Many may owe their daydreams of Prince Edward Island to childhood nostalgia pertaining to the Anne of Green Gables novels, or to enchanting images—seen once and never forgotten—of the Maritime province’s lighthouses or rolling farmland. While these wisps of memories might act as motivating factors in planning a visit, it’s worth observing that amidst the picturesque Canadian region’s pastoral pleasures sits the capital, Charlottetown—a historic harbor city with a culinary scene anchored in local, fresh seafood and an annual events calendar of festivals and farmers markets that has something for everyone.
From beloved breweries, restaurants, ice cream parlors and cafes to an arts center, water tours and more, downtown Charlottetown radiates around an easily walkable waterfront. And even though the city is positioned on the southern shore of PEI, it’s a quick rental car, taxi or bike ride to the magnificent Brackley Beach within Prince Edward Island National Park to the north. As such, for anyone looking to explore the cultural riches, quaint villages and verdant pastures of the entire province, Charlottetown makes for a charming centerpiece with thoughtful hospitality outlets and ample amenities.
The Holman Grand Hotel
Charlottetown’s array of accommodations range from quiet and historic to bustling and contemporary. A boutique hotel, dressed in modern decor and populated with knowledge staff, The Holman Grand Hotel is positioned in the center of everything. Rising 10 stories, it’s a tall building for downtown—and rooms on higher floors offer panoramic views of the city, all the way to Charlottetown Harbor and beyond.
Leonhard’s Cafe and Restaurant
It’s not uncommon to find a line forming in front of Leonhard’s Cafe and Restaurant, a weekend brunch staple in Charlottetown. Founded by Axel and Alexandra Leonhard, the petite destination grew from the duo’s early days selling homemade bread at the local farmers market. Today, they serve up fresh, natural dishes along with goods they’ve baked daily. It’s worth the wait.
Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront Merchants
From JC’s Tiki Bar to COWS Creamery ice cream parlor and The Chip Shack, Peake’s Wharf hosts food and drink venues atop (or directly beside) the water—often with a musician or two performing in the vicinity. On land, the Coastal Culture shop and Mrs Peakes Fancy Goods stocks gifts worth bringing home.
Receiver Coffee serves meticulously crafted coffee from transparently sourced beans roasted in Charlottetown. They’re a values-forward coffee brand that creates welcoming environments for staff and guest alike. With locations on the pedestrian-friendly Victoria Row (a street that’s closed to cars) and within the Founders’ Food Hall and Market (a great stop for local gifts), there’s never a Receiver Coffee far from where people want to be.
Confederation Centre of the Arts
Stretching across an entire Charlottetown city block, the Confederation Centre of the Arts complex is composed of several buildings each housing a cultural institution—from an art gallery featuring historic and contemporary Canadian artists to a 1,100-person theater. Though the venue has year-long programming, it notably hosts the annual Charlottetown Festival each summer, a theatrical celebration within which more than 80 original musicals have been developed.
Sea Rocket Oyster House
For anyone seeking out a beautiful bar and restaurant to dine on world-renowned Prince Edward Island oysters, Sea Rocket Oyster House (opened this past summer) specializes in regional seafood. At the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Row, the spacious watering hole occupies 2,000-square-feet of space. It’s the vision of Richard Court, who also owns the beloved Charlottetown gourmet pub The Pilot House, which is also worth a visit.
Top Notch Charters
No trip to Charlottetown is complete without an adventure on the Atlantic—which Top Notch Charters provides with ease and excitement. Departing from Peake’s Wharf, every engaging, informative tour delves into the history of sea creatures in the local waters, as well as the ins and outs of the fishing industry. Sailing excursions range from 1.5 to 2.5 hours, and the lunch and dinner trips include a fresh lobster meal.
Hero image by David Graver