My favourite roads: Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is hardly a destination for the dedicated braapmaster, as there’s a 90 km/h speed limit and no 90-degree hairpins (well, almost none). It’s a tiny province, so small that it’s really hard to get lost and find places you haven’t explored before.

But it’s where I grew up, and where I learned to ride. For that reason, I love going back on two wheels, and every summer, I try to get across the Confederation Bridge for a quick rip around. Here are the roads I like to take when I’m over there.

 

Route 6

This is, in my opinion, the Number 1 road to ride on the Island for a variety of reasons. It’s scenic, traveling along the coast in some places, through rolling farmland, small towns like North Rustico, Kensington, and Cavendish and eventually through the Brackley Beach section of the national park, before it ends at Frenchfort. It covers all the bases.

The curves don’t match up to Nova Scotia’s better back roads, but there are some twisty stretches on Route 6. If you ride on a hot summer day, you’ll likely get caught in some tourist traffic (or behind a tractor, or other pokey local), but you can also enjoy the scenery, stop for an ice cream, and generally do the tourism thing.

This road can be a lot of fun at night, as there are no deer, moose or bears to be worried about. Of course, as it’s mostly rural, it’s not exactly well-lit.

French River, right off Rt. 20 on the north shore. Ride the coastline of PEI, and you’ll see lots like this.

The best compromise is to ride it in September, when the weather is still fantastic but the tourist traffic is mostly gone and the fall harvest hasn’t yet started. When my buddies and I were beginner motorcyclists, this was our recipe for fun: we’d start in Summerside and ride east, taking in action at the now-shuttered drag strip, maybe getting in some impromptu top speed challenges on the long straightaways through Brackley’s dunes — not that I’d recommend such activity now.

But the rest of the reasons I loved Route 6 as a beginning rider are still there. You get the best of PEI in a short ride; some of the best corners, the best scenery, you can take in the Cavendish tourist traps if you’re feeling spendy, and you can even detour down the Rattenbury Road in Stanley Bridge for a very short but very fun rip on what might be the most curvaceous stretch of pavement on the Island. A detour down Route 20, along the north shore, is also a good way to spend an hour, and it meshes nicely with Route 6. For all these reasons, this is my favourite PEI road.

That pavement doesn’t look too great. Just the thing for a bike with nice long suspension, then.
The Kinkora Road

The Kinkora Road is properly known as Route 225, but like many PEI roads, it’s only really known locally by its nickname. It starts in Kinkora, just off the Confederation Bridge, and runs to Charlottetown.  When I was in university and college, I ran this road regularly on an assortment of crappy UJMs in an assortment of crappy weather. To this day, it’s still one of my favourite rides on the Island.

On paper, it doesn’t make sense, as there are several villages en route with reduced speed limits, some of the scenery is good but there are no water views, and while there are a few very good curves, there are a lot of straight sections where you stand a good chance of getting stuck behind a manure spreader.

But there’s just something about it. Maybe it’s because there are so many hills along the way, which give you a good chance to work out the bike’s gearbox. Maybe because it’s just a good way to get between Charlottetown and Summerside, avoiding the lunatic drivers of Route 2 and the boredom of Route 1. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I doubt it. I remember talking to one of my older friends who’s been riding on the Island since before I was born, and when I asked him what road the old-time sportbike riders liked, his answer was the Kinkora Road. Whatever it is, there’s something about the route that just plain works.

Head up west, and you’ll see more swamp and less dunes. The roads are still good, and this is the easiest place to stretch together a longer ride.

Routes 11-14-12

Route 6 will take you a  bit more than an hour if you don’t stop, and the Kinkora Road might be half that; Prince Edward Island is so small that it just doesn’t take long to get anywhere. But if you want to kill a few hours, this ride around the western end of PEI is the way to go.

Western PEI isn’t as scenic as the eastern end or as hilly as the middle, but this route, which starts in Summerside, heads west to North Cape and ends in Summerside again, is still an excellent ride. You’ll pass through a mix of farmland and coastland here, occasionally passing through small villages, mostly Acadian. This end of the Island is predominantly French, so if you want a good meat pie, stop at a local restaurant. You can get killer seafood down here as well, even though it’s not the touristy end of the Island.

