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Prince Edward Island North Shore Travel Guide

Visiting Prince Edward Island had been a dream vacation for me for years. Growing up reading the Anne of Green Gables books, watching Avonlea every Sunday night with my mom and sister and watching the Anne movies with my grandma when we would have sleepovers on her pull out couch, I would often daydream about what it would be like to actually see the island, the red sand beaches and vast, rolling hills of farmland. In the summer of 2018, we finally made it happen.

Our adventure in the Canadian Maritimes was spectacular, and I didn't want to come home. It's such an underrated part of the world, and if it's an area you've wanted to visit, I can't encourage you enough to start planning your trip here. To give you some tips and suggestions, I'm excited to recap our journey for you today.

Mid-July/2018. Obviously, summertime is a great season to visit PEI since it tends to be warmer and drier (less chance of rain). And while it's considered peak season, we honestly rarely felt overrun with tourists. The only time we felt inundated with people was right when we checked into our campground, and there were kids everywhere. But once we parked and wandered over to the beach, we felt fine. For the rest of the trip, we felt it was far less crowded than Cape Cod during the summer season. While on PEI, we experienced temperatures in the low-mid 80s, which the locals considered a heat wave. So the colder ocean temperatures actually felt pretty nice.  

Our total trip for this vacation was 11 days, broken up between Maine, PEI and Nova Scotia. For the purpose of this post, we'll just be focused on PEI.

We split our four nights on PEI between two locations in the North Shore area: Kensington & North Rustico.

Marine Rail Park is one of the first stops you can make once exiting the Confederation Bridge into PEI.
The giant heart sign is worth the stop alone to kick off your adventure, and they also have
very clean and well-stocked restrooms if you need a quick bathroom break after your drive.

We drove from New York, through New Hampshire, and up through Maine, stopping at Acadia National Park for a night to break up the trip. From our house in NY to Acadia, it was about 7.5 hours, and from Acadia to PEI, it was about 6.5 hours.

We chose to rent a car because we knew we'd be putting a lot of miles on our own car. Josh found a really great deal online, so it was an easy choice for us. If you decide to drive and make it a road trip, we'd both highly suggest you look into renting a car. Determine how many miles you'd be putting on your own car, and see if it's a better option for you.

Once on PEI, you will definitely need a car to get everywhere, so if you choose to fly, be sure to rent a car from the airport. This is the island of potato farmland, after all!

For our first two nights, we chose to stay at Twin Shores Campground, and we did this for two reasons. The first was to save money (so I could eat all the mussels I wanted and not be worried about our budget). The second reason was because we honestly really enjoy camping, and this campground was pretty much right on the ocean. We loved it here, and when it was all said and done, we could have been happy staying all four nights here. Our camp site was about 10 paces to ocean beach access, and the beach allowed you to walk for miles and offered amazing sunsets. It was also a really well-organized and clean and respectful campground. It was definitely very geared toward families, so there were kids running around on bikes and en foot everywhere. For two adults, it was a little much at times, but you could easily escape to the beach where we always found plenty of room to spread out and zone out all the noise. I honestly can't recommend this campground enough, and it's a great budget-friendly option if you want to stay on the North Shore and are looking for an adventure.

Teapot Rock, which was about a 30 minute casual stroll
on the ocean shoreline from our campground beach access.

Teapot Rock.

Sunset walk on our campground beach.

Tip: the coin operated showers on the campground only take Canadian coins, which we learned the hard way (while standing in our towels holding up the line almost in tears because our shower was “broken." I came equipped with baggies of American quarters in our shower caddies only to realize I was actually completely unprepared.

For our last two nights on PEI, we chose to stay at an AirBnB in Brackley Beach. We did this because we thought we'd be tired of camping, and want a break from it. Our AirBnB was lovely, but like I said, we loved Twin Shores so much that we kind of felt like our AirBnB stay was unnecessary. But, it was nice to be a closer drive to the National Park areas, which was a plus with this location.

We crammed a lot into four days and every single day was absolutely perfect. Being a fan of the world of L.M. Montgomery, you'll notice that we didn't do a lot of the touristy "Anne" things. And the reason was, we just really wanted to experience the authentic Prince Edward Island life. While driving through Cavendish, we saw a lot of the Anne tourist spots, and honestly, while we were open to doing some of them prior to arriving on the island, we just didn't feel like they were worth a lot of our time. If we had an extra day, the one thing I would have considered doing is visiting the Green Gables Heritage Place, which I read online was a great experience. But with only four days, we wanted to see as much of the island as possible. Here are the things we did that we'd recommend.

