Exploring Prince Edward Island: History, Culture, and Cuisine
If you mention that you’re going to Prince Edward Island on vacation, most people (with children, anyway) will say, “Oh, yes, isn’t that where Anne of Green Gables is set?” Fans of the novel certainly flock to PEI to pay homage to Anne and her creator, but that’s only one element of enjoyment when visiting this tiny Canadian province. You can shuck fresh oysters or attend a traditional lobster supper, cycle along the Confederate Trail, and even sample moonshine.
I drove for eight miles over the concrete and steel of Confederation Bridge onto the island, marveling at this engineering feat that stretched across the Abegweit Passage. It took over four years to construct at a cost of 840 million, and employed more than 6,000 workers. This is the longest bridge spanning ice-covered water in the world, and I was happy that my visit took place when there was no ice to be seen!
I took the first exit into the small town of Borden-Carlton and Gateway Village. After stopping in at the visitor’s center to pick up some maps and literature, I strolled around the shops selling ice cream, knickknacks, and collectibles for the discerning tourist.
Since it was nearly noon and my stomach was growling, I walked over to a restaurant I had heard about that sells fresh, locally sourced food. Scapes is a small, cozy place. Its chef-owner, Sarah Bennetto O’Brien, greets me with a dazzling smile.
Calling her eatery a “food truck with roots,” she coaxed me to try one of their staples: fish cakes made with haddock with a side of baked beans. Being from Colorado, I don’t have access to this type of food and my mouth was already salivating.
Everything at Scapes is made from scratch and the fish cakes were light, golden brown and not overly infused with fishy taste. All I can say about the beans is that they were dreamy, creamy and made with slow cooked beans, coconut oil, molasses, brown sugar, and, I suspect, love.
After lunch, I headed to the North Cape and what locals have dubbed, “The Oyster Coast.”
My destination was the establishment of a four-generation oyster fishing family known as the Hardys. Their slogan is “Oysters fishing a la Hardy” and they allow you to experience a real life oyster operation. There’s a bit of education including a trip on a dory to rake some oysters and, best of all, try some.
These Malpeque oysters are renowned all over the world for their quality and can be eaten right out of the river where they are harvested. After shucking one open I gobbled it down and wished I had some lemon and hot sauce to go with it.
One of the reasons why PEI is known as “the Gentle Island” is because people come here for a laid-back, relaxing getaway. Life seems to move a little slower here and as I pulled up to the nearby Hilltop Acres B&B and Guesthouse I took notice of the four-person wooden swing out front. I knew I’d make some time later that evening to try it out.
Owners Janice and Wayne Trowsdale have created a delightful little respite in their renovated 1930s country home with 75 walkable acres and two comfy rooms as well as an adjacent guesthouse. A homemade breakfast, of course, is included in the price.
My job for the day still wasn’t done. I had one more meal to eat (some job, eh?). So, off I went to Doctor’s Inn. In a nice bit of whimsy their sign says, “Doctor is Inn” as a homage to its previous resident, Dr. Stewart.
Today, the residence does double duty as an organic farm and as an intimate, private dining experience with only one seating per night, courtesy of Paul and Jean Offer. Unlike a traditional restaurant where you may not know where your food came from, Paul is proud that almost everything except for the meat course comes from his gigantic garden out back where everything is picked fresh.