Pocket-sized CHARLOTTETOWN, the administrative and business heart of PEI since the 1760s, is the most urbane spot on the island, the comfortable streets of its centre hemmed in by leafy avenues of clapboard villas and Victorian red-brick buildings. In small-island terms, it also offers a reasonable nightlife, with a handful of excellent restaurants and a clutch of lively bars, though the best time to be here is in the summer, when the otherwise sleepy town centre is transformed by festivals, live music and street cafés.
Confederation Centre of the Arts
Built in 1964, the Confederation Centre of the Arts may be housed in a glass-and-concrete monstrosity, but it’s the home of the Charlottetown Festival and Anne of Green Gables musical, the island’s main library, a couple of theatres, the summer-only Story of Confederation exhibit and an eclectic art gallery (mid-May to mid-Oct daily 9am–5pm; mid-Oct to mid-May Wed–Sat 11am–5pm, Sun 1–5pm; donation suggested), whose changing exhibitions always have a Canadian emphasis and often include a variety of nineteenth-century artefacts.
The story of Confederation
The island’s most significant historical attraction is the Province House National Historic Site at 165 Richmond St, but this is likely to be closed until at least 2018 for a massive renovation. Until then, if you’re here in summer, visit the Story of Confederation exhibit (July & Aug Mon–Sat 9am–5pm, Sun 11am–4pm; free), housed at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Here there’s a replica of the Confederation Chamber where the Fathers of Confederation – representatives of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, then-Canada (Ontario and Québec) and PEI – met during the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, to discuss a union of the British colonies in North America. It took two more conferences before confederation was finally achieved in 1867, though PEI didn’t join for a further six years, and only then because it was bankrupt after an ill-advised splurge on railway construction.