The harbour, around which the town of Picton is built, is possibly the finest land-locked small harbour in Canada or even in North America. From the beginning of European settlement of the area until the mid 1900s, the harbour at Picton was a very important [harbour arial view] commercial centre, with, at one time, over a half dozen scheduled passenger sailings a day out of its waters. Those sailings linked Picton to many ports, both local – Northport, Belleville, Trenton – and distant – Oswego, Rochester, Kingston, Toronto, Niagara. Susannah Moodie in her “Life in the Clearings” reports her entry into Picton Harbour in the following words:
“Picton is a very beautiful place viewed from the deck of the steamer. Its situation is novel and imposing, and the number of pretty cottages that crown the steep ridge that rises almost perpendicularly from the water, peeping out from among fine orchards in full bearing, and trim gardens, give it quite a rural appearance. The steamboat enters this fairy bay by a very narrow passage; and, after delivering freight and passengers at the wharf, backs out by the way she came in. There is no turning a large vessel round this half circle of deep blue water. Few spots in Canada would offer a finer subject for the artist’s pencil than this small inland town, which is so seldom visited by strangers and tourists.”
What Susannah says about “strangers” and tourists, while true in her day, is no longer so! Her comments about turning the vessel are rather a surprise.
People still live in Town who can remember the days of sail, when schooners carried out apples and brought in coal to the local docks. Many old pictures show ships of sail and steam, both paddle wheelers and propellers, over wintering in the harbour, locked firmly in the ice. It happens no more. Today’s ships and boats in Picton are lifted bodily from the water before freeze-up, and spend their winter under tarpaulins on land.
In the past few decades, the harbour has been limited almost totally to pleasure traffic, seeing, at times, over a hundred sail or power vessels lying inside it. Those vessels are well served by several facilities – the Prince Edward Yacht Club, the Tip of the Bay Motel, the Picton Harbour Inn, the Town Marina, the Prince Edward Cruising Club, by various private docks, and by a bottom with good holding for anchors. Over the past 150 years, the harbour at Picton was dredged several times by Federal authorities to a depth of 14 feet. The sandy mud bottom left by that dredging still exists.