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Discover the best things to do in Charlottetown, the capital and largest town of Prince Edward Island (PEI). It’s a relaxed, friendly town, where people stop to chat in the street and nature is never far away.

The island was the home of the Mi’kmaq people for at least 10,000 years before the French arrived in the early 1700s. The British first landed in 1763, soon laying out the streets for a new settlement, then known as Charlotte Town.

Walking around, you can find traces of those layers of history, from Mi’kmaq crafts to English-style buildings. Enjoy its story, taste a lobster roll or the equally famous local potatoes and soak up the idyllic island scenery.

Enjoy Confederation Centre of the Arts

View of the Confederation Centre of the Arts

Confederation Centre of the Arts Photo by P. Hughes on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Confederation Centre of the Arts celebrates Canadian culture. Its opening in 1964 marked the 100th anniversary of the 1864 Confederation Conference.

The center has an art gallery and two theaters, which are at the heart of the annual Charlottetown Festival. This has a reputation for launching original productions, many of which have gone on to tour nationally or internationally.

The most famous of these is Anne of Green Gables—The Musical. This joyful show is now staged every two years, having previously run annually since 1965.

The art gallery holds 17,000 works of Canadian interest, including Inuit art and photographs. The center also has the original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables.

Snack at Founder’s Hall

Exterior of Founder's Hall in Charlottetown

Founder’s Hall Photo by Aconcagua on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

More than a food market, Founder’s Hall is a community hub and artisan shopping center. The largest outdoor patio in Charlottetown also shows off the Canadian love of drinking outdoors at every opportunity during the short summer.

The food vendors illustrate the diversity of modern Canada. You’ll find everything from French pastries and Mexican street food to Hawaiian shaved ice and Japanese sushi.

Another draw is the Charlottetown Waterfront Visitor Information Centre. The friendly staff are experts on anything you might need to know about PEI.

The building is a former repair shop for the island’s trains and locomotives. Its airy cast iron framework, dating to 1906, was lovingly restored in 2001.

Explore Great George Street

Colorful buildings along Great George Street

Great George Street

Great George Street Historic District runs northwest from Peake’s Wharf through the heart of downtown. The street is lined by historic Victorian houses, many of them now hotels, restaurants, galleries, or upmarket shops.

The street is named after England’s King George III, whose reign was from 1760 to 1820, an indication of its age. Its midway focus is the Confederation Arts Centre, with St. Dunstan’s Basilica nearby.

Exterior of Province House in Charlottetown

Province House

Beside the Confederation Arts Centre is Province House. This is the place where the then-new nation of Canada was formed, when delegates from all over British North America met in 1864.

Opposite St. Dunstan’s is a photogenic statue of two delegates in animated debate. More tangible souvenirs can be found in the many shops selling local crafts and art.

One of the best things to do in Charlottetown PEI is to take one of the regular walking tours of the district. Otherwise, soak up the atmosphere, perhaps while enjoying a Cows ice cream, voted Canada’s best.

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Admire Confederation Bridge

Scenic landscape of the Confederation Bridge

Confederation Bridge

The idea of a bridge linking Prince Edward Island to the mainland of New Brunswick dates to the energetic railway era of the 1870s. However, it was 1997 before the present road link replaced the often-unreliable ferry service.

One problem faced by ships was heavy winter ice. The eight-mile Confederation Bridge is the world’s longest over ice-covered water. The 62 piers are strong enough to withstand the impact of an iceberg. The two-lane highway, often facing high winds, has a speed limit of 50mph.

The bridge’s name is controversial, as many local people think “Confederation” is overused. Most call it “The Link” or, tongue firmly in cheek, “Span of Green Gables”.

Experience PEI National Park

Lush landscape of PEI National Park

Prince Edward Island National Park

“The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only—a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music.” So wrote Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, more than a century ago.

You can see the majestic landscapes that inspired these words in Prince Edward Island National Park. It protects woodlands, fields, and shore along the north coast of the island.

