CHARLOTTETOWN: Canada's Birthplace, well worth your time between trips to the beach

Whatever your Prince Edward Island agenda you will want to walk around Charlottetown. Small though it is, most visitors tend to take it in bits and pieces, between beach trips and island tours, or when coming into town for a dinner and a show. In any event you will agree it is a real charmer, enriched by important historical and cultural sites, and restaurants where chefs do lovely things with island produce.

Charlottetown is where the Dominion of Canada was born. It began in 1864, when the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island planned a meeting here to discuss unification of their colonies. Then the combined province of Upper and Lower Canada asked to attend, bringing proposals for a United British North America.

For the 23 delegates attending it was hard work, what with decision making by day, and partying by night. (Upper Canada's John A Macdonald is said to have brought $13,000 worth of champagne to help things along.) Agreements reached that September were confirmed in Québec City a month later, and then in London by Queen Victoria in 1866. Canada became a nation on July 1st 1867, but P.E.I. did not join immediately. Six years later its debt-laden government was forced to overcome concerns about Confederation, and negotiated what Canada's prime minister considered a favourable deal. Concessions to the province included payment of its debts, and assumption of responsibility for straightening out the island's chaotic railway system. (Literally as well as financially, since builders who were paid by the mile had it snaking in every direction.) It also agreed to provide "continuous and efficient year-round transportation between island and mainland.

Now you can be transported back to this important era, for events leading to unification are recounted in Province House, handsomely restored to its original appearance. Designed in 1839 as a showplace for social functions as well as being a stately political arena, it now offers guided tours. Most impressive of the rooms is its elegant Legislative Council Chamber, in which tables and chairs are those used by the 1864 conference delegates. A close second is the Lieutenant Governor's office.

This 1,000 word article describes a walking tour of the city's historic areas, theater and restaurants. It can be expanded to include Guidepost information.