Family reunions get a bad rap. The general perception is that such occasions are comprised primarily of awkward chat (or hostile depending on the state of familial relations), bad food and wasted time better spent doing something, well, actually fun.
But, as I personally learned during my last family reunion, to keep all the above from being true, one need only find an idyllic tucked away paradise to host said reunion; one my family and I found in Prince Edward Island (PEI).
Located on the East Coast of Canada, Prince Edward Island’s North Shore is the getaway for those truly looking to getaway. Away from traffic, crowds, and the perpetual rush of cosmopolitan life, PEI’s North Shore — with its scattered areas of easing weak reception, its breathtaking coastal scenery and the genuine warmth of its locals — is an escape from the concrete city life that ails you.
WHERE TO STAY: Potter’s House
For fans of the Anne of Green Gables series written by L.M. Montgomery and set in PEI, a visit to the island can be a storybook vacation when staying at the Potter’s House in the town of New London.
A historic 3-bedroom property, this sunny-coloured yellow farmhouse dates back to the 1800s, and has the quaint appearance of the homes from Montgomery’s fictional Avonlea village.
Home is where the quilts are when vacationing in a cottage on the shore. Wicker furniture, floral wallpaper and cozy quilts create a warm interior that invites guests back to simpler times.
While the cottage is equipped with a DVD player, urbanites looking to turn off will do better at relaxing if they bring along a few board games to play in the evening after a fresh lobster dinner prepared in the cottage’s snug kitchen. (It’s the sort of kitchen that feels like it always has a pie baking in the oven. )
When visiting the North Shore in July and August, your days are spent outside lounging in the sun, whether on the beach or, in the case of guests of the Potter’s House, unwinding in the sprawling backyard, looking out into the fields — PEI has a lot of fields.
Shopping doesn’t quite fit into a country retreat agenda…that is unless it’s handcrafted pottery you’re purchasing rather than a new pair of Louboutins. Luckily for guests of Potter’s House, the nearest shop is the inspiration behind the cottage’s name. Owned by husband and wife, Ian Scot and Daphne Large, wife Daphne and daughter Suzanne — both potters — also run Village Pottery shop, a stone’s throw away from the cottage.
Between the pottery, the quilts and the acres of stark fields, artisans, Anne of Green Gables aficionado, and worn city dwellers alike will find a home away from home at Potter’s House — it’s a straight path to bygone tranquility.
RESTAURANTS: Fisherman’s Wharf
Lobster, mussels, clam chowder, potato salad and strawberry shortcake? Yes please, and make it all-you-can-eat!
Hungry visitors to PEI will quickly discover, the island is famous for its lobster dinners: lobster plus an all-you-can-eat salad bar, complete with seafood and desserts. And, Fisherman’s Wharf is amongst the best the North Shore has to offer…with the lineups to prove it.
Before being seated at your table by a waitress dressed in cute nautical-inspired garb, diners select their main course at the register. The long lineup will give you ample time to decide between items on the restaurant’s compact menu. Lobster dinners are the main attraction here (the 1.5 pound lobster is just right according to this Goldie Locks), other choices include a charbroiled New York strip steak, scallops, breaded jumbo shrimp, snow crab, haddock fillets, or the popular surf & turf option, which fills hungry bellies with lobster and steak.
Forget the stigma behind all-you-can-eat joints: tie on your lobster bibs and give in to the seasfarer’s bounty at Fisherman’s Wharf.
HOME CHEF: Carr’s & Prince Edward Island Oyster Co.
Being an at-home-chef in PEI is a treat. With fresh seafood available for purchase at every turn, the possibilities for delicious meals at home are endless.
Start with a trip to Raspberry Point for a case of oysters. The oysters here are so incredibly fresh and perfectly briny, that they call for only a small squeeze of lemon to dress them up. Like a fine whisky, fresh oysters like this are best “neat.” And then there’s the price. Forget “buck-a-shuck” night at your local wine bar, at Raspberry Point, a case of 100 oysters goes for just $70!
Something you may of noticed on restaurant menus is whenever mussels are from PEI, it is going to be highlighted as a selling point. And who can blame them, as every seafood lover knows, the best mussels in the world come from PEI, and, based on my modest research, the best mussels in PEI come from Carrs.
Like the fresh oysters from the island, keep it simple when cooking your mussels. Try them lightly sauteed with a bit of garlic, chili and parsley in a large pot. Then simply add 3 lbs of mussels, a cup of dry white wine, cover and let them steam until the mussels open, approximately 3-4 minutes.
While at Carrs picking up your mussels, you should also grab a few live lobsters, and don’t be afraid to stop by everyday after that to pick up some more. When in PEI…
DAY EXCURSIONS: Green Gables Heritage Place & Cousin’s Shore
As L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley famously said: “It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?”
Walking through fields of towering green grass, across the vast beaches speckled with heaping sand dunes — the scenery immortalized in Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series pops off the pages.
Every turn is truly a storybook experience at Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish National Historic Site. Take your picture in front of the prettiest house in Avonlea, peek into life at Green Gables, and finish your visit off with a journey through the Haunted Woods (approximately 45 mins with signs sharing details about how the island inspired Montgomery novels). Or, opt for a short stroll down Lover’s Lane, and let day dreams of Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley’s romance whisk you away.
Snap back to reality with a dip into the ocean at Cousins Shore. A favourite amongst locals, this stretch of pristine beach is perfect after a few visits to the area’s busy Cavendish Beach and Dune Shores in Prince Edward Island National Park, where the beaches are gorgeous, but the crowds are gigantic (for this island at least).
On the North Shore of Prince Edward Island, paradise comes dressed in down-home comforts: jump in, the water is warm.
For more information on visiting Prince Edward Island and to search cottage rentals, visit www.tourismpei.com.Published June 28, 2013