Minister’s Island ~ Have you ever driven on the ocean floor? No? Well, that is exactly what you’ll get to do when you visit the summer residence of railway builder Sir William Van Horne. This magnificent residence is open to the public during the summer months and only accessible by land during low tide.
You can see a car driving over the now exposed sandbar toward Minister’s Island. At high tide (which happens twice in 24 hours), this entire area will be covered by several feet of water!
During the summer season, the island is accessible by vehicle, bike, or foot across the ocean floor at low tide and by shuttle boat at high tide. The island was named after Anglican Minister, Rev. Samuel Andrews, who settled there in the 1790’s and whose house still stands.
Sir William Cornelius Van Horne who is credited with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, began building his summer retreat on Ministers Island in the 1890’s.
“Ministers Island is an enchanting place to experience. Lying just off the shore near St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, this 500-acre island is only a part-time island. You reach it by driving over the seafloor approximately one kilometer (1/2 mile).
Once there, you are immersed in an experience from the late 19th and early 20th century – the summer estate of Sir William Van Horne, the driving force behind the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Sir William’s vast house, his equally large barn and his bathhouse/artist’s hideaway are on view, as are the beautiful carriage lanes through the woods and fields. Time stands still, and you’re swept up in an atmosphere that makes you forget all about your everyday life and the here-and-now.” (Source)
Covenhoven (pictured above) – “In 1891 construction began on the house named for Sir William Van Horne’s father, Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne. What started as a somewhat modest summer cottage, after as many as seven modifications, became the 50 room residence you see today. This is where Van Horne threw off the vexing cares of business & pursued his diverse interests from art to zoölogy. His imaginative approach to everything he touched is evident in the buildings & beauty he created on Ministers Island.” (Source)
Tours of the property include Covenhoven, the large 50 room sandstone mansion where Sir William and his family lived during the summer; the circular bathhouse and tidal saltwater swimming pool, and one of the most unique barns in Canada where Sir William had a large stock farm.
The Barn – “Designed by Edward Maxwell, the barn, (pictured above) was constructed by unemployed shipwrights in 1898 & cost $20,000. To build the 3 storey structure, complete with freight elevator & remarkable interior framing, required an estimated 50 train loads of rough lumber. The extensive use of well-positioned windows provided for maximum light & ventilation. The barn housed prize-winning cows & pigs. Two silos, each 16 feet in diameter, could hold 110 tons of fodder.” (Source)
The Windmill and Gas House – “Until electricity came to the island in the 1960s carbide gas, made in the gas house, was pumped to the main house to provide lighting. This was a difficult operation & if not done properly belched oily soot. The windmill provided water until the well dried up & had to be relocated deep in the woods where fresh water was abundant. If the inventive Sir William was alive today he would surely be using solar & wind turbine power.” (Source)
Above is the Reverend Samuel Andrews house.
“In 1790 Reverend Andrews built this house on the island which he purchased for 250 pounds sterling. Thereafter it became known as “Ministers Island”. With the bar under water for a large part of the day, visiting parishioners & getting into town for church services was not easy. Except for a brief interlude Ministers Island remained entirely in the Andrews family until 1891, when a large parcel was sold to Sir William Van Horne.” (Source)
Salt-Water Tidal Pool.
If you look near the centre of the photo above, you will see the rectangular outline of the outdoor salt-water pool. The pool filled with water when the tide came in and emptied when the tide receded. The panoramic view from this area on the property is said to have inspired many of Sir William Van Horne’s paintings.
We visited Minister’s Island on a gorgeous summer day which seemed to make the already stunning surroundings, even more spectacular. With the exception of the Van Horne estate our tour was self-guided, although guided tours are available. Over 8 km of walking trails traverse the island and feature varied habitats as well panoramic views of Passamaquoddy Bay and the surrounding countryside.
I love the relaxed, homey feel of the island and that visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras, sketch pads, and a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many tables scattered throughout the island. (The island is a game reserve and dogs are welcome, but must remain on a leash at all times.)
Admission – During peak season access to the park, including tours of the historic Van Horne estate and its iconic structures is available at a cost of $10 per adult; children under 8 FREE; and Seniors and Guests of Members $8.
You may also want to check out our Visit to Beautiful St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada
Have you ever visited Minister’s Island?
What about New Brunswick, Canada. Have you ever visited my little part of the world? If you have, I would love to hear your thoughts.