A staycation in Summerside? Twist my rubber arm!
Growing up in nearby Kensington, I visited Summerside countless times as a kid, but after settling in Charlottetown 10 years ago, I rarely found a reason to make the trek to PEI’s ‘second city’.
All that began to change over the past few years, as I witnessed Summerside coming into its own. My sister, who still lives nearby, would rave about a new restaurant and I’d make the drive just to have dinner there. Or I’d find myself booking tickets to see Elton John at the Credit Union Place. I’d get excited when I had a dentist appointment, because it meant a chance to visit my old stomping grounds and check out new shops that I followed on social media.
I marvelled as I saw this sleepy little town transform into the City by the Sea over the course of just a few years. And now I find myself jumping at any chance to visit this gem of a place. For me, it serves up the perfect mix of nostalgia, small town charm, and vibrant new energy.
So, when I was invited to enjoy a one-night stay in the historic downtown earlier this month, I lept at the chance.
On an unusually warm Saturday in early November, me and my husband, Luke, packed our bags in the car and made our way to Summerside.
Our first stop was at the lovely Loyalist Country Inn, which is located in the heart of historic downtown Summerside. This independently-owned 4-star hotel overlooks the Summerside Harbour and offers plenty of amenities for pleasure and business travellers.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by the front desk staff and manager, who seemed just as excited to be hosting us as we were to be staying there.
Our Executive Suite on the 3rd floor was huge and well-appointed, with modern furnishings and a 4-poster bed that I literally had to climb into, given how tall it was. The windows looked out over the harbour, where the water was glistening in the November sun. It was all the invitation I needed to take a leisurely stroll through the downtown.
Walking on Water
I left Luke to enjoy the hotel room, while I went exploring by foot. And here’s the beauty of visiting the City by the Sea – you can walk the entirety of the downtown core and leave your car where you parked.
I took my time strolling along the waterfront boardwalk behind Spinnaker’s Landing, soaking up the gorgeous ocean views and fishing boats in the harbour – a reminder of Summerside’s deeply-seated roots in the Island’s fishing industry.
After exploring the boardwalk, I continued west along the Confederation Trail, which is tucked between Heather Moyse Drive and Water St., and continues along the seawall in either direction (it’s 6.5 kms in total). Charming, picturesque, and easy to navigate, this waterfront trail, known as the Baywalk Boardwalk, is a must for anyone visiting the city!
Arts & Culture at Every Turn
I made my way to Water St., intent on getting some shopping done and scoping out the dining options for our evening meal. My first stop was at the Little Black Dress Co., a consignment boutique with clothing for every occasion and every body. I could have stayed there for hours, but I restrained myself and left with a cozy shrug sweater. Next up, I popped into Home by Caley Joy and was delighted to find so many items that would make perfect Christmas gifts. I always commit to buying local for the holidays, and love finding shops that make it easy-peasy to shop local.
As I strolled along Water St, what really struck me was the public art on display. From a colourful homage to The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, to wooden sunflowers, and an intricate mural on Evermoore Brewing Co, I was smitten. I felt like I was part of a treasure hunt, except that instead of finding gold, the treasures were these lovely art installations that I had no idea existed.
Walking along the residential streets adjacent to Water St. I discovered even more public art and, of course, many of the city’s famed historic homes. In case you didn’t know, Summerside once had a flourishing fox industry (back when people loved wearing hats made of fox fur).
Today, many of the private houses built with riches from the fox fur trade continue to define the city’s downtown streets. Many have been lovingly restored and are still private homes, while others house businesses. You can learn all about the fox fur industry that helped build Summerside at the International Fox Museum and Hall of Fame, which is located at 33 Summer St. and open during the summer months.
Come with an Appetite
I love food almost as much as I love my husband, so when I’m visiting a city, the food scene is tantamount to my overall experience. And, I’ll be honest, for many years Summerside didn’t really cross my mind as a destination for foodies. But that’s all changed, as an influx of new restaurants and cafes have opened, complementing the city’s long-standing favourites (cue Brothers 2, Starlite Diner, et al!)
Now when I visit Summerside, my dilemma isn’t trying to find a great place to eat, it’s trying to choose between so many incredible dining options. If I had a second stomach, I would have packed it for this staycation.
In the absence of said second stomach, I opted to do my version of a ‘progressive’ meal, where you choose three different spots and enjoy a course (or beverage) at each. Since Luke can’t eat dairy, I decided to start with my dessert. And that meant a visit to Holman’s Ice Cream Parlour, where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time the moment you walk through their doors. Their homemade ice cream is the stuff of pure bliss on its own, but combined with their fresh waffle cones and served with a side of warm hospitality, Holman’s is a ‘must-visit-every-time-you-are-in-Summerside’ kind of place.
After a short intermission to get Luke into gear, we headed to Evermoore Brewing Co. for delicious pre-dinner drinks. I love the ambience of this brewery/restaurant, which is located in the old train station. It’s equal parts cozy, quirky, and stylish, and oh-so-inviting. You could definitely wile away many hours here.
And then it was time for the main affair. In other words, it was time for sushi! And all-you-can-eat sushi at that. When I tell fellow Islanders that there’s great sushi in Summerside, many are downright surprised. To be fair, it wasn’t so long ago that I was also unaware of the Summerside sushi scene. Now I know better. Now I know that any time I want endless sushi, I just have to head to Yumi Sushi!
Located on Water St., Yumi Sushi offers an inviting dine-in experience and the option of ordering from their all-you-can-eat menu, or selecting individual items. To say that their lunch and dinner buffets are great value for money would be an understatement, especially if you have a big appetite (or hungry husband, in my case).
There are SO many options on the buffet/all-you-can-eat menu, including plenty of vegetarian-friendly and dairy-free options. Everything from sushi pizzas to sashimi, classic Japanese appetizers (pan-fried dumplings for the win!), noodle dishes, special rolls, hand rolls, and so much more. What I love most about ordering from this type of menu is that you get to sample anything and everything you want to, so there is no FOMO (a feeling I experience often at restaurants when I have to choose between several dishes that are all equally tempting!). We had a fantastic meal paired with warm, prompt service from our server.
To cap off our Summerside sojourn, we headed to the Harbourfront Theatre to take in an evening of laughs, courtesy of Canadian comedy legend, Ron James. The show was sold out and I quickly came to understand why. Ron had the audience roaring from the minute he stepped on the stage until he bid his farewell two hours later (no intermission!).
It was the first live performance in a theatre setting that I’d attended since pre-pandemic and it felt good to be laughing in a crowd. I was very impressed with the theatre staff and volunteers, who checked for Vax Passes at the door and made the whole process easy, speedy, and safe!
One Night Is Not Enough
While I managed to pack quite a lot into one day and night in Summerside, the next morning as we were enjoying breakfast at The Loyalist, I started making a list of all the places I had to visit next time. It’s a good thing I only live an hour away, making a staycation in Summerside possible any time I find myself craving a wee getaway. For anyone coming from further away, however, I would definitely recommend staying for as long as your calendar allows!