You can walk on trails that vary in length from short strolls to rugged hikes. For example, the Cavendish Dunelands trail stretches for a mile along the coast.

More visitors come for the magnificent sandy beaches that are backed by ever-changing dunes. Lighthouses, seabirds, and 12 miles of cycle trails add interest to any day out.

Visit Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place

Green Gables Heritage Place, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place

This site within Prince Edward Island National Park welcomes thousands of fans of Anne of Green Gables every year. This red-haired, head-strong orphan was created by local author Lucy Maud Montgomery from her own real life experiences.

Her 1908 novel has sold 50 million copies, making Anne famous around the world. She is particularly popular in Japan, where her story evokes “kawaii”—the quality of being cute, romantic, and lovable.

The writer lived in an idyllic farmstead on the north shore. Her home is now at the heart of any visit, which should also include Green Gables Heritage Place. This was the setting for places made famous in the book. These include the Haunted Wood Trail, Balsam Hollow Trail, Lover’s Lane, and the babbling brook.

Stroll in Victoria Park

Victoria Park, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

Victoria Park

This lovely public space stands on a small promontory jutting out into Charlottetown Harbour. Victoria Park has its own café, potter’s studio, skate park, and splash pool. You will also find survey markers (one a repurposed cannon) from the 1800s as you walk around.

At its center is Dead Man’s Pool, a small pond surrounded by legend. Some say it was dug to hide pirate treasure before it flooded. Of course, there’s also a story a murder victim was once thrown in, hence its name.

Lush landscape of Dead Man’s Pool

Dead Man’s Pool Photo by Larry on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, most people come to the park not to hide evidence of crime but for the boardwalk along the shoreline. Among the very best things to do in Charlottetown is to walk or rent a bike to enjoy the park’s serenity and the great harbor views.

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Stop at Prince Edward Battery

Prince Edward Battery, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

Prince Edward Battery

Sitting on a strategic site in Victoria Park since about 1805, the Prince Edward Battery was a key element of the harbor defense system. Its six muzzle-loaded cannon never saw serious action but some are still used on ceremonial occasions.

The battery, restored in 2001, consists of a sturdy magazine, stone walls, and sunken earthworks. The guns stand on wooden platforms in the style of military fortifications of the late 1800s.

The oldest three smooth-bore 18-pounder guns on reproduction wooden carriages are from the 1840s. The gun crews, despite never seeing action, won national marksmanship prizes in 1897 and 1907.

Today, the site is a prominent landmark on the scenic Victoria Park boardwalk. Its slight elevation and interesting historical signage make it a popular spot for any visitor to take a break.

Inspect the PEI Regiment Museum

View inside the PEI Regiment Museum

PEI Regiment Museum Photo by Skaarup.HA on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

This small museum is a fascinating stop for anyone with an interest in military history. It’s in the Queen Charlotte Armoury, an active military unit.

Outside, you’ll find a Sherman tank along with other armored vehicles. Inside, there is memorabilia from all the theaters of war and time periods that local soldiers served in.

These include the early conflicts with the French, the Boer War, both world wars, and recent events in Afghanistan. Peacekeeping operations for the United Nations in the Middle East, Cyprus, and Bosnia are also recalled.

The sheer number of photos, uniforms, and thousands of other artifacts make for a cramped experience. However, never knowing what you might find next is part of the fun.

Browse Victoria Row

Visit Victoria Row, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

Victoria Row

Victoria Row is a set of fine brick Victorian buildings, now home to shops, restaurants, pubs, and cafés. You can also find an Anne of Green Gables shop, which will enthrall fans of the book.

The shaded sidewalk cafés are a great place to hang out and watch the world go by. Enjoying a lazy coffee or a long lunch here is one of the best things to do in Charlottetown if you enjoy people-watching. Opposite, in front of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, a line of picnic tables often hosts chess or checkers games, as well as picnickers.

This is a good place to find Canadian fashion, local crafts, or Maple Leaf souvenirs. The street is closed to vehicles and often has live entertainment.

