Central PEI contains a bit of all that's best about the island – verdant fields, quaint villages and forests undulating north to the dramatic sand-dune-backed beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park. Anne of Green Gables, the engaging heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's 1908 novel, has spawned a huge global industry focused on the formerly bucolic hamlet of Cavendish.
You can make your own tracks across Kings County, the eastern third of the province and PEI's most under-touristed region. From stretches of neatly tended homesteads to the sinuous eastern shore with its protected harbors, sweeping beaches and country inns, majestic tree canopies seem to stretch endlessly over the scenic heritage roads.
Malpeque and Bedeque Bays converge to almost separate the western third of PEI from the rest of the province. This region sits entirely within the larger Prince County, and it combines the sparse pastoral scenery of Kings County's interior with some of Queens County's rugged coastal beauty. The cultural history here stands out more than elsewhere on the island.
While it lacks the elegance and cosmopolitan vibe of Charlottetown, Summerside is a simpler, seaside-oriented place with everything you need in one small, tidy package. Recessed deep within Bedeque Bay and PEI's second-largest 'city,' this tiny seaside village possesses a modern waterfront and quiet streets lined with leafy trees and grand old homes.
Anyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables might have lofty ideas of finding Cavendish as a quaint village bedecked in flowers and country charm; guess again. While the Anne and Lucy Maud Montgomery sites are right out of the imagination-inspiring book pages, Cavendish itself is a mishmash of manufactured attractions with no particular town center.
This skinny bucolic spit of land is covered in wild rose, Queen Anne's lace and wheat fields through summer and has views of red sand shores on either side. At the tip is the province's oldest lighthouse; we think it's one of the prettiest spots on the island. Climb up the steep lighthouse steps to pump the foghorn and for panoramas over the south coast on sunny days.
A place to wander and experience more than 'see,' the shaded, tree-laden lanes of this lovely little fishing village scream out character and charm. The entire village still fits neatly in the four blocks laid out when the town was formed in 1819. Colorful clapboard and shingled houses are home to more than one visitor who was so enthralled by the place they decided to stay.
New London & Park Corner
New London and Park Corner both have strong ties to Lucy Maud Montgomery, and are thus caught up in the everything-Anne pandemonium. The most charming place to stop for a bite to eat and a cup of tea is the Blue Winds Tea Room about 500m southwest of Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthplace and surrounded by English gardens.
Montague & Around
The fact that Montague isn't flat gives it a unique, inland feel. Perched on either side of the Montague River, the busy little town is the service center for Kings County; its streets lead from the breezy, heritage marina area to modern shopping malls, supermarkets and fast-food outlets. In the old train station on the riverbank there's an Island Welcome Center.
In Miminegash, stop into the Seaweed Cafe that serves a special seaweed pie, although nothing about this fluffy, creamy creation reeks of the beach. Inland at O'Leary is the Canadian Potato Museum. It's a bit like a giant school science fair project with hallways of information panels and pictures on the walls.
Brackley Beach isn't so much a town as a rural area with a few scattered amenities and the main beach access to the central eastern beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park. It's a short enough drive from Charlottetown (21km) so that even if you're not staying overnight, it's fun to catch a movie at Brackley Beach Drive-In. Check the website for what's showing.
Murray River & Around
From Wood Islands, Rte 4 heads east along the Northumberland Strait, veering inland at High Bank toward the lively and surprisingly artsy fishing settlement of Murray River. The coastal road becomes Rte 18, keeping the sea in view as it rounds Cape Bear, passing the lighthouse before looping back through the village of Murray Harbour and into Murray River.
Situated 28km east of Charlottetown, via Hwy 1, is Orwell Corner Historic Village, a living recreation of a 19th-century farming community, complete with bonneted school teacher and blacksmith. Check the website for special events. The Sir Andrew MacPhail Homestead, a further 1km down the road, is open for tea on summer afternoons (light lunches around $12).
Kensington & Around
Kensington is a busy market town about halfway between Cavendish and Summerside. It's a good place to replenish supplies and the closest service center for those attending the Indian River Festival when some of Canada's finest musicians (from Celtic to choral) play in the wonderfully acoustic St Mary's Church, from June through September.