About Us

The County of Frontenac operates the Frontenac Howe Islander ferry. It provides a vital transportation link between the mainland and Howe Island in the Saint Lawrence River east of Kingston, Ontario.

Vessel Specifications:

Length Overall: 30.48 metres
Beam: 9.86 metres
Draft: 1.67 metres
Gross Tonnage: 130 tonnes
Weight Capacity: 45 tonnes
Passenger & Crew Capacity: 51
Car Capacity: Up to 15 in two lanes depending on vehicle length
Propulsive Power: 69 KW
Length of Crossing: 370 metres
Top Hull Speed: 5 knots

The Frontenac Howe Islander is a cable ferry that runs on two different cables. The drive cable is a 3/4” cable that is driven through our hydraulic winch, and is responsible for moving the vessel forward and backwards. The orange guide cable is a 1 1/8” cable and acts as a stabilizer, controlling side to side movements. The Frontenac Howe Islander is the only 24-hour, on-demand ferry service in the area. Because of the constant wear and tear, both of these cables are changed out several times a year. This table is actually a spool that held the orange guide cable that you can see spanning from shore to shore. This cable is 500 metres long, and weighs approximately 1.8 tonnes.

The distance between the both docks on the mainland and island is 370 metres. It just so happens that 370 metres is exactly two cables, which is a nautical unit of distance equal to 1/5th of a nautical mile. This means that the ferry is never more than two cables away!

If you just missed the ferry, don’t worry because a round trip only takes about 15 minutes.


A cable ferry has been in operation at the current ferry site since at least 1898.

There have been different ferries and different owners or operators at this location. Names of prior operators and owners are O’Brien’s and then Foley’s Ferries followed by Pickett’s Ferry, which was the last private ferry.

In 1949, Pickett’s Ferry came into existence with a three-car steel hulled ferry at the current location of the County Ferry at the foot of Howe Island Ferry Road, which is also known as Joyceville Side Road. This ferry was and still is known to some as Pitt’s ferry. The name was derived as the ferry operated in the old township of Pittsburgh.

In 1976, Pickett’s three-car ferry was replaced by a nine-car steel hulled ferry. The three-car ferry was delegated to the Township of Frontenac Islands and is operated at the eastern end of Howe Island. The nine-car ferry was owned by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications and operated by Frontenac Management Board until 2004.

In 2004 the nine-car ferry was replaced by a 15-car ferry, owned by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and named Frontenac – Howe Islander. This ferry is currently crewed by Frontenac County.