I first visited Canada in 1975 to stay in Kingston with the family of my then girlfriend and now wife Anita. This was a great adventure for me, a chance to spread my wings to another continent for the first time, and I took every opportunity to make the most of the visit. I was treated royally and the trip became one of many "trips of a lifetime" that I've been lucky to have experienced. That trip ignited the love of Canada that led to my moving there 3½ years later.
While staying in Kingston I found out there was a ferry from close to the city hall across to Wolfe Island – and it was free. Everyone in the family was saying, "Sure, you can take the ferry but there's nothing much on Wolfe Island to see". Indifference killed the prospect of any official visit, but I wanted to squeeze in everything I could on that trip, so just before I left Canada I took the bus downtown and took the Wolfe Islander as a foot passenger. They were right, of course, there was nothing much to do there, especially on foot, but I do remember a friendly guy in a pickup truck stopping and giving me a ride!
From a sight-seeing perspective the return trip back to Kingston is the highlight. The ferry sweeps around the corner of Point Frederick with Fort Henry and its associated fortifications, and the Royal Military College behind. And on the port side is the Kingston waterfront which looks so much more interesting from the lake. Of course you can see all that from the stern of the ferry as you leave Kingston, but somehow it's better seen arriving than leaving.
Over the years we have taken the Wolfe Islander several times, to enjoy the trip as much as to see anything special on Wolfe Island. Visiting Canada for the first time in winter my father-in-law took us over to drive around looking for Snowy Owls. I didn't expect to see any, but as we drove around very bleak, windy, snow covered farmland we came across owl after owl perched patiently on fence posts, hunting for small rodents in the snow covered stubble fields. It is in fact a reliable place to hunt for snowies and I have returned recently, on a cold but sunny day just to photograph them.
Winter is for me the most fun time to use the ferry. Ice conditions vary enormously from year to year but when the lake freezes over the ferry carves a canal through the ice and you bump your way across. There is an air bubble system on the lake floor that forces the water to circulate and prevent the ice forming too strongly. In cold weather the splashing water freezes on the ferry structure and even the flags, turning the mundane interesting. Chose the right weather and time of day and the sight of the sun setting over the ice of Lake Ontario makes the trip well worth what you paid for it (yes, it's a free ferry!). But dress extra warmly, you want to be outside to enjoy all this, not cooped up in your car unable to see over the railings.
In summer the ferry docks at the small town of Marysville. This is the commercial and community centre for the island with schools, churches and a smattering of small businesses. However, in winter, or when low water levels dictate, the ferry docks at Dawson Point, 4 or 5 kilometres further east
Wolfe Island's main purpose these days would appear to be to provide Ontario with electricity. The wind farm is the major sight on the skyline when looking from Kingston, and when you drive around the turbines can seem enormous as you get close. Aside from wind turbines the island also seems to have a very large population of white tailed deer and turkeys.
And there's one more reason to take the Wolfe Island ferry – in summer Horne's Ferry
operates from the end of highway 95 at Point Alexandria over to Cape Vincent, New York.