The Walpole Algonac Ferry Service and the port of entry between the United States and Canada is once again open to travellers.
“It’s been running since April, but I don’t think a lot of people know about it,” said Clyde Peters, who works with his son, Lee Peters, on the ferry operated by the First Nation of Canada on the Walpole Island reservation.
Americans and Canadians have relied on service for over 100 years.
Then came the pandemic.
When the United States and Canada closed their borders to non-essential travel in order to combat the spread of COVID-19, the ferry that crosses the St. Clair River from Algonac to Walpole Island, Ontario, was docked.
“I think a lot of people are happy that it’s open again,” Peters said, while collecting fares from passengers heading to various destinations in Ontario, including Sarnia, London, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Other ports of entry from Michigan to Ontario include the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.
There is still only one ferry in operation, but it can accommodate up to nine cars and runs frequently. If traffic picks up during the summer and another ferry is available to handle the overflow. Future plans also include expanding the port of entry to accommodate more traffic.
Just up the river in Marine City, the Bluewater Ferry that once linked that town to Canada was sold in 2020, nearly three years after ice damage forced its closure.
Travel costs range from $12 (CAN) for cars to $2 for pedestrians. Only debit or credit cards are currently accepted.
Most days the ferry can be seen crossing the river from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. However, officials warn that trips are made at the discretion of the captain, warning that weather conditions can change quickly with high winds or fog.
“A lot of different people are crossing, some just want to shop. We have essential workers, nurses crossing here, construction workers as well, so they get on the first boats to cross,” said Lorne Loulas, director general of Walpole Algonac Ferry Service and resident of Walpole Island, a territory of his own along the Ontario coastline.
When the service was closed due to the pandemic, the economic impact was felt on both sides of the border.
“We did a survey among the stores in Algonac and the owners said they lost about a third of their income when the ferry service stopped,” Loulas said, noting that many customers were locals. Walpole Island residents who shopped at the Kroger in Algonac rather than travel an hour. to a city on the Canadian side for groceries or essential workers picking up items on the way back to Sarnia, Wallaceburg or Chatham, Ontario.
Now visitors from both sides can use the ferry to cross the river by car, truck, bicycle or on foot, provided they are vaccinated and have completed the ArriveCAN App. The entry point for Algonac-Walpole Island would be under the ship list.
Where to go?
If you have children, the ferry trip alone is fun for them. Often, when crossing the St. Clair River, a freighter will head along the channel heading north toward Lake Huron or south toward Detroit and Lake Erie. The ferry will stop to let the larger boat pass, giving passengers a great view of the passing ship.
Among the popular destinations in Ontario is London, a quaint town about two hours from Algonac.
Once there, many travelers choose to stay at Delta Hotels by Marriott London Armoriesa hotel that features the historic architecture of the original exterior built in 1905 and all the modern conveniences of 2022, including a swimming pool and on-site restaurant.
Shops and restaurants are within walking distance of the hotel and for those wishing to catch a show in the evening there is the Grand Theatre, although its 2022-23 season does not start until September. Since its first iteration in 1901, the Grand has been a cultural center for exceptional storytelling experiences.
On your second day in London, consider visiting The Western Fair District Market, located in the heart of the Old East Village, The Market by Western Fair District is a gathering place for community, delicious food and local artisans. The market has two floors with over 85 vendors, offering a variety of goods and services every Saturday and Sunday.
A destination for families is the London Children’s Museum. For nearly 40 years, this family-friendly destination has offered children and their adults a variety of hands-on learning experiences in a distinctly child-centered environment. Exhibits and interactive activities allow guests to explore history and heritage, investigate the complexities of science and social relationships, and celebrate the beauty of art and culture.
Tickets for the museum can be purchased online or at the door.
The cost is $9.50 (CAD). Children 13-24 months are $5. Children under one year old are free. Upcoming events include:
• July 26: Fairies’ Day
• August 5: Spectacular space
• August 13: Bubble Bonanza
“We are delighted to welcome Michiganders back to the London Children’s Museum! Tourists are an important part of our community. We are honored to be a place where children and families from across borders come to learn and play together. said Kate Ledgley, Director of Visitor Experiences.
For more information on the Walpole Island Algonac ferry service, visit walpoleislandferry.ca/.