A thousand islands, a thousand stories. Each and every one tells a story.
The Thousand Islands is an archipelago of more than 1800 islands, which sits on the St. Lawrence River. Scattered along the border of the United States and Canada, the islands spread across almost 50 miles, with two-thirds of the islands in Canadian waters.
There are islands as small as rocks to those of over 40 square miles in area. The largest island of the archipelago is Wolfe Island, and Tom Thumb Island is known to be the smallest. Not all islands are inhabitable, but there are some which are home to magnificent castles, cosy cottages and lovely beaches, and even a national park. This makes the region perfect for a weekend exploration with your family and friends.
With no further ado, let’s find out the reasons why this spectacular place should be on your bucket list!
Visit Boldt Castle And Yacht House
On the United States side of the border lies Heart Island. It is one of the most visited islands in the area, with several points of interest, including the Boldt Castle. Originally a private mansion built by an American millionaire, today it has become a tourist attraction, maintained by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The castle is open from May to October.
Located on the Wellesley Island nearby, the Boldt Castle Yacht House is open to the public except during periods of high water levels. This yacht house was used to hold the Boldt family’s yachts and houseboats.
Currently, in addition to Boldt’s collection, there are antique wooden boats on display, courtesy of the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York. Interested to find out more? Hop over to our guide on the Boldt Castle!
Cross The Thousand Islands Bridge
This bridge connects the two countries, between New York in the United States and Ontario in Canada. This bridge system is a series of five bridges with the international bridge crossing between Wellesley Island and Hill Island. Every day, thousands of cars cross this impressive bridge. We recommend you to walk across the bridge to see the amazing view yourself.
Do Lighthouse Hopping
There are various picturesque lighthouses throughout the Thousand Islands region. Some lighthouses are open to the public as museums while some are privately owned. These lighthouses in the region were built in the early 1800s to commemorate the maritime heritage on the St. Lawrence River.
Some of the iconic lighthouses are Tibbetts Lighthouse, Rock Island Lighthouse, and Sunken Rock Lighthouse.
The Thousand Islands region is a prime location for fishing due to its vast waters of St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Don’t worry if you’re a novice, there are several guided fishing tours available. You can do fishing at any time of the year, but the prime season of fishing is between June and December.
The Thousand Islands is known for the trophy-sized catches of trout, walleye, and bass! Remember to share your catch with us!
Visit The Thousand Islands National Park
Formed by more than 20 islands, it is one of the smallest national parks in Canada. You can find camping grounds, walking trails and waterfront parks on these granite islands. Each island has its own unique character, take your time to explore and discover rare species of fauna and flora.
Take the Jones Creek Trail System if you’re keen on going for a full-day adventure. This 9.9 miles trail consists of looping paths, but you’ll be rewarded with the gorgeous views. We’re sure you won’t regret this!
Enjoy The Breathtaking View From The Highest Point
Get a spectacular view of the Thousand Islands on the Thousand Islands Tower. Standing at 400 feet above the St. Lawrence River, you can take the elevator up to the first of the three observation decks of the tower. Each adult admission ticket costs CAD11.95 (USD 9.14) and each child (6 – 12 years old) ticket costs CAD 7 (USD 5.35).
Located on Hill Island of Canada, remember your passport if you’re coming from the U.S. side. The tower operates from May to October.
Take A Helicopter Tour
For the more adventurous, another way of taking in the magnificent view of the Thousand Islands is the helicopter tour. Feel the excitement as you hop on the helicopter for the best aerial view of the region. On a clear day, you may even see the shipwrecks of the St. Lawrence. The 20-minute ride is the most popular excursion as it provides the optimal amount of time to get a good overview of the Thousand Islands.
Go Kayak Camping
A more active way to explore the Thousand Islands is by kayak, and there are many different paddling routes to choose from. Take in the scenic views along the way and you can also explore the otherwise inaccessible areas. Guided full-day or half-day trips are also available.
The best part about kayak camping is, you will be able to explore more of the Thousand Islands without worrying about getting back to the mainland before dark. There are plenty of beautiful quiet campsites on some islands, or simply book a cabin with oTENTik for an overnight stay.
Visit The Tallest Cathedral In The World
Half Moon Bay is a natural rock bay formation that was transformed into a place of worship during summer. Known to be the cathedral with the highest ceiling in the world, it is located at the southeastern end of Bostwick Island. Since the tradition began in 1887, worshippers in boats gather on the water for services at the bay.
For those who are keen to join the services, there are free ferry pickups from the Gananoque Bay dock at 3.00 pm and 3.30 pm.
Take A Cruise Ride
If you’re looking for the most relaxing way to enjoy the scenic views of the Thousand Islands, the sightseeing cruise is the best choice! Sit back and relax in the indoor seating of the cruise as you take in the endless panoramic scenery.
There are various service providers from the United States or Canada, all of which are offering different thematics cruises. Take your pick as they provide you with different experiences on board while cruising along the river.
Planning for your trip to New York or Ontario, why not include Thousand Islands in your itinerary? And have some Thousand Island dressing on your salad, maybe? (We just had to say that, don’t we?)