The North Cape wind farm is a decent timekiller, if you want to get off the bike and stretch your legs, and the fishing towns always have snap-worthy scenery. The best part of the riding is on Route 12, with a side trip down the Belmont Road (Route 123). This is a very, very short run, like the Rattenbury Road, but also extremely fun.

Routes 10-13-19

If you head up PEI’s south shore as soon as you get off the Confederation Bridge, you’ll end up on a route that’s well off the tourist trail, but is lots of fun, with a good view of the Northumberland Strait and enough corners to ensure you don’t fall asleep behind the handlebars. Whether you split off toward Cavendish on Route 13 or keep on going to Route 19, it’s fun either way, as the corners pick up in either direction. If you have the time, do both. If I’m riding to Cavendish or points east from the mainland, this is the route I’d take, and I’d suggest you do so too.

It’s just a plain old dirt road, but there are miles upon miles of them running through PEI’s farmland. It’s mostly farmers who use them, but they’re almost all public roads, perfect for getting out on a dual sport.

Unpaved opportunities

Some of the best fun you can have on PEI isn’t on pavement, but on the almost endless network of dirt roads.

PEI isn’t a dual-sport heaven, as these roads are often well-traveled and very civilized, and none of them lasts any longer than 10 minutes. But if you have an adventure bike, you’ll have a lot of fun poking down these red clay roads, cutting through pastures on your way to the beach. You don’t even need an adventure bike; hop on your naked bike, your cruiser, whatever, and you can handle most of these roads, although your bike might get a bit dirty, and you run the risk of crashing if you don’t know how to handle an unpaved surface.

This summer, I managed to get my DR650 over to PEI for a few days while home for vacation, and while I didn’t ride as much as I wanted, I managed to sneak away from kid-watching duty for long enough to blast down some dirt roads through the centre of the Island.

Zipping down the almost-endless network of red clay tracks was maybe the most fun I had on a motorcycle all year. It brought me back to those first days of exploring the unpaved road network on an assortment of sketchy motorcycles, not knowing where I’d end up, but knowing the final destination would be well-worth the visit, with the ride itself the highlight of the day.

Ducati calls this concept the Land of Joy, and uses it to sell Scramblers. But growing up on PEI, we just called it riding, and to this day, having ridden all over North America and even overseas, those short rides down the clay roads are still always a highlight of my riding season.

5 thoughts on “My favourite roads: Prince Edward Island”

  1. I love the west end, from Summerside take 11 to 12 go through Miscouche stay on 12 all the way to North Cape. You can stop in Tyne Valley for lunch a great place to eat. then come back the South shore staying off #2 There are some windy roads and great views. And coming back to 11 takes you back to Summerside also some good places to eat.

  2. With the exception of, “Western PEI isn’t as scenic as the eastern end” I agree with almost everything in this short travelogue. And true, PEI may not directly deliver, but it has easy access to some of the best motorcycle roads in Canada. That said, I came to PEI for a six week visit forty-five years ago . . . fell in love, married, had kids and never left. I lived in the eastern end of The Island, and loved it. But, I didn’t start exploring the western end until after I’d lived here for thirty years – my bad.

    If you stay clear of the western end’s tediously straight and boring main road (Winter Road) you’ll discover some of the most beautiful and welcoming sections of PEI, especially the coastal and many clay (unpaved) roads. The Francophone/ Evangeline area is stunning and you’ll meet some of the most interesting, musically talented and humorous people in Atlantic Canada.

    On this little windswept sandbar in the North Atlantic, there be heart ‘n courage. My only caution: If you come for a visit, be careful, you may end up staying for a lifetime.

    1. Overall, the coastal roads in the east aren’t as scenic as the coastal roads on the south west shore (and of course, by east, I mean east of Charlottetown). But the places they lead you to (Lakeside, Savage Harbour, Greenwich, North Lake, St. Peters Harbour) are far more beautiful, I think. This will all be multi-storey condos not too far in the future, I fear.

  3. We were in PEI this summer. It was our 5th trip there and I remember thinking I would have to come back on my bike. I would argue it’s definitely the top 3 provinces in terms of beauty. The only issue with riding PEI on a motorcycle is getting there. The ride there wouldn’t be that fun..

    1. If you’re coming from Ontario it’s actually a pretty great ride. I’ve done it 6 times, normally I cut through New York/New Hampshire/Vermont/Maine/New Brunswick. One year I did the Gaspe, spectacular once you clear Quebec City.

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