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Monday, December 27, 2010

Prince Edward Island: Five Reasons to Love Canada’s Smallest Province

By Ed Salvato -

How rare it is to personally witness the birth of a gay-friendly destination. But I recently had that thrilling experience. In fact, you could say I was one of the midwives, ushering in the latest rainbow-swaddled baby, Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island, or P.E.I. as it’s known to friends, is the smallest of Canada’s provinces, an island counting only 140,000 inhabitants, which built its first bridge to the mainland only thirteen years ago. You could say it’s slow to reach out to its neighbors. However, when P.E.I. does embrace new people, it does it with gusto.

So it has done with the LGBT travel segment. P.E.I. recently launched GayPEI, a gay tourism association which brings together hotels, restaurants, attractions, tour agencies, and others interested in warmly welcoming lesbian and gay travelers to the island.

P.E.I. invited yours truly and Jeff Guaracino, a fellow gay travel expert to speak about the advantages of gay tourism to the larger tourism association, TIAPEI.

(You can read the entirety of our talk (which made headline news in the provincial paper) by clicking here.)

These, and many other baby steps, are important for LGBT travelers to know. But what may be most important is that, as with all visitors, Prince Edward Island is a friendly island known for its fresh seafood (P.E.I. mussels, anyone?), farm-to-table cuisine, gorgeous untrammeled scenery, and cozy historic B&Bs.

In short, P.E.I. is an island that feels a bit cut off in a good way for folks who want to escape without going too far.

Here are a few of our (new) favorite things.


Homes away from home

I stayed at the stately Shipwright Inn, a historic, gay-friendly B&B (with tasty homemade breakfasts that included blueberry pancakes and fresh strips of bacon) run by a British ex-pat husband and wife team. Two lovely gay-owned, gay-operated properties where you’ll feel very comfortable include Rainbow Lodge, probably a good choice for value seekers and the Cranford Inn, a four and a half star contemporary B&B, run by a a fabulous lesbian couple.


Mussel worship

P.E.I. is justifiably known for its seafood, including its world-renown eponymous mussels. Indulge yourself! But don’t neglect the oysters and other seafood. It’s almost hard to find a bad meal here.

Off Broadway Restaurant comes highly recommended by Charlottetown foodies as much for its intimate atmosphere and fine service to its mouthwatering cuisine.


Drink up

Upstairs from Off Broadway is 42nd Street Lounge, which was Charlottetown’s first martini bar when it opened in ’98. It’s a great place to re-cap your day over a strong, inexpensive libation.

A popular, vibrant alternative is the more raucous Gahan House, a brewer of handcrafted ales. A terrific spot for a beer (or three), it also offers tasty pub food.

Get out

For a tiny island with just over 140,000 souls there is a surprising number of activities, sites, culture, and history to explore. In fact, P.E.I. is known as the birthplace of Canada’s Confederation because in 1864, the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec met in Charlottetown to form the new nation.

And of course Anne of Green Gables is one of the island’s most important tourism draws.

The island’s strongest suit is probably the outdoors, with cycling, hiking, autumn leaf-peeping, and beach-going among the most enjoyable activities.

Surprisingly the waters surrounding the island are among the warmest north of North Carolina so in the summer pack your bathing suit. There’s also an unofficial nude beach - Blooming Point with its ten miles of white sand - popular with local and visiting gay women and men.

More Information

Tourism Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Ed Salvato is a gay travel expert, editor, and writer. He recently joined OutThink Partners, a strategic marketing and communications agency specializing in the LGBT travel segment, as managing director of their New York City office.

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