1000 islands tourism recently invited me to spend the weekend in Gananoque – the heart of the 1000 islands. It was so nice to get away for the weekend and the area is a great place to unplug and spend time outdoors. If you’ve never been, The Thousand Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada. I wanted to share my weekend Itinerary with you to give you some inspiration on your next visit.
What to do:
We took the route from Ottawa to Gananoque on the 401, and if you are driving that way, I encourage you to stop by at BUSL Cider in Mallorytown. They are a family-owned craft cidery who produce premium apples with unique flavors . They are situated on an impressive 280 acre property that homes to 10 acres of Apple orchard accented with 2 acres of Lavender, 2 acres of Haskap and various other crops that all help to enhance their line of ciders. They are known for their signature Haskap, Apple, and Cherryand Blueberry Beet Cider. Make sure to stop in for a tasting.
1000 Islands Helicopter Tour:
Over the weekend we had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the 1000 islands. I can easily say that this was my favorite part of the weekend. The view was absolutely stunning from above and it was such a fun and exciting experience. It’s truly the best way to grasp the beauty of the islands from above to give your a better perspective of it’s beauty. Their 20-minute Boldt Castle tour is a Destination Ontario Signature Experience and their 30-minute two castle tour is a Destination Canada Canadian Signature Experience. I highly recommend doing one of the tours! For more information you can click here.
1000 Islands Kayaking:
Growing up in the Maritimes I have always loved Kayaking because I find it so relaxing and peaceful. I was thrilled that 1000 Islands Kayaking company offers fully guided tours for full day, half day, and even overnight kayaking excursions along the St. Lawrence River. While I love kayaking, I had never been out on the water for more than an hour at a time, so I was a bit nervous about how I would manage a half day of kayaking. To my surprise, It was honestly easy and super relaxing. The tour is optimal for all levels of paddlers (including beginners or even if it’s your first time.) They walk you through every step and they’re there to guide you the entire time and teach you techniques. If you’re interested, they also offer an assortment of certification courses, rentals, and powerboat shuttle services and their intimate knowledge of the islands is second to none. Be sure to dress comfortably and bring along sun protection as you will be out on the water for 3+ hours on their half day guided tour. You can find more information on their services here.
Rockport Boat Line
We went for the 1.5 hour Heart of the 1000 Islands boat cruise. The cruise takes you through the Islands, across into American waters and around the world famous Boldt Castle on Heart Island. (passports are not required as you don’t drop anchor in American waters.) . If you love admiring impressive properties and architecture, then this boat tour is for you. The 1000 island area has been a popular summer home for wealthy families with many properties on privately-owned islands along the river. Overtime, the collection of summer homes got its name, “Millionaire’s Row”.
The popular Bolts Castle that you will see tells a very sad story. In 1879, the Boldt family visited the 1000 Islands region. Mr. Boldt’s wife, Louise, fell in awe with the area and it’s beauty. It’s because of this that her husband George ordered to build her own dream castle as a tribute of his admiration to her. The gift was scheduled to be delivered on February 14, 1905 on Louise’s birthday. Unfortunately, she died of heart failure before that and did not get to see the project. Devastated, George ordered the construction to stop and never came back to finish it. Today, the castle is restored and open to the public.
You can find more information on the various tours here.
Beach, Swimming, Parks and Hikes:
There is a lot that you can do to relax and spend more time outdoors and enjoy the area.
Hiking: There are some different trails to choose from: The Landon Bay Centre which is now part of the Thousand Islands National Park, Marble Rock Conservation Area, Gananoque Trail System, and Jones Creek Trails.
Cycling; the Thousand Islands Parkway connects Gananoque to Brockville with a paved walking/cycling trail with small villages along the way that you can stop in (Rockport, Ivy Lea, Mallorytown),
Swimming: Joel Stone Park in Gananoque has a family friendly beach & splash pad, there is also Brown’s Bay Park in Mallorytown that has a nice view of Singer Castle from the beach, Halstead Bay is across the road from the Landon Bay Centre – it’s not so much of a beach as it is just a swimming area, it has a rock ledge leading into the water as opposed to sand.
Where to eat:
Our first diner was at Anthony’s family restaurant. Their menu features a variety of casual dining like pastas, wraps, and sandwiches. Their patio faces the historic Town Hall and features a street mural along one side. The location was the perfect spot to go enjoy a walk though the parks after diner during sunset.
The second diner was at the Maple Leaf Restaurant. Their menu features Czech cuisine like schnitzel, pierogis, and spaetzle. Their menu also includes classfic Canadian dishes like burgers, sandwiches, ect.
For lunch or diner: I highly recommend going to the Riva Restaurant! While I enjoyed everywhere we ate, Riva easily was my favorite restaurant.
Other lunch options: Laverne’s Eatery, Stonewater Gastro Puband Muskie Jake’s Tap & Grill.
Without a doubt, the scenery is the top reason to visit the 1000 Islands. The region offers a lovely combination of water, islands, and outdoor activities.