Rocky Point has been a favoured destination for sailors and pleasure seekers ever since Charlottetown was founded in the late 1760s. Initially much of the area was covered by the “Fort Lot” where the ruins of the fortifications of Port la Joie, later Fort Amherst, looked over the harbour and gave a splendid view of Charlottetown across the harbour. Walter Patterson, the Island’s first governor, had his residence there and this later became Warren Farm, named for an early resident who also gave his name to Warren Cove, known to the French as Ance de Debarquement.
In fact the general term Rocky Point covers the whole of the area of the west side of the harbour entrance channel which includes Canceau [sometimes spelled Canceaux] Cove (named after Samuel Holland’s survey ship), Canceau Point, Warren Cove Ringwood and Alchorn Point which stands below Fort Amherst. This area has been the site of an aboriginal community since at least the French period and a reserve still occupies an area between Canceau Point and Warren Cove. Rocky Point proper was the site of a ferry service which linked the area with Charlottetown with regular service from at least the 1830s and ending only in the 1960s when the causeway across the West River blocking access to the upper reaches of the river for all but small power boats was constructed. The remains of the ferry wharf can still be seen although the wharf cannot be used. Oystermen use the adjacent beach to launch their boats.
The existing wharf which is a ruinous state dates from 1915 when an approach channel was dredged and a new wharf was constructed by the Provincial Department of Public Works to replace one which had been in place since the mid- 19th century. It first appears in a 1916 edition of the British Admiralty navigation chart of Charlottetown Harbour first printed in 1884. The dredged channel was marked by navigation buoys until the wharf went out of operation.
The site of the older wharf was just to the west of the current structure and it continues to be noted on charts up to the present including the Navionics chart shown above although it is difficult to see where it was located, even at low tide.
Because it was so close to the City and had public ferry service the area quickly became a holiday destination. A small cottage colony developed and still exists on the northwest side of Warren Cove. For day-trippers there was much on offer. It was a cheap excursion and a convenient day out for those whose employment kept them in stores, offices and warehouse six days a week.
In the late nineteenth century a visit to the Rocky Point Indian encampment to watch basketmaking was part of the adventure and many of the photos documenting aboriginal culture on P.E.I. come from this area.
Range lights at Warren Cove with attendant mystique of these miniature lighthouses are part of the area’s maritime heritage. The ruins of the fort provided not only a vantage point for the harbour vista but also fired the imagination of small boys re-enacting battles that never took place. Since the 1930s, when the Dominion Government acquired the property from J.O. Hyndman, it has been a National Historic Site and has been left largely (and thankfully) undeveloped except for some recent development of walking trails. In times past the Rocky Point Ferry provided access to the resort area of Holland Cove and a short cut to Cumberland and Nine Mile Creek and saved a considerable road trip for the farming community of the south shore taking goods to the Charlottetown market.
The Rocky Point Ferry is remembered by few today. The area is still accessible by car after a twenty-off kilometer ride but it certainly lacks the allure that any sea voyage had – even if the voyage was just across the harbour. The exoticism of the Indian encampment has disappeared and today the reserve looks just like any other subdivision. Even the lighthouses don’t seem to be quite as exciting as they are slowly disappearing in the spruce thickets. While boats still anchor occasionally in Warren Cove and off the ferry wharf it is now for fishing or swimming and few go ashore. However, for an area now largely used only by Islanders the spot was featured in a large number of postcards up to the end of the 1920s. [click on any image to start slide show]