An Epic New Trail in Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island sits off the eastern coast of Canada and is one of our beloved Maritime provinces (along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). While it isn’t very big — you could drive the crescent-shaped Island tip to tip in under four hours — it packs a punch when it comes to beautiful landscapes.
If you like to explore a place at a slow pace — savouring fresh food, enjoying good conversations with locals and stopping to gaze at big ocean vistas — then PEI is the place for you.
We last visited Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, in the summer of 2019. It was my second trip to the Island, but our first as a family. Even though it was more than two years ago, rarely does a week go by that we don’t talk or think about that trip — and the memories always make us smile. I’m not sure if it is the friendly people or the beautiful, yet gentle landscapes, but PEI just seems to have a magic about it that seeps into your soul and creates a longing to return.
And if the fresh seafood, dramatic red cliffs, and miles of secluded beaches weren’t enough to have us planning a return trip, there’s now another reason to head to PEI: a cool, new 700 km trail that circumnavigates the Island.
Modelled on Spain’s famous El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, the Island Walk is a series of connected, signposted trails that skirt their way around the edge of the province. Divided into 32 sections, each one approximately 20-25 kilometres long, the Island Walk takes visitors through all of PEI’s iconic scenery. Visitors can walk, run or cycle any part of the trail, starting and ending where they wish.
If the recommended daily kilometres are followed, the walk could be completed in 32 days — an awesome way to see the Island.
PEI is already home to one long-distance trail, the Confederation Trail, which runs the length of the Island roughly through its centre. The original footprint for the Confederation Trail follows the decommissioned rail line for 273 km from Tignish in the west end to Elmira in the east. Over the years, additional offshoot trails have been added, but not in one continuous direction. While beautiful, the Confederation Trail lacks access to that which is at the heart of life in PEI: the water.
And so the Island Walk was born, utilizing parts of the Confederation Trail and expanding the trail to circle the Island. Along the way, it shows off some of PEI’s most iconic sights, from red roads, cliffs and beaches to lighthouses, white churches and potato fields. It offers spectacular ocean views and, in some instances, walkers can even choose to walk right on the beach.
So much to explore
PEI is a great place for long-distance walkers of all levels because the Island offers relatively flat terrain throughout. The website has a detailed description of each section and where to find accommodations and food along the way. Depending on which section you chose, you will discover different aspects of the Island.
Linda Lowther is the project manager for the Island Walk and she says the most popular sections so far have been those that offer ocean views or a chance to walk along red dirt roads. Fans of Anne of Green Gables have enjoyed sections 15-16 and 17-18, which offer some spectacular ocean views and a chance to see author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthplace.
“They’ll also see some of the things she spoke about in her books and they walk right by Green Gables Heritage Place,” Linda says.
An immersive experience
“The Walk does go through some pretty nifty harbours where you can meet fishermen and buy lobster or fresh seafood,” Linda says. “And there’s a few farmsteads along the way too that you can get some veggies.”
This really is at the heart of the Island Walk: it isn’t just a walk, it is an immersive experience into Island life. You might stop and chat with a potato farmer, buy some fresh seafood from a fisherman on a wharf or strike up a conversation with a local out for a stroll along the trail. When your mode of transport is slow, your experience of place is that much richer.
Getting to PEI
There are three ways to access the Island, flying into Charlottetown (the capital city), taking the ferry from Nova Scotia, or driving from New Brunswick over the Confederation Bridge, which itself is a stunner. Once on the Island, you really can’t go wrong: every direction offers amazing beaches (some with the iconic red sand and others with pristine white), vast fields, endless skies and access to some of the freshest seafood we’ve ever eaten. Charlottetown and Summerside are the two largest urban centres but the Island is full of wonderful little towns and villages that beg to be explored. Why not choose a section of trail and see what wonders you’ll find along the way?
If you need any assistance in creating a custom itinerary for your next trip to Prince Edward Island, our team would be happy to help.
This post was originally posted on November 12, 2021 but has been updated on April 17, 2022.