The Indian Head Lighthouse located at the entrance to the harbour in Summerside, PEI was one of the two main items on our agenda when we visited during our second, albeit whirlwind visit in October 2017. However, stormy seas and some misinformation regarding tides made it impossible or exceedingly difficult to adventure out to either of these spots.
As such, we vowed to make getting to these two Island landmarks a priority when we visited this June.
Indian Head Lighthouse – Wednesday, June 20
As these following two pictures illustrate, the ocean was a bit of a nasty temptress on our October attempt.
Indian Head Lighthouse was built in 1881. What makes this lighthouse design unique is the lighthouse keepers residence was actually built into and part of the lighthouse structure itself. Not a separate dwelling as we see in most cases. The octangular base of the structure was the keepers’ home. Above the octagonal keeper’s residence is a two-storey tower topped by a red iron lantern. A railing encloses the lantern on the observation deck.
Although not normally found today, this unique style of the lighthouse, with the octagonal keeper’s dwelling on the ground floor, and a tower above, was once a common practice in areas where it was difficult to construct a separate dwelling house, such as on rocks.
Indian Head Lighthouse can be reached more or less three ways. Walking along the ocean floor at low tide on the harbourside of the breakwater or by scrambling across the one-kilometre rocky pier. Or thirdly, by kayaking out across from Summerside.
This picture I had found when doing research on reaching the lighthouse that suggested going at low tide was a suitable and achievable objective.
So, from the tide table below for Wednesday, June 20, the first low tide would occur at 11:12 am. We planned to start out towards the lighthouse around 10:45 am, noting the ocean should be mostly out by that point making an easy 1-kilometre trek to the lighthouse itself. Or so we thought.
Now, there are a number of factors however that affect tides heights including the time of year and the relative location of the earth to the moon. When we arrived on Wednesday morning, we found although it was just about low tide, the ocean wasn’t as low on the harbourside as the picture portrayed above.
Seeing as defeat isn’t part of our vocabulary, we made the decision to scramble across the one-kilometre length of the rocky break-wall.
Getting started and as you can see, Lynn was having a challenging time getting excited and motivated!
Hopefully, Lynn’s pictures captured the overall magnitude of the boulder sizes. These weren’t small chunks, although they existed. Most of them were a metre or more in height which at times resulted in an easy walk for 20 seconds, usually followed by a hands and knees approach, perhaps then with a 10-metre stroll along the ocean floor and then usually back to the hands and knees approach.
The one-kilometre trek out to the lighthouse took us over an hour to make. Lynn suggested that much of the time issue was due to her having to be extra careful due to her camera slung around her neck.
About half-way. The last few hundred metres seemed to take forever to complete. It was like the lighthouse kept moving further away from us, just to make the rock scrambling just slightly more “enjoyable” than it already was.
And finally, Indian Head Lighthouse. The octangular portion sitting on the concrete base was the keeper’s residence, while the light proper sits on top of the two-story tower. Although the lighthouse is still functional, it is fully automated. It is however in a slight state of disrepair. From looking at the outside of the structure, it is in dire need of some upkeep.
If ya gotta rest, ya gotta rest!
As we were approaching the lighthouse, the rocky point it is situated on is apparently the top sunning spot for the local cormorant sea-bird population. As we got closer, they decided to “fly the coop” and settled just off in the water.
A few more shots of the lighthouse.
After 30 minutes or so, we decided to start the trek back. The tide had started to come back and the wind was starting to pick up a bit as it usually does in this area as the day progresses. We weren’t terribly enthusiastic about the possibility of strong winds blowing most of the Northumberland Strait up and over the rocks on our return trek. That exact thing did happen later in the afternoon we observed while eating ice cream along the Summerside harbour waterfront.
In order to pick up our time heading back, Lynn decided to pack her camera in my knapsack, thus freeing her hands and not having to worry about her camera jostling around.
The tide has mostly moved back in along the left side of the break-wall.
When we trekked out across the break-wall earlier, we knew there was one spot in about 20-metres in length that was considerably lower as compared to the rest of it. Going out, it didn’t pose any real concerns other then gingerly hopping across the stones.
Kind of had a feeling this might be an issue on the return though. On the way out, you could walk across this section by just being careful and you wouldn’t get your boots wet. Not so much on the return trip.
So, up to our knees in water, we went. And let me say, it wasn’t exactly warm water.
With wet feet and great memories made, we arrived back at our car around 1:00pm. A round trip of about two-half to three hours more or less.
Was it worth it you ask?
You bet it was!
Lynn and I would head back out to scramble across those rocks again in a heartbeat. Upon getting back to the shore, we kind of did a mental “high-five” towards each other. When we first arrived, we had two options. We could have wimped out given the tide wasn’t low enough or “pull up our socks” and head out across the rocks.
We pulled up our socks and chose the spirit of adventure and the rocks.
It was a good choice.
I would encourage you, that if you’re in the Summerside area, get a map or ask someone and take a trip out to have a look at the lighthouse. You might not be able to physically walk up to it, but on the other hand, if the Spirit of Adventure shines in you…well you just never know.
Thanks for reading and look soon for the rest of that day’s adventure as we headed north to the Darnley area of the Island to hit up Thunder Cove Beach and the “Tea Cup.”