Chasing Lighthouses
Before we left, I jotted down locations of a few lighthouses I wanted to visit. For some reason, I just love seeing lighthouses in person. I love their history, and because of their function, they're always surrounded by great views of the water. A few of the lighthouses we visited while on PEI were down long, dirt roads that seemed hidden, but once we got there, we were greeted with the most amazing sea views and red sand cliffs. And usually, not a single person was around. It was great, and one of my favorite experiences.

So many Queen Anne's Lace surrounding Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

Cliffs around Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

Cliffs around Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse.

One of the more well-known lighthouses on West Point Lighthouse, located, obviously, on the Western end of the island. It's by a public beach, so definitely more crowded with people (but not packed) and has a public parking lot with plenty of spaces. It's a bit out of the way, but it's a beautiful lighthouse with a distinct black and white stripe pattern, which made for some awesome photos. One thing I will say is, unfortunately, we felt the beach was a little less spectacular (the shore was really rocky and not the best for walking), and we didn't want to stick around for too long. But the views of the lighthouse were totally worth the drive.

West Point Lighthouse. You can see how rocky the beach is.

It was so nice seeing the deep, red sand ocean floor under the water, though.

West Point Lighthouse.

Cape Tryon Lighthouse was another favorite of mine, and not one of the more well-known ones. The red sand cliff views were just amazing from here, and it was one that was completely secluded at the end of a dirty road. If you're brave (or crazy) enough, you could climb down to the very edge and feel like you're at the end of the world. The feeling I had standing on the end of those cliffs was just pure happiness, and when Josh showed me some of the photos he took while I was standing out there, I was so excited to have that feeling captured on camera.

Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

Path to the ocean lookout near Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

Views from Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

Standing on the cliffs that were just above the ocean at Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

View from the lower cliffs of Cape Tryon Lighthouse.

Greenwich Boardwalk
This excursion was a little out of the way for us, but I'm so glad we decided to do it. The walk to the actual boardwalk was a little longer than we expected through an open field (with a clear pathway) and some wooded areas, but once we got to the boardwalk, we loved it. At the end of the boardwalk, it spits you out at the entrance to Greenwich Beach, which was spectacular, and one of my favorite memories of our trip. There were hardly any people around, and on that particular day, you had a hard time telling where the horizon ended and the sky began. It was so beautiful. You could walk along the shore for miles here as well. Then, you reverse your entire walk, across the boardwalk again, to get back to your car. I would say that if you walk an average pace, stopping to take some photos, it would be an hour one way to the beach. Totally worth it.

Walking on Greenwich Boardwalk.

View of Greenwich Boardwalk from the entrance to the beach. It's longer than it looks in the photo!

The beautiful beach at the end of the boardwalk.

You couldn't tell where the ocean ended and the horizon began at the Greenwich Boardwalk Beach.

National Park Beaches
You really can't miss the National Park beaches, if only to see one of them. I'm honestly not sure which one we ended up at on our last night (it was somewhere near Brackley Beach - they're all along the same road), but as the sun went down, the entire coastline was just ... glowing. I didn't even need to edit my photos because the light was perfect.

Sunset walk on Brackley Beach in the National Park. It was our last night, and a beautiful send off. 

If you drive along the coast in the National Park, you can also stop at quite a few overlooks to gaze at some amazing red sand cliffs. We did this after dinner one night, and it was the perfect way to end a perfect day. We also walked along the shoreline on one of the beaches and stumbled across the cutest little red and white striped lifeguard stations. 

One of the overlooks to pull off into along the drive in the National Park.
There are quite a few observations areas on the drive, and you can't miss them.

You'll also see plenty of lighthouses on your drive.

Lifeguard stations on one of the National Park beaches.

North Rustico
Stopping by the North Rustico harbor is a must. It's like its own tiny little contained fishing village, but also has some great restaurants, including On The Dock and Blue Mussel Cafe. You could walk around for quite a while just snapping photos of all the scenery and feel like you're back in time.

Lobster traps, ev-ery-where.

A modest shop that sells hand-painted buoys out of the garage in North Rustico.

View from our table at Blue Mussel Cafe, which was overlooking the village.

Look For Canola Fields
In the summer months, you'll likely drive by at least one field covered with bright yellow canola crop, and it's definitely something to admire. It sounds like it would be boring, but honestly, once you see it in person, you can't help but want to get out of your car and take a closer look. Just be respectful of the land because it's very likely someone's livelihood. Keep your distance and don't actually walk on it, and be careful when pulling off the side of the road to take a peek. Also keep in mind that the crops will peak at different times throughout July and can sometimes still be visible in August. So if you're driving by and don't see any, keep your eyes peeled because I guarantee you'll see one in the distance on your way to the next destination. That's what happened to us, and we found at least 3-4 while driving around, not even looking for them. 

