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PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND TOUR FOR ANNE OF GREEN GABLES FANS

Story and photos by

Anne of Green Gables actress
Anne of Green Gables actress
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is better known for Anne of Green Gables than for its historical importance as Canada's birthplace. An immediate international success when it was published in 1908, the book is Lucy Maud Montgomery's best known novel.

Except for The Blue Castle, all L.M. Montgomery books are set in PEI. A prolific writer, Montgomery wrote 20 books, more than 500 short stories, 500 poems and hundreds of letters. She also recorded thoughts about her personal life and world events in journals, from the age of nine until just before her death in 1942, at the age of 67.

Anne of Green Gables tells the story of Anne Shirley, a red-haired, freckle-faced orphan. She was mistakenly sent to live with a strict spinster, Marilla Cuthbert, and her bachelor brother, Matthew, when they tried to adopt a boy to help with the farm work.

In spite of her penchant for misdemeanours, Anne Shirley's imagination, passion for melodrama and optimistic spirit endeared her to all the characters living in the imaginary island village of Avonlea. An early fan was Mark Twain, who called Anne "the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice."

Anne of Green Gables DVD

The best-selling Canadian book went into ten printings in its first year. Anne of Green Gables was translated into Swedish in 1909, and into more than 36 languages since then, including Mandarin.

Anne of Green Gables book, chocolates and Mandarin translation
Anne of Green Gables book, chocolates and Mandarin translation
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

More than 50 million copies have been sold worldwide. The Anne of Green Gables book has inspired musicals, plays, movies, television series, ceramic figurines, books, anime cartoons, websites, CDs, DVDs, social media sites and even her own brand of chocolates.

PEI Tourism

How can visitors easily incorporate the many Anne sites, museums and performances in Prince Edward Island? Tourism PEI describes a three-day Anne Itinerary on its website.

The Prince Edward Island driving tour helps visitors learn about Montgomery and her books. It organizes Anne attractions in a methodical way, with time for meals, sightseeing and shopping.

This Anne of Green Gables tour covers Cavendish and New London attractions, as well as Avonlea Village on the first day. The second day is a picturesque drive to Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne attractions in Park Corner, Borden-Carleton, Lower Bedeque and Bideford. The third and final day brings Anne fans to Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island.

Japanese visitors at Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site
Japanese visitors at Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Cavendish National Historic Site

Every year, nearly 150,000 people visit Green Gables Heritage Place, the fictional home of Anne in Cavendish. It's now part of L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site. The original green-roofed house, built in the mid-1800s, was the home of David Jr. and Margaret Macneill, cousins of Montgomery's grandfather.

Although L.M. Montgomery never lived at Green Gables, she spent many happy hours at the farmstead exploring what she called "the Haunted Woods" and "Lover's Lane" behind it. Floral wallpaper, a blue-and-white pitcher and washbasin and a dress with puffy sleeves depict "Anne's Room."

Straw hats with red braids

In July and August, visitors interact with an Anne of Green Gables actress. Some are so charmed by the character that they wear straw hats with red braids purchased from the gift shop and take selfies of themselves around the house, farmyard and gardens. Many of the fans are Japanese.

Visitor wears straw hat with red braids, Green Gables Heritage Place
Visitor wears straw hat with red braids,
Green Gables Heritage Place
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Anne of Green Gables became popular in Japan after Hanako Muraoka translated it into Akage No An (Anne of the Red Hair), during WWII. Muraoka received the book as a gift from New Brunswick missionary, Loretta Shaw. In 1952, it became part of the Japanese school curriculum. Japanese women were inspired by Anne's optimistic and feisty personality.

Japan's fascination with Anne spawned an Anne Academy in Fukuoka, which teaches English, the nicknamed "Green Gables School of Nursing" in Japan (a sister school to the University of Prince Edward Island's School of Nursing) and national Japanese fan clubs. Magazines, websites and social media sites dedicated to Montgomery and her works also perpetuate her legacy in Japan.

Japanese fan clubs collected and sent money to Parks Canada to repair Green Gables house after a fire damaged it in 1997. They also donated more than $3,000 to help renovate the school in Lower Bedeque, where Lucy Maud taught her students.

L. M. Montgomery's Empire typewriter and letters at Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish
L. M. Montgomery's Empire typewriter and letters at Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Lucy Maud Montgomery

The orientation film in the Visitor Reception Centre ties together Anne of Green Gables, the life and works of L.M. Montgomery and the places in PEI that inspired her descriptions. "I have woven a good deal of reality into my books," wrote Montgomery in 1911.

A small museum outside the theatre displays priceless treasures, including Lucy Maud's black Empire typewriter, purchased nearly new in 1906. It was so well-used that many painted letters are worn off the keys.

Also in the museum is Montgomery's lap desk, strewn with letters for family and friends, and an original 1898 scrapbook, where she pasted newspaper clippings of her published work, poems, flowers and tufts of fur from her pet cats.

Black-and-white photos on the wall show Montgomery at different stages of her career, her parents, grandparents, two sons, Stuart and Chester, and her husband, Rev. Ewan Macdonald. They married in 1911, at her Campbell cousins' Silver Bush home in Park Corner. Lucy Maud used Silver Bush as the setting for her novels, Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat.

Silver Bush, Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner. Organ in parlour where L. M. Montgomery married Ewan Macdonald.
Silver Bush, Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner. Organ in parlour where L. M. Montgomery married Ewan Macdonald.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Museum exhibits

The green-trimmed white building, 15 minutes west of Cavendish on Route 20, is now the Anne of Green Gables Museum. Located on the Campbell Homestead, which has been in the Campbell family for more than 230 years, the museum is now owned by George and Maureen Campbell.

