Charlottetown Highlights: Must-See Attractions in PEI’s Capital

Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island. With a population of 35,000, it’s a small, compact town that packs a big punch. The city is friendly and welcoming and full of historic charm and character. Take your time walking around and exploring the city; you’re on island time now! Historically, the city has been important to Canada because it is considered the birthplace of the Confederation or the birthplace of Canada. Charlottetown is the location of three conferences that led to the creation of Canada in 1867. The city is truly a unique combination of country living, modern sophistication, and island magic.

Best Time to Visit Charlottetown

The best time to visit Charlottetown and the province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) is while the weather is nice (late spring, summer, early fall). The warm weather will give you the opportunity to explore the many beautiful beaches in and around the city. Going while the weather is nice will also allow you to comfortably walk around and enjoy the historic city, as well as go walking and cycling along the Confederation Trail.

Getting to Charlottetown

You have three options to get to Charlottetown. You can fly, travel by ferry, or travel by car. Air Canada and WestJet fly into the Charlottetown Airport from Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. The Confederation Bridge connects the province of New Brunswick with PEI and is the longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world. It’s 13km long and takes approximately 10 minutes to cross. If you’re traveling to PEI from Nova Scotia, you can take a 75-minute ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia, to Wood Islands, PEI. The ferry runs from May to December.

How Much Time Do You Need Charlottetown 

Because Charlottetown is compact, you don’t need a lot of time to see it; with 1-2 days, you will be able to experience most of the city’s sites. It’s a great spot to use as a home base to explore the rest of the island if you have more time.

What to do in Charlottetown

Historic Waterfront

Peake's Wharf Historic Waterfront

Explore the Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront, the heart of Charlottetown’s waterfront area and one of my favorite areas of Charlottetown! There is a variety of shops and stores selling everything from crafts, clothing, gifts, and souvenirs. You will also find a variety of waterfront restaurants, boat tours, live music, a coastal boardwalk, and a public park.  During July and August, you can enjoy a variety of free music at the Peake’s Wharf Merchants Summer Concert Series every day.

Charlottetown Farmers’ Market

The Farmers Market is open year round every Saturday, and every Wednesday during the summer, from 9am to 2pm.  This is a great place to find local crafts, produce, and baked goods.

Lobster Tour

Lobster is a traditional and authentic PEI dinner. There is a large variety of restaurants that serve fresh lobster, but if you want to get more up close and personal with these creatures, then check out a lobster tour! Top Notch Charters won the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013. The company is run by a fourth-generation family of lobster fishers, so they know their stuff! Learn about how lobsters are caught, fish for lobster, experience other sea birds and marine life, and eat a yummy lobster dinner!

St. Dunstan’s Basilica 

One of the most visible landmarks and one of the highest buildings in Charlottetown is St. Dunstan’s Basilica.  Located in downtown Charlottetown, it’s surrounded by a variety of restaurants, pubs, and cafes. The cathedral was constructed between 1896 and 1907; after a fire, it was rebuilt in 1913.

St. Dunstan's Basilica 

Beaches in and Around Charlottetown

PEI is an island surrounded by sand which means that PEI and beaches go together like peanut butter and jam. Despite its small size the island has more than 800km (500 miles) of the warmest beaches north of the Carolinas. Thanks to the islands compact size, it’s possible to do many day trips to different beaches around the island.

What to Eat and Drink in Charlottetown 

Start your day off right: Stop by Beanz to get lunch and a coffee. This cute café has great food, a welcoming atmosphere, and friendly staff.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream! You can probably guess that the main specialty of PEI is seafood, but they also have another specialty and well-loved favorite – COWS ice cream! COWS started in 1983 in PEI and has since become a symbol of the island. They now serve over 32 flavors of ice cream in handmade waffle cones. Head on down to Peaks Quay and get yourself a couple of scoops!

Taste local beers and ales: Try some local beers and go for a brewery tour at The Prince Edward Island Brewing Company. The PEI Brewing Company has won multiple awards for its beers, including gold and silver medals at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards and a silver medal at the 2013 Canadian Brewing Awards. The brewery also offers a variety of different live performances and events throughout the year.

Day Trips from Charlottetown 

Apart from the many beaches to visit around the island there are also a number of other locations worth visiting around the island.

The compact size of the island means that you can drive around the entire island. A couple of years ago, I did this, and it’s worth taking the time to do. PEI offers beautiful scenery of water, farms, small villages, lighthouses, and serene landscapes. There are three scenic tour you can do and there are signs around the island which you can follow to keep in the right direction.

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Lindsey is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.