No photo editing needed! The bluffs and beaches are indeed red. (Credit: Tourism PEI)
Before plunging waist-deep into the ocean, we’re handed what the crew calls a hack, but looks to me like a garden rake. There are jelly fish floating about, but if you steer clear of them, they’ll likely steer clear of you.
Ever the gentlemen, Perry scoops jellys out of the sea with his bare hands and flings them to the side for us women and children. The gents are on their own.
Belly Buttons in the Sand
“What we’re looking for is belly buttons in the sand,” instructs Perry in his delicious lilt. Once we spot these markers, we’re to rake the soft sand and if we feel something hard beneath the surface, put a bit of muscle into it and hopefully land a hefty-sized bar clam.
It gets a bit confusing for landlubbers like me, when it becomes apparent we shouldn’t waste our effort on perfectly round belly buttons. Symmetrical spheres are the mark of razor clams. “You won’t catch the razors,” Perry warns. “They’ll dig right down. You want a gentle, imperfect imprint in the sand.”
I rake away, but after several attempts have come up with nothing, so I switch into journalist mode.
Me: Hey Perry, because razor clams are so popular, do you ever dig specifically for them?
Perry: What? They are? No! They’re a pain for us to get. People out West want those?
Me: Oh, yeah. And not just in Alberta, they’re in lots of Canada’s top restaurants.
Perry shakes his head and mutters something I’m quite sure isn’t a compliment to those who pay top dollar for razors at such establishments.
Me: This hack thing, do you use it only for digging clams?
Perry: No, lass. It’s also good for pulling up weeds in the garden.
Best Things to Do in PEI
Plunging my beet red face into the ocean, I get down to business. This has to be one of the best, most fun things to do in PEI, I think to myself.
A ha, spotted one! It takes two or three strong pulls before I uncover what feels like a rock. Little did I know, pulling a mollusk out of the ocean floor is immensely gratifying.
Perry patiently helps Eve spot the indentations in the sand, but I didn’t need to worry about her. She’s cleaned house – or ocean as the case may be, netting double the number of clams as me.
“She’s a natural, she is. I expect to see her out here helping me in a few years,” exclaims Perry. Eve blushes and looks proud, though does her best not to show it.
PEI has brown, white and RED beaches!
Bar Clams PEI
After an hour of foraging, we have enough bar clams to fill a large steamer pot. Satisfied with our spoils, we wade onto a deserted island, where the crew has set out a spread for our clam roast against the dramatic red sandstone cliffs of PEI.
Though it’s only 10 a.m., it’s the perfect time for a clam bake. Who knew clamming could be such a ravenous activity? The bar clams are thrown into a large pot of boiling sea water. After approximately 18-minutes, the shells hinge open, releasing their own juices and the pot is taken off the propane burner.
So fat. So juicy!
We’re ready to dive in, but you can’t just throw back a clam as you would an oyster. First we learn how to pop off the membrane and pull out its innards.
Once we’re left with the scallop and tongue, we dip these meaty morsels into the warm clam juice they were boiled in. Our clams are savoury and buttery, not at all briny and we gorge ourselves to the point of bursting.
Giant bar clams all cleaned up nicely. Thanks, Perry!
PEI With Kids
There’s still enough time for exploring and Eve wastes no time beach combing, netting periwinkles, sampling fresh off the rock dulse and gleefully plunging sticks into the fattest of jellyfish. In case I wasn’t convinced before, I now know for sure, PEI is one of the best spots in Canada to travel to in summer with kids.
Then it’s back on the boat for the return journey, as the crew haul in lobster and crab traps for an interactive fishing lesson for the kids (and adults).