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30 January 2023

Exploring Canada’s Food Island

Photo c/o Tourism PEI/Stephen Harris

If you put a plate of freshly shucked oysters in front of me, I’ll happily devour them all. The holistic chef in me knows the nutritional density offered by these salty mollusks that are packed with high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

So it came as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I quickly fell in love with Prince Edward Island — home of the renowned Malpaque Bay oysters — during my recent trip to Canada’s Atlantic Coast.

I ate them by the bucket at a Lobster Supper, at an outdoor farm bar at Michael Smith’s Inn at Bay Fortune, in a beautiful restaurant in North Rustico and in several great eateries on Charlottetown’s Victoria Row — and they were all delicious. As Islanders say: there’s no such thing as too many oysters, so keep on shucking.

Food is very important to me when I travel. I love to eat not only delicious cuisine, but also meals that contain healthy, local and sustainable ingredients. Even better, is when these amazing meals tell me a story about the destination I am visiting. During my three day stay, Prince Edward Island certainly lived up to its reputation as Canada’s Food Island. Small it may be, but PEI is a powerhouse of good-tasting cuisine and producers who care about the quality of the ingredients they grow.

Visitors are drawn to Prince Edward Island for its many charms, such as the beautiful red-sand beaches, rolling green hills, friendly locals and, of course, Anne of Green Gables. But it is PEI’s growing culinary credentials that are cementing the island’s place on the world’s must-visit lists. From its famous oysters and potatoes to its grass-fed beef and fire-cooked bannock, Canada’s smallest province is an ideal destination for those who love a good meal.

Read on to learn more about Canada’s Food Island.

Want to book a stay in Prince Edward Island? Reach out to us — we’d love to help you plan your ideal culinary getaway.

What makes PEI Canada’s Food Island?

Photo c/o Tourism PEI/Nick Jay

Prince Edward Island’s rich soil and ideal growing conditions make it a perfect location for producing a wide variety of fresh and high-quality products. The island’s farmers grow crops such as potatoes, carrots and other vegetables, as well as fruits like apples and blueberries. Additionally, PEI is renowned for its seafood, particularly its mussels, lobster and my personal favourite, oysters.

For me, there are three factors that make PEI a standout culinary destination: the island’s culinary traditions, which are influenced by Mi’kmaq culture as well as Scottish, Irish and Acadian heritage; the abundance of available fresh, high-quality ingredients; and the strong emphasis on sustainable agriculture.

Charlottetown is a must-visit when in PEI

Photo c/o Tourism PEI/Stephen Harris

PEI is certainly small enough that you can explore it using Charlottetown as your homebase. But even if you are staying elsewhere, I’d highly recommend spending at least one day visiting the provincial capital.

Charlottetown is easy to explore on foot and has a beautiful waterfront. If you are visiting in the warmer months, you’ll find street festivals, outdoor performances and dozens of patios where you can try a local brew and indulge in some amazing food. Visit Victoria Row, a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops or grab a lobster roll from a shack on Peake’s Wharf and then a cone at Cow’s Ice Cream for a perfect afternoon snack. You really can’t go wrong in Charlottetown.

I can personally recommend dinner at Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar where you will find an amazing selection of grass-fed local beef and, of course, delicious oysters. Another great stop is Slaymaker & Nichols Gastro House where the vibe is upbeat and trendy and the food is made for sharing. Try one of their old-fashioned cocktails.

Try the island-raised beef

Photo c/o Tourism PEI/Sander Meurs

While I would happily survive on fresh seafood at every meal, PEI has so many other amazing food items that you have to try. One item that really impressed me was the quality of the beef raised on the island.

As an Albertan who’s uncle is a rancher, I know beef and I was truly blown away by the quality of PEI’s grass-fed beef. I can’t quite pinpoint what makes this beef so delicious but local farmers will tell you it is because the cows are raised on pastoral farms with a fresh salty breeze coming from the ocean. Happy cows and all that. What I can tell you is that grass-fed beef — that is, beef that comes from cattle raised on a diet of grass rather than grain — contains beneficial fatty acids, minerals, essential electrolytes and lots of healthy Omega 3 fats with the optimal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.

And, of course, high-quality steak pairs so well with the other famous PEI-grown ingredient: potatoes. Order steak frites in PEI and you certainly won’t regret it.

Singular food experiences in PEI

Photo c/o Tourism PEI/Stephen Harris

The one thing I took away from my short stay in PEI is that the island is authentically committed to good-quality food ingredients and production. Canada’s “Food Island” is not a gimmick to lure in travellers but a genuine way of life for locals.

Anywhere you go on the island, you’ll be welcomed and well fed. I was lucky enough to experience some of the island’s singular culinary experiences: a Bannock and Clam meal at Lennox Island, a traditional lobster supper at the Fisherman’s Wharf in scenic North Rustico and the FireWorks Feast at the Inn at Bay Fortune. All are worthy of a place on the culinary traveller’s bucket list.

I’m already planning my return trip.