Thursday, August 20, 2015

Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Coastal Lighthouse Route.

Confederation Bridge from Marine Rail Park, Borden-Carlton PEI.
Fred and I had not planned to visit Prince Edward Island on this trip to the Maritimes but being so close we couldn't let the opportunity pass. We have always loved a day trip, and PEI gave us a perfect excuse for a drive.

We left Hopewell Cape early and headed North. The weather was iffy, very foggy with some misty moisty rain.   The kind of day where you are not sure if it's raining or if the fog is just getting thicker.

We entered PEI via the Confederation Bridge and headed West as we had decided to spend the day exploring the North Cape Coastal Drive. Our goal being to visit as many lighthouses as we could fit into the day. Lighthouse adventures are an enjoyable way to spend a day. Lights are often a bit of a mystery to find since even though they are marked on a map, most don't have addresses and you must guess about access roads and best vantage points for viewing. Many of them are bordered by private or commercial property and require negotiation to see them at all. 

Port Borden Rear Range Light

Port Borden Front Range Light.
The first lights that we saw were the Range lights for the Harbor of Borden-Carlton.  The Front Range Light has been abandoned and neglected since 1997. It is located on the grounds of a cannery so we could only see it from a distance. The Rear Range Light has been moved to the base of the Confederation Bridge in The Marine Rail Park.  The lights were automated in 1957 and then decommissioned in 1997 when the opening of the bridge rendered local ferry service obsolete.

Canola Fields.
The drive West  took us through rural farming communities.  There were potato fields as far as the eye could see. We rounded a corner at the top of a slight grade and came upon these beautiful fields of Canola's bright yellow flowers.  They were like patches of sunshine on this cloudy day.

Summerside gave us the opportunity to see 3 lights.

Indian Harbor Light
We got a distant look at Indian Harbor light across the Dunk River where it meets Hillsborough Bay. This light was constructed and put into service in 1881. Indian Harbor has been automated since 1961 and remains an active aid to navigation.

Summerside harbor Range Light.
Summerside is also home to 3 range lights.  We were able to locate 2 of the 3. These range lights guide vessels to the mouth of Summerside Harbor. They are similar in appearance with square lantern rooms and a white, trapezoidal daymark with a red vertical stripe.

Cape Egmont
Cape Egmont was one of the lighthouses that we had to work a bit to find. The road out to the light is off limits so we found a small Marina nearby that got us close enough to grab a picture. A very optimistic sailor was working on the Key West I.  This light was completed and activated in 1884 as a guide overlooking Northumberland strait. It was electrified and automated in 1958 and remains an active aid to navigation. Cape Egmont was awarded provincial heritage status in 2013.
We left Cape Egmont and headed inland.  The town of O'leary is home to a museum dedicated to Prince Edward Island's  largest crop.   The Canadian Potato Museum was a don't miss for us.  The museum  tells the story of potato farming but also the history of PEI's farming community. Fred enjoyed walking around its large  collection of farm implements and machinery and sampling the best hand cut french fries in the world!
The Canadian Potato Museum. How could we pass it by?

North Cape Light.

Leaving the potato museum we headed straight to North Cape, the northern most point of the island. The North Cape Light provides a guide to protect mariners from what is said to be the longest rocky reef in North America at 1 1/2 miles. The reef divides the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait. North Cape is an impressive structure at the top of a rocky cliff 76 feet above sea level. It was a pleasure to get close enough to see the beauty of its lens.

We were surprised to find the light house surrounded by a Wind Farm and the Wind Energy Interpretive Centre.  The Interpretive Centre has created an interesting and rustic walking path called the Black Marsh Nature Trail that meanders between the rocky red clay cliffs and the field of wind turbines.   There were small birds nesting in holes in the cliffs and a lone Great Blue Heron fishing in the ocean below. 

The Wind Energy Interpretive Center at North Cape.
Back on the road and heading South we located Tignish Run near Judes Point. This decommissioned light was in operation from 1887 to 1997. It has since been moved from the Harbor Entrance to Fishermans Haven Park where the community has adopted it and built a park around it. There is a playground, a boardwalk and a red sand beach.  The light house is open to the public when someone is manning the ice cream shop next door (they were closed).  

Tignish Run
We attempted to locate Old Miminigash Range Light but despite treks down 2 muddy, potholed dirt roads and a hike on the beach we were unsuccessful  in our search.  We did however  locate a car wash.

Northport Range Light.
Our last sighting of the day was Old Northport Range light in Northport. This was another off shore structure but we got a good view of it from the dock of a local restaurant.  Old Northport range was manned from 1885-1961 and now automated remains an active aid to navigation.

We crossed back over the Confederation Bridge tired but happy after a day of exploring. we saw enough of the Island to know that when we visit the Maritimes again we will spend a few more days exploring the shores of Prince Edward Island.
Flags of Canada and Prince Edward Island.


  1. Oh, I am so glad you took the effort to go to PEI, Bonnie! We didn't make it last time, and we really want to go there. Love the lens at North Cape. Do you know what order it was?

    1. Its a 4th order Bull's-eye lens. I don't know if it was the overcast day or the amber color of the glass but the detail really stood out. Next time we plan to spend a few days on the island but will go in the Fall I think.