Island Hopping: P.E.I.

This past summer we took an Island adventure.  After kayaking and whale watching in Grand Manan, New Brunswick we crossed the nearly 13 kilometre (!!) Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. 

The middle of the Island’s busy summer can be a tricky time to find nightly cottage accommodations as opposed to weekly.  After perusing the old Google box, I came across Green Gables Cottages.  They booked nightly, were right in Cavendish and the rate was very reasonable.  They were not beachfront but they did have a salt water pool.  I called them ASAP and booked.

The cottages are only a 45 minute drive from the bridge.  My GPS, however, took us on a wild goose chase straight to someone’s driveway so instead it took us 90.  We booked a “Type A- Efficiency Cottage”.  It was crazy adorable.  The cottage opened to a living room/bedroom with a bed, pullout couch, chair and television.  Off of the main room was a small, well-appointed full kitchen. Another door led to the bathroom.  The floors were a little crooked but that seemed to be a theme throughout this getaway.

After inhaling our breakfast, the next morning went just like this:

Them: POOL!!  MOM! MOM! CAN WE GO SWIMMING RIGHT NOW??!!
Me: As soon as I get a coffee.
Them: LOOK AT THAT CLIMBER!!!  CAN WE GO?!!
Me:  We can, just as soon as I get a cup of coffee.
Them: OOOOH!  THERE’S WASHERS HERE!  CAN WE GO GET OUR CLOTHES?! (seriously.)
Me: Definitely.  I’d like a quick cup of coffee first.
Them: THERE’S EVEN MONKEY BARS, MOM!  MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!
Me: We can do all of this as soon as we find coffee.
Them: MOM…
Me:  COFFEE! COFFEE! COFFEE! COFFEE! COFFEE!

My point is that just a couple hundred metres up the road is Avonlea Village. Along with a bunch of other restaurants, there is a breakfast joint called “Samuel’s”.  They make coffee.  Divine coffee and lattes.  And some yummy breakfast to get everyone fed, jolly and ready to take on the day. They will be your friends.

Shining Waters Family Fun Park was our first adventure.  Isaac had been saving his nickels and dimes for months to this waterpark.  He handed over his hard earned cash and strolled on in.  It turned out to be a local company’s Family Day so it was a zoo.  I adore that so many companies still do this so won’t grumble about it. If you are planning to go, maybe shoot them a message first to see if there is an event going on that day.  We still had a great time.  The kids ran through the Mirror Maze on repeat.  Storybook Land had a bunch of puzzles to be solved which was a lot of fun.  There was also a very “swingy” swing bridge that hilariously freaked out a lot of people.  It was certainly a wobbly challenge to cross.  The rides were all fun and the line-ups weren’t too long at all.  The sideways house was pretty bananas and we all loved spinning around in the pumpkins.  The waterpark was super packed but we were able to enjoy the kiddie slide area for a long time as well as the pool.  The big slides had long lineups but my kids were too small for them anyway.  The food was fine and there was nice green space to eat it.  Adding more shade areas would be nice as it was hot, hot, hot in the sun.

The next day we made use of the laundry facilities at the cottages.  They were inexpensive and clean.  The kids played on the climber and, as kids manage to do, made new friends immediately.  The warm pool was calling our name, so we played there for a couple of hours.  We had planned on hitting “Sandspit Amusement Park” but after the busy day at the waterpark, this relaxation was just was we needed.

My mom surprised us with tickets to see “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” in Charlottetown that evening.  I love all things Anne but taking us all to see the show was out of the budget for this trip so this was a fantastic surprise.

We got to Charlottetown about 90 minutes before show time. The street beside the theatre suddenly sprang to life with patios and live music and dancing.  We ate and danced until the very last second and then raced into the theatre to find our seats.  The show is long and I wasn’t sure how well the kids would handle that.  While the oldest became squirmy towards the end, my youngest was wide-eyed and laser-focused throughout.  She’s been hooked on musicals ever since.

The next day was our last and we were excited to get some seafood and beaching in.

