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Road trip: Driving to P.E.I.

On the road to Prince Edward Island


We love driving to the 'Isle.' Not the one where you'll find Scotland, but the one right here: Canada's beautiful Prince Edward Island! We have made the trip many times now, first with our children and of late, just the two of us. So over the years we've learned a few things about travelling to the East Coast. The whole trip is about 18-20 hours, depending on stops.

Starting off: Living as we do on the west side of Toronto, getting across the city can be an adventure in itself. Timing is everything, so we recommend leaving early in the morning before the rush hour begins or waiting until early afternoon. Not only do you have to consider getting `round the 'Big Smoke', it's important to plan the time of your arrival in the Montreal area! Traffic there is as challenging as in Toronto so it's best to avoid the busiest times of day if possible.

In years past we've done a pre-dawn launch and hit the highway at 5 a.m. That brought us to the Montreal area around noon. This year we left home around 1 p.m. and got across Toronto with no delays. We arrived in Montreal around 7:30 p.m. and had no trouble with traffic. (Our Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS certainly proved helpful in navigating the complex roadways around Montreal.)

Stopping: It's been our habit to just get in the car and drive rather than sightsee along the way. So we pack the car with lots to eat and drink and stop only for bathroom breaks and driver switch-ups. When the kids were along, we'd load up on books, games and music to keep everyone entertained. Of course, the newer model minivans and SUVs come with entertainment systems, so packing DVDs is often a must.

Typically we drive for 10-12 hours in the first day. If you leave early, twelve hours of driving will get you into northern New Brunswick. But there are lots of good places to stop if you don't want to go that far. We recommend that you make a reservation prior to leaving, so even if you arrive late at your first night's destination, you'll have a room waiting for you.

The second day for us is also straight driving and we usually find ourselves on the Island by mid afternoon if we've had another early start. That gives us enough time to shop for groceries and get to the cottage for a walk on the beach before dinner.

The long and winding roads: We follow the Trans-Canada all the way east. In Ontario that's Hwy. 401. In Quebec you can go either north or south shore (Hwy. 40 on the north /Hwy. 20 on the south). We make a point of stopping at the Quebec tourism office at the Ontario/Quebec border to inquire about road conditions around Montreal. That way we are aware of any possible construction delays.

If you travel the north shore through Quebec, then you can cross the Saint Lawrence River at Quebec City. At Rivière-du-Loup the Trans-Canada turns south into New Brunswick and becomes Hwy. 185. Once you cross the N.B. border the road number changes to Hwy. 2. At Moncton, you can stay on 2 to Sackville and then pick up Hwy. 16 to the Confederation Bridge. However, we usually take Hwy. 15 toward Shediac and then go onto the bridge. It's slightly shorter and by that point in the journey, we just want to get there!

Generally speaking the highways on this trip are excellent. There are stretches where the roads could do with some resurfacing but for the most part they are in good repair. That means that construction delays are usually minimal. Since we've been travelling to the East Coast, the Trans-Canada through New Brunswick has been widened and straightened into a divided six-lane highway. You bypass the towns along the St John River valley, which definitely takes away from the enjoyment of the charming countryside, but makes for a shorter drive to the Island. You still have to be on the lookout for wildlife, however, as there are deer and moose warning signs all along the route.

Places to stay: This year, because we left home in the afternoon, we stopped east of Trois Rivières, in the town of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence.

We had made a quick stop at the Quebec tourism office on the Quebec/Ontario border to find a room for the night and with the help of staff were booked into a charming inn. Auberge du Manior Dauth is a treat for vacationers. The main part of the inn was built as a home in the 1840s and has remained in the founding family ever since. A new hotel adjacent to the main inn was added in the past five years and offers modern rooms with full bathrooms. The rooms are beautifully decorated and the inn has Internet, laundry and a small library for guests.

Auberge du Manoir Dauth also has a lovely dining room in the main inn where you can get dinner and breakfast. Accommodation is reasonably priced at around $75 per night and with a package you can add dinner and breakfast to the room rate for about $126 in total, plus taxes.

We arrived too late for dinner on our way to the Island and made an early start the next morning, so missed the breakfast. But we were so taken by the inn and the owners that we arranged to stay there on the way home. This time we planned our arrival to take advantage to the dining room!

It proved to be a perfect choice. The inn offers a four-course dinner, with several items to select from on the menu. When we asked about wine to enjoy with our meal, we were shown to the wine cellar (yes, in the cellar of the inn) where we picked a bottle from a wide variety of wines. Breakfast the next day was a buffet with both hot and cold items, including home-baked pastries. The whole dining experience was delightful.

We have decided that the Auberge du Manoir Dauth will be a regular stop for us on future trips east. For more information about the inn, visit the website at

Roslyn Ralph is an occasional contributor to CarTest!

Sept. 7, 2008