On Prince Edward Island, O’Leary is synonymous with potatoes. Legend has it that the hamlet took its name from an Irish farmer who settled here in the 1830s. By 1872, rail service connected the hamlet with the rest of the island, and with that link in place, O’Leary was on its way to becoming Canada’s largest potato producer.
O’Leary straddles backcountry Route 142, a five-minute drive from Route 2 and 50 minutes from Summerside. You might expect mountains of potatoes; rather, O’Leary (pop. 900) is a tidy place, nestled in the midst of surprisingly attractive fields of low-growing potato plants. If you’re in the area during the autumn harvest, you’ll see the fields lighted by tractor headlights as the farmers work late at night to harvest the valuable crop before the frost.
Canadian Potato Museum
Don’t be put off by the name; the Canadian Potato Museum (1 Dewar Ln., off Rte. 142, 902/859-2039; mid-May-mid-Oct. Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm, Sun. 1pm-5pm; adult $10, senior $9, family $23) is an interesting stop that depicts the history of Prince Edward Island’s most famous crop. The museum explains the story of the potato’s humble beginnings in South America, the way the crop is grown and harvested, and how science has played a hand in the potatoes we eat today. A barn, a schoolhouse, and a chapel are out back.
Within the museum is the Potato Country Kitchen (mid-May-mid-Oct. Mon.-Sat. 11am-3pm, Sun. 1pm-4pm), with rotating daily specials such as potato oyster stew and cottage pie. You can order a loaded potato, potato soup, and poutine (fries topped with gravy and cheese curds). Save room for a slice of seaweed pie, which is actually a slice of cake made with locally harvested seaweed and topped with strawberry sauce and whipped cream.
Getting to O’Leary
O’Leary is 60 kilometers (50 minutes) northwest of Summerside via Routes 2 and 142. It’s 120 kilometers (1.5 hours) northwest of Charlottetown via Routes 2 and 142.
Excerpted from the Eighth Edition of Moon Atlantic Canada.