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"Land of Green Gables"
Prince Edward Island has stunning beaches, expansive vistas—and the bizarre, fascinating mix of fact and fiction known as "Anne's Land"

What to do

July and August are the peak months for travel to Prince Edward Island, although most tourist venues remain open and several festivals keep visitors entertained throughout the foliage season, in October. The island’s main attraction is its red-hued beaches, whose waters are surprisingly warm and swimmable. Most of the beaches lie within Prince Edward Island National Park, which charges a daily fee of $7.80 Canadian (now roughly on par with the U.S. dollar). Information on hours and facilities can be found at the Parks Canada Web site (www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/pe/pei-ipe).

Hiking and biking are also major draws, especially along the 170-mile Confederation Trail. Converted from a former rail bed, the path runs the length of the island, and traverses scenery ranging from boreal forest and marshes to the expansive, curiously red farm fields, with the landscape opening periodically to ocean views. Spurs off the main trail connect to Charlotte­town and other destinations. See www.islandtrails.ca.

Charlottetown (pop. 32,000), the island’s capital, is a small, leafy city with sandstone buildings and a colorful harbor filled with pleasure boats; it’s home to many of the island’s better hotels, motels, and restaurants. The Confederation Centre of the Arts, a boxy, brutalist interloper in the midst of downtown, has a large art museum and a theater hosting a mix of musicals (including one based on Anne, now in its 44th season) and other productions. In the evenings, Victoria Row, near the arts center, is closed to vehicles and is a good place to head for outdoor dining, drinking, and live music.

The city has the additional merit of being centrally located, making for easy day trips to the rest of the island, including, for Green Gables aficionados, Anne’s Land. Centennial events in honor of the book are listed at www.anne2008.com The perennial Anne-related attractions can be found at www.gov.pe.ca/greengables.

The island’s chief crop is, of course, the potato, and no trip would be complete without a visit to the PEI Potato Museum (billed, rather convincingly, as “the only museum of its kind in the world”). The museum (www.peipotatomuseum.com) is in the small town of O’Leary, about 70 miles from Charlottetown. In addition to exhibits on the local history and culture of the potato, it has a 14-foot-tall fiberglass potato out front—an excellent background for family photos.

Where to stay

The Great George (www.innsongreatgeorge.com), in downtown Charlottetown, consists of a cluster of 19th-century town houses and buildings of more recent vintage. All are within walking distance of many restaurants and the waterfront. Doubles start at $209 during peak season.

For a less urban experience, and a bit of Tudor extravagance, try Dalvay-by-the-Sea (www.dalvaybythesea.com); a mansion built in 1895 by one of John D. Rockefeller’s partners, it’s across the road from a remote beach in the national park. The hotel has 26 guest rooms, starting at $280 for doubles.

Where to eat

Flex Mussels (2 Lower Water Street; 902-569-0200), a relaxed restaurant on Charlottetown’s waterfront, serves island-cultivated mussels by the pound, prepared in your choice of about two dozen sauces. Especially recommended: Bombay-style, with garlic, curry, ginger, lime, and mango.

Another Charlottetown restaurant, Lot 30 (151 Kent Street; 902-629-3030), opened this year under one of the island’s better-known chefs, Gordon Bailey. He emphasizes fare grown or raised on the island, including the delicately briny local oysters, the sweet island strawberries, and, naturally, potatoes.

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Wayne Curtis is an Atlantic contributing editor.

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