Ice cream, goats on a beach, lighthouses to explore and campfire marshmallows – it’s the kind of stuff that little kid dreams are made of. This is why Prince Edward Island (PEI) is great for family vacations.
My husband and I brought our toddler to PEI these last two summers. Before that, we tried to bring him to an island resort but found it overwhelming. The music, the sea, the people; everything was just too much for our son. That’s why, for our next vacation, we wanted something a little quieter. That’s how we discovered and fell in love with PEI.
If you want to dial down the pace on your family vacation, PEI hits all the right notes.
Prince Edward Island for Families
On our first vacation, we explore the most popular places: Summerside, Cavendish, Brackley Beach, and Charlottetown. There are tons of options for family fun in PEI, and most of it is this area. Beyond the beach, there’s mini-golf, an amusement park, and of course, all things Anne of Green Gables. There’s even a haunted house! However, we found most of those things to be a bit old for our son, who was just two on our first vacation there.
Toddler fun in PEI
My son loves trying ice cream and climbing on the bales of hay at Kool Breeze Farms Garden Centre & Farm Market near Summerside. He likes digging into the red sand at Cavendish to make sandcastles. And he loves meeting the goats at Island Hill Farm, just outside of Charlottetown.
But where we really find our travel groove as a family is in the West Cape area. We love it so much, in fact, that we return to PEI for a second trip the next year (in summer 2019) and spend a full week there.
Best Family Vacation PEI
Generally, our vacation routine is like this:
In the mornings, when the weather is a bit cool, we go for a drive to explore. We head north to the Wind Interpretation Centre, and south to the West Point Lighthouse. Local bakeries are perfect for treats. We spend one morning with Beach Goats.
Beach Goats is a great place for some good family fun in PEI. A local family who keep goats as pets discovered that some of their goats actually like the beach water and will hop on a stand-up paddleboard. Tourism officials encouraged the family to offer travellers a chance to spend time with the goats.
We pay five bucks to a kid about eight-years-old at a table and hit the beach. There they are – about 15 goats on the red sand, munching away at the grass on the edge of the beach. Eventually, the goats are encouraged to join travellers in ankle-deep water.
Meanwhile, my son (now 3 by this time) zeroes in on a kayak that he wants to try. His dad pulls him along the shallow water in the kayak for some time, watching the goats from there. He later feeds the goats, poses for pictures. All in all, it’s a pretty exciting day for a three-year-old city kid. And fun for the parents!
Perfect PEI afternoons
What we most love about our family vacation in PEI are the afternoons spent by the beach. Afternoons are when the sun comes out and the waves settle down, making it the perfect time for the beach. We rent a cottage in Cape Wolfe and at the back of the cottage, there is a short walk through a meadow, along a grassy path to reach a perfect beach. The beach is private, and, for example, throughout an entire week, we see a maximum of six other people there.
The water is fresh and cool, but we love it so we play there every day. There’s enough wind for flying kites, which we do several times. And nights are for campfires with marshmallows. It’s the first time my son experiences campfire marshmallows, and he’s immediately sold on these gooey treats.
Our days are full. We spend our time focusing on each other. Days are simple, but fun. My son is so busy with activities, but every now and then, he slows down long enough for a quiet cuddle or to take it all in – I call these the stolen moments. Most importantly, they make our family vacation in PEI the best we’ve had.
Best places to stay in PEI for families
When my family travels in PEI, our favourite place to stay is a family-owned cottage rental, the Reilly House. The reason we love this house is partly because of its history.
Built in the 1800s, the house has been passed on for generations. While it has a lot of its original charm, the also has a modern kitchen (modern, as in a stove/microwave/electricity, etc). Because of this, my husband and I tend to cook up a storm of seafood when we are there.
On our first trip, we learned how to boil lobster (straight from the wharf into a pot that we filled with salt water from the sea). And on our most recent trip, my cousin, Audrey, from Charlottetown spent the day with us and taught us how to shuck oysters and bake oysters rock-a-feller. (I love oysters as well and eat them every chance I get in PEI). Cooking for us is part of the fun here.
Reilly House beach treasure
The Reilly House is set back from the main road with a field of grass and wildflowers behind it, there’s a trail that leads straight to a beach – it’s the wildest and most rugged of all of the places I’ve seen in PEI with perfect red sand, those iconic cliffs.
There are lots of treasures – pebbles, seashells, and driftwood – along the beach. It’s all beautiful. Even the seaweed here is worth checking out, and so my young son and I spot numerous kinds of seaweeds swept on to the beach. Some of the seaweed is shiny or stringy, and some of it looks like bright green lettuce. My son loves the rocks on the beach and when he is not tossing them into the water to see them splash, I find him loading his short pockets with pebbles all sizes and colours.
To sum it up, Prince Edward Island for families is perfect. There are so many more great places for families to stay in PEI.