Cycling PEI: Confederation Trail and National Parks Biking Tour

September 11, 2023   No Comments »

Cycling PEI: Confederation Trail and National Parks Biking Tour

December 6, 2022 No Comments »

Before we even got to the start of the famed Confederation Trail biking route, I had my eye on the lobster shack at Victoria By the Sea. I love biking; this new-to-me activity has won me over and I’m excited to explore new destinations by bike. However, I REALLY love lobster, and the thought of spending 6 days cycling PEI and being able to eat lobster every day had me over the moon. Prince Edward Island is made for seafood lovers and bikers…and I am both.

Where is PEI?

Welcome to Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, located on the Atlantic coast. It may be small in size, but it’s big in character. Best known for its friendly locals, red sand beaches, potato farms, lobster dinners, and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, PEI is also a cyclist’s dream.

Where is PEI

This wasn’t my first time in PEI. I visited a few years ago to do a road trip around the island. That’s when I learned of the excellent cycling opportunities that the island had. And it’s been on my radar ever since to come back and see the island at a slower pace.

Pedaling for Lobster

If you didn’t know – I love lobster. And specifically, I’m sort of obsessed with Canadian Maritimes lobster. My plan was to cycle PEI on a series of trails that crisscross the island and see the best of the fishing villages, farms, and communities while eating as much seafood/lobster as I possibly could! I took a 7-day self-guided PEI cycling tour with Great Canadian Trails which specializes in the bucket list outdoor adventures of Canada!

lobster love pei

Looking for more Canada bucket list trip ideas – check out my experience on the self-guided East Coast Trail hike with Great Canadian Trails in Newfoundland.

PEI Biking – All of the Essentials

cycling PEI

The beauty of self-guided holidays is that Great Canadian trails take care of all of the time-consuming logistics, and you get the freedom of biking your way. There are of course suggested stops – but it’s ultimately up to you as long as you make it to the hotel at the end of the day! They also take care of bike rentals and provide an app to easily follow the route and details of the trip.

Bike Rental

It starts with the bike – luckily Great Canadian Trails organizes this for you! On the first day in Charlottetown, I picked up my rental bike for the week. When I walked into the bike shop to get fitted for my tour bike, my eyes nearly popped out of my head like a cartoon character. It had the biggest inventory of bikes and gear that I’ve seen during the pandemic. There’s been a bike shortage ever since the pandemic, but you wouldn’t know it here; they had everything! Not only did we pick up our bikes, but I was also able to choose our pannier bags, water bottles, helmets, and other last-minute gear I needed.

bike rental PEI
My hybrid bike for the week

Most people get a hybrid bike for the trip, however, with the store’s large inventory of bikes and gear, you can also easily rent an electric pedal assist bike for the 5-day cycling journey. This is great if someone in your group is new to biking and wants to ride with more experienced riders. It means everyone can stay together and have a great time!

PEI Bike Trails

There are more than 310 miles of bike trails on this picturesque little island. For my 5 day PEI biking tour, we primarily used the two most well-known cycling trails in PEI; the Confederation Trail and Gulf Shore Parkway. The rest of the time (which was minimal) we biked along quiet country roads. Overall, the trails are medium when it comes to hills. The trails are typically pretty flat, but you will come across a few rolling hills on the backcountry roads occasionally – that’s when the e-bike comes in handy for beginners!

Check out TourismPEI for a PEI bike trails map

Biking the Confederation Trail in P.E.I.

The ‘Confederation Trail’ is an old rail line reaching from the far west to the far east coast of the island – it’s known locally as the ‘tip-to-tip’ trail. We didn’t do the entire thing – however, we started and ended on the Confederation Trail. This perfectly groomed cycling trail made of crushed limestone had a slight gradient and lots of super shade along the way! It connects a bunch of little towns and is a delightful way to traverse the island away from cars. Check out TourismPEI for a Confederation Trail cycling map.

