In search of “Kindred Spirits” and to experience first-hand the beauty of Prince Edward Island, Canada, as described by Lucy Maud Montgomery in her world famous, Anne of Green Gables series, I flew to P. E. I. to discover what it was about this place that the author found so compelling. (And frankly, I wanted to visit before the crowds surge after the new 2017 Anne of Green Gables film adaptation.)
Montgomery grew up in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada during the early 1800s. Today Cavendish boasts several sites related to Canada’s famous author. Several buildings have been preserved for the thousands of fans of the Anne book series and films that visit each year. The Prince Edward Island National Park system maintains the farm house that has come to be known as Green Gables. The other properties are privately owned and operated. To visit all of them, you’ll want to spend 2-3 days devoted to Montgomery. (Depending on how long you stay at each museum, and how many you choose to see.)
Green Gables Heritage Place, Prince Edward Island National Park
Green Gables Heritage Place was first on our agenda for the day because I figured it would have the most visitors, and by going early we might avoid the majority of the day’s crowd. Besides, I was SO excited, I pretty much wanted to go as soon as it opened! I must admit I was slightly disappointed that we were not driving on red dirt roads in a horse-and-cart as Anne would have arrived, but this is no fault to the heritage place. Sadly, also Cavendish is no longer the idyllic farm country on which Montgomery based her fictitious village of Avonlea. Now the Montgomery homestead is tucked between golf courses, hotel cottage compounds, amusement parks, and beach boardwalk shops.
Green Gables is not, as I expected, the film set, but rather was the home of Montgomery’s grandfather’s cousins, and simply the inspiration for the book setting. Maud, as she liked to be called, spent much of her childhood visiting her elderly relatives here. Eventually the house became her inspiration for a book setting and her family inspired the elderly Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert characters that become the unlikely guardians of the redheaded orphan, Anne Shirley.
Upon arrival, you must pay the entrance fee at, and pass through, a visitor center. (Make sure you buy a combo ticket for Green Gables and the Site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home or you’ll just have to pay the difference when you get to the homestead. Which is what we did.)
Inside the center is a display containing Maud’s typewriter and some original manuscript pages and first edition books which you can view before you are funneled into an 8 minute film. You may choose the English or French version (because Canada is bi-lingual). The showings are staggered, as a way to stagger the groups entering, I assume. (2022 edit: The old visitor center and video have been replaced with a new visitor center.) I was bouncing in anticipation. Finally the back door opened and we stepped into the yard between a few barn buildings and the famous white and green house. Matthew’s carriage sat in the middle of the yard. We joined the next English group tour which took us from the barn to the Green Gables house door, all 100 feet. Again, this probably helps regulate the number of people in the house. Rather than streaming into the house with the group, I decided to look around while waiting for the line at the door to lessen. We went in the barn and read the display boards. (2022 edit: the barn no longer has displays.) They discussed farming during Montgomery’s time. Interestingly, eggs were as good as gold. Also, during the 1800’s, farmers and farmhands of PEI helped one another out due to the short growing and harvesting seasons and the large amount of work to be done. We learned throughout our visit that this community mentality is still alive and well on PEI today.
We then passed by the video about the author’s life struggles, the concession shop (where you can of course find raspberry cordial!), the bathrooms, and back to the white house with green trim. There was a small vegetable garden out front, pretty flowers, and a girl dressed as Anne taking photos with tourists. (I either refrained from or neglected to take a photo with her- I haven’t decided if I regret that decision.)
With a break between groups entering the house, we made our entrance. The house has been renovated and preserved with room furnishings and artifacts that would have been common in the house during Montgomery’s time, but they have also included items described in Anne of Green Gables as belonging to Anne and her guardians, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. This gave the house a historic, yet strangely fictional feel.
Sadly this house has ropes that lead you one-way through the house. There are also interpretive guides stationed throughout the house that don’t seem to like it if you attempt to go backwards a room. Downstairs contained the sitting room, “Matthew’s” kitchen bedroom , the kitchen, and food processing rooms. The bedroom off the kitchen was reserved for young farm hands or infirm people. In Anne of Green Gables Matthew took this room due to his heart problem that did not allow him to often climb the stairs. This room, consequently had a man’s suit and bowler hat on the bed as if Matthew had just stepped out for a moment. “Anne’s room”, which contained her brown dress with puffed sleeves, was the first at the top. Then a spare room and “Marilla’s bedroom”. There was a sewing room and two hallways for storage. Apparently houses were taxed by room numbers, but not hallway space. Then it was down the back stairs and out the back door.
I’d like to say I felt something. I think mostly it was disbelief that I was actually here! I was on PEI! I was walking through the world of Anne…or Maud…well, both. I was in the white house with green trim with a brook nearby. It was like walking through my book come to life. And then it was over too soon. What I couldn’t believe even more was the people around me were from all over, all different sorts and ages. They had all come here, like me, because of a happy book that was written by a very unhappy woman. The book’s reach is so unbelievably far! What inspiration to be an author!
Out the back door, we walked part of Lovers Lane (approx. 1km long trail) where we strolled along the brook running behind the house. To maximize our time at the other heritage sites, we cut short our walk through Lovers Lane and instead headed into the Haunted Wood (1.1 km), which would take us to the site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home.
Ready to plan your visit?
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Check out this post: Plan the Perfect Anne of Green Gables Vacation
Have you been to Green Gables? Do you want to go? Are you also a fan of Anne? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Hello. I appreciated your commentary. I am planning to take my daughter for her high school graduation 18th birthday. Sounds like you were a bit disappointed with the experience.
We are traveling in May and will be staying in Charlottetown. Do you have any suggestions of what to do first, second, etc….
Overall were you happy with the experience?
A Suitcase Full of Books says
Overall I loved the experience!! Personally, I’d recommend staying out of Charlottetown and nearer to Cavendish if you can. I would definitely do all of the Anne & Montgomery sites first. They’re very touristy but over too soon. Then I’d leave a few days for the beach (if the weather works out), and visiting local craft shops and driving to small places like Victoria by the Sea. We had the best time meeting the local crafters, eating where the locals all go, and generally just driving all over! I didn’t want to leave at the end of the week! We were told the best weather is in July. Also eat at the Blue Mussel Cafe in North Rustico. Get there early and take a jacket!