Wind your way through Wolfe Island

Explore the island community this small group of friends calls home

The Wolfe Islander III takes passengers from Kingston to Wolfe Island and back for free.
The Wolfe Islander III takes passengers from Kingston to Wolfe Island and back for free.
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Virginia Clark chats with her neighbours on her way to work—riding a ferry from her Wolfe Island home into Kingston every morning.

A prolonged stay with friends turned into a move to the island from Vancouver, but the unconventional, community feel of the island is what keeps her there.

“I know all my neighbours. They’re the kind of community that you know if you have a flat tire or you’re stuck, they’ll help you,” said Clark, who manages the Grad Club on Barrie Street. She attributes the tight-knit community feel to the ferry ride itself.

“We get to know each other a lot better that way,” she said. “The island is quiet and peaceful, and in 20 minutes I’m in downtown Kingston.”

Wolfe Island, the largest of the Thousand Islands, is a short ferry ride away from Kingston and is accessible from the docks on Ontario St. The ferry docks at a different point on Wolfe Island in the summer and winter months.

The island is packed with cottagers through the summer months and the population drops to just 1,200 through the rest of the year.

Measuring 34 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide at its largest point, this little isle has lots to offer. From golfing to biking to just exploring the natural landscape, Wolfe Island can provide a full day of entertainment that will fit a student budget.

The ferry, named the Wolfe Islander III, will take up to 330 passengers across the lake in just 20 minutes for free.

Horne’s Ferry, on the other side of the island, takes travellers across the border to Cape Vincent, New York—without the long wait at customs that plagues most border crossings. The ferry costs $9 per car, plus $1.50 per passenger each way.

For those staying in Canada, the island has no shortage of summer and winter pastimes. With three bike routes weaving across the land, this island is an ideal place to spend a day getting some exercise on your bike. And if you don’t have your bike from home, you can rent bicycles at the Summer Dock Studio, within walking distance of the ferry.

Eric Beers, CFRC operations officer and long-time island resident, said Wolfe Island isn’t self-sufficient, but that’s not something he thinks of as a deterrent.

“Most people have to work off the island,” he said. “From someone like me who’s a very content resident, nothing’s missing.”

Beers said living on Wolfe Island provides a great balance between enjoying a rural setting and having amenities close at hand in Kingston.

Some students take up residence on the island during their time at Queen’s, he said. Most of them are graduate students or students going back to school.

“People move there and you ask them and one of the people in the couple are working and one’s still going to school,” he said. “My wife went to Queen’s for teachers’ college while we were living on Wolfe Island.”

Undergraduate students visit the island most often for its many attractions at different times throughout the year, Beers said. Marjorie Crothers, a volunteer at Wolfe Island Business and Tourism Association, said student golfers have two golf courses to choose from—the Wolfe Island Riverfront Golf Course and the Alston Moor Golf Links. Each features its own scenic view of the water and the countryside.

“The one on the south side is very pretty. The other is on the north side looking over Simcoe Island and Kingston,” Crothers said. Both courses are within biking distance.

One of the island’s proudest attractions is Big Sandy Bay, a provincial park that offers visitors a chance to experience a beach ecosystem preserved in its natural state. Admission to the park is $8.

Clark said she loves the solitude the relatively unknown beach provides.

“You can be the only two people on the beach,” she said. “No one else really knows about it.”

Garth Walker, who runs the popular Wolfe Island corn maze with his wife Marianne, said students are the group they see having the most fun at the maze.

“As soon as you go into the maze you really completely forget your troubles. You have to concentrate on what you’re doing,” he said.

The maze, made entirely of corn, offers other activities to entertain maze-goers. Groups can request to come by hay wagon from the ferry or can turn the challenge into a night-time barbecue.

Corn Maze visitors can also try volleyball, croquet, scavenger hunts, sand sculpture competitions and roasting marshmallows around a campfire.

The island is also home to renowned events such as the Wolfe Island Music Festival in August, a Mystery Writer’s Festival in August and a Toronto Island versus Wolfe Island hockey tournament in February. Information for these events and more can be found at wolfeisland.com.

—With files from Katherine Laidlaw

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