During our road trip in Ontario, we planned to visit the Thousand Island geographic area. There are many ways to experience the 1000 Islands: you can simply go on the top of the 1000 tower to get an idea of how the islands are spread along the river, or you can take a boat tour and sail among the Islands, or you can even take a helicopter tour to have a bird’s eye view. It depends on you, on how much time you have available, and how much money you want to spend.
In this post called “Best way to experience the 1000 Islands” I will tell you how we spent our one day exploring the 1000 Islands without too much hustle and bustle.
What is 1000 Islands?
Forged over thousands of years of glacial activity, the 1000 Islands is an archipelago of 1,864 islands in the Saint Lawrence River straddling the border of Canada and the North-eastern United States. Many of the islands, by the way, are privately owned.
These islands, which were once the peaks of ancient mountains, are definitely among one of nature’s most marvellous jewels. These picturesque islands, spanning a 50-mile radius between South-eastern Ontario’s Brockville to Kingston, come in all shapes and sizes, and are part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, designated a UNESCO site in 2002.
Heading to Kingston? Then check this out: Kingston haunted Night Walking Tour
1000 Islands boat trip.
The 1000 Islands is one of the most popular destinations in Canada for those looking for an authentic outdoor vacation and one of the best ways to experience this stunning beauty is by taking a bout tour.
Then it goes without saying that there are so many boat line options in the area. Each offers a variety of tours to choose from, so you can cater your boat cruise to suit your personal interests. Tours range from historic, with tales of pirates and other 1000 Island stories, to dining and entertainment, to educational and scenic. There are also many themed evening events that you may want to check online.
Whatever line you choose, there are three main options for a 1000 Islands boat trip: a one-hour cruise, a 2.5 hour cruise, or a 5 hour cruise with 2 hours stopover at Boldt Castle located on Heart Island.
The first and the second ones are entirely in Canada, so passports are NOT required. However the third one has a stopover on Heart Island, which is in American waters, so it requires a passport. And also, all non-Canadian or non-U.S. visitors will require a valid Canadian and United States entry visa or ESTA. Click here for more info about the Border Crossing CANADA – USA.
We took the Gananoque Boat Line. It is an hour cruise which circles Boldt Castle (USA), without any stops.
Let’s say that we just wanted to take it easy that day, so we had no definite plans for this 1000 Islands boat trip. We woke up rested and after breakfast we went straight to the dock in Ivy Lea. It was around noon.
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Which 1000 Islands boat tour is best?
Well, I did the one-hour 1000 Island boat tour but if I end up back there, I would buy the 5 hour boat trip which has a stopover in Boldt Castle. I’m telling you this because I later had an occasion to visit Boldt Castle which besides being pretty has an interesting history, too. Therefore, if the time and weather allow it, I highly recommend you take this option into consideration.
As I already said, Boldt Castle is on Heart Island which is in American waters so it requires a passport. And also all non-Canadian or non-U.S. visitors will require a valid Canadian and United States entry visa or ESTA.
Why you should take a 1000 Islands Cruise?
Sailing through the small islands is not only the best way to have some good views of this geographical area, but it’s especially nice because it’s a great way to get closer to some of the private luxury cottages situated along the river.
Fall is undoubtly the best time to visit the 1000 Islands Region since it’s more colourful and it’s still warm, but also during the summer season, nature here does not fail to amaze you.
So sit back, relax, and listen to the commentary as you enjoy the scenery. If the weather is good, you will enjoy this boat trip for sure.
Check this out: Gananoque: Helicopter Tour with Craft Brewery Stop and Lunch
Best way to experience the 1000 islands: 1000 Island Bridge
Once the boat trip ended, we crossed the Thousand Island Bridge. I highly recommend you do this and let me tell you why.
Thousand Island Bridge is a suspension bridge which provides a scenic view of the St. Lawrence River and its surroundings since you can see from the top the islands immersed in the water. Take your time crossing, believe me.
What is even better about the Thousand Island Bridge is the walkway on the west side of the bridge (adjacent to southbound lanes). It means that pedestrians may cross the Thousand Islands Bridge using the sidewalk which is only open during daylight hours. The walkway is about one kilometre in total length.
Parking is available close by, and the walkway is closed during the winter months. A couple of things to know about the 1000 Islands sidewalk are that if it is the least bit chilly on the ground, it will be much cooler up there, so dress accordingly. Also the bridge shakes a bit when the vehicles pass and this could be annoying, but don’t let that deter you from the experience.
Best way to experience the 1000 Islands: 1000 Islands Tower.
I would say that the Thousand Island boat trip and the Thousand Island bridge experience are enough to complete your experience. But, for more expansive view of the river and its surrounding countryside I’d suggest that you go up the 1000 Islands Tower which is on Hill Island, CANADA.
1000 Islands Tower is tall -130 m (400ft) – and getting to its top will really complete your experience. At the 1000 Island Tower an elevator will take you to the first level of the observation deck (there are three levels) where you can enjoy the panoramic view of St Lawrence River. Here at the first level, a very knowledgeable tour guide will explain the area and will answer your questions. Here is a link to check-out their opening hours and prices.
I highly recommend it because from its top you get one of the best-unencumbered views of the region anywhere. Thousand Islands Tower is even more spectacular when the leaves change colour in the fall. And, since it is covered, it is practical even during the rain.
1000 Islands: 10 Things to know.
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- During the boat trip you will see the world’s shortest international bridge. The 9.5 meters long bridge crosses two islands in the St. Lawrence River, between the borders of the United States and Canada.
- For health and safety reasons, pets are not allowed on boat trips. Inquire in the ticket office for boarding services.
- If you take the 5 hours boat trip know that there is an admission fee to Boldt Castle that is not included in the boat trip ticket price.
- Daily cruises offer 2 departure locations, downtown Gananoque and Ivy Lea (near the 1000 Islands International Bridge)
- Parking lots are available nearby the boat trip ticket office. To date it is $5 for day parking with a car and $10 for a RV. Parking passes are available through the lot attendants or in the ticket office.
- All boat tours operate rain or shine but they could have enclosed areas for rainy days.
- Most boat lines have ramp access which ensures access for disabled people.
- Besides boat trips and scenic walking trails, the 1000 Islands region provides many more activities. Among them fishing, camping, swimming, paddling, and kayaking are very famous. And why not? Even thrilling helicopter tours are commonly organized. Before you go, you may want to check out the exhilarating 10, 20, or 30-minute helicopter tours on “Get your guide” website.
- Visiting the 1000 Island region during the sunset is even more fascinating.
- Many activities, including boat trips, may not work in winter. You need to check this out before planning your trip.
Well, there are a thousand reasons to visit the Thousand Islands. Everyone will appreciate the area for its endless entertainment provided by nature. It is one of the unique places in Ontario that must definitely be on your Ontario itinerary.