Frequently Asked Questions
Why Was Ministers Island Designated a National Historic Site of Canada?
Ministers Island was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1996. The construction of the estate was led by Sir William Van Horne, a giant of Canadian history who served as President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As President he led the completion, in just 5 years, of Canada’s first transcontinental railway. This railway was essential to the settlement of the Canadian west and the growth of Canada into a single nation spanning from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
The Ministers Island estate was begun in 1890 as Van Horne's summer home and was maintained by the Van Horne family until the 1940s. The estate speaks eloquently about the life and times of Van Horne and his vision of the importance of tourism and agriculture in Canada's development. The estate buildings include a 50-room mansion and a collection of highly original and innovative structures designed by Montreal architect Edward Maxwell: a massive two-storey barn, an ocean-front bathhouse, a windmill, and a gas plant.
The estate captures the characteristic features of landscape design of the time including formal gardens, a farm, recreational facilities, and forests, all integrated into Atlantic Canada's rolling landscape and dramatic views. It also includes paintings by Van Horne, a talented amateur artist and collector, who used this island estate to encourage Canadian landscape painting. The estate influenced the development of other resort communities, most notably Canada’s first resort community, Saint Andrews, New Brunswick.
The only access to Ministers Island is during the hours surrounding low tide by way of a gravel route on the ocean floor. During high tide that route is covered by many feet of ocean water. The Open Hours for safe crossing to/from Ministers Island, like the tides, change daily; Click Here to view them. If you are on the Island past Open Hours you could wait up to 6 hours before safely crossing to the mainland.
Crossing To The Island
The ocean floor between the mainland and the island may be crossed during Open Hours by bus, truck, car, bicycle or on foot. When heading from the mainland to the island stay towards the left side of the route to avoid soft sand that could get your vehicle stuck; when returning to the mainland stay to your right. If you don’t wish to drive you may park your vehicle in the parking lot at the ocean end of Bar Road on the mainland and walk the ½ Km to the Island.
Your easiest option is to purchase tickets online thru this website. That will allow you to by-pass the line of non-prepaid guests when entering. You may also purchase a ticket, using cash or credit card, at the ticket booth that you’ll see upon arriving at the island. Tickets for concert experiences include admission to the Island. You can also purchase an Annual Membership. For more information and to purchase tickets Click Here.
Food & Beverages
A limited selection of food and beverages are available for purchase daily at the gift shop in the Covenhoven mansion. You are welcome to bring your own food and beverages to enjoy as a picnic or while touring the Island; you cannot consume those items within the mansion at any time, within the Bathhouse when a group event is in progress, or near the Gardener’s Cottage during a concert event.
The Island has a small gift shop located within the Covenhoven mansion.
Washrooms are located at the Covenhoven mansion. Porta potties are located at various spots around the island.
Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. The one area where dogs are not allowed is in the main house (Covenhoven).
Smoking is not permitted at any location on the Island.
Free vehicle parking is located on the mainland just before the drive along the ocean floor to the island, at the Island ticket booth, the Covenhoven mansion, and the barn.
Bicycles and Motorized Vehicles
All vehicles are permitted on the roadways. No motorized vehicles are permitted on the trails. Non-motorized bicycles are permitted on the trails but riders might find the paths, that are a delight to hike, difficult to navigate by bicycle.
Medical Emergency or Car Stuck Crossing To The Island
In the event of a medical emergency call 911. If your vehicle is stuck on the ocean floor between the mainland and the island call 911. If your car is safely on the Island but won’t start see a Ministers Island volunteer at Covenhoven or the barn for assistance.