Come with us on a Lake Ontario adventure | Great Lakes Guide
  • People and the Lakes

    Come with us on a Lake Ontario adventure

Have you ever wanted to be an explorer, venturing out into the great unknown? That is how I felt one fateful day in September.

Let me start at the beginning. My name is Meghan and I am the content specialist for Great Lakes Guide.

For the past few months, I have been researching a small, inconspicuous island on the eastern side of Lake Ontario. That island is Main Duck (collectively known as “The Ducks” when combined with the neighbouring Yorkshire Island).

When I first started my research into The Ducks, I expected to find information about a beautiful little hidden gem on the Great Lakes. I did not, however, expect to become so overwhelmingly engrossed in fantastical stories about an island so small, yet so historically and biologically significant.

You can read more about Main Duck Island’s history and biology on the Guide.

You can imagine my excitement when I was told that I would actually get to visit the island that I had become so enamoured with.

But, travelling out to the middle of Lake Ontario is no easy venture. Standing on the shores of the Great Lakes, it’s easy to forget the height and power of the waves that pound the surface just a few kilometres out. We were about to come head-to-head with those swells.

It was a deceivingly sunny day in September. The Swim Drink Fish team (including co-founders Mark Mattson and Krystyn Tully) had just completed the drive from Toronto to Kingston to meet our “unsalty” sea captain. I was bright eyed (despite having woken up at 5am) and ready to hop aboard his little boat.

After a quick pit stop on the north side of Wolfe Island for fuel - both for the boat (gas) and for the team (coffee) - we were ready to head out on the water. The air was warm and the lake was flat and calm… or so it seemed.

Slowly, as we rode out into the lake, ripples turned to wavelets, and wavelets turned into waves. Within no time at all, our little boat was being pummeled by metre-high swells. The team was getting increasingly soaked and we were bracing ourselves for each downward slap of the bow.

As we pounded our way determinedly south-west against the wind and waves, I suddenly understood why Jack Sparrow needed so much rum to captain his ship across the mighty seas. We were playing a game of chicken with ourselves.

Upon hearing that the waves would double in size once we left the protection of the nearby coast (and seeing a storm brewing on the horizon), we decided to call off our Main Duck adventure and make a beeline for the shore. I had come to love Main Duck Island, but not enough to want to be shipwrecked on the wild and completely isolated island.

And so, we turned back against the waves and rode to the southern side of the great Wolfe Island instead. The boat’s shallow draft allowed us to drift in within 10 metres of the shoreline where we disembarked into shallow, sandy waters. We held our food and gear above our heads and waded toward the beach, Big Sandy Bay.

After stripping down to the strict minimum amount of clothing that would be socially and professionally acceptable to our colleagues, we hung our soaking wet garments on nearby driftwood. With our sweatshirts and socks blowing like flags in the wind, we sat down for a much-deserved lunch.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the island’s coast. First, we climbed the sand dunes up to a vantage point overlooking an inland lake. The lake was covered in water lilies and surrounded by wild grape vines and tall grasses.

We then decided to hike to the southernmost tip of the island. We put any mildly dry clothes back on, and started to trek along the rocky shoreline. A few of us tied our shoes to the end of our walking sticks, throwing them over our shoulders like bindles.

I should mention that I had no pants on at this point. My pants were still soaked, so I had donned a bathing suit, hoodie, and small towel tied around my waist (that I referred to as ‘my kilt’). I was feeling like a pants-less Huckleberry Finn at that point.

Nevertheless, I persisted. Through the tall, wild grass, we hiked. I, realizing that this might be prime tick territory, got a great workout leaping over the tall grass (again, may I remind you that I had no pants on, so you can imagine just how tightly I was clenching).

We finally made it to the south shore and the view was simply breathtaking. We were greeted with a stunning rocky landscape, reminiscent of the Scottish Isles (my ‘kilt’ suddenly felt very appropriate).

I gazed out over the slabs of rock, battered and worn by wind and waves over millennia. The great Lake Ontario was a deep obsidian and turquoise blue.

With a nostalgic thrill, I started combing the rocks for fossils. And they weren’t hard to find; fossils were everywhere. We found crinoids (long coiled sea lilys), gastropods (sea snails), pelecypods (clams and mussles), worm burrows, and so much more. I had a renewed sense of awe for the Great Lakes; these magic, historic, living things.

After a long moment of gazing out at the crashing waves, feeling so grateful to live near such pristine nature, we decided to head back to the boat.

The drive back to Toronto was a blur for me. I was filled with the sense of relaxation that only nature (and putting on warm, dry pants) can provide. I’m sure someday I’ll get to Main Duck Island. But for now, I’m happy with the memories of our unplanned Lake Ontario adventure.