Home Featured A Long Weekend Exploring PEI National Park

A Long Weekend Exploring PEI National Park

by Adam Doolittle
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Windswept dunes, rugged red cliffs, and picturesque beaches. That’s how you can pretty much sum up PEI National Park. Before, when Kate and I lived on PEI, we frequented the different areas of the park. For some reason, this summer we have completely avoided it.

Over the long weekend that changed as each day, we got to enjoy a different part of the park. PEI National Park isn’t contained within one area. Rather, the park is broke up into three different sections: Cavendish, Brackley/Stanhope, & Greenwich. If you wish to travel from Cavendish to Greenwich it’s about an hours drive. Brackley/Stanhope is almost right in the middle of the two. That shows you how spread out the park is. It can definitely be a bit of a task to enjoy each area over the course of a weekend.

With our time on the Island winding down, we didn’t want to leave PEI without getting to PEI National Park. Last week, Parks Canada were kind enough to send us a Discovery Pass. This gave us the perfect opportunity to take full advantage of the pass over the long weekend.

Cavendish
Green Gables Heritage House

Late in July, we were happy to learn that there were a new couple of Workampers here at Jellystone PEI. We soon became friends with Eric & Rosie. We learned that one of the reasons they travelled to PEI was because of the red-haired orphan – Anne of Green Gables. Rosie grew up watching the Anne of Green Gables movies. These movies were adapted from the books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Montgomery, who was born in New London, frequented the farmhouse now known as Green Gables Heritage Place. The farmhouse, with its green gables and striking woodland trails, became the key setting in the Anne of Green Gables books.

Saturday morning, I dropped Kate off at work and met Eric and Rosie in Cavendish at Green Gables Heritage Place. The first stop for us was a small theatre. There we watched a video that introduces you to Lucy Maud Montgomery and her famed character Anne. Once you leave the theatre, you enter the grounds of the farm which are well manicured. The flowers and plants throughout the grounds were wonderful.

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The farmhouse that Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote about in Anne of Green Gables.

Passing through the old barn, you then get to see the farmhouse and the famous green gables. We walked around the outside of the farmhouse where we snapped pictures of the building before entering the old home. As you could expect, once we entered the farmhouse, we were transported back in time. The decor of the home represents the period of time set in the Anne of Green Gables novels. Parks Canada has done a great job of displaying many artifacts original to the time period of the late 1800’s. There are also some items from the story displayed throughout the home. Eric pointed out a smashed slate in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

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An upstairs bedroom in the house , closely resembling Anne’s room.

It was great to explore inside of Green Gables Heritage Place. We were also just as excited to explore the two woodland trails – the Haunted Woods trail & Lovers Lane/Balsam Hollow Trail. Large trees line the well-maintained trails along with soft trickling creeks. Both trails are a short and easy hike. The hike also gets you away from the crowd that is usually gathered in and around the Green Gables house.

Cavendish Beach

One piece of advice that Islanders will give you when visiting the Island is to not pay for beaches. They are talking about the beaches that are a part of PEI National Park. This is because they are the only beaches on the Island that you have to pay for. There is some merit to the advice. There are beautiful beaches everywhere you go on the Island so you shouldn’t have to pay to find a great beach. However, since I now had the Discovery Pass, it seemed logical to show Eric & Rosie PEI’s most popular beach – Cavendish Beach. The three of us had actually visited Cavendish a few weeks back. It was while we were attempting to view the Perseid Meteor Shower. That was at night and Eric & Rosie still had never seen the beach during the day.

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The windswept grassy dunes of Cavendish Beach.

It’s always a great time getting to Cavendish Beach. The white sand dunes and the rough and ragged red sand cliffs are quite pretty. Instead of lounging on the beach, we walked along one the Cavendish Dunelands trail. The trail offers a great setting to enjoy views of the dunes and the surrounding wetland area.