Gulf Shore Parkway Biking Trail

This cycle trail traverses Prince Edward Island National Park and delivers you right to the most beautiful stretches of coastline in a car-free lane…perfection! It’s also perfect because you can safely stop along the trail and take in the stunning views and lupine flowers! The Gulf Shore Parkway connects the beaches of Cavendish to North Rustico to Brackley to Covehead to Stanhope.

Cycling down the Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps: taking the Tremola Road less traveled

5 Days Cycling PEI with Great Canadian Trails

As I packed for this trip, I checked the weather and was greeted with 6 solid days of forecasted rain – a dire outlook. However, two days before we started, the forecast started to change. I saw a little sun poking out of clouds on my weather app. There was hope! Slowly each day there was more sun in the forecast.

Lesson learned – plan for the worst, hope for the best and you may end up in between – which is exactly what happened for my week cycling on the island.

See the video of our 5 days of cycling PEI

The self-guided trip is 7 days in total – however, it’s 5 days of biking. And of course, for me this wasn’t just about biking, it was also about eating. So each day I ‘lobster-fied’ my day somehow…and it made me so happy!

Day 1 – Biking Borden Carleton to Stanley Bridge

We rode from Borden Carleton (where the bridge to New Brunswick is) to the tiny fishing village of Stanley Bridge. It was about 33 miles in total. We spent the morning on the Confederation Trail and the afternoon on the backroads. The Confederation Trail took us through potato and corn fields, and we were able to see the rural life of PEI. After lunch, we hit the gently rolling hills of the north of the island where the sun showed up, and we had beautiful blue skies, colorful lupines, and so many bucolic views!

Lobster Rolls and Oysters

As I said – as much as this was about the biking, it was also about eating seafood, and it started on our first stop in Kensington where we enjoyed lobster rolls and local beer. But the best seafood stop was pedaling right into Carr’s Oyster Bar at the end of the day in Stanley Bridge. Here I introduced my friend Caroline to the joy of plump delicious raw oysters. She was a raw oyster virgin, so we gave her our best advice (always chew them and enjoy the taste) and she is now an oyster eater!

pei oysters

Carr’s was located right on the water and had some incredible fish and chips with PEI potato salad…a staple to any meal on the island!

Where to find ocean to table lobster in the Canadian Maritimes

Day 2 -Stanley Bridge to North Rustico

Today on my quest for seafood, fitness, and mind-blowing views, we arrived at the coast. Wow oh wow these views today were amazing! We started the day at Parks Canada Cavendish National Park where we discovered sand dunes, boardwalks, and great beaches. People were already picking their beach spots and the whole area was buzzing with a great summer vibe.

We also biked into the ‘home town’ of Anne of Green Gables – and the fictional town Avonlea based on the PEI town of Cavendish. Just a bit inland from Cavendish National Park you find rolling hills of green (a bit of a challenge on a bike!) and wildflowers dotting the countryside. We stopped at the post office where you can learn more about AoGG author and her life growing up…as well as get a special postage stamp!

The stretch from Cavendish National Park to North Rustico was my favorite of the entire trip. The ride along the coast was magical and we had plenty of opportunities to stop for views of the red cliffs and Lupines.

That evening we stayed in my favorite accommodation – little cottages near the water. This charming resort was a family business that had been operating 157 years! I can’t believe that the resort has been in the family for so many generations – and each continues to keep it thriving in the changing world of tourism. We parked our bikes outside of our cottages and soaked up the atmosphere of this adorable property near the coast!

cycling pei cottages

Local Tip – Lobster Served Cold

We continued on the Gulf Shores Trail for the afternoon to North Rustico…otherwise known as my lobster paradise. The cute town had a colorful active fishing wharf lined with lobster traps (always a good sign). We road on the wharf straight to the island’s most famous lobster restaurant – Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Supper.

