Prince Edward Island facts

82 Interesting Facts About Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest and only island province. Besides providing the setting for Anne of Green Gables, what else is the “Cradle of Confederation” known for?

Find out below with this comprehensive list of general, fun, interesting, and historical facts about PEI!

General Prince Edward Island Facts

  • Prince Edward Island is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada.
  • PEI is by far the smallest province and the only one that is an island.
  • No point in PEI is more than 16 km (10 mi) from the sea.
  • PEI is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, where the Saint Lawrence River (fed by the Great Lakes) spills into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • It is only about 15 km (9.3. mi) off the coast of New Brunswick and 22 km (13.7 mi) off the coast of Nova Scotia.
  • The 12.9 km (8 mi) Confederation Bridge crosses the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. It provides the only land access to PEI. On the NB side, the bridge actually starts on a small island off the coast called Cape Jourimain, which is also a wildlife preserve.
Confederation Bridge to PEI at dusk
Confederation Bridge
  • The bridge is the longest in Canada and the longest in the world that goes over frozen water (in winter, that is). 59.4% of PEI residents voted in favour of the “Fixed Link” (as it was nicknamed) in a 1988 referendum. Currently, it costs $50 to cross the bridge by car.
  • PEI is 5660 km2 (2190 mi2), which is 0.057% of Canada’s total land area. It is similar in size to Bali, Indonesia, and 1/10th the size of the next smallest province, Nova Scotia. In the US, only the state of Rhode Island is smaller than PEI.
  • There are 22 islands in Canada that are larger than PEI, and PEI is the 104th largest island in the world.
  • PEI is home to 166,000 people, less than any other province (but more than 3 times as much as any of the territories).
  • Because of its small size, it has the highest population density of any province in Canada, with 29 people per km2 (76 per mi2).
View of central Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island
Pretty Charlottetown
  • The capital city of PEI is Charlottetown. With 52,390 people, it is only the 59th largest city in Canada. Around 80,000 people live in the greater Charlottetown area, about half the island’s population.
  • Besides Charlottetown, there is only one other city in PEI: Summerside. All other communities are officially towns or rural municipalities.
  • At its narrowest point, Summerside, PEI is only 5 km (3.1 mi) across.
  • People from PEI are called Prince Edward Islanders, but they most commonly simple call themselves “Islanders”.
  • PEI was traditionally home to the Miꞌkmaq people. Today, indigenous people account for less than 2% of the population.
A line of roads leading to a lighthouse in a bay at Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Indian Head Lighthouse in the Summerside Harbour
  • There are few ethnic minorities in PEI. The largest non-white group is Chinese, at only 1.3%.
  • Most people speak English in PEI. Only one small township, the Evangeline Region on the island’s southwest, has a francophone majority.
  • PEI is named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the 4th son of King George III. As father of Queen Victoria, he is sometimes called the “Father of the Canadian Crown” because she was queen at the time of Canada’s Confederation and shaped many events in the country.
  • Charlottetown gets its name from Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III and father of Prince Edward. The Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii) in British Columbia are also named after her.
  • The Miꞌkmaq call PEI Abegweit, which means “land cradled in the waves.”
A striped lighthouse on a red sand beach in PEI Canada
West Point Lighthouse, PEI
  • When the French settled the island before the British, they called it Île Saint-Jean (St. John’s Island).
  • Nicknames for PEI include “Garden of the Gulf”, “The Gentle Island,”, “Cradle of Confederation”, and “Birthplace of Confederation”. The latter can be seen on PEI license plates.
  • Despite the nickname, the province did not join Canada until 6 years after Confederation. The name comes from the fact that the meeting to discuss Confederation took place there (the Charlottetown Conference).
  • The official acronym for PEI is simply “PE”.
  • The flag of PEI has an English heraldic lion on top, which also appeared on the coat of arms of Prince Edward, and an island with 3 small trees representing the 3 counties of PEI, under the protection of a large tree (England).  
PEI flag
The flag of PEI
  • The red fox is the official mammal of PEI (fun fact: the red fox is also the state mammal of Mississippi, USA).
  • PEI’s sister province is Hainan, China, which is also an island, about 6 times larger than PEI.  

