It could be a warmish summer, or it might be a clear and cold winter day, and you are looking for something to while away an afternoon around Kingston, Ontario. Why not visit Amherst Island?
Or, you might ask, why bother visiting Amherst Island?
First off, you will get to enjoy the Amherst Ferry (The Frontenac II) to and from the Island. And while ferry travel is commonplace for Kingston folks that want to visit the local islands, if you are from away, taking the ferry might, in itself, be a fun thing for you and the family to do.
Tickets (cash only) are purchased on the ferry after you’ve boarded so don’t waste time looking for a ticket booth. In 2016 the return fare for a single car, including occupants, is $9.00 Cdn.
In the photo above the Frontenac II is just arriving at the mainland ferry landing. She’s a pretty large craft for a fresh-water ferry, and she sidles up to the dock, hesitant and pensive, like a swimmer dipping a toe into ice cold water. Once again, they’ve timed it just right, as the big tires that are protecting the dock are barely kissed by the ferry’s bulk as the skilled captain and crew sift her into a full stop, the loading ramp perfectly aligned with the access road. Excellent job!
The trip across the North Channel to Amherst Island takes only about 15 minutes. The ferry departs the mainland on the 1/2 hour, and the return trip departs Amherst Island on the hour. The crossing is normally pretty smooth, even if there’s a gale blowing, as the waters are well protected by Amherst to the south, and the mainland to the north.
In winter, pack ice is shunted from the ferry’s path by the blunt hull which makes things a bit noisier. But you’ll likely stay in your car then anyway, as the winter-borne winds are keen and penetrating.
In the photo above, the Frontenac II is approaching the landing on Amherst Island, on a gorgeous and sunny summer afternoon.
You will disembark almost right in downtown Stella, Ontario. In fact, as you exit the ferry and drive away from the dock, in just a moment you are at the Stella four-corners and the stop sign, one of just a few on the island.
Look across the street. There’s the Stella General Store. Worth browsing through for a few minutes before you make your right or left turn onto Front Road to explore the Island. It’s only a minute or so drive in any direction, and there’s Stella, in the rear view mirror. The view turns pastoral with, depending on which way you drive, farms, cottages, houses and the Lake keeping you company.
Choose a right turn and you head west down to Big Point. The Topsy Farms are located there. They are purveyors of lamb and wool products. Just before them you’ll reach the Roman Catholic Cemetery and the R.C. church. Both are located near the end of the road.
To continue on your tour of Amherst Island, after you reach the end of Front Road, you will need to backtrack a bit and turn south at the Roman Catholic Church onto Emerald Forty Foot. Interesting name, yes?
As you traverse Amherst Island soutbound, you’ll intersect the 2nd concession. Take a right, and then a left onto Art McGinn’s Road if you’d like to visit Back Beach Park.
Or continue on down to the 3rd concession and a left turn to take you back towards the center of the island and more Amherst Island sites.
Amherst Island is pastoral. Big city excitement and problems are not to be found on this gentle island. Enjoy the tranquil views and the animals in the many farms you will pass as you drive (slowly please) along.
It’s been a full afternoon and evening here on Amherst Island, what with the swimming and picnicking. The summer sun is setting to the West. It falls quickly behind the higher ground of the mainland, viewed in this photo looking across the North Channel, late one summer’s day.
Getting To Amherst Island
From the #401 highway, take County Road #4 south right to Lake Ontario. Turn right on Highway #33, and the ferry landing is on your left just a kilometer or so along.
From Kingston, follow Bath Road westbound until it turns into the Loyalist Parkway (Highway #33) and head west until you pass County Road #4. Watch on your left for the
ferry landing. And watch your speed. Much of this road is posted as 60 km/hr (about 40 mph), and it is patrolled regularly.
Interested in a visit to Amherst Island? Want to stay over? Ready to tune into Amherst Island’s own radio station?
Much more information can be obtained here at the Amherst Island website: www.amherstisland.on.ca.