Isaac had promised to eat a new food everywhere we went this summer.  In PEI we’d agreed on oysters.  After some research we landed on The Blue Mussel Café in North Rustico.  It’s a busy spot so we were sure to be there when they opened.  The restaurant was bright and airy and surprisingly had some of my favourite song lyrics framed and hung by the bar.  We ordered up 3 oysters.  Isaac gathered all of his nerve, squirted some lemon on the gelatinous shellfish and down the hatch it went.  According to him it tasted bad like the ocean, and he’s never eating one again. Ha!  I was super impressed that he tried it to start with.

Our last PEI adventure was the Greenwich Beach area which is part of the PEI National Park System. It was a bit of a drive, but well worth it.  We grabbed our water bottles and hit the trails. There is no access to running water so be sure to bring enough.  We could’ve used another bottle.  The well maintained trails lead to a boardwalk that crisscrossed through different ponds then to the ladder-style stairs at the dunes.  The dunes on every coast are eroding so stick to the designated trails and stairs to get over them.  Greenwich Beach is actually home to rare, Parabolic Dunes which was interesting to learn about.  The view from the top was breathtaking.  Even on this beautiful day, there weren’t crowds of people.  The water is shallow for a long ways out and there weren’t any big waves so it was super kid friendly.  We spent hours walking the beach, writing notes in the sand, finding treasure, breathing in that sweet salt air and just taking in the beauty around us.  If we get back to PEI this will certainly be a spot to while away a day.

We had so much fun on PEI and could’ve stayed a lot longer, but the time had come to ship out and we needed to board the exciting ferry back to Nova Scotia.

A couple things that weren’t able to sneak in were Sea Kayaking and Tuna fishing.  Luckily, this gives us even more to look forward to next time around.  Hopefully we can catch up again in 2019!

A Grand Ole Time in Grand Manan, NB

I’ve been curious about the Island of Grand Manan since a Mars bar commercial years ago about renovating their local arena. Seriously. So, I guess advertising works, even if it takes 10 years.

The chance finally arrived and we jumped! There are two different ships ferrying people to and from the Island. We were aboard the ‘Grand Manan V’ traveling to Grand Manan. There was plenty of seating with a lunch counter with real, home cooked meals. While exploring the outside decks a crew member noticed the kiddos and asked if they wanted to check out the bridge. Isaac was on it! They explained how everything worked and made the kids feel like VIP’s.

On our return trip we traveled aboard the ‘Grand Manan Adventure’. While both ships are fun, if given a choice when booking, choose this one! It’s newer, has a big kids play area with ‘Treehouse’ playing on the tv, a movie lounge, a large lunch counter and lots of seating inside and out on the decks.

Whales are a common sight from the ferries but we didn’t see any on our trips.

If timed properly, you can Island Hop between the Fundy Isles of Deer, Campobello, Grand Manan and Whitehead Islands. New Brunswick Tourism has a guide available to help you plan it out.

CHECKING IN:

We’d planned on camping at Anchorage Provincial Park but chickened out at the last minute as there was nasty weather threatening. Tent camping in the rain with kids is far from my favourite thing to do, so I searched the ole Google box for somewhere with a roof. I stumbled across the Marathon Inn and bonus, it was only a minute from the Ferry! The Inn is a Heritage Property built in 1887 and maintains all of the original character. Our booking was last minute so we didn’t get their finest room. The floors were a bit sloped and the fixtures could use some updating but the room was clean and the beds were super comfortable. There was a shared dining area down the hall with a kitchen for guests to use and a wrap-around porch where guests relaxed with their books. Maddie adored the cats, Mickey and Micey. The owners are lovely people who are new to the Island and purchased the Inn last year. We didn’t spend a ton of time at the Inn but would stay there again. Given the chance to go back we would also try to stay at Anchorage Provincial Park. Hole in the Wall camping is also an intriguing spot. We met a couple that were cliff camping there and woke up every day to the sounds of whales! It is definitely not kid friendly though.

