8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Charlottetown
The capital of Prince Edward Island has the feel of a quiet rural town. Victorian-era streets are easily explored on foot, and the city's old harbor quarter is centrally situated on sheltered Hillsborough Bay. Named after the wife of King George III, Charlottetown is the smallest of the country's provincial capitals. But historically, it is perhaps the most significant. In September 1864, Charlottetown was the venue of the famous conference that led to the unification of Canada.
1 Confederation Centre of the Arts
The ultra-modern Confederation Centre of the Arts covers an entire city block and opened in 1964 as Canada's national monument to Confederation. It houses a museum, art gallery, provincial library, two theaters, and a restaurant. The venue is perhaps best known for the musical "Anne of Green Gables", part of the annual Charlottetown Festival held from June to September.
In the third-floor art gallery, some magnificent works by modern Canadian artists are on display. One room is devoted to Charlottetown-raised artist Robert Harris, one of Canada's most renowned painters from the turn of the century.
Every Canadian citizen paid fifteen cents towards the cost of the building. In the foyer stands a beautiful sculpture in chrome and crystal decorated with the coats-of-arms of each Canadian province, a gift from the USA to mark Canada's centenary.
2 Province House National Historic Site
Near the Confederation Centre stands Province House, the "Birthplace of Canada." This three-story sandstone building was constructed as the colonial government building from 1843-47. Today, Province House is the seat of the Parliament of Prince Edward Island, and parliamentary rooms are open to visitors.
The Confederation Chamber, where in 1864 representatives met to launch the modern state of Canada, was restored some years ago. Photographs and documents of this historic event are on display, though there are no official records of what was said during the pre-unification meetings in Charlottetown.
Address: 165 Richmond Street, Charlottetown
3 Editor's Pick St. Dunstan's Basilica
To the south of Province House, on the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets, stands St. Dunstan's Basilica. The seat of the province's Roman Catholic diocese was built at the end of the 19th century in the Neo-Gothic style. The ornate basilica is one of the largest buildings of its kind in eastern Canada, and is famed for its altar with its beautiful Italian carving and a superb rose window. The spires are an elegant feature in the city skyline.
A walk along nearby Richmond and Kent Streets takes visitors through a neighborhood of gabled houses with extensive parks and gardens, providing an impressive reminder of Charlottetown's Victorian heritage. It's a lovely area for a self-guided or guided walking tour.
Address: 45 Great George St, Charlottetown
4 Beaconsfield Historic House
At the beginning of Kent Street in Charlottetown stands Beaconsfield. The elegant villa was designed by W. C. Harris and built in 1877 with lace-like wooden decoration, a mansard roof, and a graceful dome. The mustard-yellow building is a prime example of Victorian architecture, and the interior design and furnishings of this lovely old house make a tour well worthwhile.
It now houses the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation and a bookshop, which specializes in publications relating to the island. From time to time, exhibitions of local history, lectures, and concerts are held here.
Address: 2 Kent Street, Charlottetown
5 Government House
The white edifice of Government House in Charlottetown, also called Fanningbank, is set amid the grounds of Victoria Park. Built in a Georgian style, the building became the official seat of the Governor of the island after 1835. It is now the official residence for the Lieutenant Governor of PEI, who represents Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Province. Royalty and dignitaries visit the house when on the island. Government House is open to the public during July and August only.
6 Prince Edward Battery
With its wide views, Prince Edward Battery is also in a strategic position on the harbor. A waterfront boardwalk leads from the city center out to Victoria Park and the battery, where visitors can see a row of cannons and small barracks.
In 1805, the battery was moved from Great George Street to this fortification point. It was later named Fort Edward, though the firepower never saw action. Major restoration work revitalized the site in 2001.
Address: 45 Park Roadway, Charlottetown
7 Founders' Hall
Founders' Hall, known as Canada's Birthplace Pavilion, now stands where delegates for the Charlottetown Conference arrived by boat in 1864. Exhibits in the hall focus on this key meeting of the Fathers of Confederation. A tourist information center provides local bookings and brochures on popular attractions. Guided historical walking tours and bus sightseeing tours depart from this central waterfront location.
Address: 6 Prince Street, Charlottetown
8 Port-la-Joye / Fort Amherst National Historic Site
Only grassy ruins remain from what was once the first permanent European settlement on Prince Edward Island. Jacques Cartier took possession of the island for the French in 1534, calling it Île-St-Jean. An Acadian settlement, Port la Joye, grew steadily on this point of land until the British took possession of the island and deported the Acadian settlers in 1758. With British rule came the name Fort Amherst.
Just south of the historic site, Blockhouse Point Lighthouse has been positioned at the harbor mouth since 1851. The wooden structure is a key navigational aid and the island's second oldest lighthouse.
Address: 191 Hache Gallant Lane, Rocky Point