Fresh lobster, oysters and mussels are only the beginning. These two islands located in Canada’s Atlantic provinces—English-speaking Prince Edward Island and French-accented Les Iles de la Madeleine—are a five-hour ferry ride apart and make a great destination for foodies craving small-batch, locally grown and produced edibles.
The bounty here ranges from lobster rolls, seafood chowder and potatoes to goat cheese, beer, cider and and even moonshine. Here are 15 fine-dining restaurants, casual lunch places, tasting rooms, breweries and distilleries on both islands—plus a few cool places to stay.
Foodie Favorites on Prince Edward Island
Fresh and artisanal is the order of the day every day from May to October on Canada’s smallest province, located off the coast of New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Late June to mid-September is prime time for enjoying local seafood, produce and other taste treats.
Terre Rouge: Located on Queen Street in PEI’s capital, Charlottetown, Terre Rouge is known for inventive menus created with locally sourced ingredients that burst with flavor. The seared scallops over crispy kale and the halibut with artichoke hummus, couscous and feta are both divine, while meat-lovers can opt for a burger made with ground beef infused with pork belly and vegetarians the super-tasty mushroom toast or the aromatic dill-fennel flavored Fazzoletti. Reservations recommended for dinner.
On the Dock Eatery: Sometimes a place that wasn’t on your radar turns out to be a gem. Arriving at the better-known Blue Mussel Cafe in North Rustico just as the lunch menu—and lobster roll availability—was ending forced a change of plans. Luckily, On the Dock Eatery, a casual kid-friendly restaurant next door, prepares excellent lobster rolls all day long. Served with crispy fries or an incredible kale salad, the rolls hold generous portions of lobster that aren’t heavily smothered in mayo.
Cows Creamery: This PEI institution is perfect for a mid-afternoon snack, serving inventive ice cream flavors such as Moo York Cheesecake and Cookie Moonster. And if you never imagined that chocolate and potatoes—this island grows 100 varieties on almost 85,000 acres—would be yummy, try the Cow Chips in either milk or dark chocolate.
Landmark Oyster House: There are oysters on the menu in many PEI restaurants, but to enjoy them in a picturesque setting head to Landmark Oyster House in Victoria by the Sea on the south coast. Owned by husband-and-wife Greg and Marly Anderson, the restaurant serves 3-5 varieties of fresh local oysters daily at lunch and dinner, as well as an oyster Po Boy.
The MacMillan Dining Room: From a beautifully plated beet and feta salad to perfectly seared scallops served atop fresh asparagus and island potatoes, the cuisine at Dalvay-by-the-Sea’s MacMillan Dining Room celebrates the island’s bounty in a historic and charming setting. If you stay at the inn, breakfast is delicious and generously portioned, too.
The FireWorks Feast: Not only is Michael Smith PEI’s most famous chef, but his farm-to-fork extravaganza held nightly from mid-May to mid-October at the Inn at Bay Fortune near St. Peters is an ode to artisanal ingredients and live fire cooking. The “FireWorks Feast” starts at 5pm with a Farm Tour, continues at 6pm with Oyster Hour and really gets cooking at 7pm with a multi-course menu featuring fresh island vegetables, herbs, seafood and meats prepared in a 25-foot wood-burning fireplace.
Myriad View Artisan Distillery: Even if you don’t have the stomach to toss back the Shine (Canada’s first legal Moonshine), there are plenty of other potent spirits to sample at Myriad View Artisan Distillery near Souris—from botanical Gin and Pastis to Canadian-oak-aged Brandy, Rum and Whiskey.
Must-Tries on Les Iles de la Madeleine
The French rarely disappoint when it comes to food and this string of interconnected islands in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence is no exception. There’s even a Food Trail spotlighting the expected Madelinot products (cheese, of course) and the not-so-expected (smoked herring).
Domaine du Vieux Couvent: Set inside a 100-year-old convent and decorated with striking painted portraits of nuns, Domaine du Vieux Couvent serves gourmet bistro fare that’s some of the islands’ best. Seasonal menus change monthly, but include a delicious hot smoked salmon filet, steamed mussels, and a hearty seafood chowder.
Fromagerie les Biquettes a l’Air: The only goat cheese producer in the islands is located on Havre-Aubert island and is open from June to September. Les Biquettes a l’Air features a range of fresh goat cheeses, including those flavored by herbs, honey and local fruits, made from the milk of its 33 dairy goats—which are awfully cute, too.
Le Verger Pomeloi: From the islands’ sole apple orchards, planted in 1990, Eloi Vigneau is making some refreshingly intoxicating ciders. Located on Havre-Aubert island and open June through September, the tasting room at Le Verger Pomeloi offers sips of a variety of ciders—including the Pomeloi, with an apple trapped in the bottle (ask how they do it).
Miel en Mer: In the hills on the island of Havre-aux-Maisons, 150 bee colonies are kept by Jules Arseneau, who founded Miel en Mer in 1995 and sells honey and related products onsite and to other artisanal producers around the island. Call or email ahead to check hours.
Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent: It’s pretty much impossible to visit here without sampling a taste of cheese from this dairy by the sea—many restaurants use it in their dishes—established here almost 20 years ago with cows brought over from mainland Canada. Located in Pointe Basse on Havre-aux-Maisons island, Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent offers tastings, from the classic Pied-de-Vent to the creamy Jeune Coeur.
A l’Abri de la Tempete: Any island worth its salt has to have a microbrewery, right? And in Les Iles, it’s A l’Abri de la Tempete, a microbrasserie located near windswept Dune de l’Ouest beach on L’Etang du Nord island. Favorites include the the floral blonde Belle Saison, the Trans IPA and the citrusy Calle Sèche.
Le Fumoir d’Antan: The only smokehouse in Les Iles is detectable the moment you arrive at its production facility/tasting room in Basse-Terre on Havre-au-Maisons island. At Le Fumoir d’Antan the Arseneau brothers produce a variety of smoked seafood, including herring, salmon, scallops and mackerel.
Halabolina: After a drive to the far end of Grande-Entrée island, reward yourself with a lobster roll at Halabolina, a casual restaurant pub overlooking the sea. It’s often quite busy and service is notoriously slow, but it’s worth the wait to refuel with a perfectly grilled roll filled with fresh island lobster and served with a bounty of crispy fries.
Where to Stay
On Prince Edward Island, a top choice in Charlottetown is the Great George Hotel, set in a cluster of historic buildings and offering easy access to the restaurants of Queen Street and Victoria Row. On the north shore, Dalvay by the Sea offers a lovely beachside inn setting within Prince Edward Island National Park, along with three-bedroom cottages that are great for families. On the east coast, the Inn at Bay Fortune is Chef Michael’s Smith’s boutique property.
On Les Iles de la Madeleine, it’s hard to beat the location and ambience of Domaine du Vieux Couvent, where each of the 11 rooms and suites offers views of the sea.