Written by Bryson Guptill, Island Walk Ambassador
When we completed our Island Walk in October, 2019, one of our favorite walks was our beach walk to East Point, PEI along the Northside beach. Beach walks are always special – sand dunes, marram grass, and ocean waves crashing at your feet. The Northside beach is especially attractive because it leads to the lighthouse on the far eastern tip of PEI, and it doesn’t get much attention from Islanders or visitors when they are here in the summer. Here’s what the route looks like:
This lack of attention may be due in part to the remote location of the beach, but it’s also because the beach isn’t easy to access. All beaches on PEI are open to the public, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to get to. Northside beach runs from North Lake to East Point – about 8 km. However, there are several headlands between North Lake and the East Lake run that make walking along the beach at high tide a bit of a challenge. From East Lake run to East Point there are fewer headlands making it a very pleasant walk at high tide and even more appealing at low tide. We hit it just right when we were walking in October – low tide and a lovely walk along the sandy beach. The problem was, we couldn’t find a public access point. We managed to get permission from a local land owner to let us cross his property (up his driveway, and through his backyard). That isn’t very practical for someone who doesn’t have the local contacts we have to get that kind of permission.
In April, 2020, I set about to find another access point to the beach that would be readily accessible to anyone who wanted to do the walk. I first explored a couple of fields across from the wind farm that’s on the south side of the Northside Road (Rte 16). They were promising, but I discovered two problems. One was that the fields ended in a twenty-foot drop to the ocean at the beach – not much fun if you’re carrying a backpack and wearing hiking boots. The other problem was the field was wet and covered in slush and in April – I broke through at one spot and managed to get not one, but two soakers – right up to my knees! Another spot closer to North Lake had great beach access, but it was right beside another private home.
I decided to check out some other spots that were closer to East Point. Then I noticed that East Lake, which is about half way between North Lake and East Point, has a little stream that runs out to the beach (East Lake Creek). If it was accessible, I could walk along the creek to get to the beach.
I was in luck. There is a path that runs along the East Lake Creek – unfortunately, it’s on the west side of the creek, so you need to cross the creek to get to the Northside beach. I walked down to the beach just to check if there was a safe crossing point. In April, the creek looked more like a little river and the current made crossing a dodgy proposition. I decided to wait until later in the spring to see if the water level was a little lower.
Later in the spring turned into mid-June before I recruited some friends and returned to the East Lake Creek. It was a beautiful day, with a high of 20 degrees predicted for the afternoon. We parked our cars at East Lake and walked across Hwy 16 to the path along East Lake Creek. A gentle breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay – there was a spectacular view of the sand dunes and the beach in the distance.
We walked along the trail to the beach with great anticipation, knowing we would have to cross the creek at some point to get to Northside beach and our destination at East Point. Fortunately, the water levels were lower than they were in April and it looked like we could get across the creek right where it flowed into the ocean on the beach.
A few brave souls jumped across the creek. I got my feet wet, but one of our group wasn’t so lucky. One of our friends tripped just before he jumped and landed face-first in the creek. Only his ego was hurt, but the rest of our group peeled off their shoes and socks and waded across the ice-cold stream.
The 4 km walk to the lighthouse was wonderful. As an added treat, we were in the middle of lobster season and there were more than 30 lobster boats hauling and setting their traps all around us. It was a glorious sight.
About .5 km before the lighthouse, there’s a path that leads up from the beach to the the parking area beside the East Point light. We took this path and walked to the right around the fence beside the parking area. The path crosses private property, but it is used regularly by locals.
There’s no railing next to the cliff so you need to be careful. A better solution would be stairs down to the beach near the lighthouse parking lot. Hopefully that’s something that will be considered when further improvements are made at the cafe and the lighthouse sometime in the future.