Cruising: Prince Edward Island

Princess Edward Island is the go-to cruising port for seafood lovers.

prince edward island
Prince Edward Island, Canada.Tourism PEI/Paul Baglole

Every island promotes its views as the absolute best, but yachtsmen who visit Canada’s Prince Edward Island can see colors that are hard to find elsewhere, even during a lifetime of cruising.

The shades of yellow that dominate PEI’s canola fields have been called everything from golden to buttery. They pop against the rich blue waters every year by about late July — prime cruising season with water temperatures that, tourism officials swear, are the warmest north of the ­Carolinas.

The number of fields seeded varies from year to year, with around 700 acres of canola being planted across PEI. They’re just a fraction of the overall production throughout Canada, where 22.8 million acres made canola the nation’s top crop (dethroning wheat) in 2017. Farmers are cashing in not only on consumer demand for products such as canola oil, but also on the crop’s use in biodiesel.

The result is seen ­pretty much everywhere on PEI, including in many restaurants that welcome transient boaters to the capital city of Charlottetown. The Charlottetown Marina books slips for yachts up to about 60 feet length overall at per-night and per-week rates, and co-owner Conner Reid says the on-site restaurant, Steamers Boat House, cooks its french fries, fried clams, fish and chips, and more in — you guessed it — canola oil. Or patrons can order a bucket of mussels (and skip the accompanying bucket of beer) if they want to eat on the healthier side.

Reid also owns Peakes Quay Marina in Charlottetown and has transient slips there for yachts up to about 60 feet too. Reservations are ideal, especially during the summer, but he says that even last-minute arrivals can get lucky.

prince edward island
Prince Edward Island is known for its oysters, mussels and clams. About 130 PEI growers produced about 41 million pounds of mussels in 2017. That’s a major industry looking to protect the haul, so yachtsmen are required to respect fisheries’ rules, which are posted online.Tourism PEI/Stephen Harris

“If we don’t have space, we call the yacht club and they try to help,” he says. “It’s a small community. You’re traveling on a boat, and there are only a few options for people staying on a boat, so we work hard to accommodate them.”

Ground Intel

Hold out for more: Summertime may be the weather-friendliest option for cruisers headed to Prince Edward Island, but if you can wait until September, you'll be there during the monthlong PEI Fall Flavours Festival as well as the International Shellfish Festival (September 13-16).

Bring, or rent, a bicycle: PEI's Heritage Roads are a cacophony of colors every autumn. You can walk or bicycle along them, and guided tours are available.

Mind the cruise ships: Charlottetown is where the cruise ships come in from May through November. To avoid them while visiting the historic seaport, check the schedule.