Random Interesting Facts about PEI

  • A quarter of all Canadian potatoes are grown in PEI. For this reason, it is sometimes called the “Idaho of Canada” (Idaho grows the most potatoes in the US), and people from there are sometimes called “Spud Islanders”.
  • Greenwich in Prince Edward Island National Park, the province’s only national park, is famous for its large sand dunes. The park runs along the north coast and is only a couple hundred meters wide at parts.
Waves splashing up against red sandstone cliffs in PEI National Park
Sandstone cliffs in Prince Edward Island National Park
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables (1908), was born in Clifton (now “New London”), PEI. It is the best-selling Canadian book, having sold 50 million copies.
  • The book, along with the many other stories Montgomery wrote, are set in and inspired by PEI. It has also been adapted as a movie, TV series, and animated show.
Old house at Green Gables Heritage Place
Where Anne of Green Gables was set
  • The Charlottetown Festival features an Anne of Green Gables musical, the longest running musical in Canada (going since 1965!)
  • Charlottetown is one of the prettiest provincial capitals in Canada, featuring Victorian-era architecture and a lack of skyscrapers.
  • There are over two dozen provincial parks in PEI, many of which feature reddish white sandy beaches. In total, beaches cover 800 km (497 mi) of PEI’s total 1100 km (680 mi) coastline .
  • The 470 km (292 mi) Confederation Trail is a network of cycling trails across PEI, many of which follow abandoned railway lines. The trail is almost totally flat.
  • Confederation Trail is PEI’s portion of the Trans Canada Trail, the longest recreational, multi-use trail in the world.
  • There are more that 30 golf courses in PEI.
A cycling trail in a forest, called Confederation Trail
Confederation Trail
  • Hillsborough River nearly traverses the whole island from north to south before becoming an estuary where it meets Charlottetown Harbour.
  • The highest point in PEI is only 142 m (466 ft), the lowest of any provincial high point in Canada.
  • PEI’s reddish soil gets its colour from high iron content, which turns red when exposed to oxygen.
  • Places in PEI named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Stathearn (besides the island name itself) include Prince Edward Battery, Kent College (later University of PEI), Kent Street, and West Kent Elementary School.
  • PEI has milder weather because of the relatively warm waters of the Saint Lawrence River, but its weather tends to fluctuate dramatically.
Rows of potatoes growing in a field in PEI, with ocean visible in the background
Potato field in PEI
  • Most of PEI is pastoral, and small-scale agriculture is the foundation of the economy. Potatoes account for 1/3rd of agricultural earnings.
  • In 2019, PEI welcomed 1.6 million tourists, around 10 times the island’s total population.
  • PEI gets all of its drinking water from wells in the ground.
  • PEI used to have wild moose, bear, caribou, and wolves. Today, the only larger mammals are foxes and coyotes.
Colourful oyster barns and a boat in a harbour in PEI
Oyster barns in PEI
  • PEI has a higher concentration of roadways than any other province.
  • Billboards are banned along highways in PEI.  
  • Cows Creamery is one of the most famous companies that started in PEI. It has been named Canada’s best ice cream in a survey. There’s even a branch in Beijing, China.
  • Myriad View Artisan Distillery in PEI produces Canada’s only legal moonshine (it’s 75% alcohol!), in honour of the island’s bootlegging past.  
Logo of Cows Creamery
Cows Creamery, one of PEI’s most famous exports
  • Celtic music is very common in PEI, similar to the music in Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.
  • The folk musician Stompin’ Tom Connors was born in New Brunswick but grew up in PEI.

Historical PEI facts

  • Prince Edward Island began to be formed 250 to 300 million years ago from sediments deposited by ancient streams flowing down the continental mountains. Most of the bedrock in PEI is thus made of red sandstone.
  • PEI was once connected to the mainland, until melting glaciers caused the sea level to rise.
A beach made of red sand in Prince Edward Island
Red sand beach in PEI
  • Jacques Cartier of France was the first European to arrive in PEI. France claimed PEI and other parts of Maritime Canada, calling it Acadie (Acadia). The first settlements were around Port La Joie (the port of Charlottetown today).
  • In 1713, the French named the island Île Saint-Jean (Saint John Island).  
  • In 1745, the English captured the island, but it was returned to the French in 1748.
  • The British won control of PEI and the rest of the Maritimes in 1763. Saint John’s Island (PEI) was a treated as its own colony.
Exterior of St. Dunstan's Basilica, a cathedral in Charlottetown PEI
St. Dunstan’s Basilica (1907) is the tallest structure in Charlottetown.
  • When the British began expelling thousands of Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, many of them initially fled to PEI, but they were later imprisoned or expelled as well.
  • In 1799, Saint John’s Island was renamed Prince Edward Island.
  • In 1842, The Islander, the first newspaper in PEI, began publication.
  • Canada’s Confederation occurred in 1867 (uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia). PEI didn’t join, as it was considering becoming its own dominion, or possibly joining the US.
  • In 1873, PEI joined, becoming Canada’s 7th province.
Bronze statue in Charlottetown in front of some coloful buildings
Statue of 2 “Fathers of Confederation” on Great George Street
  • In 1874, Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, was born in PEI.
  • In 1919, PEI allowed the first cars onto the island.
  • In 1937, Prince Edward Island National Park was established.
  • In 1963, First Nations gained the right to vote in PEI.
  • In 1964, 100 years after the Charlottetown Conference, the federal and provincial governments of Canada funded the building of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.
  • PEI banned all non-refillable drink cans and bottles in 1984, but the ban was lifted in 2006.
View of the harbour of Charlottetown
The Charlottetown harbour front
  • In 1989, PEI abandoned its CN railway system. Many lines were later turned into cycling trails.
  • In 1997, the Confederation Bridge opened, connecting PEI to the mainland.
  • In 1998, bobsledders David MacEachern and Pierre Lueders won PEI’s first Olympic gold medal at Nagano, Japan.
  • PEI native Heather Moyse also won Olympic gold in bobsledding in 2010 in Vancouver, and again in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
  • In early 2022, potato farmers in PEI were hit with a ban after their potatoes were found to have potato wart disease.
  • In 2022, Hurricane Fiona hit PEI, leaving most of the island’s residents without power. It became the costliest weather event in Atlantic Canadian history.

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