Prince Edward Island is known around the world for its spectacular beaches, and Eastern PEI boasts the best selection of beaches in the province. Whether you're in the mood for be seal-watching, clam digging, swimming, playing with the kids, or even simply just taking a sunset stroll, the beaches in Eastern PEI are second to none.
On that note, we at the Eastern Adventure Group have compiled our list of the Top 5 Must See Beaches in Eastern PEI. They've been favorites of ours for years, and we're certain that you'll love them too!
NUMBER 5: ROLLO BAY BEACH
Rollo Bay Beach is one that is often seen from a distance, but that is rarely afforded the visitations it deserves. Visible from the main highway in Rollo Bay, and offering spectacular views of the Rollo Bay flats, this beach is best known for the perennial colony of harbour seals which spend their days resting on the exposed sand bars. And as if that wasn't enough to grab your attention, the adventure and exploration that Rollo Bay Beach offers is sure to draw you in.
Any visit to Rollo Bay Beach should be timed so as to ensure the tide is at its lowest point, and from there one can venture on foot towards the seals which can be found to the south-west, nearest to the extending reach of Fortune, which can be viewed from across the water.
Discovering the seals is as wonderful opportunity, however it must be stressed that they are a timid and shy creature, and therefore a safe distance must be kept to avoid disturbing them. Binoculars and a zoom lens are highly recommended, both for your own benefit and that of the seals.
Sea glass is a common sight on the beach here, particularly at low tide, and the tidal flats are renowned for their clams as well. Clam digging is no more difficult than it sounds; one need only find the small dime sized holes in the mud which indicate where a clam is buried, and then dig carefully, either with your hands or a spade, to unearth the treat.
With an abundance of activities, and much to see and do, Rollo Bay Beach is an ideal stop for those who aren’t simply satisfied to lay down and relax, and who wish to explore a full range of experiences.
How to get here: From Route 2 in Rollo Bay, head south on Route 330, following it directly to the shore.
Recommended Activities: Clamming, Seal Watching, Moonlight Walk
NUMBER FOUR: LITTLE HARBOUR BEACH
Second on our list is Little Harbour Beach, located only minutes east of the Town of Souris. A popular stop for locals seeking to “get away from it all”, Little Harbour Beach offers all of the natural splendor of the area’s other beaches, without the hustle and bustle that often accompanies them.
Little Harbour Beach is part of the larger South Side dune system which extends from Little Harbour towards East Point Lighthouse. As such, a predominant feature of the beach is the undulating dunes which separate the coastline from the land. Trails have been made which lead across the dunes, and care must be taken to avoid trampling the marram grass or putting any undue distress onto the dune system. However, this dune system creates an almost endless expanse of beach which extends for more than thirty kilometers, and for those who wish to take a walk along the shoreline there is no better destination.
As part of the larger Black Pond Bird Sanctuary, Little Harbour Beach offers a protected nesting area for an innumerable variety of bird and animal species. Of particular note are plovers and foxes which may be spotted among the dunes, as well as the vast number of shorebirds which spend their day in the delta of the small stream which empties into the ocean on the eastern extremity of the beach.
On the western extremity, nearest to the parking area, can be found the ‘little harbour’ itself; this is a small river or basin which extends inland from the shore, and is greatly affected by the tides. Crabs and sea life abound in the tide pools which form in the rocks as the water recedes. Typically no deeper than your waist, and flowing at a pedestrian pace, this area is a fantastic place to relax or let the children play. The beach is ideal for dogs as well, as with its sparse attendance and lengthy shoreline, you’re certain to find a place to let your animals run free.
How to get here: Follow Route 16 east from Souris for an approximate distance of 10 kilometers, keeping an eye towards the shore for Points East beach designation #68.
Recommended Activities: Beach Walks, Tidal Pools
NUMBER THREE: FORTUNE BACK BEACH
The Fortune Back Beach is off the beaten path, but well worth the visit. Designated the “Back Beach” in contrast to Fortune’s “Front Beach”, the Back Beach offers a quiet and serene location to enjoy some of the warmest waters on the Island.
