On PEI you can get close to nature by riding or walking on the Confederation Trail. This tip-to-tip, groomed pathway built on a former railway right-of-way is part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Cycling or hiking the entire trail from in the west to Elmira in the East is a popular challenge. If one’s time and fitness do not permit such an ambitious holiday, spending a day or part of a day on the trail is a great introduction to the variety of natural habitats of Prince Edward Island.
Beginning on the western end of the trail near Tignish you pass through woodland and marshes with resident beavers and often noisy red-winged blackbirds. Further on toward the town of Elmsdale the environment turns to cropland. The many fields planted with potatoes are unusually attractive for the precise geometry of the furrows and the brilliance of the flowers. In the town of O’Leary, you might wish to leave the trail for a visit to the PEI Potato Museum, where you can get answers to all the questions you have been asking yourself as you walked by the fields.
One of the unusual qualities of the Confederation Trail is that as a former railway line it passes through a number of towns and villages so you get a nice balance between a wilderness and urban walk or ride. The towns along the way are a great place to stop for a meal, a drink or you can spend the night at a Bed and Breakfast or Inn.
On the way to Summerside the trail passes through the Miscouche Swamp which is a bird watchers paradise as it is a haven for a variety of ducks and geese.
From Summerside to Charlottetown the trail passes through what on the otherwise quite flat Prince Edward Island are considered highlands. They are densely covered in hardwood. Outside Charlottetown, which can be reached along a spur of the trail, the terrain levels as the trail again passes through farmland.
At the head of the Hillsborough River, which almost bisects PEI in the middle, near the town of Mount Stewart you will be almost guaranteed a close up view of a Great Blue Heron. Also keep your eye open for Bald Eagles. You might be lucky and see a young eagle as it leaves its nest atop a tall tree and attempt to fly. You will be astonished to see how clumsy the young ones often are.
At Mount Stewart you can continue on your tip-to-tip trip or take a side trail off through farmland to Georgetown and Montague.
Past Mount Stewart on your way to East Point you will pass over the mouth of the Morell River and then along the shores of St. Peters Bay. Through farmland and forest the trail continues until its ends at Elmira. Here you can visit a restored railway station and railway museum that chronicles the history of rail transportation on Prince Edward Island.
It is worth walking or cycling on to East Point to see the lighthouse and experience the Atlantic winds that have stunted the growth of the firs. A wide variety of bird species can be seen at East Point.
Order your free Confederation Trail Cycling Guide