I wasn’t prepared for the enormity of this place; it seated hundreds of people and apparently is home to the longest all-you-can-eat salad bar on the island. I always get excited by a good superlative travel stop. I took a seat, put on my lobster bib, and was ready to put back on all of those calories I had burned on the bike.

How many ways can you eat lobster?

“Do you prefer your whole lobster hot or cold?” the young waitress asked.
Huh? I had never been asked this question before in all of my extensive lobster eating. After an extensive conversation on the pros and cons of each – I settled on cold – the way the locals eat it apparently.

It turns out cold PEI lobster is as delicious – reminding me that the locals are always right. This iconic lobster restaurant delivered in every way…and they converted me to being a cold lobster lover! Check out my stories today to see my disappearing lobster dinner!

Plus – the longest salad bar also included all-you-can-eat desserts. Can I come here every night?

Day 3 – Brackley Beach to Saint Peters Bay

This was the longest day of riding (37 miles) but it included coastal bikeways, backcountry roads, and the famed Confederation Rail Trail. The first leg along the coast was one of my favorites, and I even stopped for a little refreshing dip on Cable Head beach which was deserted at that time in the morning! Then we joined up with the Confederation Trail again biking through boggy wetlands until we reached the tiny town of Saint Andrews for a lunch break.

The second half of our ride was filled with beautiful bridges all the way to Saint Peters Bay. Our app told us that this was considered the most beautiful section of the Confederation Trail and I have to admit – it was accurate. We rode through blueberry country, past churches, and over beautiful inlets into Saint Peters Bay right to our B&B!

Lobster Rolls and Poutine

In the little town of Saint Andrews, we were treated to some small-town island charm. We stopped at the cutest little local bakery run by two sisters. And yes…they had lobster sandwiches and allowed me to ‘poutine-ize’ my fries! Their lobster sandwich came served on homemade white bread which aligned with the whole nostalgic feel of this little café. Of course, we also took some baked goods to go…that’s what the panniers are for – right?

Day 4 – Cycling Greenwich Dunes

And then the rains came…torrential rains. When I arrived in PEI for this trip the forecast was for rain all day every day…but then that never happened – the forecasts would change each day to sunny. I was starting to think that we were so special that Mother Nature changed the weather for us and our trip…until today.

But that didn’t stop us! We rode in the rain (some of the mentally hardest riding I’ve done) to go to Greenwich National Park and the famous Greenwich Dunes and beach. We rode as far as we could into the park, locked up our bikes, and took off on foot. This park is stunning with floating walkways that go over a big inlet and dunes out to the beach.

No surprise – the beach was pretty empty on a rainy day, but that didn’t stop Caroline from having a swim! We had the place to ourselves!

We biked back into St. Peters Bay and found the local coffee shop, Black and White Bakery, to stop in and warm up with some sweet treats…because we deserved it after that ride! We walked in a pack of dripping-wet bikers looking for a place to dry off and reset mentally. As a testament to the kindness of PEI locals, the coffee shop owner offered us towels, and warm drinks, and even offered us a ride to our B&B if we wanted to get out of the rain.

Take Away Lobster – Yes Please!

After our very wet ride (honestly – every part of me was drenched) – all we wanted to do was get home and dry off and stay inside for the night. No problem…since we were staying at a B&B near St. Peters Bay, it had a kitchen we could access allowing us to get food take-away and have a night ‘in.’

cold lobster pei

Each little PEI town has a local fish market, that sells fresh local lobster and seafood. We stopped at Julio’s Seafood Market in St. Peters to check out the fresh seafood. We grabbed 3 fully cooked lobsters, threw them in our backpacks and pedaled back to our B&B, and ate them that night cold! I told you I was now a cold lobster convert!

Day 5 – St. Peters Bay to Souris

The final day of biking along the Confederation Trail was perfect weather! We spent the morning biking along the Confederation Trail traversing through farmland and forests. We arrived in the cute town of Souris. This friendly town of 1300 people has a lovely beach park with little shops and of course a lobster shack. Our final hotel had the most beautiful views of the coast, making the ending a bit bittersweet. That night we sat on the hotel porch drinking beer watching the sky evolve to pink as the sun went down. A perfect ending. But wait…is it really perfect until you’ve had lobster dinner?

