From one island to another

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

From coast to coast. From one island to another. Finally. But when we approached Prince Edward Island I started feeling anxious about crossing the 13 kilometre Confederation Bridge. It’s the 23rd longest bridge in the world and the longest one that crosses ice-covered water. 

We stopped before we crossed to take a look at the structure. It was mind boggling to imagine how the bridge was constructed and scary to think about its possible failure (the crumbling concrete in Montreal), never mind that I get worried on bridges longer than a few car lengths and higher than a stepladder. When we drove onto the Confederation the whole thing felt wrong. I was sad for the islanders who lost their island. What makes an island an island, to me, is that you can’t drive onto it. I was confused because once we were driving onto an island what would it become?

After the 15 minute ride (held up for several worrisome minutes by road repairs) and our descent into Borden Carlton (the bridge reaches 140 meters high) I felt like I was on the other side of a very wide river or, perhaps, a large lake. Coming from Vancouver Island I realized that my dye had been cast—Prince Edward Island couldn’t be an island because there had been no ferry ride. But its uniqueness struck me as soon as we ‘landed’.

PEI is a low rolling mound of soft red sandstone that looks like it has been frayed in random sections and around the edges making a patchwork landscape of red soil and red sand and green fields. Maybe it’s the redness of the soil that makes the trees and grasses greener and the sky bluer--I’ve never seen anything like it.

Only a few minutes off the bridge visitors are greeted by Julie’s Yarn Shop. We held a workshop in her home/store with the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting from the kitchen.


Charlottetown is the place where the Canadian part of this "Great Canadian" road trip got started. The city is crowded with reminders that it is where the idea of Canada turned into reality. The city has wonderful restaurants and bed and breakfasts in 19th century buildings named after Canada's who's who.

Music with breakfast at the Sonata Inn in Charlottetown

For wool lovers PEI punches way above its weight by having two of the countries four most significant woolen mills. MacAusland’s started out in 1870 as a sawmill and gristmill. In 1902 the company began producing yarn and in 1932 they turned out their first woolen blankets. 


Compared to Custom Woolen Mills, Briggs & Little and MacAusland’s Belfast Mini- Mills is a tiny wool producer. But because of its size the mill has the capacity to produce small batches of specialty yarns such as angora, qiviat, Samoyed…you name it. On the same property Belfast also designs and manufactures fiber processing machines and sells them to more than 35 countries.

It didn't take long for me to get the island feel back in PEI. The inlets and beaches and harbours reminded me of the islandness. But it wasn’t until we were waiting in the line-up for the ferry to Nova Scotia that I really knew for sure that PEI was an island just like it must have been before you could drive to its beautiful shores.




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