Charlottetown, located on the south shore of Prince Edward Island (PEI), is a fun and vibrant seaside city full of historic charm, numerous festivals and events, artisan shops and an abundance of world-class restaurants. Referred to as the “Birthplace of Confederation” after the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which led to Canada’s Confederation, Charlottetown has approximately 36,000 people and is PEI’s capital.
When is a good time to go to Charlottetown?
Charlottetown has an eastern-maritime climate with a short, warm summer and a cold winter. Summers (June – September) are pleasantly warm with the temperatures hovering in the high teens to mid-twenties Celsius, and late summer (September) temperatures are usually around the mid-teens. During the winter months of December to March, temperatures will fall to low single digits or below freezing (0 degrees) and is often cloudy and windy.
Best Things to do in Charlottetown
There are many things to do, from visiting historical sites to cultural attractions in this small, walkable city. There are tours available, but if you like to explore on your own like we do, there are many attractions to see. Here’s a list of local attractions we really enjoyed.
Stroll along the wharf, sit in one of the brightly colored Adirondack chairs, and watch the boats go by, or enjoy fish and chips, a maritime beer and a funnel cake for dessert at one of the restaurants on the quay. It’s a great place to people watch and in July and August; Charlottetown also hosts the Peake’s Wharf Summer Concert series.
Victoria Row is a lively, pedestrianized street where you can browse the shops, have a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants or enjoy street entertainment. It’s a great atmosphere enjoyed not only by tourists, but by locals as well.
Province House National Historic Site
The Fathers of Confederation met at Province House National Historic Site in 1864, and one century later the surrounding area was expanded with the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Today, this enormous sandstone complex showcases Canada’s heritage along with an art gallery, walking tours and live theatre including Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, which has a Guinness World Record for the longest running production.
St. Dustan’s Basilica
With its majestic steeples, St. Dustan’s Basilica was built in the early 1900s in the High Victorian Gothic Revival style and is located along nearby Great George Street.
Beaconsfield Historic House
Near the waterfront are two of Charlottetown’s best examples of its eloquent history. The first is Beaconsfield Historic House, that many consider one of PEI’s most elegant homes, dates back to 1877. Built in the Victorian style, it possesses 25 rooms and eight fireplaces, and throughout the year it hosts tours and special events.
The other noteworthy house is the Government House, also known as Fanningbank, built in 1834 as the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI. Its grand white façade framed by pillars and peaceful gardens make it a pleasure to wander around and explore the grounds.
More to see
You can easily fill a couple of days with all of the other activities that Charlottetown has to offer; the above are merely some of our highlights.
If exploring the culinary scene and you’re a foodie, Charlottetown is filled with numerous fabulous restaurants to take advantage of! There is no doubt that Charlottetown is a culinary hot spot; this is most likely driven by the miles of farmland and coastlines that form PEI and the fact that the highly regarded Culinary Institute of Canada (CIC), a part of Holland College has been training chefs locally for decades.
Prince Edward Island is known around the world for its shellfish, from the perfect Malpeque oysters to their fabulous PEI Blue mussels. We travelled to PEI, in part, to get our fill of their most valuable seafood export: lobster! The PEI lobster is known and highly regarded for its abundance in the clean, cold Atlantic waters surrounding the island province.
When visiting Prince Edward Island, a PEI lobster dinner is the quintessential experience, with many tremendous places to eat PEI lobster throughout the island.
Here are some of our favorites:
Water Prince Corner Shop (Corner of Prince St and Water St)
A cosy seafood shop and café that has been serving diners for the past 28 years serves some of the best chowder we’ve ever had. We were also really impressed with their PEI blue mussels, and the lobster roll was also an incredible choice.
Located downtown in Charlottetown, in the restaurant district near Victoria Row, this pub serves great pub food and has a great offering of house-brewed beer.
Richard’s Fresh Seafood
Located just outside of the Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada, on Covehead Wharf in Stanhope, this roadside fish shack has some of the best fish and chips we’ve ever had. We can still remember those perfectly crispy fries. The line-ups can be a little crazy but the wait is well worth it.
How many days do you need to visit Charlottetown?
Charlottetown is one of the great Maritime cities that has a lot to see. Given that part of the experience is driving around the island and exploring its many beaches, a comfortable visit to Charlottetown and the PEI country side can be achieved in about 3-4 days assuming that you’re reasonably active as there are many things to see and do.
Is Charlottetown Safe for Tourists?
Charlottetown is pretty safe given its population is relatively small. In fact, Charlottetown was recently named the second safest city in Canada. We never felt unsafe even while out later into the evening, but as with any place, be smart and apply common sense when out at night.
Getting to Charlottetown
Getting to Charlottetown is quite easy. You most likely will fly into Halifax, Nova Scotia and should take advantage of exploring that area as part of your trip. If visiting either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick prior to PEI, then you’ll be able to drive across the Confederation Bridge, a 12.9 km (9 mile) bridge, which connects Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick to the town of Borden-Carleton, PEI. Open 24 hours, the Confederation Bridge is quite the engineering marvel, and has really made travel throughout the Maritimes easy and convenient.
Note: There is a toll to use the Confederation Bridge. Tolls are charged based on a vehicle’s axle-count and are calculated for the round-trip, regardless of the user’s initial point of entry to Prince Edward Island. Bridge tolls are collected when leaving Prince Edward Island at the toll plaza in Borden-Carleton. Cash, Interac, and all major credit cards are accepted and in 2019 the toll is $47.75 CDN.