Photograph Brighton Beach Lighthouse

Brighton Beach Lighthouse, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

Brighton Beach Lighthouse

Brighton Beach Front Range Lighthouse is a picturesque landmark on Charlottetown Harbour. Standing 40 ft tall, its white-painted wooden sides bear a vertical red stripe used for daylight navigation.

A “Range” lighthouse is a light that aligns with a twin tower behind it. This allows seafarers to better judge their approach to harbors or other narrow channels.

The pair here were built in 1889 to guide ships into the harbor. Sadly, the original Rear Range lighthouse was lost to a fire around 1930, but a 60-foot-high “Apple-Core” concrete tower stands in its place.

The survivor is a square, steeply tapering tower topped with a prominent square lantern room. A white maple leaf highlights two sides of the red beacon, making for a lovely souvenir photo.

Tour Beaconsfield House

Yellow facade of Beaconsfield House

Beaconsfield House

If you have ever wondered what it was like to be a wealthy Victorian merchant, then Beaconsfield House is for you. Built in 1877 for merchant James Peake, who made his fortune in shipbuilding, it was the finest house on the island.

Peake chose a large site on the waterfront and had the existing mansion moved across the road. The new home had 25 rooms, lavishly decorated with Chinese porcelain chandeliers and a stained glass window initialed “JP”.

Sadly, the Peake family only lived here for six years, with the house’s cost prompting his bankruptcy. After later serving as a nurses’ hostel, it was completely restored in 1973 as the island’s Heritage Centre.

This beautiful home, with its picturesque harborfront rose garden, now also hosts exhibitions and art shows. Take a guided tour to learn more about the Peake family and how they lived.

Hear Local Music in Back Alley

View inside a record store

Record store

Anyone with a passion for obscure vinyl records will be thrilled to visit Back Alley Music on Queen Street. Both vinyl and CDs line the crowded shelves of this shop run by a couple who are real music enthusiasts.

They offer FairTrade coffee or tea while you browse or listen to a track or three of choice. It’s amazing to see such a range of new or used LPs in this distant corner of Canada.

PEI is famous for its music and you will understand why if you catch one of the in-store performances they host. If you are in urgent need of guitar strings etc, this is also the place to find them.

Not surprisingly, Back Alley Music has been voted among the best record stores in Canada. Pop in to find some music from Prince Edward Island as a souvenir.

Look for Angels in St. Dunstan’s

St. Dunstans Basilica, one of the best things to do in Charlottetown

St. Dunstan’s Basilica

If you like churches, the High Victorian Gothic style of St. Dunstan’s Basilica is a must-see. It’s easy to spot as its twin spires are the highest point on Charlottetown’s skyline.

This Roman Catholic church was built from 1897 to 1907 by Quebec architect Francois-Xavier Berlinguet. After a fire in 1913, the exterior was faithfully restored, with the interior changed to a more English style.

Look around inside and you can find some 300 angels depicted in the decor. More dominant is the colorful stained glass window showing priests who formerly served the parish.

The organ was more than 75 years old when it was moved here from Montreal in 2012. It incorporates parts of St. Dunstan’s original 19th-century organ for a total of 4,000 pipes.

Hike or Bike the Confederation Trail

View while hiking Confederation Trail

Confederation Trail

The Confederation Trail runs across Prince Edward Island from coast to coast. There is one main trail with several off-shoots (including a branch starting in Charlottetown), covering 300 miles of former railway track.

The rail bed has been converted into a multi-use trail, with motorized vehicles banned. A crushed stone surface makes for easy walking, running, or cycling.

Many parts of the trail run through remote areas of great natural beauty. You pass forest, countryside, farms, and marshland, each home to its own range of birds and other wildlife that Canada is known for.

As a former railway, the trail is well-drained and gradients are gentle. For those walking the whole length, there are plenty of accommodation and luggage shuttle services.

Things to do in Charlottetown


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