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Dalvay by the Sea

In many state and national parks, you'll find Historic Inns that are open to visitors. They're often wonderful hideaways that boast some of the best views on planet Earth. So we sent The Savvy Traveler's Kitty Felde to scope some of them out for us. And she began just outside of the U.S., in the Maritimes of eastern Canada, on a small island that owes its fame to a fictitious young lady in red pigtails.

Dalvay by the Sea
by Kitty Felde

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It was the PBS production of Anne of Green Gables that first drew me to Prince Edward Island over a decade ago. For the uninitiated, Anne is a spunky 11-year-old orphan girl who dreams of finding kindred spirits and discovers that Prince Edward Island provides plenty of scope for the imagination. I followed in Anne's footsteps and found a magical place full of red sandy beaches, unbelievably inexpensive lobster dinners, and giant dahlias the size of sunflowers. But for me and so many other visitors to Prince Edward Island, the main attraction was the character created by Canadian writer Lucy Maude Montgomery.

Sandra: "We always wanted to come where Anne of Green Gables was...our favorite movie."


Sandra Fogel of Nazareth, Pennsylvania and daughter Nichole Kaniper from Bridgewater, New Jersey were looking for the perfect girl vacation. They chose a hotel right out of the Anne series -- a sandstone and white trimmed Victorian mansion called Dalvay by the Sea. If you're an Anne fan, you might recognize it as the White Sands Hotel. The Dalvay is in the heart of Anne country, sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the gulf of St. Lawrence, right in the middle of Prince Edward Island National Park. Assistant Manager Wayne Berry says the Dalvay was built in 1896 as a summer "cottage" by oil baron Alexander McDonald, who named it after his ancestral home in Scotland. But McDonald's family wasn't interested in the place.

Wayne: "When he died in 1912, they wrote a note to the caretaker saying 'if you want Dalvay, pay off the back taxes and it's yours.'"

The caretaker, a Mr. McPherson, borrowed the $86.12 and became the new lord of the manor. In later years, during Canadian prohibition, the Dalvay was home to captain Edward Dicks, a noted rum-runner. His biggest challenge was to deliver the goods to his customers before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived.

Wayne: "Before they loaded the keg onto the speedboat, they tied a chunk of rock salt on keg. If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were in hot pursuit, they'd come back when the salt dissolved and go home."

Captain Dicks grew weary of the rum-running game and Dalvay was eventually sold to the Canadian national park system in the 1930s.

Today, the Dalvay retains its reverence for a quieter time. There are no telephones, no radios and no televisions in any of the guest rooms. Visitors are encouraged to read by one of the oversized fireplaces, or play the piano, or go for a walk by the beach. Guest Nichole Kaniper calls it perfect.

Dalvay by the Sea

Nichole: "Inside, it reminds me of Manchester, Vermont in October, the smell of the fireplace, then you go outside and you have the smell of the ocean at the same time so you have a fall day in Vermont with summer day at the beach."

Wayne: "Good evening, Dalvay Hotel, Wayne speaking...very well, thank you."

The Dalvay is a small hotel -- just 26 rooms plus four cottages. And it's only open between the months of June and September. If it sounds appealing, better act fast: by the time the Dalvay closes its doors for the season, 30 percent of its rooms will already be booked for next summer. And if you're lucky enough, and you might hear the echoes of a redheaded girl and her bosom buddy, dreaming about the future.

On Prince Edward Island, I'm Kitty Felde for The Savvy Traveler.

Savvy Info on Prince Edward Island (PEI):

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