Until about 2008 the service was provided by flat-bed, unpowered barges, each towed by a powerful, open, diesel-powered boat. Significant skill was needed by the operators as the towing boat had to manœuvre when approaching the shore so that the barge was swung correctly to align with the dock. (See the link to the video below.) In 2008 two of these barges were sent to a shipyard in Matane and significantly modified and enlarged to turn them into classic diesel powered, end-loading ferries. But the trip is still the same. This is the widest of the ferry crossings on the Ottawa, and gives you the chance to look back downstream and see the high-rise buildings of Montreal in the distance.
But this crossing isn't just for a pleasant day out. It serves a useful short cut between the northern Montreal suburbs such as Terrebonne and Blainville, and Hwy 417 to Ottawa or Hwy 401 to Toronto and on. Or as in my case when I crossed in September 2018 it was to go from Pointe-Claire to Saint-Augustin, near Mirabel. After landing at Oka I took the back roads up and through the hills behind Oka, and then through farmland all the way. There are large orchards in that area and being September the trees were laden with red fruit and the apple boxes were stacked high beside the road ready for the harvest. Anything to avoid the Montreal bridges, especially at rush hour.
See below for more on the ice bridge.
From the air
In May 2018 we set off for a trip to Norway and Sweden, departing in the evening from Dorval Airport (sorry, Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport). We enjoyed beautiful skies as we flew out.
This photo, taken as we flew over Île-Perrot, shows the Île aux Tourtes bridge that carries the Trans-Canada Highway from the mainland onto Montreal Island, Lac des Deux Montagnes and the Ottawa river stretching upstream to the north-west.
The second photo is an enlargement that shows the two Oka–Hudson ferries crossing the river from either side.
10 minutes, 2
$11 car and passengers
Traverse d'Oka Inc.
When I used the ferry
Most recently September 2018
Winter—the ice bridge
Come winter the ferries are withdrawn from service and pulled up onto the shore at Hudson. Because the river is wide here the currents are low and it freezes relatively easily, so a commercial ice bridge has operated here for a long time.
Same as the ferry
Hudson–Oka Ice Bridge Inc.
$8 car and passengers
When I crossed
Most recently February 2018
The Hudson–Oka Ice Bridge is operated by the Léger brothers, whose father once owned the ferry and who still work on the ferry during the summer. They are responsible for testing the ice, marking out the lane with a line of Christmas trees and keeping the snow ploughed off it. The snow is not just an impediment to driving—it is a good insulant, keeping out the cold air and leading to thinner ice.
Our last visit was after a period of warming and heavy rain which had caused it to be closed for a couple of days. The temperature had dropped back down by the time we crossed, making the surface hard and slick—almost impossible to walk on. Always phone or check the website to see if it's open or not.