Monday, September 14, 2015

PEI National Park - a Tale of Two (Three) Parks


Prince Edward Island has exactly one National Park - not surprising, given its tiny size. However, the park is spread out along the northern shore of the island, a little piece here, a little piece there. The park has three main sections - going from west to east, there's one at Cavendish, one at Brackley-Dalvay, and one at Greenwich. While the Cavendish section is probably the most-visited portion of the park (thanks to Green Gables and a popular nearby beach), we missed it this time round, spending a day in the Brackley-Dalvay section and a day at Greenwich instead.


Brackley-Dalvay is biggest section of the park. It contains three beaches with at least some form of facilities (Brackley, Ross Lane, and Stanhope), along with miles of open coastline. There are walking trails, campgrounds, and it's relatively safe to ride your bike along the road here. This area is also probably your best chance of encountering a PEI fox - they're practically tame in the park, and really, really cute.

Much like us. 

There are a few restaurants within the park, and saying you're going to any of them gains you free admittance. (Not that I'm advocating non-payment - park staff is generally only present to collect payment in the high season anyway. Come in shoulder season, and you can often drive right in.) Covehead Wharf has a couple places to eat, including Richard's Seafood. We stopped, but decided to skip it after a glance at the line. Instead, we took a nice little walk under the bridge and down the beach to Covehead Harbour Light, probably the most-photographed lighthouse on the island. Dalvay-by-the-Sea is your upscale option, which I'll discuss more in an upcoming post.

  

The park is book-ended by two other places worth checking out. On the western edge is North Rustico, home to a lighthouse and the Blue Mussel Cafe. On the eastern edge is the Dunes Gallery, one of the largest and most eclectic places to shop for arts and crafts. They have a large section of merchandise from South East Asia, and the decor and gardens reflect that.

  

The Greenwich section of PEI National Park is probably the least visited of the three, being the most "out of the way" from the central island drive. The land was once a farm, but is remarkably diverse for such a small area. You've got woods, beaches, and parabolic dunes.

And fields of fireweed for taking lots of self-indulgent pictures.

Your visit to Greenwich starts at the Interpretive Centre, where you have a couple of choices. You can drive a bit further and then take a short walk to the beach, or you can walk a longer trail which then splits off between woods and dunes. I feel like the dunes are the most unique part of Greenwich, so we'll follow the latter.

You start out walking down a country lane with woods and overgrown fields to your right and water to your left. Soon, the trail splits, leading you through the woods. (Be sure to bring bug repellent!) This year, the trail was more crowded than we've ever seen it before, despite being an overcast day.

 

We also ran into an angry chipmunk, who yelled at up from the safety of his tree perch. Pretty soon, the woods began to part, the winding boardwalk leading you over marshlands and water on your way to the dunes.

 

Parabolic dunes are dunes that have a vegetative covering that anchors the ends in place. Meanwhile, the wind erodes the middle, making a shape almost like a ship's sail. The blown-out center of the dune will continue to migrate while the anchoring arms move more slowly.

 

Walk up the dunes from the beach side for a great view. (And a photo op with red national parks Adirondacks.) Even as we were complaining about how "crowded" the trail had been, we noted that the dunes and beach were fairly abandoned.




A good, super-casual place to eat after a visit to Greenwich is Rick's Fish 'n Chips in Saint Peters Bay. You can find more information on PEI National Park at their website.

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