Drive to French River
French River is one of the coolest things I've seen. It's a tiny little harbor in the middle of farmland, and you almost don't even see it when you drive by because it looks like nothing from a distance. But when you get up close, and you see the boats in the water, you can't help but be a little impressed and amazed. You can drive right into the harbor area and walk around, and there's also a viewing point from the main road with an informational plaque to read all about it. Bring a camera with a decent zoom if you plan to take photos from the viewing area - it's pretty far off into the distance. But we recommend that you definitely drive up to it and walk around as well. We didn't see a single other person while we were there. It's also close to Cape Tryon Lighthouse, so you could visit both during the same drive.

A very zoomed-in photo from the French River observation area in the distance.
You can walk across the field to get a better photo, but I was wearing a dress and flip flops, so I passed on doing that.

Walking around the French River Harbor. 
French River Harbor. We had just gotten to PEI, so I was a little too excited about seeing lobster traps,
not knowing we'd see hundreds during our stay.

Drive Through Springbrook
There's one famous landscape from Springbrook in PEI, and photos of it are often taken when the fields are lit with canola. We sadly missed canola season in this area, but the landscape was still beautiful just the same. The main road into Springbrook is lined with houses that overlook the water, and they're layered in with beautiful farmland, which basically encompasses PEI in one scene. It's worth driving through if you're in the area, and it's a quick little excursion that won't take you long. You'll be quite a distance from the water, so I had to zoom in pretty far to even get the below photo, but the views were still very quintessential PEI.

Driving through Springbrook, you'll see quite a few houses like this overlooking the water.
This particular view is often photographed when canola is fully grown, lighting the farmland with bright yellow and gold.

We didn't have one bad, or even mediocre, meal on PEI, and I think about the amazing food we had here more often than I care to admit. Here's a breakdown of the restaurants we visited.

Ship to Shore in Kensington
The tarragon cream mussels and fish 'n ships were to.die.for. We went on our first night on PEI, and I just went all out with the seafood and have zero regrets. They also have a great outdoor deck area and everyone was so friendly. And, they bring you a complimentary basket of house-made potato chips, which were awesome.

On the back deck of Ship to Shore Restaurant.

Mussels at Ship to Shore.

Fish 'n chips at Ship to Shore.

Sou'West in Kensington
Again, hard to beat the giant pot of mussels, which were amazing, and the deck out back overlooking the water made for a perfect atmosphere.
Right next door to Sou'West is a lovely little dock that makes for some nice photos.

Dock next door to Sou'West

On the deck at Sou'West restaurant, with more mussels of course.

Blue Mussel Cafe in North Rustic

Definitely my favorite meal. Their decor is so perfectly rustic and nautical while still feeling authentic, and they had a menu with some more unique dishes. Everything was incredible, and they had a small upper deck area overlooking the harbor area which was awesome.

Prince Edward Island Preserve Company
This is so worth stopping at if you're in the area. We arrived shortly after they opened to avoid waiting in a line, and most of their dining room was already filled, which means you're probably in the right place. This little restaurant is also a boutique shop, selling mostly their own preserves, and also, home to an amazingly magical botanical garden. If you're in the area, we'd definitely recommend planning some extra time to walk the grounds, which are free. They have a small lily pond, some horses you can pet, and my favorite, a walk through the woods that felt like Alice in Wonderland. It was such a unique place, and on top of that, breakfast was awesome.

On The Dock Cafe in North Rustico
Another great outdoor seating area overlooking the water, and an even better lobster roll. It was a great way to end our PEI trip.

The lobster roll at On The Dock.

On The Dock Eatery in North Rustico.
Our time in PEI was everything I'd hoped it would be, and exceeded my expectations in terms of natural beauty, amazing seafood and beautiful scenery. I'm chomping at the bit to go back and explore the Eastern and Southern part of the island. Have you been to PEI? What were your best memories from your trip?

We used AirBnB for our stay in Brackley Beach to live more like a local. Are you considering booking your first AirBnB stay or experience? If you'd like, you can use my referral link here to save $55 when you book your first stay. Both Josh and I have been using AirBnB for a few years now to have a more authentic experience when we travel, and we really encourage everyone to check it out when it makes sense for your next adventure. It's usually much more cost effective than hotel stays!

1 comment

  1. Can you guide me where the springbrook lookout is? Is it along the highway 20? Thanks.