Biking PEI: Charlottetown to Stanhope and Dalvay by the Sea
I really wanted to ride to the beach during my PEI vacation. It seemed like the quintessential bike trip outing. From my starting point in Winsloe (just outside of Charlottetown) to Brackley Beach, it’s is a mere 20km. A piece of cake distance. The biggest challenge was finding a comfortable route to get there.
When I flew into the Charlottetown airport, I noticed a segregated pathway that follows the main road to get to Brackley Beach. I assumed that this pathway had been built to cater to people wanting to bike to and from the beach. Seeing a Dutch-style roundabout with a segregated bike path is a pretty amazing first impression of PEI.
My gut told me to do a pre-ride of this pathway when I couldn’t find any information about the path online. My sixth cycletrack sense was buzzing.
After supper one evening, I hopped on the bike to find out if the path really did go to the beach. I zipped along, passing cows, cheerily zooming along without worrying about passing vehicles. And after 2km, it was over. The pathway ended at a driveway. That was it. The path ends at someone’s driveway.
I stewed in a rage and disappointment bubble for a minute before turning around and heading home.
You see, the pathway is merely an “active living trail” that the community built. So naturally, it only runs within the community. I rode the pathway twice and ran into the same man walking his dog both times. It’s a very nice dog walking path. So, at least one person is using it.
I felt pretty let down. I wanted to brag that you could arrive on an airplane, assemble your bike and ride straight to the beach. But no. That story has yet to be written. It may take a while. But wouldn’t it be great? The path starts right AT the airport. Don’t they realize how many cities would love to have this kind of infrastructure? RAGECAPS!
With that plan dashed, I didn’t feel comfortable riding the shoulderless Brackley Point Road – the main drag for everyone getting to and from the beach. The traffic can be heavy and speedy. I needed to find an alternate route.
My Plan B included some quieter roads and arriving at the north shore via the Stanhope entrance to the National Park. (This was before I found out that Route 25 had paved shoulders, of course!)
There were lots of rolling hills – with nothing too steep.
My red dirt “shortcut” road was a little much for my rental bike. It was a touch too rocky and sandy for my hybrid’s tires. I rolled along slowly and crossed my fingers for no pinch flats.
At a fork in the road, I veered left following Route 25 (Bayshore Road) – which ended up being a bit of a scenic detour and added a couple of extra kilometres to the ride. It was a happy accident though since the road had a (shared?) pathway to ride on. At least, I assumed it was a shared pathway. I’m just “active living”! I swear!
Bayshore Road leads directly to the Stanhope entrance to PEI National Park.
Using the new Gulfshore Parkway bike path, I headed for Covehead harbour to meet my family who had arrived by car.
At Covehead harbour, a pair of seagulls flew overhead – depositing a small present on my bike seat. I took that as a PEI sign of good luck.
(Yes, I packed bike shorts with me.)
As we waited for the small fish and chip stand to open (they open at 12pm ON THE DOT.) we watched other cyclists roll in for lunch. Pretty soon, bikes lined the side of the restaurant and the queue continued to grow.
Dinner time! Just lean your bike against the fence and get in line. The Saturday night party crew ate them clean of mussels, so it was an order of clams for me instead. They said they went through 175lbs of mussels the night before. That’s a lot of shellfish.
After lunch, we did a quick stop at Dalvay by the Sea for a bit of croquet. It would be unbecoming not to squeeze in a bit of lawn-sport.
And finally, we headed to Stanhope beach for a bit of “brrrrr I can’t believe I used to swim here” play.
It’s a good thing they put up these no parking signs. They make a good stand-in for bike racks. If there were racks, I totally missed them.
With waves jumped and sandcastles made, my family headed home in the car and I hopped back on my bike for a quiet ride home.
On the return trip, I followed Route 25 and appreciated the narrow new shoulder. It wasn’t clear to me whether the road had been widened to accommodate new shoulders or whether the lines had just been repainted. Either way, it was nice to have space.
And of course, some things, you can really only appreciate when you’re going bike speed. Like aquatic themed mailboxes.
All in all, Route 25 is a nice way to get to the north shore. However, I would have preferred using the Brackley Point Road because there are lots of nice places to stop and shop or eat along that road. For a province that relies heavily on tourism, not having a cycle route that passes by businesses, motels and restaurants seems a very big missed opportunity. Maybe some people are confident enough to tackle a busy shoulderless road, but that is not me. After all, things are supposed to be easy and carefree on the “gentle island”.