The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) promotes itself as the "Gentle Island," but its popular claim to fame lies in its ties to the famous fictional character of the 1908 children's classic, "Anne of Green Gables." One hundred years ago, PEI author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration for the setting of her classic novel from the island where she grew up during the late Victorian Era. The story has been translated into 15 languages and adapted for film, stage and television. When venturing around the island, you can easily see where her inspiration came from: quiet agricultural communities, lush green landscapes, fishing villages, lighthouses that dot the coastline, red sandstone cliffs and, of course, green-gabled houses.
Prince Edward Island is located north of the province of Nova Scotia and is connected to the province of New Brunswick on the west by the 13-kilometer (9-mile) Confederation Bridge. The island's largest urban area, with 35,000 residents, is Charlottetown, situated centrally on PEI's southern shore and on the Northumberland Strait. On the north side of the island is PEI's National Park and the Cavendish area, which is home to many Anne-related attractions.
Before PEI was all about Anne, the island province hosted the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 -- the first meeting in the creation of Canada, which resulted in the Confederation of Canada in 1867. As for the economy, agriculture is still the number-one industry in PEI, with 30 percent of the nation's potatoes grown on the island in the unique red-hued earth. (There's even a Potato Museum on the island.) Tourism comes in second on PEI, and it's continually growing.
Upon arriving in Charlottetown by cruise ship, passengers are met by sounds of fiddling and Islanders (a nickname collectively referring to the residents) dressed in Celtic costumes performing traditional step dancing. These performances are a reflection of the ethnic makeup of the island, as more than 60 percent of the residents are of Scottish or Irish descent. From the terminal building, a winding boardwalk wraps around the harbor adjacent to many of the shops and restaurants on Peake's Wharf. The self-guided Historic Walk, mapped out by PEI Tourism, highlights 19th-century architecture, and the stroll takes you from the Wharf, up Great George Street, by Victoria Row on Richmond Street, and then up West Street to end by the foot of Victoria Park at Kent Street.
Of course, no visit to PEI would be complete without a sampling of the fares of the land and sea. Dining musts include PEI's potatoes and local seafood like Malpeque Bay oysters, PEI lobsters or cultured blue mussels, all served fresh.