Part 1 – Structures
If this is your first time to Prince Edward Island, you want to make sure you hit all the high points. To make it easy for you I created a checklist – 25 Instagrammable Spots to hit in PEI and placed it in this blog post.
For those who have already scratched the surface and are ready to dig a little deeper, read on. This will be the first of a series of 5 posts where we’ll explore places and things you may not have seen or photographed yet. This first post discusses structures such as lighthouses, churches, and bridges. Future posts will focus on food, agriculture, nature/wildlife, and of course, beaches. So, let’s start with one of PEI’s most iconic symbols – lighthouses.
As an island in the Atlantic, PEI has a plethora of working (35) and non-working lighthouses (28) whose beacons provide a warning to the many ships passing by the island. For more than 20 years the Prince Edward Island Lighthouse Society purpose has been “to aid in the preservation of the lighthouses of the area and to work with the Canadian Coast Guard and other agencies, both government and non-profit groups, to achieve the safekeeping of the buildings, artifacts and records of Prince Edward Island Lighthouses.” Not surprisingly, they have lists, maps and photographs of all of PEI’s lighthouses. Some of which you’ve probably seen many times, like the iconic West Point lighthouse.
West Point Lighthouse, West Point, PEI
The Island’s tallest lighthouse reaches more than 20 meters tall (67 feet). West Point Lighthouse stands on a sandy beach at the tip of West Point where the Northumberland Strait and Egmont Bay merge. Its square shape, combined with four wide black stripes (which mark each of the lighthouse’s four stories), make it easily recognizable around the world.
You can get great shots from the lighthouse’s lantern deck by climbing the stairs up it’s four stories. The lantern deck is still supported by decoratively carved wooden brackets and is surrounded by a wooden cross-braced railing. The lantern itself is a duo decagon – a 12-sided polygon – with nine glass windows. This lighthouse is closing in on its 150 year anniversary, which will occur in 2025. Built in 1875, it was staffed for close to 90 years when it was automated in 1963.
After getting pictures of and from this lighthouse, take a stroll on the 1.5 km boardwalk which runs through the Cedar Dunes Provincial Park. Here you’ll be able to get some great nature shots in the park.
Point Prim Lighthouse, Belfast, PEI
Moving to the other end of the island, you can find a lighthouse that many have seen; most without knowing its name. As the oldest lighthouse on the Island, and the only round, brick one, Point Prim has stood, tall and elegant, during blazing sun and pounding North Atlantic storms for nearly 175 years. That milestone will happen next year as the lighthouse opened in December, 1845.
Eglise Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, Mont Carmel, PEI
Like lighthouses, many churches in Prince Edward Island are more than 100 years old. One of the oldest, Eglise Notre Dame du Mont Carmel was constructed of island brick in 1898. As a result, its elegant design both blends and stands out from the surroundings. Mont Carmel is located in the Evangeline region – a cluster of Acadian communities west of Summerside.
St. Mary’s Church, Indian River, PEI
On the Hamilton road, midway between Kensingon and Malpeque is a church that reached its centenary back in 2002. Built in 1902 in the French Gothic style, St. Mary’s Church possesses natural acoustics which are the perfect setting for voice and instruments. The church was decommissioned in 2009 and it now used as a venue for musical performances. It has been said that St. Mary’s rates as one of the top ten places to perform in the world and now plays host to the annual Indian River Festival as well as many other musical events throughout the summer.
St. Dunstan’s Basilica, Charlottetown, PEI
If you don’t have time to venture out of Charlottetown, you don’t have to miss one of PEI’s most impressive churches – St. Dunstan’s Basilica on Great George Street. The size and scale of this church means you rarely need directions to find it. Just look up and you’ll see its French Gothic twin spires towering over the rest of the city. St. Dunstan’s is the only Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica on the island and it is one of the most elaborate in the Maritimes. The current church, the fourth on the same site, was constructed in 1913 after a fire consumed the previous building. As impressive as the exterior is, the interior is even more stunning, as shown in this 360 virtual tour.
St. Patrick’s Church, Grand River, PEI
The final church in this post is St Patrick’s, an English Gothic style church. Located in the Grand River and Malpeque Bay area. St. Patrick’s is nearing its bi-centennial, having been originally constructed in 1839. It features a tall central square entrance tower, yellow exterior paint, clerestroy windows, and faux buttresses. A renovation in 1890 enhanced these fixtures. The renovation was designed by noted architect William Critchlow Harris, who also designed St. Mary’s Church at Indian River.
In 2012 the church underwent a major restoration. Last painted in the 1960, the harsh winters of Prince Edward Island had taken their toll. In all, more than $100,000 was spent to restore the gold detailing of the walls and arches, restore the stained glass windows and put up antique lights. In January of 2018 a permanent steel roof was added to ensure lasting protection for decades to come.
While there is more than one bridge in Prince Edward Island, “the” bridge is the Confederation Bridge that connects PEI with New Brunswick – the only fixed transportation link between the two provinces. The Bridge has its own website and smartphone app. These tools help islanders and visitors alike stay updated on weather conditions that might close the bridge. There are two closure possibilities – first to high-sided vehicles, like trucks, or secondly, and much less commonly, to all traffic.
Prior to the bridge opening in 1997, all travel to and from the island was by car ferry or airplane. With challenging winter weather in the Northumberland Strait, ferries often were unable to sail causing significant impacts in the movement of people and products between the island and the rest of Canada. This bridge is the longest in the world to cross ice-covered water, at just under 13KM. It continues to be one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century, a feat that involved 5,000 local workers over a 4 year period.
The Bridge is a great photography subject, providing many great angles. In addition, it appears to change colour depending on the time of day, the season and ocean/ice conditions. The biggest challenge is getting the entire bridge into one picture due to its length. However, it has been seen from the International Space Station (ISS). The Confederation Bridges’ length and white colour against a blue backdrop make it visible from space a feat not accomplished even by the Great Wall of China.
The next “Photo Worthy” blog post will be on PEI food.