Visit the World Class Attractions and Fine Dining of 1000 Islands
Published: Monday, June 21, 2010 7:00 am
By: Visit 1000 Islands
Forget the Caribbeans. The 1000 Islands offer the perfect cruise, one where you chart your own course for spectacular scenery, world-class attractions and ports of call for fine dining and libations.
Stops along the way in both the United States and Canada offer luxurious lodging, vibrant downtown festivals and spectacular dining. In the 1000 Islands, boats are the preferred method of summertime transportation. Only in the islands can you tie-up at a golf course, professional theatre and maritime museum...all in one day!
The 1000 Islands begins where Lake Ontario narrows into the St. Lawrence River between Cape Vincent, New York, and Kingston, Ontario, and spreads to the St. Lawrence Seaway lock system between Massena, NY, and Cornwall, ON. Along the way lie 1,000 islands - 1,864 to be exact - and a dozen waterfront villages, cities and communities that serve as ports for boaters.
Great Lakes visitors are welcomed to the 1000 Islands by the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent. The big island before you - and largest of them all at 50 square miles - is Wolfe Island, home to the Wolfe Island Riverfront Golf Course. Cyclists love Wolfe Island's country roads; a trip to the north end gives you stunning view of Kingston, the Limestone City.
Kingston is the "urban hub" of the 1000 Islands. Chain and private-operated hotels and inns are accessible by water. Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada, a former 19th century British military fortress, overlooks the waterway and is open to public touring. Marinas with transient docking allow visitors to see a downtown park performance, grab spectacular dining and do some quick shopping.
After cruising by the cluster of "big" islands - Wolfe, Howe, Simcoe and Grindstone - you'll come to Clayton, NY, an early 1800s shipbuilding and lumber port that today is a burgeoning cultural destination. Your first stop has to be at the Antique Boat Museum. The museum is home to America's largest collection of antique freshwater vessels. Learn about your classic wooden predecessors who raced and cruised the islands during early 20th Century grandeur. Public docks lead you to scores of downtown waterfront dining, museums and the beautifully restored Clayton Opera House.
Within sight of Clayton is the head of Wellesley Island, the most developed of the islands. Wellesley is a major cog in the Thousand Islands International Bridge system connecting the U.S. and Canada. From Clayton, head toward Eel Bay, a large bay on Wellesley's upriver end and a perfect viewing spot to see the 1000 Islands' most spectacular sunset. The marina at nearby Wellesley Island State Park has ample transient docking space and access to a public golf course.
Both sides of Wellesley are worth a cruise. On the Canadian side, you'll find Gananoque and the small hamlets that make up the 1000 Islands Parkway, where land visitors jump on tour boats to see the islands and locals drift into their favorite coves to sip cocktails or drop a fishing line. Perhaps the most picturesque stretch of the river, boaters can meander by stately island "cottages," soaring ospreys and swimming loons.
Cruise into the Gananoque Golf and Country Club dock and take in a round or motor up to the Thousand Islands Playhouse and catch award-winning theatre in a venue like no other on the St. Lawrence River.
Down from Gananoque is the Parkway and Smuggler's Glen Golf Course, just upriver from the international bridge. After hitting the links, motor or walk over to the Smuggler's Run restaurant for some of the finest waterfront dining in the area.
The U.S. side of Wellesley should not be missed. The scenery includes passing under the 4,500-foot long, 150-foot high span of Thousand Islands Bridge and the Rock Island Lighthouse, formerly kept by the infamous pirate Bill Johnston, for whom nearby Alexandria Bay's Pirates Days festival is named. The U.S. side of Wellesley includes the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, two dock-and-go golf courses and upscale dining and lodging. At one time, the Thousand Islands Golf Club was the world's most exclusive, with a $100,000 initiation fee and $10,000 annual membership charge. Today it's more moderately priced and open to the public.
Across the river in Alexandria Bay, boaters can tie-up at all-inclusive resorts, riverfront cottage rentals and mom-and-pop motor lodges. Pubs and waterfront eateries are strewn about Alexandria Bay's shoreline. Just follow the sounds of live bands for your entertainment.
Overlooking all of this is the historic Boldt Castle on Heart Island. Construction on this 120-room, Rhineland-style castle began in 1900. Millionaire hotelier George Boldt was having it built for his beloved wife Louise, but his dream was never to be. Upon Louise's untimely death in 1904, Boldt ordered construction to halt and never returned. After being left to the elements for more than 70 years, more than $28 million has been spent restoring the castle to its former glory, now as a tourist attraction. Dozens of dock spots on the western end of the island await boating visitors. The Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island is also open to touring and has docking.
The river opens up again a bit downstream. Head for Chippewa Bay to see Singer Castle on Dark Island. Built in 1905 as a "hunting retreat" for New York City millionaire Frederick Bourne of Singer Sewing Machine fame, this castle is also open to public touring and accommodates private boaters.
Further downriver, explore the Brock Isles, a cluster of publicly owned islands in front of historic downtown Brockville, Ontario. Like Alexandria Bay and Gananoque, Brockville is a quintessential "river town" complete with docking, museums, riverside taverns and historic streetscapes visible from the water.
Those making the trip toward the locks stop in Cornwall, Ontario. Downtown shopping, waterfront walking trails and restaurants greet visitors just beyond marinas. Nearby Morrisburg is home to the publicly operated Crysler Park Marina, where park staff provides transport to the Upper Canada Golf Course.
With so much to do and no one "road map," the 1000 Islands offer endless cruising vacation opportunities.
For more information about 1000 Island, please visit www.visit1000islands.com.