George Campbell, a great grandson of Annie and John Campbell (aunt and uncle of Lucy Maud), gives visitors peaceful horse-drawn carriage rides around the Lake of Shining Waters. A drink of Anne's favorite raspberry cordial (made by the Campbells and sold in the Craft Shop) is the perfect refreshment after enjoying "Matthew's Carriage ride."

The organ and furnishings in the parlour, used during Montgomery's wedding, are still used today by many couples who marry here. Visitors see the "enchanted bookcase" that Montgomery describes in Anne of Green Gables, some first editions of her books and a scrapbook.

The most important artefact is her "crazy quilt." It took Lucy Maud six years to make it. No two patchwork pieces are the same. They are different colours, fabrics and shapes, ranging from satins to prints. Each piece has different stitching.

Personalized scrapbooks

Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace at Clifton Corner in New London houses more artefacts. The author lived here for only 21 months. When L. M. Montgomery's mother, Clara Woolner Macneill, developed tuberculosis, Lucy Maud's father, Hugh John Montgomery, moved his wife and daughter to the Macneill Homestead in Cavendish. Here on Sept 14, 1876, Clara Woolner Macneill died at the age of 23.

Bedroom where Lucy Maud Montgomery was born
Bedroom where Lucy Maud Montgomery
was born
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Visitors see several of Montgomery's original scrapbooks, with poems and newspaper articles meticulously glued on the pages. Montgomery's 19 scrapbooks are stored in Charlottetown's Confederation Centre. Each year, different ones are selected for display at her birthplace. The scrapbooks show her fondness for nature, flowers and cats.

Also on display are two original letters. One is a neatly penned 38-page letter to Lucy Maud's friend Eva Macneill, after her honeymoon. In it, she confided that The Story Girl, which she published in 1911, was her favourite book.

Visitors also see the small bedroom where L.M. Montgomery was born in 1874, and downstairs, her original white satin wedding slippers, next to a replica of her wedding dress.

Maud, as she wanted to be called, loved cooking. Aunt Maud's Recipe Book (sold in the gift shop) reveals copies of Montgomery's handwritten recipes, collected by friends and family. Her mock cherry pie, made with cranberries and raisins was her son's favourite.

Strawberry social

Bideford Parsonage Museum, where Montgomery boarded during her first teaching job at Bideford School in 1894, is a pretty yellow house with white gingerbread trim and a wrap-around veranda. Glancing through the lace curtained-window in her bedroom, visitors see the same "lovely view of the bay" that she described.

Bideford Parsonage Museum
Bideford Parsonage Museum
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On Wednesday Evenings with L.M. Montgomery, during the summer, guest speakers read her short stories and share their insights into the author's life and works.

The Bideford Parsonage Museum hosts a Strawberry Social every July, on a Sunday, with musical entertainment, games, a spelling bee, a clothes-hanging competition and delicious strawberry shortcake with ice cream.

Dress-up as Anne

As we traveled around PEI, we collected memorable souvenirs, including red-haired Anne of Green Gables dolls. Our favourite souvenir came from Shop & Play, Atlantic Canada's largest gift shop. Located in Borden-Carleton, it's near the 13-kilometer Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick and the red-and-white lighthouse in Marine Rail Historical Park.

A life-sized statue of Anne carrying a basket of flowers stands outside the shop. Inside, amidst gifts from around the world, we discovered the remaining inventory of Cavendish Figurines, manufactured here until 2015. The collectible ceramics depict scenes from L.M. Montgomery's famous novel.

Dressed-up as Anne and Matthew at Shop & Play
Dressed-up as Anne and Matthew at Shop & Play
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The "Play" part of the store features several themed rooms with props for free photo-ops. Laughter resounded through the shop as men, women and children donned Anne costumes (available in all sizes) and braids for souvenir pictures.

Dressing-up as Anne of Green Gables and Matthew was a fun way to commemorate our Prince Edward Island visit.

Where to stay

Anne enthusiasts may want to stay at Dalvay-by-the Sea. The summer resort, built in 1895, has 25 guest rooms and eight cottages furnished in antiques.

A National Historic Site, the hotel is located in Prince Edward Island National Park on the north coast. The syndicated Sullivan/Disney Channel series, Road to Avonlea, depicted it as the White Sands Hotel.

Confederation Centre

The success of Anne of Green Gables - The Musical™ is a testimony to the enduring appeal of Anne to successive generations.

The longest-running musical in Canada, it was first staged at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in 1965, as part of the inaugural Charlottetown Festival.

Early editions of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea books
Early editions of
Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea books
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Inspired by the humorous and heart-warming performance, we visited the L.M. Montgomery Institute.

Located at the University of Prince Edward Island, it is the only place in the world where you can view the first editions of all English language versions of Montgomery's books, as well as foreign editions and periodicals with Montgomery's stories and poems. The on-line KindredSpaces search tool helps readers view the collections.

We discovered that it's impossible to visit Prince Edward Island without becoming smitten by the fictional little red-haired girl named Anne. But PEI visitors discover more than the story and settings for Anne of Green Gables. They experience a way of life that Montgomery captures so clearly in her writings.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Tourism PEI

More things to see and do in PEI:

PEI Lobster Season, Suppers and Seafood Shipping Outlets

Meetings and Incentives in Prince Edward Island