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The red sand cliff no too far from Cavendish Beach

Gulf Shore Way West/Rustico

Because Eric & Rosie had some prior arrangements, we were pressed for time but we still had some time to enjoy PEI National Park. To me, Gulf Shore Way (West & East) are definite highlights of PEI National Park. The road, which follows the coastline, features scenic outlooks dotted along the drive. It’s also a great multi-use path. There is a paved biking/walking trail throughout the entirety of the road. The path is actually separated from the road by five or six feet of grass. This gives you plenty of room for comfort whether you’re biking or walking the path. I drove Eric & Rosie down the route, pointing out some highlights along the way. Unfortunately, there were no fox sightings on this day. The scenic road is a popular spot to catch a glimpse of both red and silver foxes at all times of the year.

At the end of the trail, you reach the charming fishing village of Rustico. Parts of Rustico are within the boundaries of PEI National Park but I chose to show Eric & Rosie my favourite part of the village – the harbour. Rustico harbour is one of the most picturesque harbours in PEI – lined with a couple dozen colourful fishing boats. My favourite part of the area is at the end of Harbourview Drive. This is where (when the tide is low) you can drive your vehicle onto the sandy ocean floor. The three of us roamed around a bit enjoying the scenery. Afterwards, we travelled back to Cavendish where I dropped Eric & Rosie off.

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The pier at the end of Harbourview Drive in Rustico.

Avonlea Village

Although it’s not a part of PEI National Park, I wanted to stop at Avonlea Village before leaving Cavendish. Avonlea Village is a quaint replica village that gives you the impression of what a small village would look like in the time of Anne of Green Gables.

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Welcome to Avonlea!

There are some great restaurants to enjoy on site, but the highlights are a few of the buildings in the village. You can see the schoolhouse that Lucy Maud Montgomery taught at. There’s also the Minister’s Residence and the Long River Church. The church is what definitely captures your eye while wandering about. Out of curiosity, I entered the church. Inside I learned about the interesting history of the building. Montgomery attended the church when it was in Long River, PEI. It was moved from Long River to its current location in Avonlea Village. The process of moving the church is an interesting one. The church was chopped into three sections in order to relocate it.

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Avonlea Village with a view of the Long River Church.

At this point, it was mid afternoon and I was starting to get hungry. The peanut butter and banana sandwich I had for breakfast was no longer keeping me full. I was in need of something to fill me up. Dave’s Lobster or Piatto Pizzeria was definitely calling my name. However, Kate recently sent me a message telling me not to eat because she wanted to have dinner together. Fair point, but I still needed something to hold me over. Seeing as it was (unofficially) the last weekend of summer, it seemed fitting to have ice cream! And wouldn’t you know it – Avonlea Village has a Cows Creamery. Score! There I sat in the sun, enjoying my double scoop of creamy tastiness. The amount of time that I’ve enjoyed ice cream in a solo setting this summer has me wondering if I have a problem.

Greenwich

For those who think Cavendish is beautiful, you have to get to Greenwich. To us, Greenwich is by far the best part of PEI National Park. Because of its location, it’s quite a bit quieter than Cavendish or Brackley. It’s unfortunate as a lot of people definitely miss out on this gem.

Greenwich is just a small chunk of PEI National Park but every little bit of it is exceptional. Greenwich has a few good hiking trails that overlook St. Peter’s Bay, a massive interpretation centre, and the beach.

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Looking out over the boardwalk that brings you to Greenwich Beach.

The highlight of the park (by far) is the 4.4km Greenwich Dunes trail. For the first part of the trail, you walk with views of St. Peter’s Bay surrounding you before hitting a junction along the trail. At this point, you start to head through the woodlands before hitting the view that leaves you awestruck. At the moment you emerge from the woods, you arrive at a floating, winding boardwalk. It’s on this boardwalk where you’re hit with views of the enormous but gentle sand dunes. Kate and I walked along the boardwalk before climbing a steep sand dune to reach the long white sand beach. As I imagined it would be, the beach was quiet compared to how Cavendish was the day before. We definitely both love a quiet beach and it was beautiful to walk through the soft sand for a bit.

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The view from atop a dune where the red chairs are.

