By Amanda Chalk — It was a beautiful spring day for a drive. Shortly after heading out, I found myself on the Loyalist Parkway enjoying the scenery along Lake Ontario.
The ferry to Amherst Island was right ahead, a place in Lennox and Addington County that I have yet to visit. With no firm plans for the day, I turned to join the line to board the new end loading ferry boat.
Leaving on the half hour, the $9 return ride to the island was a quick 20 minutes commute on smooth clear waters.
When you first arrive on Amherst Island, you enter the small yet quaint town of Stella. The population for the island is around 400 with it increasing to over 1,000 come summer months when the cottagers arrive. Stella is home to the Amherst Island Public School (the only school on the island), a blacksmith, general store with post office and The Back Kitchen, a volunteer run dining spot which opens for the season on the May long weekend. Stella is also home to the islands own volunteer run radio station Amherst Island Radio 92.1FM and the Neilson’s Store Museum and Cultural Centre, a proud community accomplishment and a must-visit location on the island.
I turned right at the first intersection and headed west towards one of Amherst Island’s biggest destinations, Topsy Farms. Topsy Farms is a cooperative, multi-generational family farm with over 1,000 sheep, two adorable Highland heifer calves and six sheep guarding dogs.
Visitors to the farm will experience traditional farm living, walking trails and a children’s play area. The Wool Shop located just up the lane is full of goods produced from the farm, wool from the farms sheep and hand-made items created by friends of the farm.
After some time touring Topsy Farms, seeing the first of the spring arrivals and getting to meet the calves, I continued on my drive. Turning onto Emerald 40 Foot, I headed towards south side of the island.
Passing by many fields, most filled with deer grazing, I stopped to enjoy the picturesque views of Amherst Bay and Lake Ontario at the Sand Beach Wetlands Conservation Area along the Third Concession. A great place to come back to when the weather warms up.
Travelling east along the Third Concession, I headed back towards Stella to catch the hourly ferry back to the main land.
While waiting for the ferry to arrive, I took a walk down Front Road in Stella, visiting the General Store, passing by the blacksmith and ending at the dry stone wall. It is said that Amherst Island contains the largest known concentration of historic Irish dry stone walls in Canada. Many of the walls are considered to be at least 170 years old or older and can be seen throughout the island’s many farms.
Amherst Island is a nature lover’s paradise with many areas for bird watching, fishing in the bays and hiking along the many trails. For more information about Amherst Island visit www.amherstisland.on.ca.