Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the smallest of the Canadian provinces and one of the original four that created the country of Canada. Indeed it was at Charlottetown, PEI’s provincial capital, that Confederation took place.
Nestled between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on Canada’s Atlantic coast, PEI has a rich cultural and historic heritage that goes back to the beginning days of North American colonization. In 1534 Jacques Cartier was the first European to map the island and shortly after French settlers began to arrive. The long summers and shelter from the worst of Atlantic storms meant PEI provided some of the best farm land on the continent at the time. These first 1,000 French settlers were called “Acadians” and those that settled in PEI soon developed their own culture, separated as they were from the mainland. The island at the time was called Ile Saint-Jean.
After the Seven Years’ War all French colonial posessions were handed over to England and British settlers began arriving on the island the name was changed to Prince Edward Island to honour King George III’s fourth son, Prince Edward Augustus.
PEI developed a traditional economy based on fishing, particularly the lobster fisheries, farming and horse breeding. In the mid 19th Century the cultivation of apples and pears increased PEI’s economy. The famous series Anne of Green Gables was set and filmed in Prince Edward Island and since the 1960’s tourism has become one of PEI’s biggest industries. In 1997 construction of the Confederation Bridge, linking PEI to mainland Nova Scotia, was completed. This 8 mile/13 km long bridge is the world’s 10th longest bridge and has served to increase both trade and tourism to the island.
Today there are approximately 136,000 inhabitants on the island, with 36,000 of them living in Charlottetown. The island has a reputation for peaceful, rural living and boasts one of the lowest crime rates of Canada’s provinces. Long sandy beaches, pristine golf courses and rolling green hills leave an indelible impression on the visitor, while the friendly, easy-going attitude of the people make PEI one of the jewels of Canada’s ten provinces.