Cockburn Island

Cockburn Is., ON

Lat: 45°57.597   Long: 083°18.857

Quick Reference:

  • Port Type: Refuge
  • Monitors VHF: n/a
  • Charts: CHS 2251
  • Customs: No
  • Coast Guard
  • Transient Docking
  • Anchorage
  • Diesel
  • Gasoline
  • Potable Water
  • Pump Out
  • Washrooms
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Repair Services
  • Provisions
  • Pharmacy
  • Hospital/Clinic
  • Banks/ATM
  • Restaurants/Pubs
  • Shopping
  • Internet
  • Amenities
  Important Numbers

Area Code705
Police(888) 310-1122


Harbor Distance (nm) Harbor Distance (nm)
De Tour Village, MI 33 W Spragge, ON 28 NE
Bruce Mines, ON 30 NW Gore Bay, ON 42 W
Sault Ste Marie, ON 63 NW Little Current, ON 66 W


Cockburn Island (pronounced "KO 'burn") was named in 1817 by Capt. Henry Bayfield, who charted much of the Great Lakes for the Royal Navy. He named the island after Francis Cockburn who was the Deputy Quartemaster for Upper Canada. The island is the smallest incorporated municipality in Canada. According to Census Canada, the resident population in 2011 was exactly zero! Frequently referred to as a ghost town, the island in fact has a summer population of about 100-150 people.

Settled in the late 1800's, the people built a village called Tolsmaville, named after an American sailor who fished out of the area. Fishing was the economic mainstay of the community, augmented by logging. Tolsmaville's connection with the outside world was via 2 ferries. That all ended in the late 1960's. The population, which had numbered around 1,000, dwindled to its present 1 or 2 persons.

In the meantime, dozens of people, many descendents of former settlers, return each summer and Tolsmaville becomes a temporary cottage community.


The harbour is at Tolsmaville, on the northeast corner of the island. The approaches are clear from all directions. There is a charted range of 169°T. The harbour itself has 2 piers. One pier runs in a north/south direction It was the old commercial wharf and, because of its condition and exposure, should be avoided. It is marked with a F WHITE light. To the east and forming part of the entrance to the small bay ia a newer whart. This wharf is in good condition and offers good protection. It is marked with a Fl RED light at the pierhead.

There is safe anchoring in the harbour.




There are no facilities for cruising sailors.






Stopping at Tolsmaville gives one a fascinating glimpse into Ontario's past. While some buildings such as the schoolhouse, church and town hall as maintained by the township, other homes are either kept as summer residences or are abandoned.

Much of the island is natural forest and wetlands. There are gravel roads you can follow to explore this beautiful island.

Return from Cockburn Island to the North Channel

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