Lobster + Colville Oysters

This last day was equal parts biking and eating! Not only did we stop and have lobster rolls for lunch, but we also found a fantastic ice cream shop – Cherry on Top. We had just finished 5 days of biking PEI –I wasn’t passing up ice cream. Plus, it was impossible to refuse the two extremely passionate women working at the ice cream shop. It was some of the best ice cream flavors I’ve had – all homemade…even down to the sprinkles!

Souris is home to the Colville Oyster Company, so I had been looking forward to fresh oysters all day as I pedaled along. The Fiddling Fisherman restaurant had perfect water views and plenty of fresh oysters for a start to our last lobster dinner. They also offered some new variations on lobster – such as lobster flatbread!

Local Kindness

The islanders seem to love bikers on the island. Much like the theme of Anne of Green Gables – the entire island community was welcoming to us. They all went out of their way to make us feel like we were welcome and belonged.

No one exemplified this more than George our driver. His only real responsibility was to drive us to our drop-off points and pick us up at the end – after all, this was a self-guided tour. However he continuously went above and beyond taking the time to share the history of the area, stop at chocolate shops, and checked in on us daily. He cared for us like we were his ducklings.

The Best Time to Bike PEI

I cycled PEI in their shoulder season – June! I thought June would be busy since it’s the beginning of summer travel season for most Americans. However, the high season in PEI is June and July – that signals when kids are out of school in the area.

June is a great time to bike PEI since there aren’t big crowds, busy roads, and the beaches are pretty empty. Plus, this is the time of year when the lupines bloom which brings the entire countryside to life with color!

The only downside to doing your PEI cycling shoulder season is that means that not all the restaurants are open in small towns. This is easily solved though by talking to your transportation person about what’s open in the town that you’re staying in that night and thinking ahead one or two days. George always kept good track of us and was up to date on openings.

What to Pack For Your PEI Cycling Tour

Great Canadian Trails includes most of the essential gear – but there were a couple of things that I brought extra for the cycling trip.

  • Sunglasses – I use Tifosi glasses for biking. They make bike glasses for people with prescription lenses! They also make regular wrap-around cycling glasses that are great for giving you sun protection from every angle.
  • Electrolyte mix for your water bottles – if you have a favorite it’s great to bring your own.
  • Helmet – they do provide a helmet – but if you have your own that you love that is always preferred.
  • If you use clipless pedals typically, then you can request those pedals from the bike store, and presto…you are set up just like at home! Just bring your shoes!
  • Bike helmet mirror for those sections you are on the road.
  • Biking rain gear. Sadly I wished that I had brought better rain gear after that day biking Greenwich National Park in a downpour. After this trip, I actually invested in some good biking rain gear from Gore.
  • Plastic bags or dry bags for keeping things dry. The biking packing bags you get from the bike store are waterproof – but if you want to be extra careful or want to protect something that isn’t packed in a pannier, then bring some of your own waterproof bags too.

Lobster Overload?

I covered 115 miles cycling PEI in 5 days and had lobster in some form every day! Did I ever get my fill of lobster? No! In fact, in an attempt to go full circle, as I drove off PEI back to Nova Scotia I stopped back at Victoria By the Sea, where we started our adventure, to have one final delicious, buttery, sweet lobster roll.

bike tours prince edward island

Cycling PEI is the perfect way to experience the island at a slow pace. It reminded me how important it is to find joy in the little things in life; such as the church steeple in the distance that signals there’s a village nearby, the smell of the sea, the dancing lupines in the wind that fill the roadsides, and of course, the first crack of the lobster claw.


How you can Bike Across PEI – Great Canadian Trails Prince Edward Island By Bike

Disclosure:

I was a guest of Great Canadian Trails on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.


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