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Gluten-free PEI Adventure with Kids

When we vacationed in Prince Edward Island (“PEI”) in 2015, it was not my first time visiting, but it was my first time going with children - and definitely the first time that I had to be concerned about gluten-free options.

We stayed at The Gables of PEI Resort on the recommendation of one of my family members who had been there before.  The Gables is located in Cavendish in the heart of PEI and we could conveniently drive to all the sites we wanted to see. The Gables offers self-contained villas with all the amenities of home - and then some.  It was nice to have a fully-equipped kitchen and an on-site BBQ where we could prep our own meals if we so desired. 

We drove from our home-province of Ontario to PEI, so packing a cooler with some food and snacks for ourselves and the kids was a must.  We made sure to pack some gluten-free buns in addition to other non-perishable snacks and drinks.  We packed them frozen and by the time we needed them at one of the rest-stops, they were perfectly thawed for our son to enjoy a burger.

I knew this food wouldn’t last us beyond the road trip to PEI, so before we left I visited the Canadian Celiac Association - PEI Chapter’s website and checked out their “Where to Shop” page.  This site has a lot of great information on the names and locations of local shops and major grocery chains which stock gluten-free food in PEI.  The site also has a “Where to Eat” page offering suggestions of restaurants which have gluten-free menu options.

One of the joys of travelling is all the little unexpected adventures you have as part of your journey.  No matter how much you plan, it seems inevitable that something will come up and derail your carefully laid plans.  Some of our family’s best travel stories are about the things that happen on those detours from our original itinerary.

One such story happened when we were in PEI.  We had been sight-seeing in Summerside in the morning and were headed back to Cavendish when we all started to get a bit “hangry”.  We needed to find a place to eat quickly, as we could tell our younger child had reached her limit and a melt-down seemed imminent.  I whipped out my trusty cellphone and hoped that my “Find Me Gluten-free” app would come to the rescue.  This app has saved us many a time by identifying nearby restaurants that offer gluten-free options.  That day was no different. The app recommended The Kitchen Witch Tea Room.  We plugged the coordinates into our car’s GPS and set off on our way.  

The restaurant is a bit off the beaten-path and for a while we thought we were lost, as all we could see was farmland on either side of us.  Then, in the nick of time, we saw an old white schoolhouse with a black silhouette of a witch flying on her broom.

Visiting the Kitchen Witch felt like arriving at a favourite Aunt and Uncle’s house and being welcomed with open arms.  Debbie, the owner and chef, was full of interesting stories - including the fact that she was one of the Official Olympic Torch-bearers for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games!

There was much to explore in the 1832 school house and the kids were encouraged to look around, read and play while we waited for our food.  And what a variety of gluten-free food options there were!  The Kitchen Witch’s menu is about 80% gluten-free.  All cooked in a separate gluten-free kitchen.  The menu was full of home-cooked and kid-friendly options.

Another great part of our trip were the beautiful beaches and we had a unique opportunity to explore along the waters-edge with Tranquility Cove Adventures.  We signed up for their Starfish Hunting adventure and had such a wonderful time finding starfish, crab and even some pearls!  The tour was 2 hours, a perfect length of time for our kids to have fun and not get too tuckered out in the process.  Tranquility Cove Adventures offers many other tours that those with older (or more patient!) kids than ours might enjoy as well.

The Dunes Gallery and Cafe was another great place to explore.  The cafe is located right in the middle of a gallery, offering beautiful views both inside and out.  Those with young kids might be on pins-and-needles being within such easy reach of some fragile displays, but the outdoor garden is worth a visit and features some rather less breakable artwork in amongst the flowers and greenery.  The Cafe does their best to accommodate food allergies, make sure you notify the server.

We also discovered the John Brown Grille in Charlottetown, which had a lot of gluten-free and kid-friendly options.  Of course, what PEI adventure would be complete without a visit to Cows Creamery?  Our son was able to enjoy some delicious locally made ice cream, albeit in a cup instead of a cone.

Another must when visiting Atlantic Canada?  A lobster supper, of course!  There are many restaurants which specialize in lobster dinners and while they don’t necessarily have a gluten-free menu, many of the options are naturally gluten-free.  That being said, there is always a risk of cross-contamination, so be sure to flag your child’s allergy to the server.  Many restaurants will have the chef come and speak with you directly to clarify the options available.

One last location I want to tell you about is the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company.  Their tea and jam shop was lovely and the menu offered many gluten-free options - including gluten-free bread for sandwiches and my son’s favourites - pancakes and waffles!  Definitely worth a visit to see the smile on your gluten-free child’s face when they get to order a waffle with fruit and whipped cream off of the menu!

Prince Edward Island is a wonderful location to vacation with your kids and make lasting memories. Gluten-free and child-friendly options are everywhere.  Hopefully this will give you a head-start when planning your vacation there.

For those who have already had the pleasure of visiting PEI or one of the other Maritime Provinces, what locations have I missed?  What restaurants would you recommend to families with GF kids?


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