It’s a three-ferry day in southern Ontario for Steve Bond as he meanders through Prince Edward County, home of the Loyalists.
When you think of ferry crossings, southern Ontario doesn’t normally spring to mind. But, one day this past summer, I managed three separate ferry trips and was within an hour or so of making it an even five.
The day started with an hour’s blast down Highway 401 on Triumph’s new Street Triple “R.” The 675cc, three-cylinder motor smoothly devoured the blacktop and I didn’t even mind the lack of wind protection as the twin bug-eyed headlights forged their way east. The riding position was quite comfortable, the aluminum Magura bars keeping me a few degrees off vertical from “human spinnaker” status.
Leaving the drudgery of the 401, I hooked up with a couple of friends and we entered scenic Prince Edward County via the Hwy 62 bridge over the Bay of Quinte. “The County” as it’s known, has some wonderful twisty roads and is one of my favourite destinations for day trips.
Traditionally, this entire area from Prince Edward County all the way to Kingston and even through to Gananoque is Loyalist Country and the Union Jack still flies from many porches, light standards and front yard flagpoles. Loyalists are defined as American colonists of varied ethnic backgrounds who supported the British and remained loyal to the crown during the years of the American Revolution. Obviously, the Loyalists found themselves in awkward situations when the Americans won their fight for a free and independent nation. Many fled to Canada from the persecution of their neighbours and even the newly created government of the United States. Some landed in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, while others surfaced in Prince Edward County.
After a twisty, 20-minute ride through vineyards and farms, we’re on Hwy 33 (The Loyalist Parkway) and our first crossing of the day, the Glenora Ferry. In existence in some form for over 200 years, the Glenora Ferry was a vital transportation link in Loyalist days between Kingston and York (now called Toronto). The span is just under a mile and it’s a free service but if you think these ferry crossings are just a dumb tradition or novelty, taking regular roads means the journey from Glenora to Millhaven is close to 90 kilometres.
Instead, a 25-km ride along the rocky north shore of Lake Ontario brings us to Millhaven, home to the federal penitentiary of the same name, and the Amherst Island ferry. One of the most westerly of the Thousand Islands, Amherst is about 16 km long and seven km wide at its widest point. In 1792 the Loyalists changed its French name from “Isle Tonti” in honour of Major General Jeffrey Amherst, who was Commander in Chief of British forces in North America.
The trip across lasts approximately 20 minutes and costs $1.50 return for motorcycles. Once on the island, there’s not much to see other than farms (which are idyllic in their own way) and a lot of sheep as there is only one paved road. Where the ferry docks, there’s a general store where we figured to grab a cup of coffee, but it was open only for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. And we weren’t there during those hours.
Returning to the mainland, a further 30 km took us to our lunch stop on the western edge of Kingston. A short ride along the waterfront and we’re in line for the Wolfe Island ferry that docks in downtown Kingston. This rather large craft is also free and the accommodating personnel will make every effort to get your motorcycle on board. Once the cars are loaded, there’s usually space for several bikes both fore and aft.
Once on Wolfe Island (named after Major General James Wolfe who died in battle at age 32 on the Plains of Abraham) you can ride around for a while, taking note of the many wind turbines on the windward shores. One road leads to another ferry that goes to Cape Vincent in New York State where some members of our group were headed. One friend and I headed back to the Wolfe Island depot where the ever-helpful staff directed our bikes to the front of the line, ahead of maybe 200 cars.
Nice to be a VIP for a change. Three cylinders, three ferrys.
Not a bad day.
– Steve Bond (December 2009)