Fortune Back Beach is nestled snugly into a natural harbour, and due to the sheltering effect of Abel’s Cape and Howe Point, the depth of water at this beach increases much less drastically than anywhere else in the area. In fact, at low tide, one would need to walk the better part of a kilometer out towards the ocean in order to get into water of any considerable depth. As a result, these shallow and static waters heat up from the warmth of the sun and offer a comfortable outing for those who wish only to wade.
This beach is a favorite for children, too, who always enjoy building sandcastles on the newly exposed sandbars and discovering all that the ocean has revealed as the tide has receded. Piping Plovers, a protected species on PEI, seem to enjoy the sandy shore as well, and the little birds nest among the marram grass here.
A family favorite for photography, the rocky outcroppings on Fortune side of the beach offer a scenic backdrop for summertime souveneirs, and they too provide a great resource for climbing and exploring.
Fortune Back Beach has its own connections to history and ghost stories as well, with its most well known tale being that of Sundial which can be found down a long and meandering footpath high above the Cape.
How to get here: From Route 2, after Dingwell's Mills, turn south onto Route 310, which is immediately before Route 308. Follow Route 310 over Fortune Bridge, hugging the river, and turn left onto the South Road, finding immediately the Fortune Back Beach Road.
Recommended Activities: Ghost Stories at the Sundial, Explore the area with a kayak rental
NUMBER TWO: COW RIVER BEACH
Cow River Beach is undoubtedly the least well known beach on the list, a fact which only adds to the charm of this northside gem. Unlike some of the other beaches we have named, the odds are good at Cow River that you may be the only people in sight during your visit.
Located on Route 16, between Monticello and Naufrage, Cow River Beach is found down a long dirt road which heads north to the shore. The beach is first seen from high above the red sandstone cliffs, and this view affords a spectacular sight of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The sands of this beach tend to run red, tinted by the coastline which embraces it, and the sparkling Cow River cascades out of the forest and across the beach to reach the ocean.
This is a beach which is a delight for birders, as eagles, seagulls, terns, and cliff swallows flock to this secluded area. Those watching the horizon will also be rewarded by views of countless lobster fishing boats as they set out to work each morning.
Additionally, to stroll down the beach and across the rocks towards the East is to bring into view the Naufrage lighthouse, which towers out over the cliffs.
Of all the beaches on our list, this is the only one on the north side, making it the ideal option star-gazing, meteor showers, and taking in a sunset, which due to the Island's geography is best seen from a north side beach.
How to get here: Follow Route 308 North, turning left onto Route 16. Head east for approximately 2 kilometers; watch for signs indicating Cow River road.
Recommended Activities: Bird Watching, Sunsets, Making a Dirt Shirt
NUMBER ONE: BASIN HEAD BEACH
No list of beaches in the Eastern PEI, or in the entire province, for that matter, would be complete without mentioning Basin Head Beach. Consistently ranked among the top beaches in the entire country, Basin Head offers something for the entire family.
Known by locals simply as “Basin”, it is most commonly referred to by those ‘from away’ as Singing Sands beach, due to the unique properties of the sand which cause it to sing during particularly sunny days. This singing is really caused by the frictive properties of the silica which is found in high concentrations in the sand.
A visit to Basin Head on any day of the summer will reveal a true beach-goers paradise. Beautiful wooden boardwalks lead you down the cliff toward shore, skirting the sand dunes which border the beach. Perhaps Basin Head’s most popular draw is the ‘run’; a tidal channel leading inland from the sea, flanked on both sides by a wharf. This channel offers an ideal location for swimming and wading, and both sides are connected by a pedestrian bridge.
From this bridge locals and tourists alike jump, spin, and dive into the run at high tide, soaking onlookers and competing for the best splash. Not for the faint of heart, it is a tradition years in the making and a must do on summer roadtrip.
For those more inclined towards relaxation, Basin Head offers a seemingly endless stretch of white sandy coastline to settle down upon, with oft exposed sandbars which are a perennial draw to children. Amenities include change rooms, canteen, gift shops, a fisheries museum, and ample picnic space, and with all it has to offer, it is no wonder that Basin Head Beach is ranked number one, time and time again.
How to get here: Follow Route 2 east past the town of Souris, where the street name will change to Route 16. Continue along Route 16 for about 15km, watching for large signage indicating Basin Head Beach.
Recommended Activities: Jumping off the Bridge, Paddle Boarding in the Basin