Visiting Wolfe Island Canada With a Small Dog
When you are next in Kingston – because after my review of Kingston, you are going to go, right? – I recommend taking the ferry to Wolfe Island for a day of relaxed adventure. You will not regret it.
Wolfe Island, named after General James Wolfe (“Wolfe” with an “e,” not my ancestors), is the largest of the world-renowned Thousand Islands. It’s located where Lake Ontario ends and the St. Lawrence River begins its flow to the Atlantic.
To get to the island, you start your adventure on a free government ferry. (Free! How many things are free these days?) Once the ice melts in the spring, the ferry runs every 30 minutes, crossing the water with about 55 cars, bikes, 300 or so people, and pets. You can still cross to the island in the winter, but the departure point changes and the schedule may vary, so be sure to check the details on the government’s website.
Once on the ferry, head to the upper deck where you get the best view and the wind blows the stress off your shoulders.
The crossing is worth just the view from the ferry’s upper deck. Kingston’s shoreline is dotted with historical buildings, and Fort Henry is visible on the hill on the town’s outskirts. If you have a zoom lens on your camera, you will be spoiled for photo ops!
When you arrive at the Marysville dock on Wolfe Island, take a little time to wander along the street. Stop for an ice cream or pop into the bakeshop for a treat – or leave the treats until you are waiting for the ferry back to Kingston. That’s what we did. There’s also a great restaurant right on the water’s edge. The Island Grill is pet friendly. Not only was I allowed on the patio, but there was also a cat hanging out. The food is nice and simple, the service is friendly and prompt, and the environment is quiet and peaceful.
Our main reason for going to the island was to see Big Sandy Bay. Big Sandy Bay Management Area is a 404-hectare of rare coastal ecology. It has been identified as an environmentally sensitive Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. Provincially and regionally significant birds, provincially rare trees and other rare plant species flourish here. During summer months, there is a $9 fee to enter. The entry fee helps to fund the conservation work in the Area.
As the name suggests, Big Sandy Bay has a large sandy beach and dune. It’s a little tricky to access, so travel light! Dogs are allowed so long as they stay on leash.
We visited in May before the Area is officially open to the public, but the volunteers gave us the go ahead to visit. We started with a walk along a lovely 1.3 km trail through wetlands and woodlands. I loved that trail! With no one else around, we communed with nature in perfect silence.
Unfortunately, the sandy beach was still nearly entirely under water. The water doesn’t get low enough to enjoy the vast expanse of sand until mid-June or early July, so we were too early. But we still enjoyed the time we spent there. It’s a magnificent spot; the variety of birds alone was worth the trek. We hope to return to Big Sandy Bay late summer or early fall one year so we can enjoy the sand and go for a swim. Well, the bipeds will swim; I don’t do water. *shiver*
Wolfe Island is also known for its wind farm – a collection of modern day windmills. To some, the wind farm is an eyesore and a source of controversy. But for us, the wind farm on the western end of the island was interesting. It is amazing how big these wind turbines are! They are huge, and so quiet and hypnotic to watch. Cows graze underneath, oblivious to what’s above them. If you are lucky, you’ll find a turbine with an open gate or easy access. Go ahead and stand underneath: it is awe-inspiring.
On the whole, the island is mainly farmland with a few B&Bs and homes on the waterfront. The roads are mostly dirt so don’t expect your car to stay clean. The good news is there’s not much road to travel and it is hard to get really lost. The best way to get around the island might actually be on bicycle!
Once back in Marysville, you will likely have to wait for your return ferry to Kingston. We failed to notice that the return ferry we were planning to take was a “Dangerous Goods crossing.” Absolutely no commuters are allowed on that ferry, so had to wait for the next one. We made good use of our found time though: we stopped at the bakery for some treats, walked along the main road of the little town, chatted with locals, and even sat at the ferry dock and just let our feet (and paws … just the paws) cool in the water. All that to say, remember to check the ferry schedule! As I mentioned, the ferry runs all year – it is the island’s lifeline – but schedules do vary.
One thing we had not realized is that there is a ferry crossing to Cape Vincent, New York (USA) from the far side of the island. Maybe one day we will choose to cross from there. That could be fun! I hear the ferry ride is much longer than the 20 minutes we enjoyed and the water can be choppier. Still, it sounds to me like another adventure awaits!
In review: Wolfe Island is a wonderful little getaway! It’s well worth at least an afternoon visit if not a whole day, and is one of the most pet friendly places we have been to in Ontario. A little slice of heaven. The Wolfe Islander III serves as the Island’s main ferry and operates 365 days a year. Some popular tourist activities include cycling and visiting local farms. A total of 86 wind turbines decorate the island’s landscape.