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Halifax-Dartmouth home to oldest saltwater ferry service in North America

When Virgin Radio host Ace Burpee arrived in Halifax for a one week work assignment, going for a ferry ride was one of the items on his bucket list.

“I was just jacked,” said Burpee. “I am from the prairies, the real prairies, and I’m like getting on a ferry, and I’m like, wow.”

What is novelty for Burpee is a routine crossing for many who live in the Halifax-area.

“This is something that people love to take every day, whether you are a tourist, or commuting,” said Dartmouth historian David Jones, who added the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry has been in service a long time, dating all the way back to 1752 and is North America’s oldest operating saltwater ferry.

“They started simply as a rowboat, and a few people would cross at a time,” said Jones.

The Halifax-Dartmouth ferry in a picture from 2023. (CTV/Paul Hollingsworth)Once established in the 18th Century, the ferry service quickly expanded.

“That’s how people would get their produce to the market,” said Jones. “People from Preston, Cow Bay, Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage.”

For more than 270 years, this crossing has been an integral link between Halifax and Dartmouth.

A photo of the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry, taken in the year 1885. (Source: G.L. Sinclair) “Our port, in general is so important to our economy,” said HRM Councillor Tony Mancini. “Not only for the HRM, but for the province. The ferry plays a big role in that.”

A vital and historic role, that goes all the way back to 1752.

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