6 Things That I Saw In PEI That Made Me Realize Island Life Is Really Not For Me

It includes a local telling me "if you don't farm or fish, you're f*****"

Western Canada Editor
Daniel Milligan eating a lobster dinner. Right: A boardwalk in PEI.

Daniel Milligan eating a lobster dinner. Right: A boardwalk in PEI.

This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Prince Edward Island may be Canada's smallest province, but it certainly holds its own during the peak of summer.

Its population of 150,000, in the 2019 census, is engulfed by tourists heading to the island for its great beaches, live music, amazing fresh seafood, the vibrant Charlottetown and the Cavendish Festival, which is being held between July 7-9 this year.

The literary tourists also head to the Anne of Green Gables house and museum to get a picture in front of the iconic white and green property.

But, say you're visiting in the off-season? Well, I can tell you that it's very different and here are some of my observations.

Everyone knows everyone

I guess this is to be expected when the majority of the island's population is concentrated in one or two communities.

But, within 24 hours of being in PEI, I was seeing the same people hanging around the same bars or restaurants, or walking along the busiest streets in Charlottetown. Imagine what that'd be like if you lived there for years.

In fact, one of the bar's landlords told me he'd expect to know 80% of people in a bar during the off-season before the tourists arrive.

People will judge how you eat lobster

"Do you know how to eat lobster," the server and then two locals asked me before I tucked into my lobster dinner.

Now, I'm by no means an expert, but when you're trying to eat while getting watched/judged by locals, it's a little off-putting.

I didn't even get that much scrutiny in Italy when I ordered spaghetti bolognese.

If you don’t farm or fish, you're f*****

This was the quote of the trip.

Sat in a bar, I asked a local who recognized my out-of-town accent what he did and how the island compares in the winter to the summer.

He explained how some people make their annual salary within 1-2 months, adding: "If you don't farm or fish, you're f*****."

I do neither, so I certainly would be. Speaking of accents...

The local dialect and accent are tricky to follow

Think North American, with a slice of Newfoundland, mixed with Irish. It's unique.

But locals also told me they can spot a Charlottetown accent from a Summerside accent. Other communities on PEI also have their own twists on the local lingo.

Barely anything opens until May

"You should come back in the summer" was the long-running joke of the trip.

Most places outside of Charlottetown were closed for the season, and many of them had planned to open around Mother's Day on May 8 or after. Same with things like the Anne of Green Gables museum.

However, most of the bars and restaurants in Charlottetown were open, serving great local beers and fresh seafood (much better than Toronto).

One of the perks was that you could travel to the island's national park for free!

Would I go back in the summer? Probably. But not for a couple of years; I'd target a trip around the Cavendish Festival.

The weather is seriously windy

While you might not get the -40C temperatures in PEI, it is super windy and there was still lots of snow on the ground in mid-April.

It also rains a lot! So, it's like combining the rainfall from some of Canada's wettest towns with biting cold winds.

Outside of B.C., the Atlantic coast is Canada's wettest region and New Glasgow is known as one of the wettest towns in Canada.

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