Wood Islands Provincial Park and Lighthouse

Driving down to the Wood Islands pier, you will see the Lighthouse in the distance off to the left. Turn left before the ferryboat toll booths onto the Wood Islands Park/Lighthouse Road  - this will lead you to the lighthouse. Prior to the Lighthouse Road being built (1937-40), “keepers of the light” used get here by rowboat or walk up from the west side of the beach. (Photo above: The Wood Islands Lighthouse in the foreground with one of the range light buildings in the background).

We were lucky enough to come by just as one of the original “Fuddle-Duddles”(1), the MV Holiday Island, was coming to port so we pulled in by the fishing sheds to watch her.

It was quite a nostalgic moment as memories flooded back from a time when her path was the Borden-Cape Tormentine run. She was put on the Wood Islands-Caribou run after Confederation Bridge was completed in 1997. As when I was younger, I was thrilled to watch her approach, see them lower the ramp to unload the cars from the upper deck while the heavier trucks rolled out from the bottom. 

Northumberland Ferries Limited (NFL) started its ferry service between Wood Islands and Caribou in 1941 with its first ferry being the MV Prince Nova.

(Pictured right: The MV Holiday Island heading back to Caribou, N.S.) 

Continuing on our way, we drove past a miniature replica of weathered wooden fishing sheds complete with its own wharf and lighthouse. A great curiosity for children as one can actually go into and around the little sheds via a mini wharf. These little buildings sit along the more gentle banks of the north side overlooking a sea-pond sheltered by a low sand dune. (Picture below right: One of the replica fishing sheds).

When we pulled up by the lighthouse and stepped out of our car, it really felt quite magical. This attractively built heritage lighthouse dating from 1876 seemed isolated - floating on an island at sea - even though the busy docks, ferry and fishing boats were nearby. Pristine white with red trim, the tower reaches 40 feet into the sky. In March of 2009, after 133 years in its original location, it had to be hauled back several yards/metres from the eroding, steeper southern cliffs. It is interesting to note that this spot is the southern most part of Prince Edward Island.

Unfortunately, we were too early to see inside the lighthouse as it does not open until after June 10th, however, I can tell you that it is home to a lovely gift-shop and museum featuring the history of the lighthouse, ferries, rum-running, fishing and, for those of you with steady hearts...tales of the fiery phantom ship of Northumberland Strait! You will also see a bedroom, kitchen and keeper’s quarters kept in period style.

This lighthouse housed not only the keepers but also their families. Originally, the main floor consisted of a kitchen, sitting-room and two bedrooms with another four bedrooms upstairs.  (You will find photos of the interior if you follow the links provided below).

In the yard to the left of the Wood Island Lighthouse, you will find a patch of Victorian rosebushes planted by George Stewart, who was a keeper of the lighthouse for 23 years (1949 – 1972). There is a delightful interview with George sporting a pipe and twinkling eyes from a 1976 edition of The Eastern Graphic Magazine that you can find on C.W. Jeffery’s blog “PEI’s Heritage Buildings” (see link below). According to this article, when the Stewarts arrived, there was no furnace, electricity or phone... and no phone the whole time they were there!

Facing west and north, you will find several picnic benches, barbecue pits, an activity area with swings and washrooms. If you walk west towards the far end of the Island, you will see the “canal” or “steel pier” slicing through the land to make way for the ferries. A great spot to watch the ferries come and go.

Note:

We were puzzled by a fairly large lighthouse tower perched a short distance from the rose bushes (the one in the background in the first photo above). Not far from this tower, another smaller, block lighthouse looked like it was “waiting”. Kris Rollins, Chair of the Lighthouse Committee for WIADC, was kind enough to reply to our musings via email. She explained that these two “range lights” used to help guide the ferries and fishing boats through deeper parts of the channel. They had been located on the steel pier but decommissioned years ago and were under threat of being destroyed until rescue efforts secured their new home in their present location. They will be used for future museum/storage space. 

A special thanks to Kris Rollins and a heart-felt thank you to those who have worked so hard to save these heritage gems, their history and their stories!

Wood Islands Lighthouse

Wood Islands & Area Development Corporation (WIADC) Facebook Page

Wood Islands & Area Development Corporation (WIADC) Website

Historic Places, Prince Edward Island

Lighthouse Friends - Wood Islands, PE

PEI Heritage Buildings (C.W. Jeffery’s blog - interview with George Stewart)

(1) Back in 1971 the MV Holiday Island and her sister ship, the MV Vacationland, were nick-named the “Fuddle-Duddles” after Prime MInister Pierre Trudeau’s response to an allegation that he had mouthed a “not so nice word” in the House of Commons...ahem!

(Pictured above: A view of the replica fish sheds. The Wood Islands Lighthouse is just to the right up on the hill.)

 

Comments

Lovely pictures and text!

Lovely pictures and text!

Thank you! It really is a lovely place :)

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