By Saige Traise, Naturally L&A — Amherst Island is a truly unique place, fostering a strong sense of community and connection to both its natural surroundings and its residents. This exceptional island community offers an experience that is hard to find elsewhere.
To begin your journey here, head to the Millhaven ferry dock on the mainland. The quick boat ride will transport you to Stella, the largest village on Amherst Island. Vehicle transportation requires a $10 round-trip fare, while pedestrians can hop on board for free. Motorcycles are $2 each and bicycles are $1.50.
If you prefer to explore the island on foot but desire a wider range of mobility, you can avail yourself of the Amherst Island Bike Rentals. Located just a short walk from the ferry dock, this rental service offers various types of bicycles, including mountain bikes, street bikes, and even three-wheelers. All bikes are meticulously maintained and tuned for a smooth and enjoyable ride as you explore the island. You can choose from day passes or hourly rentals to suit your needs. Grab your favorite bike and embark on an adventure to discover all that this little island has to offer!
While you’re out and about, a visit to the renowned Topsy Farms is an absolute must. Originally a hippie commune in the 70s, Topsy Farms has blossomed into a thriving centre for happy sheep, promoting kindness and harmony with the land and all living creatures. During my visit, I started by exploring Sally’s Garden, a beautifully maintained area where Sally generously shared some of her homegrown produce. The garden’s asparagus offered a delightful crunch, but it was the surprising sweetness of the stevia leaf that truly caught my taste buds by surprise.
Next, we had the opportunity to visit the foster lambs. Whether due to a ewe’s inability to care for them, maternal loss, or injury, some lambs require extra care. These special young ones are often found in the foster barn, ranging in age from a few days to several weeks. Families have the chance to “adopt” a lamb, visiting and witnessing its growth while providing financial support to the farm’s efforts in caring for as many fostered lambs as possible. Spending mere minutes with these adorable creatures will surely capture your heart forever.
Transitioning from the tiny lambs to other incredible animals, we made our way to meet Cedar and Willow, the Highland cows. These two girls couldn’t be more different from each other, with Cedar being a friendly socialite and Willow preferring her own company. Meeting these magnificent animals had always been on my bucket list, and I was ecstatic for the opportunity, even if a handful of grain wasn’t enough to entice them away from their comfortable spots for a closer encounter.
One of the most significant stops on any Topsy Farms visit is the Wool Shed. Here, you can peruse a wide range of products made from the wool of Topsy’s own sheep. Fan favorites include yarn, felted and crocheted creations, as well as their signature wool blankets and bedding. Notably, the famous green and gray checkerboard blanket featured on the HBO series “The Last of Us” can also be found here.
Another captivating sight on the farm is the breathtaking 110-foot dry stone wall, constructed entirely from stones found on the property. Amherst Island boasts the largest known concentration of historic Irish dry stone walls, and although Topsy Farms’ wall was built in 2018, it remains a remarkable masterpiece. Crafted over three days by wallers from Canada, the United States, Ireland, England, and Scotland, this impressive structure is undoubtedly a labor of love.
If you’re still craving more farm adventures, I recommend exploring the groomed 2km trail leading to the Sugar-Shack. This scenic walk immerses you in nature, with wildlife accompanying you on your trek. Also, keep an eye out for exciting upcoming events this summer, such as Meet the Bees, Hosting Butterflies, the annual scything workshop, and more!
Another essential destination on your Amherst Island itinerary is The Gallery at Rossland Gardens, a recently opened haven for art enthusiasts. This gallery showcases exclusively handmade and unique Canadian products, featuring works from artists and artisans across the country. Owners Ross Stuart and Darlene Martin-Stuart, who initially focused on sharing their creations through art shows, shifted their attention to creating a permanent gallery when the pandemic affected the market. Since acquiring the property in 2016, they have poured countless hours of hard work into curating this welcoming space.
In addition to the gallery, the property boasts extensive walking trails spread across its 8-acre expanse, along with blooming gardens that are a must-see for visitors. Take the opportunity to explore the native vegetation thoughtfully incorporated into the landscape. With a wide selection of carefully crafted products, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest and comes with an intriguing story. The Gallery at Rossland Gardens is open to the public on Saturdays from 11 AM to 4 PM, and appointments can be made for visits throughout the week. Be sure to stay tuned and join the gallery for “Meet the Artist” events, where you can get a chance to meet the faces behind some of your favorite pieces of artwork.
As the weather warms up, you might be eager to spend some time at the beach. Amherst Island’s hidden gem on the south side is the Sand Beach Wetlands Conservation Area. Spanning 54 acres of ecologically significant wetlands, this area offers a public beach for picnics and swimming, as well as a viewing platform overlooking the Big Marsh. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to observe local wildlife and the island’s famous bird species. Free parking and washroom facilities are available for public use, with the only request being to respect and preserve the protected area, leaving nothing but footprints behind.
While these destinations are undoubtedly amazing, there’s still much more to explore on Amherst Island as local businesses extend their hours for the summer season. Keep an eye out for further adventures and experiences waiting to be discovered. Find out more about what’s available on Amherst Island here.