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Canada’s next winter ‘hot spot’ is Prince Edward Island

A short flight will take you to an idyllic place filled with food, fun and winter festivities

People snowshoeing in a snowy forest in Prince Edward Island.

No matter the season, the people of Prince Edward Island want to show you what you’re missing.

Canada’s smallest province may be best known for Anne of Green Gables, but the spunky spirit she represents lives on during the winter season — albeit at a leisurely PEI pace. 

What you’ll find are tons of unique adventures you can experience in a single trip.

Whether you’re a foodie, outdoor enthusiast, or lover of east coast music, there’s something for everyone in PEI.

Prince Edward Island

Canada’s Food Island

Island cuisine offers up an incredible variety of tastes, with many found at traditional events during the holiday season. 

PEI is chock full of festive farmers markets and food events you can enjoy all winter, whether you’re a hot chocolate aficionado or enjoy a bit of dinner theatre. And Winter Dine will be running again from Jan. 22 to Feb. 11 in 2024, which includes a wide variety of restaurants offering prix fixe menus.

If you’re a shellfish lover, you don’t have to worry about missing out in the winter. PEI culinary ambassador chef Ilona Daniel says PEI’s winter shellfish, harvested with a heavy-duty chainsaw that cuts through the thick ice, is even better than the warmer months. 

“Our winter oysters and mussels are fat and plump,” said Daniel. “You get this beautiful flavour and crisp salinity.”

Prince Edward Island mussels

Outdoor adventures

While harvesting winter shellfish may be best left to the pros, there are plenty of other activities for winter adventurers, like ice fishing in Alberton, an hour and a half’s drive from Charlottetown. 

Daniel says it’s the perfect way to experience an authentic PEI winter, especially since you’ll probably run into some characters that will tell you a great story.

One local character is PEI native Mike Robertson, who has founded multiple tourism ventures over the past 20 years, the latest being Meridian63.

Through his business, Robertson leads mountain bike tours year round and loves to introduce people to the sport he calls ‘fat biking’ in winter, so named due to the four-inch wide, sometimes studded tires. 

But winter mountain biking couldn’t happen without the trail grooming team that travels the province, packing down the snow to make them perfect for cycling and hiking.

Robertson also rents Scandinavian inspired off-grid cabins in the Bonshaw Hills area, less than a half-hour’s drive from Charlottetown. 

“You can immerse yourself in nature by staying in these cozy cabins, while also enjoying a side of luxury,” he said.

If you’re not a cyclist, there are plenty of other winter outdoor activities to enjoy like downhill and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling and sledding, a world-class disc golf course that’s open year round, and ATVing on the groomed trails. 

You can also ice skate at Charlottetown’s picturesque rink at Founders’ Hall or enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride. And all these winter adventures are made more special by the province’s beautiful countryside and vistas.

Maritime festivals and music

There’s no party like an east coast kitchen party, and you’ll find plenty of live ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) performances around the province all year. 

“Each area has its own flavour,” said Daniel. 

Some of the flavours you can enjoy while taking in live music come from PEI craft brewers like Evermoore Brewing Company, Lone Oak Brewing Company and Bogside Brewing, to name a few.

Daniel is lending her expert taste buds to Red Island Cider to develop a unique cider for the fifth year running. This year’s offering is a spicy brew called Ginger Bread House “with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and other spices.”

There are also traditional winter festivals to enjoy like the Ice City Festival and Jack Frost Winterfest, a popular event that’s been known to welcome 15,000 visitors.

What may be the most clear about tourism in PEI is that it’s fueled by creative entrepreneurs who believe their work isn’t just about making a living.

“For us, it’s about the people and the community you build,” said Robertson. 

If you decide to head to PEI this winter, don’t be shy. The locals will definitely want to show you around.