Almost 10 years ago, I found nirvana cycling in Prince Edward Island. I pedaled five kilometers to a neighborhood bakery. Ten kilometers more led to a seafood shack with the best fish and chips I’d ever tasted. Another 10 km and I was cycling on a boardwalk right beside a beach where I found an ice cream shop and joy. Pure joy.
I’ve wanted to go back ever since. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s to seize the day. There’s no point in putting off the things you really want to do with the people you love. To that end, my husband and I decided to spend a full week cycling (and eating) our way through Prince Edward Island.
One of North America’s Most Cycle-Friendly Destinations
Canada’s smallest province is one of the most cycle-friendly places in North America. The Confederation Trail stretches 435 km right through the middle of the island from tip to tip. Built on an abandoned railway bed, this section of the Trans Canada Trail passes through beautiful scenery that includes quaint villages, rolling farm fields, lovely seaside views and plenty of delicious food stops, including some inside old train stations.
In September 2021, a new trail was added to the mix on Prince Edward Island. The Island Walk is a 700-km trek that was inspired by the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Europe. The trail circumnavigates the island province using a combination of existing trails, dirt roads and public highways. Even though it’s called the Island Walk, you can also experience this route by bicycle.
The Island Walk by Bike is the newest cycling route on offer at MacQueen’s Bike Shop & Island Tours in Charlottetown. On our recent trip, MacQueen’s arranged a unique six-day cycling tour in the central region of the province that included the Confederation Trail, the Island Walk and stretches of quiet country roads. The itinerary also included suggestions for activities. and places to eat and drink.
Picking up the Bikes and Ditching the Luggage
Though we arrived in Charlottetown in pouring rain the night before, the sun was shining on the first day of our cycling trip. When you arrange a cycling trip with MacQueen’s, they take care of everything. All the accommodations were pre-booked and daily luggage transfer was also prearranged. We dropped our luggage and picked up the bikes and gear at their family-run Charlottetown shop. We were also supplied with a preprogrammed Garmin GPS that identified the recommended cycling route each day.
The route took us along the Confederation Trail, the Island Walk and along quiet country roads with less traffic. It was a vast contrast to the busy roads Google Maps would have plotted out for us had we planned this on our own.
Our itinerary had us averaging about 50 km of cycling per day. We had a choice between standard bikes and e-bikes. We went with e-bikes and had no regrets.
Highlights of the Journey — Great Views, Lobster Rolls, Ice Cream and More
We were a little nervous cycling through Charlottetown, but once we made it to the Confederation Trail, it was easy going. On our first day, and each day afterward, we cycled on both the Confederation Trail and the Island Walk trail, as well as quiet country roads. We stayed in quaint B&B-style accommodations at Victoria by the Sea, Summerside, Kensington, North Rustico, Dalvay by the Sea and Charlottetown.
Cycling is slow travel at its finest and we made many stops along the way at historic sites, antique shops, farms, bakeries, ice cream stands, lighthouses and churches built in the 1800s.
We even stopped for a selfie with the world’s largest hand-held egg beater — random, but fun. We also explored gorgeous beaches and other sites in Cabot Beach Provincial Park and Prince Edward Island National Park.
The Boardwalk Inn in Summerside was our second B&B and our favorite accommodation of the trip. Each guest of the B&B is given a small teddy bear that they are invited to take with them on the rest of their journey. For the rest of the trip, “Ed the bear” rode on the back of my bike.
In the evenings, we explored local sites, took long walks on beautiful beaches and enjoyed live music or live theater as often as possible. We took in a performance by an Abba tribute band at Harbourfront Theater in Summerside and attended the premiere of Tell Tale Harbour, a musical comedy co-written by and starring musician and actor Alan Doyle at the Confederation Center for the Arts in Charlottetown.
Since we had previously hiked the Camino de Santiago trail, we were eager to experience the new Island Walk that has sometimes been called the Canadian Camino. While we didn’t see all of the new trail, the sections we explored were lovely tree-lined red clay trails that bore a striking resemblance to the European Camino.
Best of all, we met gracious people and enjoyed dining at wonderful restaurants in the quaint maritime communities we visited.
Whether it was the amazing lobster roll at the Lobster Barn Pub and Eatery at Victoria by the Sea, dining at pubs inside old train stations in Summerside and Kensington, or just enjoying delicious ice cream at Cows Creamery, there was no shortage of delicious food that was worth cycling 50 km for.
Even without the amazing food, the lovely people and the incredible scenery made the journey worthwhile.
Debbie Olsen is an award-winning Métis writer and a national bestselling author. Follow her from her at www.wanderwoman.ca.