“Once and again, I stray down and listen to the duet of the brook and wind, and watch the sunbeams creeping through the dark boughs, the gossamers glimmering here and there, and the ferns growing up in the shadowy nooks.”
-The Selected Journals of L.M.Montgomery, entry July 24, 1899
With prose like that, it’s no wonder L.M. Montgomery became a world famous author. Drawing inspiration from the beautiful meadows and forests around Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, her surroundings would one day serve as the setting for her finest work: the story of Anne of Green Gables.
The tale of a spunky, red-headed orphan mistakingly sent to live with an aging brother and sister on their farm has been a treasured tale for generations, particularly in Canada, Japan and Poland. More than 50 million copies of the book have been sold since it was first published in 1908, creating an entire spinoff industry of toys, movies and mementos. The province of PEI has been the greatest benefactor, with visitors from around the world making the trip to the island on Canada’s east coast just to see the spot that inspired Montgomery’s stories: Green Gables Heritage Place.
The site sits on property which originally belonged to Montgomery’s cousins who she would often visit, and is now run by Parks Canada which restored the farm to look how Montgomery described it in the novels. They also erected a Visitor Centre, which shows a short film about the writer and has exhibits including her typewriter, scrapbooks, family photos and a look back at her life including her work as a teacher and journalist.
Visitors then pass through a huge barn with big red doors and find themselves standing in front of perhaps the most iconic feature: the Green Gables House. Surrounded by pretty gardens and looking out over the surrounding woods, it looks just as it would have in the 1800s, complete with a dining room ready to serve up supper, brightly-coloured wallpaper and bedrooms that look just rumpled enough that it seems like Anne only just woke up and left for school.
Visitors are welcome to walk through the home, and chances are this is where one might be lucky enough to come across mischievous Anne and her carrot-coloured braids. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, she’s always happy to pose for a photo!
The rest of the grounds are comprised of the Acadian forest where Montgomery spent many of her days dreaming up stories. Marked pathways such as Lovers’ Lane, Balsam Hollow trail and Haunted Wood trail are beautiful spots for a stroll, and include signs along the route with excerpts of Montgomery’s writing about the woodlands.
For those who haven’t got enough of Anne Shirley, Avonlea Village is usually the next stop. Located just down the road from the heritage site, the village has adorable shops, restaurants and cafes, including PEI institution COWS which some say makes the world’s best ice cream. This area is hands-down the best spot to stock up on souvenirs such as dolls, books and even Anne of Green Gables themed potato chips!
Avonlea Village also has historical significance, as it’s home to the Belmont School where Montgomery taught in 1896 and has since been converted into a gift shop. The Long River Church built back in 1872 also happens to be the original Presbyterian Church that the writer attended with her family, and is now used to host concerts.
The final Anne of Green Gables stop worth noting is back in Charlottetown. Anne of Green Gables- The Musical has been performed for more than half a century—so long in fact, that the production is now a Guinness World Record holder for the “longest-running annual musical theatre production.”
Hosted in the city’s Confederation Centre of the Arts, the highly-entertaining show features a talented cast (including a few islanders) who spin and cartwheel around the stage while singing the story of Anne’s unexpected arrival in Cavendish. A night at the theatre is the perfect way to cap off a day tracing the roots of the spunky, beloved Anne of Green Gables, seeing first hand why she holds such a special place in everyone’s hearts.
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Globe Guide explored Green Gables Heritage Place in partnership with Tourism PEI. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.