I spent my first two days of summer on Prince Edward Island. My best friend Julia planned the perfect summer day on the island…for an Islander. I loved how she wanted to give me an authentic Islander experience. I’ve been to PEI numerous times, but often in the winter, and my trips have usually been rushed. Living so close to the Island I really wish I could make it over more often. I love it there, especially in the summer. Even this particular weekend getaway was only for one night, but I got the best summer experiences PEI could offer in two days.
My experience began with a drive to Naufrage, the North Eastern part of the island, from Summerside. Naufrage harbor is where local fishermen sell their daily catch to the local buyers located on the wharf. Few tourists will be found at Naufrage’s beautiful desolate red sand beach, yet it is the perfect stop to walk for miles while dipping your toes in the refreshing water. The view is incredible; red cliffs at a distance and a dozen bald eagles flying above who hang out at the wharf looking for a snack. I would say this could be one of the best unmentioned spots to see on the Island.
My favorite part about Naugrafe was watching all of the fishing boats arrive to unload their wares. Luckily, I visited during lobster season, because I am incredibly fascinated with lobster fishing, especially since I grew up in a small fishing village. This year only 5 lobster buyers lasted throughout the season. It is a highly competitive and difficult market for fishermen and buyers. With the season coming to an end, it is a race against time for fishermen to catch their daily maximums and to sell their catch quickly.
Jason MacCormack is one of the longest standing buyers at the wharf. I enjoyed the pleasure of watching him work throughout the morning. I watched him buy 1500 lbs of lobster in about 30 minutes. During the week I visited his company had been given the quota to purchase 500lbs per boat per day. That day he bought from 15 boats…that’s a whopping 45000 lbs that week. Watching Jason and his crew check the lobsters for quality and size, load the lobsters into pans, weigh the pans of lobsters, load the pans of lobsters onto pallets, and move the pallets of pans to a forklift and then to the truck (that’s one tongue twister) was an incredibly intricate and speedy process. The lobsters are then packed on ice in the truck and sent on their marry way.
Once the organized chaos died down Jason had time to show us “tourists” a few things. He showed us and explained the difference between male and female lobsters. One of the best distinguishing features between the two is that female lobsters have significantly wider tails. He also showed us the minimum size lobster that can be legally caught (approximately 1lb), anything less than that has to be tossed back to sea. Fishermen and buyers can receive quite hefty fines if caught with lobsters under the legal minimums. Jason proceeded to show us the largest lobster of the day which weighed approximately 5lbs. It might not sound like a lot, but a typical lobster weighs 1-1.5 lbs. If you are eating a 2lb lobster you are getting a good size lobster. The larger the lobster the older it is and the tougher the meat…the best taste comes from younger lobsters. The day prior, a 10lb lobster was accidentally caught in a fishing net. The lobster was so large it wouldn’t have ever fit in a trap. I was told that one of its claws was as big as my head. The buzz was still flying about the wharf of the 10lb lobster. I wish I could have seen it.
Typically buyers get their lobsters already banned by the fishermen (the tight elastics around their claws); however, Jason purchases lobsters that are unbanned because the processing plant where he sells the lobsters do not require bands. It was interesting to see all of the lobster being hauled off the boats unbanned crawling around, fighting other lobsters, and trying to escape the pan. I was brave enough to stick my hand into a 100lb pan full of unbanned lobsters and grab one with my bare hands to get a picture. I’ve been told that you don’t want a claw clamping on to you. I could barely hold the 5lb lobster in one hand while avoiding it’s massive claws. I guess I did look like a tourist in that moment.
To end a perfect morning, we proceeded to Naufrage beach for a picnic lunch of homemade lobster rolls and potato salad. An authentic East Coast delicacy. They say that Atlantic lobster is the best in the world, and I would have to agree.The colder the water the better the taste. After lunch we proceeded to PEI’s capitol- Charlottetown.
Summertime is the best time to visit Charlottetown. Charlottetown was bustling with all of the cruise ship tourists walking about, street performers, and Islanders enjoying a cold beverage on the many restaurant patios. Walking around downtown is the perfect time to stop in all of the cute local souvenir shops, grab an ice-cream at Cows Creamery (or just a bag of milk chocolate covered chips- yum!), walk around the harbor front and parks, or spot historic buildings and landmarks (Charlottetown is considered the “Birthplace of Confederation” after the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference after all). To end the day we had dinner at Globe World Flavors. I had the tempura battered haddock and chips (another Atlantic Canadian favorite)…delicious. A great end to a great day. As the sun went down we headed our way back to Borden to catch the shuttle across the bridge back to New Brunswick. A perfect “Islander” day…for a tourist. I’m hoping to make it back to PEI a few more times this year before the end of the summer season.
Next time I want to try…deep sea tuna fishing.