EXPLORING:

WHALE WATCHING
We booked a whale watching tour with Sea Watch Tours. We arrived at Seal Cove wharf at 7:30, found our seats and scarfed down a snack. The Captain introduced himself and the guide and laid out the rules and the plan for day. There was hot chocolate and coffee available as well as sunscreen in case someone had forgotten theirs. We steamed out for about 45 minutes, seeing seals and sea birds along the way. Then, just like that there were whales! Lots of them! Finback whales! The second largest animal on the planet was right in front of us. Maddie was awestruck. “Mommy, there’s a whale! Another whale! Right there! Look, Look, Look!” We headed out further and found some Humpback Whales. There’s something humbling about seeing them breach or their tail flipping in the water. The tail markings are unique like a fingerprint so the guide could tell us exactly who we were seeing. Up front was a photo album with the pictures and names of the known whales in the Bay of Fundy. This was our third whale watching adventure after going out in St. Andrew’s, NB and Brier Island, NS. We saw the most whales on this trip.

SEA KAYAKING

The surprise highlight of our trip was Sea Kayaking! I’d never sat in a kayak in my life and wasn’t sure I could even paddle. I sent ‘Adventure High’ an email and they told me to come down and we could asses my skills, or lack thereof. Luckily the guide, Brady, offered to take one kiddo with him so I wasn’t paddling 3 of us. We chose the evening paddle. It was only 1.5-2 hours long we were the only ones signed up which meant less people to embarrass myself in front of. Ha! When the time came two other people had signed up. Luckily they weren’t seasoned pros either. We paddled out of the harbour, out to the Herring Weir where the guide explained how they work. Then around the corner and past Swallowtail lighthouse. The views with the setting sun were stunning. We saw lots of jellyfish and to Isaac’s delight, even some seals. If you do nothing else, do this. You honest to goodness don’t need any previous experience.

BEACHIN’

We spent part of a day relaxing at Anchorage Provincial Park. It’s totally free to use the beaches. In the park we drove by a beautifully peaceful migratory bird sanctuary. The kids were sleeping in the backseat and you couldn’t pay me to wake them, so I took my time on this drive. We drove right to the end where we found a very long and basically empty sand beach. There was also section which was rockier where Maddie scoured for stones. The water was shallow a long way out, the waves were small and there were big tide pools to splash around in. It was the perfect spot to unwind. Whenever we travel there is always a point at which I realize my kids are growing up far too quickly. This was it. I realized that I might be able to squeak out just one more summer where Maddie excitedly searches the beach for broken seashells as though they are gold nuggets, and that’s a big “might”.

CHOW DOWN:

Isaac has agreed to eat something new everywhere we go this summer. Dulse, an edible, red seaweed was the food of the day and he was excited to dig in. He hilariously and immediately regretted his decision. It’s exactly like chewing up sea water. It’s full of nutrients and some people can’t get enough of it. We are not those people.

We’d been told about ‘North Head Bakery’ before even leaving Ontario. “Get the coffee. You need to. They are the reason I drink coffee at all” a friend had said. We searched it out ASAP as this Mama needs her coffee. It is a fairly nondescript building, giving no clues about the delectable treats inside. The breads! The lemon cupcakes, cinnamon buns and Madeleine’s! We were excited to get a Madeleine for our little Madeleine. I tried – begged – for some coffee beans to take back home or even the brand but it is apparently a closely held secret.

We ate at Post Office Pizza each night. Firstly, because it was delicious. Secondly, because it was all that we could find that was open. It’s located down the hill from the Marathon Inn so it was convenient, too. They even had a selection of Kombucha. The building also houses a gift shop with items from local artisans, postcards in the old mail slots, clothing and surprisingly, a 3D printer! We couldn’t leave without a 3D printed shark. Super cool.

We had a half hour until checking in at the ferry so I decided to take the kids on a quick hike to Swallowtail Lighthouse. It’s a very kid-friendly hike and you can take a tour of the inside and go right up to the top

We were bummed to be leaving Grand Manan but were looking forward to the ferry ride and our next adventures on PEI.

We’re all hoping to get back to Grand Manan as there was so much we didn’t have time to explore. It’s an ideal combination of relaxation, stunning scenery and adventure.