Charlottetown, Canada

Photo: Discover Charlottetown
Photo: Discover Charlottetown

Victorian houses. Antique-filled bed and breakfasts. Confederation historic sites. A never-ending Anne of Green Gables musical. Prince Edward Island has always sounded like the perfect destination. For retirees. No matter how much you enjoy PEI potato salad and singing beaches, they’d still be available after you visited other places that aren’t necessarily wheelchair friendly.

But Charlottetown, the capital of Canada’s smallest province, has evolved in the past few years. The first new hotel in more than 25 years opened downtown. Foodies are flocking to locally sourced restaurants. And jazz musicians are keeping people at the waterfront after the sun sets. At least during the summer months.

Photo: The Holman Grand Hotel
Photo: The Holman Grand Hotel

Cross the eight-mile Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. Then follow Route 1 into Charlottetown. A former Grafton Street department store has been turned into The Holman Grand Hotel. The pet-friendly rooms have views of historic Charlottetown, spa-like bathrooms, and Timothy’s World Coffee. It’s a modern, neutral-toned oasis in a city full of dated floral prints. You stop to grab a cocktail at the Redwater Rustic Grille downstairs and end up sinking into a cherry wood booth with blue crab dip and a bottle of wine from Ontario’s Pelee Island. After a long drive, exploring can wait until the morning.

Start the next day at Leonhard’s Cafe. The tiny restaurant makes everything from scratch. There may be a wait–there are only six tables–but the French toast baked with Havarti cheese and tomatoes is worth it. Spend the rest of the morning walking along the waterfront in Victoria Park. Grab a Gooey Mooey cone at Cows. Check out the art galleries on Victoria Row. Browse the shops on Queen Street. And relax with an Iron Horse at the Gahan House Pub & Brewery.

You’ll be tempted, but try to avoid the nachos at the brewery. You’ll want to save your appetite for Lot 30. Chef Gordon Bailey takes fresh to an extreme. None of the food he serves has been frozen. That means fresh bacon-infused sea scallops, butter-poached lobster, a pork duo, and grilled duck breast. Don’t worry, there’s a tasting menu, so you can try multiple dishes. After such a rich meal you’d usually skip dessert, but how can you pass up rhubarb-and-apple crumble? Made to order. You may need a second reservation here before you leave town.

Finish the evening back on the waterfront. Peake’s Quay has nightly concerts and a large outdoor patio by the marina. The evening ended hours ago for many Charlottetown visitors, but your night is just getting started.

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