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Singing Sands Beach, Basin Head Provincial Park

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Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site Trails


Fort Amherst Trails

Quick Facts

Difficulty wheelchair
Trail Type loops
Distance 6 km
Estimated Time 2 hrs
Surface Type paved, crushed rock, forested
Elevation Change 22 meters
Features fort, lighthouses, wigwam
Trail Markers signs
Scenery Rating must see
Maintenance Rating well maintained
Cell Reception strong
Dog Friendly on a leash
Fees none


Hiking Trails of PEI Book


There are many layers of history on this point of land that forms one side of the narrow entrance to Charlottetown Harbour. The name has been expanded to try to reference them all. Skmaqn is a Mi'kmaq name which means "the waiting place". In the 1700's the Mi'kmaq and French Leaders met annually on this site. The Mi'kmaq would have to wait for the french leaders to arrive from Cape Breton.

Le Grand Derangement

In the early 1700's, when it was controlled by the French, the site was called Port-la-Joye. Following the expulsion of the Acadians in 1758 it came under British command and was named Fort Amherst. There are many interpretive signs along the trails explaining the history. See "From the Sign" below for a few examples. The remnants of the old fort form large grassy burms in the middle of the field. There is also a monument to the Grand Derangement (Acadian Expulsion), a replica birch bark teepee, two lighthouses and a visitor center.

DePensens Path / Sentier DePensens

The trails loop around a large field on a hill overlooking Charlottetown Harbour. Some of the trails also go through patches of coastal spruce forest. The coastline is made of small cliffs so there isn't much for beach access but the trail travels along the shore just back from the cliffs. If you like great views and/or history you want to come and explore this set of trails.


From the Sign


From 1720 to 1768 this site was an important colonial base, first for France and later Great Britain. One of the first permanent French settlements on the island, Port-la-Joye served as the seat of colonial government for Île Saint-Jean and as a port of entry for newcomers. It was also a place where the Mi'kmaq and French annually renewed their close relationship and military alliance. It was from this site, surrendered to Great Britain in 1758 and renamed Fort Amherst, that the British organized the forcible removal of over 3,000 of the island's inhabitants in one of the most tragic of all the Acadian deportations.


From the lights in Cornwall take Route 19 south towards Meadowbank. Continue on Route 19 for 6.5 kilometres and then turn left towards Rocky Point, continuing on Route 19. Drive for another 10 kilometres and turn left onto Blockhouse Road (park signs will point the way). After 400 meters, and just before the road turns to red dirt, turn left onto Hache Gallant Road (park entrance). This road will take you to the visitor centre in the middle of the park, or continue to the end of the road to another parking lot.

Visitor Centre

From the Sign


There has been an aboriginal presence on the island for at least ten thousand years. The Mi'kmaq became allies and important trading partners with the French in the 1600s and then later sided with them in battles against the British. This formal relationship between the French and Mi'kmaq was acknowledged and fostered at Port-la-Joye, the place the Mi'kmaq called "kuntal Kwesawe'kl" (rocky point), during annual gift-giving ceremonies. These ceremonies took place from 1726 until 1745. The speeches, feasting and festivities often lasted several days.

From the Sign


Undertaken here in 1758, this expulsion was one of the largest and the deadliest of the Acadian deportations that took place between 1755 and 1762. As part of a strategy to dismantle the French colony of Île Saint-Jean during the Seven Years' War, the British forcibly transported more than 3,000 inhabitants to France. Over half died due to shipwreck or disease. Around 1,100 inhabitants evaded deportation, a few going into hiding on the island and many more finding refuge in nearby French territory. Today, Prince Edward Island's Acadian culture and French language testify to the resolve of all Acadians who settled here after the war.

From the Sign


In 1720, THREE HUNDRED men, women and children were brought from France to settle on Île Saint-Jean by Louis Hyacinthe Castel, Comte de Saint-Pierre, who was a courtier of Louis XV. These farmers, fishermen and tradesmen, who were soon joined by settlers from Acadia, established Port-la-Joye, one of the Island's first permanent European settlements and the administrative centre for the colony. With a harbour that was large, sheltered and easy to defend, this was a good location for the capital. The colony had great potential - good farmland, a rich fishery and a short sail to Louisbourg and other French centres.

Trail Last Hiked: July 4, 2019.

Page Last Updated: December 6, 2019.