Planning for PEI: the hunt for the perfect seaside cottage

by DaniGirl on June 6, 2014 · 3 comments

in Ottawa to PEI 2014

A couple of you have asked why we chose PEI and where we’ll be staying.

We chose PEI the same way and with the same lack of intention we chose Nova Scotia a few years ago – a vague idea that it seemed like a nice place, a proximity to the ocean, a sense that we should show the boys as much of our beautiful country as we can, and some rave reviews from people who had been there or were from there. Oh, and the possibility of taking a pretty picture or two. (What, you don’t plan your family vacation around potential photo ops?!?)

It was in the frozen heart of January, in the very depths of a relentless winter, that we started making our plans. Other people were talking about island vacations to escape the miserable winter and we joked we were planning an island getaway, too – for six months hence.

PEI just seems like a lovely place, doesn’t it? People get this nostalgic happy haze around them when they talk about it. Narrowing down a region was easy – we avoided the far north western tip as a bit too remote, and everything else was accessible. Heck the whole island is less than 300 km tip to tip and only 64 km wide at its widest point. And I love the fact that the tourism brochures brag that no point in the province is further than 16 km from the sea. I must have been a fishwife or a sailor in a past life, because for a girl who grew up landlocked I am drawn viscerally to the idea of the sea.

We sorted through dozens and dozens of cabin and cottage rentals, considering every region of the province. We had a short list of must-have amenities:

  • must have ocean view, preference for ocean access
  • minimum three bedroom, five separate beds preferred
  • must have cable TV
  • must be within 3G coverage range
  • needs full kitchen, washer and dryer on site preferred
  • a little bit of elbow room from the neighbours – no cottage clusters

After some discussion and soul-searching, we added a final criterion: must have wi-fi. I tried to convince myself, and Beloved, that it would probably be fine if we didn’t have wi-fi access, that we could get by on a bare minimum with me occasionally checking my messages via 3G and letting the rest of the family go on an Internet detox, but I now see that I was deluding myself.

If I were to fall in love with PEI, which I fully expect to do, to the extent that I wanted to quit my day job and move the family out there on a permanent basis (don’t worry Mom, just speculating and spit-balling) then I really think I could make a career for myself as a cottage web listing consultant and photographer. Oy. I know I’m a webby sort of girl, but after sifting through dozens (it felt like hundreds) of web listings for cottages, I have a few recommendations. First, you don’t need more than one photo of Anne of Green Gables in your listing. We get it. Second, while the photo of your lawn furniture is nice, I would really rather see the kitchen. Third, if you printed your photos out at the PhotoHut in 1993 and you have a date stamp printed on them, you might want to consider something from this millennium. (Not kidding on that one.)

These were a few of the early contenders:

I have a soft spot for quirkiness, and this little cottage near Savage Harbour had high quirk factor. I loved the idea of being in a fishing village but was afraid this one would be a little far off the beaten path and a little cramped for us.

We were all ready to rent this lovely log cabin on the south shore when we found it for sale on a real estate listing. I just couldn’t see us risking having the cottage sell some time between when we were looking at making our booking and our planned vacation six months hence. Ironically, it looks like it’s still available. Oh well.

This one scored high on quirk factor as well – the main bedroom is in a little gazebo separate from the main building, on a cliff overlooking the sea.

In addition to being a fishwife in a former life, there’s a good chance that I might have been a farmer, because I find farms *almost* as fascinating as the ocean. I really loved the idea of staying in a cottage on a working dairy farm, with an open invitation to visit the barns during milking time, but Beloved was less enamoured with the idea.

In the end, we fell in love with a three-bedroom cottage overlooking the point where the Murray River opens into Northumberland Strait. We’ll be there at the tail end of lobster season, so I understand we’ll be able to see the lobster fishers heading out and in with their daily catch, and the islands in the harbour are apparently home to PEI’s largest seal colony. The cottage itself looks small but tidy, with neighbours half a kilometer away on either side and 75 feet of open lawn leading to red sandstone cliffs overlooking the ocean with beach access. Morning coffee watching the sun rise over the ocean? Hells yes!

It’s a 10 minute drive to the booming metropolis of Murray River (population 358), featuring “a gas station, a fire/police station, a grocery, a restaurant, a number of churches, and a number of wharves.” Not to be confused with Murray Harbour, just 10 km around the bend, or North Murray Harbour, which is up the coast a bit in the other direction.

Photo courtesy of

I. am. so . excited!

Okay, one more post in this series to talk about some of the things we want to do and see (and, erm, photograph!) while we’re there. Less than a month to go!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leanne June 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Sounds great! My mother was born in Murray Harbour. When you drive through the village, you’ll come across this house: The house was built by my great-great-grandfather, Senator Samuel Prowse, who was a merchant and owned a lobster cannery and a starch factory before he went into politics. My great grandfather and grandfather were both born in that house, and my mother was born in the house across the street. I grew up in Charlottetown, and we frequently went to Murray Harbour to visit my mom’s aunt and uncle, who were living in there at the time.

Have you figured out your route? Now that the Yarmouth-Portland ferry, you could consider going through NS and Maine in one direction. Even if you don’t decide to do that, Murray River is quite close to Wood Islands, so you could take the PEI-NS ferry in one direction and the bridge in the other.

Happy to answer any other PEI questions you may have. I’ve only been there a couple of times in recent years, but I worked for PEI tourism all through high school. It may have been some *cough*30*cough* years ago, but I still know the Island pretty well.

2 DaniGirl June 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Leanne, this was really interesting to read – great comment, thank you! I may yet take you up on your offer of tour-professional suggestions! 🙂

3 Jen Lawrence June 23, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Looking forward to hearing the details. We are headed there later this summer!

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