach Point Lighthouse.
Day 10. Murray River to Georgetown – 35 km.
Rather than cycling highway 17 back to Montague (long) or highway 4 (busy, no shoulder), we tried highways 349 (unpaved) and 315. This worked out well. We made good time on highway 349 despite a few short sandy sections which required us to push our bikes. And, there was zero road traffic on 349. At Montague we picked up the Confederation Trail and followed it to Georgetown. At Georgetown we stayed at the Georgetown Historic Inn. Recommended.
Day 11. Georgetown to St. Peter’s Bay – 33 km.
From Georgetown, we followed the Confederation Trail to Cardigan. From Cardigan we followed highways 321 and 313. Highway 313 is hilly in spots, but a massive tailwind helped us along. At St. Peter’s Bay we stayed at Points East Coastal Inn. Highly recommended.
Day 12. Greenwich Beach – 22 km.
Using St. Peter’s Bay as a base, we cycled to the eastern section of PEI National Park on a dedicated bike path and went for a hike on Greenwich Beach.
Day 13. St. Peter’s Bay to St. Andrews – 25 km.
This leg was fully along the Confederation Trail. The sections along St. Peter’s Bay and the wetlands of the upper Hillsborough River are particularly scenic. Unfortunately we experienced gale-force winds and rain, which made it a bit harder to appreciate the scenery. Lucky for us this was a short day. We stayed at Abbot’s Rest B&B. Highly recommended. The owners and Abbott’s Rest kindly cooked a gourmet dinner for us, which was really nice of them. There is no restaurant nearby.
Day 14. St. Andrews to Charlottetown – 39 km.
Our last day of cycling was all the way along the Confederation Trail. Once again we stayed at the Great George Hotel. Highly recommended.
Western loop 228 km, eastern loop 263 km, total 491 km.
We rented bikes from McQueens in Charlottetown. The bikes came with helmets, a repair kit, and a bike lock. We brought our own pannier bags, but these were available for rent as well. In our panniers we carried a change of clothing, puffy jackets for the cold, gloves, rain jackets and pants, snacks/lunch, toiletries, cellphones, map, repair kit and a few other items. This system worked out really well, and we were able to go for a week easily before needing to do laundry. I also carried by mirrorless full-frame camera.
We rode old-school bikes, but E-bikes could be a great choice as well. It’d be nice to have some assist on hills and when facing headwinds (PEI is a windy place). Also, you’d have a greater cruising range, which opens up new possibilities for the itinerary.
We cycled in mid May. Many places were just opening up for the season, while others were still closed. The scenery was a bit barren, with the trees not yet leafed out and the potato fields freshly plowed. But, we were ahead of bug season and the hordes of tourists that come during the high season.
Continue to part two of our bike tour of PEI.