Boater’s Paradise – Visit Thousand Islands on the US/Canada Border
Enjoy another article from our guest contributor Elaine Gramaglia – who gives us her perspective on her global travels.
Cottage country for me means long summer days spent boating, swimming and enjoying life in the great outdoors. This term holds a special place in my heart – especially in the chain of almost 1,800 islands located on the St. Lawrence River- along the 50 miles between the Canadian and US border known as the Thousand Islands. I grew up spending summers here on a sailboat at a place on the Canadian side named Ivy Lea. I recently found out that a good friend of mine has a family cottage in the Thousand Island Park on the American side. So, I jumped at the chance to revisit my childhood vacation spot over the 4th of July weekend.
Thousand Islands Park is situated on Wellesley Island. Depending on how you get here, it can be accessed from Canada in 30 minutes by driving over the scenic Thousand Islands Bridge, or 2 hour drive from the Syracuse, NY airport. The highway route from the airport isn’t as scenic, but when I made that final turn into the Thousands Islands Park, I knew the next 2 days were going to be spent enjoying the St. Lawrence Seaway and all of the amazing sights and water activities.
The Thousand Islands Park is as picturesque as it gets. It’s a small community of charming cottages with some being utilized as vacation rentals. The town is small, but pedestrian and golf cart friendly. There is a formal restaurant, pub, gift shop, museum, grocery store, and a charming ice cream parlor/family eatery called “The Guzzle.” The large park has a play area for the kids, a field for outdoor sports and games, and a central gazebo to enjoy reading or an afternoon nap. There is a boat dock with slips which is fully equipped with a gas station and other amenities to accommodate boaters’ needs. The dock also is used as a sunbathing and swimming hole for kids of all ages.
A Lovely Thousand Islands Vacation
I stayed with my friends in one of their historic cottages called “Centennial.” The cottage is as quaint as it gets. The décor screams Americana as it is decorated in red, white, and blue solids with stars and stripes. So, it was perfect for the upcoming 4th of July festivities. The rest of the day was spent on their private dock, staring out at the river, enjoying a family BBQ with good conversation and a nice bottle of wine.
The next day we decided to get up early and drive across the border to Canada. The Ivy Lea Club is the perfect place to have brunch, lunch or dinner with an amazing water view. My parents and I were marina tenants here in the 1980’s when it was called the Ivy Lea Inn and Marina. It has been refurbished since then, and the new owners have definitely made it a great place to vacation. We continued 45 minutes south and arrived in Kingston, Ontario, Canada – located on beautiful Lake Ontario. Our first stop was to grab a beer at the Kingston Brewing Company and then we made our way to a great pizza place called Wooden Heads. If you love pizza – this is the place to go. The remainder of the day was spent walking along Princess Street browsing through the many souvenir shops and bakeries.
Get Out On the Water
The last day was spent sightseeing on the boat. I would recommend renting a boat or taking a Thousand Island boat tour to enjoy the scenic views of the beautiful homes or exploring the towns along the river. There are many boater friendly towns on the Canadian and US side of the St. Lawrence River that allow you to stop in for a few hours including Gananoque, Canada, and the towns in New York called Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Cape Vincent. Finding a place to dock isn’t difficult, but its best to get where you are going before the lunch crowd hits. Daily and hourly fees are sometimes charged to boaters for dock usage, so be prepared to possibly pay a fee before you enjoy the day. One more travel tip: Keep in mind to bring the correct documentation with you on your day trips in the Thousand Islands. You never know what country you may end up in!
We decided to grab lunch in Alexandria Bay at a place called Coleman’s Dock of the Bay. It is a great local hangout with a large outside deck to take in the scenery and watch the boats. Alexandria Bay is a great day trip for families of all ages. The main street is walking distance from the water and has many shops, eateries, and is great spot for people watching. You will find that all of the waterside towns in the Thousand Islands are different, and are accessible by boat or car. Each of them offers visitors the chance to explore the sights and enjoy the many festivals and weekend activities held throughout the year. Make sure you check out the French Festival in Cape Vincent, NY and the Wine and Food Festival in Clayton, NY. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’d like to visit Thousand Islands head here for information on accommodations, activities, boat rentals and sightseeing options in both Canada and the USA.
This blog post is dedicated to my late father, Peter Dewhirst. Thanks for all of the fun days at sea in the Thousand Islands, and giving me the passion to travel the world.
You are missed.