As a coastal community the lighthouses of Prince Edward Island not only served the practical purpose of lighting the way home before the era of GPS navigation, they now offer a unique opportunity to those who visit. Prince Edward Island offers a variety of lighthouse tours ranging from the scenic to the informative.
As most are aware, lighthouses served as a navigational aid for sailors and the ships they captained. Lighthouses are towers that are positioned on sea shores, or even sometimes in harbours. They use a series of lamps and lenses to help guide navigating vessels on the high seas. Lighthouses are used to mark dangerous coastlines, steer ships away from hazards, mark safe entry points into harbours and assist in aerial navigation. With that in mind it is important to note how important lighthouses were to trade and commerce throughout human history.
PEI has a rich history and is the birthplace of confederation in Canada. It also has many historic lighthouses that were used to guide the ships delivering goods to and from Canada. PEI’s lighthouses are classified in two ways “First Generation” (built before 1873) and “Second Generation” (those built following 1873). The difference between the two types is that first generation lighthouses have an octagonal shape and were constructed when timber was plentiful in the province. The second generation lighthouses are square shaped as by this point (post 1873) PEI’s timber supply had been scarce because of the shipbuilding industry.
Lighthouse technology, although used less in modern times, employs a series of lamps and lenses to project light over large distances. This technology utilizes concentrated light from a single continuous source and magnifies and reflects it so that it can be beamed across open water. The first lighthouses were lit by candles, later by whale oil, then by the 1870’s kerosene was typically used.
As an island PEI boasts over 40 historic lighthouses. Surrounded by both scenic red sand beaches and rugged cliffs touring the lighthouses provides wonderful insight into maritime life and well as a rich Canadian history. Since Prince Edward Island is surrounded by water you are never to far from the breathtaking views of the gentle island.