Fond of the Anne of Green Gables series, The Duchess of Cambridge was enthusiastic about visiting Prince Edward Island which served as the novels’ setting

I sometimes wonder how Prince Edward Island might have evolved if celebrated author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, had not written her world famous Anne of Green Gables series. The first Anne story was published in 1908 and I imagine it could be successfully argued that the delightful tale about the adventures of a young red-haired orphan marked a turning point in the development of the island destined to become forever known as “Anne’s Land.”

Without the Anne factor, I have to wonder if millions and millions of visitors would have flocked to Canada’s smallest province over the past many decades. I also have to wonder if Anne was not the underlying catalyst for the construction of more than two dozen PEI golf courses—some of them the most renowned in the country.

Would an 11-km-long bridge have been built connecting the island to mainland New Brunswick had it not been for the worldwide popularity of PEI ignited by Anne? I think not. I very much doubt that “spud island” could have reached the heights it has merely on the reputation of its famous potatoes or, for that matter, even its magnificent sand beaches.

It’s reasonable to suggest that Anne has been the growth hormone that has significantly helped evolve a small, Atlantic coast island into a destination known and loved around the globe. As every Canadian knows, it is so well loved that Britain’s Prince William and his new bride, Kate Middleton, chose to visit PEI in July on their first ever trip abroad as the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge.

Kate, it was publicized, was fond of the Anne of Green Gables series and was keen to visit the place that served as the background for the books. Some might say it doesn’t get much better than royalty. Taking nothing away from Anne and the several sites on the island relevant to the books and their author, PEI is a vacation venue chock full of interesting things to see and do.

I have personally visited several times, first dating back 30 years ago when I drove from Ontario with my son to show him the delights of this tiny perfect island that I had only read about in travel journals. I have been returning ever since.

To get a deep and truly memorable sense of the place, I highly recommend tapping into some of what the tourism people promote as “authentic” PEI experiences. Among the options are islander-led clam-digging outings, lobster fishing and oyster-harvesting. Another obvious choice is deep sea fishing plus farm boot camps and islander-led cooking and dining classes. Whatever choices are made among the “authentic” PEI experiences, one issue is certain: visitors get a true feel for how islanders live, how they work, and how they play.

Across the island, a “down home” friendliness and modesty prevails. I will forever remember a day during one of my trips when I booked a tee time at one of PEI’s notable golf courses and was paired up with three locals consisting of two men and a teen.

It turned out to be a great foursome with lots of laughs and good fun. Partway through the round one of the gentlemen asked me if I knew who my cart buddy was. I said no and was quietly told he was a PEI farmer but more notably the Solicitor General of Canada and formerly the federal Minister of Agriculture, The Hon. Wayne Easter, a man who would never have boasted about his government ranking. That’s just the way islanders are which makes them marvelously unpretentious island hosts.

Beyond golf courses, PEI beaches command a high ranking. The island is virtually surrounded by sand, hence a beach is never hard to find. In fact, nothing on the island is difficult to access. It can be driven end to end in less than four hours and across its width in far less time. While all four shores boast great beaches, the north and east shores are particularly blessed and the island overall has seven provincial parks closely associated with the various coastal areas.

Of course, there are the ever-popular Anne sites that attract people from as far away as Japan and Australia. Dedicated fans come with cameras and usually an Anne of Green Gables book tucked under their arms. They come to see and photograph Green Gables House, Green Gables Museum, the birthplace of Lucy Maud as well as other Ann-related sites. The annual highlight is the Charlottetown Festival featuring Anne of Green Gables – The Musical. This internationally celebrated presentation adapted from the original story has been running every summer at the Charlottetown Confederation Centre of the Arts since 1965.

Whether it was the Anne factor that attracted them or not, this tiny perfect island saw 1.3 million visitors in 2010. Moreover, since the Royal visit, numbers will likely increase in 2011, thanks largely to Lucy Maud Montgomery who inadvertently got the ball rolling that helped shape PEI into a one of the country’s most special places.


For more information, brochures and a free travel guide go online at or call 1-800-463-4PEI.

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