Exploring North Cape – the Most Northwesterly Tip of Prince Edward Island
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Although Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada and North Cape can be explored in a day or two, I still took the time to enjoy everything North Cape has to offer.
Even though most towns in North Cape are small and are partly shut down at the end of May (peak season starts in June), it is still full of fun activities and sites to explore. The road is easy to drive on and it has classic island scenery, including white and red sand beaches, red sandstone capes, museums, and greenish farmlands. There are warm locals, but not many tourists. If you love nature and under-the-radar places, North Cape coastal drive is a wonderful trip for you.
For those who are planning a trip to North Cape, here are my recommendations for places to see and things to do.
How to get to the North Cape
From Charlottetown or Summerside, you have two choices: take the North Cape Coastal Drive (Route 12 and Route 14) all the way to Tignish, the major town closest to North Cape, or Highway 2. While the North Cape Coastal Drive may take twice the time to travel as Highway 2, the gorgeous coastal scenery is well-worth the extra journey. I took Route 12 to North Cape from Summerside, and Route 14 and Highway 2 back for maximum experience.
Please note that travel to North Cape requires a car. There is no public transport available out of Charlottetown and Summerside. You can either rent a car in Charlottetown or drive your own vehicle.
Explore North Cape
North Cape Coastal Drive involves stunning coastlines, national parks, museums, and quaint villages and towns.
Tignish is the closest town to North Cape and it is where I stayed during my North Cape trip. If you plan to visit North Cape, the Tignish Shore, and part of Route 14 where Skinners Pond lies, this town is your perfect stop for overnights stay.
You can find everything in Tignish: grocery shops, banks, a church, a gas station, hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and fisheries. Many visitors go on a one-day trip to North Cape from the Charlottetown or Summerside, but it does not hurt to stay there and explore more of its surroundings.
Jacques Cartier Provincial Park
Jacques Cartier Provincial Park is a beach park north of Alberton on the way to North Cape. There are beaches with strong currents where you can swim and go boogie boarding. When I was there, part of the park is closed, but it is still a great place for beach goers to take a pit stop and enjoy the serene beauty this park has to offer.
Beach walking is a popular activity at Tignish Shore. It is the best way to see what Tignish Shore has to offer, with the lighthouse, tides, and fishing boats and the beach house all coming into view. Collecting seashells and sea glass at Tignish Shore is a joyful experience for visitors. They are wonderful presents to bring to your family and friends, and yourself. One can also spend their afternoon looking for starfish along the shore.
Skinners Pond is an unincorporated area located on the northern western portion of Prince Edward Island. It does not have any shops, AMTs, gas stations, lodges, or commercial buildings. All you can see is stunning contrasts of the farm fields and the long stretch of the coastlines as far as the eyes can see. The farm fields have windmills that generate electricity to parts of the island, and the coastlines are dotted with colorful houses. Skinners Pond is believed to be the off-the-beaten track as there are hardly any tourists, and it did not show up on my GPS. It is a perfect place to view the sunset, and, if you go, chances are you will have the entire area on your own.
Canadian Potato Museum
Prince Edward Island is famous for potatoes and the Canadian Potato Museum is built to take you through the history and the culture of potatoes. The most popular site at the Canadian Potato Museum is the big sculptured potato at the entrance, where visitors are keen in taking a picture with. There are snacks for sale in the museum and they are all made by potatoes.
MacAusland’s Woollen Mills
If you take Highway 2 or Route 14, I recommend that you visit MacAusland’s Woolen Mills to watch the process of producing 100% pure virgin wool blankets. MacAusland’s Wollen Mills is a family business that has operated for three centuries and it produces the iconic MacAusland Blanket through intricate and quality crafting. The manufacturing process takes place on the first floor where you can walk around the area and watch how the raw wool gets washed, dyed, and cut into the blankets and folded. The second floor is where you will find blankets and other woolen-made products for purchase.
Sitting on the most northwesterly tip of Prince Edward Island is North Cape, where the tides from the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait meet, and 17 giant windmills stand on North America’s longest natural rock reef. Here features a large wind farm where you can check out the churning turbines that have an unbelievable size of the blades and pods, and look up the windmills in its full force. Another favorite activity of mine is to walk on the natural reefs and the sea, listen to the waves crash against the shore, feel the wind come from all directions, and take in the feeling that I am at the end of the island. There is a Wind Energy Interpretive Center where visitors can see the energy exhibit and learn more about the physics background behind it.
The sunset on the North Cape is one of the best on the island. If you have time to stay till the sundown, definitely do this. I missed it and I still wish I would witness the sunset there one day.
Where to stay
Murphy’s Tourist Home and Cottages: I stayed at Murphy’s Tourist Home and Cottages in Tignish. The hosts Peter and Louise are very friendly and helpful. Knowing I am a seafood fanatic, they referred me to the fisheries to get live lobsters and even offered to cook them for my dinner. They also shared stories of their home and their neighbors, and showed me pictures of the sunsets on North Cape.
Tips for Visiting North Cape
A PEI highway map is a must. The map is available at your accommodation and visitor center. Route 12, Route 14, and Highway 2 are paved and easy to travel. There are some unpaved roads branching off the main road taking you to an adventure in the suburbs. Those unpaved roads are in very rough shape and are not recommended to travel. The map will clearly indicate where those unpaved roads are.
Bring a jacket and dress in layers, especially if you plan to visit North Cape. I walked on the reefs for an hour and the strong wind made the spring air crispy.
For seafood, you can purchase pre-cooked and live lobster in Royal Star Foods Fish Mart in Tignish for a very low price. I bought two lobsters for only $16.
I hope this post helps you plan your travels to Prince Edward Island and offers you better insights of North Cape. Although I traveled there in the low season and the accommodation was no way in my budget, the experience, the beautiful and peaceful scenery, the down-to-earth locals, and the remoteness just made me want to return there every summer.
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