13 Apr Adventure in the Thousand Islands
One of the stops on our road trip through the northeastern United States was the 1000 Islands, an area that straddles the border between Ontario and New York. While we didn’t know much about the region prior to visiting, we quickly learned that we were about to have a great couple of days exploring. Our first night was spent in Alexandria Bay on the USA side of the region, and we spent the next two nights camping in an oTENTik at Canada’s Thousand Islands National Park.
We arrived just before sunset, so our first stop was our hotel to check in and drop off our bags. Patrick, the former mayor of Alexandria Bay and also a friend of a friend, was kind enough to provide us with a room at his property, The Ship Motel—it was a cute and clean spot located right in the center of town.
After getting settled in, we made our way to the water to watch the sunset and then it was time for dinner. Because we were traveling a few weeks before high season, not all of the restaurants in town were open—we ended up having a delicious dinner of steak and pasta at Cavallario’s Steak and Seafood, and I’m glad we made the choice to dine there! Patrick joined us at the restaurant for a bit and we had a wonderful time chatting with him about the history of the area and all there is to do in the 1000 Islands.
While there are endless activities, getting out on a boat is one of the best ways to see the 1000 Islands. We spent our couple of days boating, exploring Boldt Castle, visiting the observation tower for aerial views of the landscape and hiking the trails near our campsite.
Uncle Sam Boat Tour
On our first full day in the 1000 Islands, we were excited to get out on the water to see the heart of the region. Uncle Sam Boat Tours offers several different options for seeing the area, and we went on the Two Nation Tour, which is just over 2 hours long. At the end of the boat ride, you have the choice to stop at Boldt Castle for a self-guided tour if you would like to see the island by foot.
The tour takes you on a 22 mile path through both Canadian and American waters—they point out the international border as well as many iconic sights along the way. Throughout the tour, the guides will share stories about the region as well as history, folklore and information about the land and wildlife.
Some spots of interest were Millionaire’s Row, Canadian Palisades, Whirlpool Channel, Smugglers Cove, Boldt Castle, the Thousand Island Bridge and many other destinations along the way.
Since we also had tickets for touring Boldt Castle, we decided to disembark from the optional stop on the Uncle Sam Boat Tour to spend some time wandering around the castle and groomed landscape.
The castle sits on Heart Island and has a very interesting history—it was built by George Boldt as a tribute to his wife Louise. The building process started in 1900, but when his wife suddenly passed away a few months before construction was completed, George abandoned the project. Boldt Castle sat vacant for over seventy years and the site was frequented by partiers and vandals who left an interesting mark throughout the upper floors of the property.
It wasn’t until 1977 when the property was acquired by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, that construction resumed. The goal was to restore, preserve and improve the castle and various structures on the island. Although the project is still not 100% complete, it has come a long way over the years and is now a gorgeous property.
Exploring Boldt Castle and the other structures on the island make the perfect afternoon adventure. Depending on the tickets you decide to purchase, you can also hop on a quick boat ride and head over to the Yacht House.
The island can only be reached by boat, and it is located on American land, so if you are coming from Canada you may need to provide proper identification. You can visit the island via a boat tour or with your own boat if you have one.
1000 Islands Tower
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to get an aerial view of the area we are visiting, so I couldn’t resist when I saw the 1000 Islands Tower resting on Hill Island, which is located along the St. Lawrence River. Inside the tower, you will find a gift shop, and an ice cream shop, and the top three floors are home to the observation decks.
After shooting to the top in the 40 second elevator ride, you will find yourself on the first of three observation floors. The observation tower is around 400 feet high, and from the top, you can see expansive views of the 1000 Islands and the St. Lawrence River. The first observation level is enclosed in glass and the top two are outside. It was pretty windy up on the top outside deck, but we loved seeing unobstructed views of the surrounding area.
Exploring the Saint Lawrence River by Boat
While we were on the Canadian side of the region, we were lucky enough to have another friend of a friend offer to give us a boat ride to explore even more of the area. Peter works at Ed Huck Marine, and while they don’t offer tours, he took us for a spin in one of the coolest boats we’ve seen. It was a chilly day, so we were excited that the boat had an enclosed space in the front where we could sit when the wind was too cold.
We were working on a filming project during our visit, so we spent most of the time boating by all of the iconic spots in the area, as well as some hidden gems that we never would have found on our own. As we cruised around, we heard even more stories about the area while we soaked up all the beauty surrounding us.
We had a fantastic time exploring the region by boat, by car, on foot and from above. The adorable towns, the beautiful landscapes and the thriving river all made this region a very memorable stop on our road trip. Even though I would like to see the area during high season, I’m glad we got to experience it just as the sleepy towns were starting to wake up for the summer—it was quiet, relaxed and the perfect complement to the gorgeous landscapes in every direction.
Special thanks to Patrick for providing us with a complimentary room at The Ship Motel, dinner at Cavallario’s Steak and Seafood and tickets to the Boldt Castle and Uncle Sam Boat Tour, and also special thanks to Peter from Ed Huck Marine for taking us out to explore by boat. We were certainly spoiled, but as always, all options are our own no matter who covered the cost.