Friday, August 23, 2013

Kidston Island, Baddeck - An Island within an Island

I've always had a fascination with islands, especially small ones that could be seen offshore but were remote and hard to access without a boat. I'm not sure if this fascination comes from the fact that I grew up on an island or because the things that are most out-of-reach are the ones that fascinate us most. All I know is whenever I spot an island offshore or in the middle of a lake or bay, I immediately want to find a way to get to it. But when it comes to Kidston Island in Baddeck, I don't know why I only made a trip to the island for the first time this past week.

I am very familiar with the town of Baddeck. I've spent many summer days visiting the museums, eating in the great restaurants, sailing on the Bras D'or Lakes and shopping in the unique retail shops lining the main street. One thing I never did was visit Kidston Island and I'm not sure why. It fits my criteria for being an explore-worthy destination - its an island, it has a beach, its deserted except for tourists going back and forth and it's fairly easy to get to. Maybe being too accessible made it seem less exciting and less of a challenge.

A recent article in my local newspaper about Kidston Island grabbed my attention and peaked my interest. The article was about the free shuttle that brings people back and forth to the island via a small pontoon boat. This free shuttle has been offered by the Baddeck Lions Club for the last 61 years and the service recently ran into some trouble. In the end, the service stayed and for now, the Lions Club continues to shuttle passengers back and forth to the island on a daily basis during peak season.

The decision to make the hour-long drive to Baddeck to visit Kidston Island came spur-of-the-moment. It was a beautiful sunny day and the restlessness that comes with being confined to the house got to me so off I went on a mini-adventure for the afternoon. The pontoon boat wasn't hard to find. There are signs pointing visitors to its location which is to the right of the main wharf on the Baddeck waterfront. It wasn't there when I arrived but I only had to wait 3 or 4 minutes before the shuttle appeared at the dock. The small pontoon boat holds about a dozen people (all passengers are required to wear a life jacket) and it takes about 5 or 6 minutes to get to the island.

The first thing I saw upon arriving on Kidston Island was a building housing change rooms, washrooms and a sheltered outdoor area with picnic tables. Right next to this building was a sign with a trail map. There are three trails on the island; a very short one that leads to a harbour light and some beautiful views of the surrounding area, another one that is just slightly longer than the first one that leads to a rest area overlooking the bay and a third and much longer one that leads to the lighthouse and beach. All of these trails can be linked together for those visitors would wish to encircle the entire island which, I would guess, takes about an hour and is about 2.5 kilometers in length. I didn't encircle the entire island that day but I did hike various parts of the trail.

The beach is small and, although a little rocky, the water is crystal clear and great for swimming. There were two lifeguards on duty while I was there and the beach was not crowded. In fact, even though it was a beautiful afternoon, the entire island was almost deserted with maybe a dozen people. That was the best thing about it; it was quiet, peaceful and made for a great getaway from the crowds in the town of Baddeck. I found myself a quiet place near the beach, overlooking the sparkling waters of the Bras D'or lakes, where I could see dozens of sailboats passing by and relaxed in the sun with a book.

The shuttle did return a few times while I was there and I availed of a crossing late in the afternoon. Although the service is free, a tip jar is located at the front of the boat and because the service does rely on the generosity of passengers, it is recommended that you make a donation to the Baddeck Lions Club so they can continue to provide this service for years to come.


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