We climbed another sand dune that took us to a pair of Parks Canada red chairs that overlooked the dunes and boardwalk. These red chairs are at various places throughout national parks all across Canada. They are usually in a spot that has a striking scenery in the surrounding area. Kate and I enjoyed a seat in the comfy chairs for a few minutes before allowing another couple to experience the chairs.  After retreating from the top of the dune, a quick look at the time let us know that we had to leave.

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The water was cold but it didn’t stop Kate from smiling…which it usually does.

We did make a quick stop at the interpretive centre which is HUGE! There is a lot you can learn in this building. You can learn about the wildlife in the area or learn how and why the dunes are always changing their shape.

Brackley Beach/Stanhope
Pogey Beach

I tell people that “if” I were ever going to settle in one spot that I would likely buy a property in Stanhope. When we first moved to the Island in 2010, I fell in love with this area. I always enjoyed how the area seemed to attract a plethora of Great Blue Herons during the summer.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to be extras for some b-roll footage for Pogey Beach: The Movie. The movie is a spin-off of the hilarious web series Just Passing Through. During the morning, we spent some time on Tracadie Beach aka Pogey Beach. This was the first time for either of us visiting the beach and it’s gorgeous. The large sand dunes surround the beach creating a small and calm bay – perfect for swimming. Locals love Tracadie Beach. It’s just minutes from PEI National Park and offers a lot of the same beauty. The main difference is that there is no cost to hit this beach. While the beach is not a part of the national park, the dunes on the other side of the bay are.

Time to eat!

Around 1pm, after we had soaked up the sun for three hours, we were ready to leave as we were both getting hungry. As soon as we decided to leave, we both knew exactly where we had to go to eat. My parents had visited PEI a few years back and raved about the fish and chips at Richard’s in Stanhope. Yet, for some reason, Kate and I had never been to Richard’s. We had been meaning to get to the Stanhope wharf all summer to give it a try. Since we were only about 10 minutes away in Tracadie, we made the trip.

Covehead Harbour Lighthouse

Covehead Harbour Lighthouse

As soon as you enter the Brackley/Stanhope area of PEI National Park you’re driving along Gulf Shore Way East. Much like the Western part of the road, there are beaches, trails, and scenic lookouts along the route. The highlight of travelling the road is definitely the Covehead Harbour area. This area features the beautiful Covehead Harbour Lighthouse which is sandwiched between the dunes. There’s also the bridge which until this year was popular with bridge jumpers. That is no longer as the bridge was modified to disallow the adventurous activity. Instead, the bridge jumpers have moved to the nearby wharf where they now take the plunge from.

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Covehead Harbour and the bridge people used to jump from.

The wharf, although not a part of PEI National Park, is a highlight of the area. This is where you grab some fresh seafood right from the boat. You can also take a deep sea fishing tour, or just pig out on Richard’s. We chose Richard’s.

The day was sunny, warm, and perfect for enjoying seafood outside along the wharf. While waiting for our order, we overheard many happy visitors saying how the fish & chips were the best they’ve ever had. Fantastic. I’m not a huge lover of fish & chips but I was looking forward to my meal. After devouring my meal, I must say that my parents were right in their review of Richard’s. It is excellent food. My fish & chips were great while Kate had a super tasty lobster BLT which I was happy to sample. There’s no arguing that Richard’s definitely lives up to its reputation for great food.

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The famous Richard’s along the Stanhope wharf.

We had a great weekend travelling around, enjoying the sights and the perfect weather of PEI National Park. The park is worth a stop on your travel itinerary when visiting the Island. You could spend an entire week relaxing and enjoying the views and activities provided. Cavendish is by far the busiest of the three locations. It also has a lot of other activities outside of the park to keep the entire family entertained. If you’re looking for a more quiet and relaxed atmosphere, Greenwich is the way to go. Regardless of which area you choose, you’ll have a fantastic time when visiting PEI National Park.

Have you visited PEI National Park? What’s your favourite part of the park? How about your favourite area of the park?

 

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