Looking for a gorgeous destination to visit with incredible scenery at every turn?
There are thousands of reasons to want to visit 1000 Islands in New York….but I’ll start with some of the top things to do in the area during your visit.
This story is brought to you in partnership with the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council.
There are 1864 islands that make up the 1000 Islands located on the Saint Lawrence River, sharing the border of both New York and Canada. Some of the thousand islands go to the eastern shore of Lake Ontario but the majority of the islands are in Saint Lawrence River.
A tip if you don’t want to stand out as a tourist, is to make sure that you pronounce the area “Thousand Islands” NOT “One Thousand Islands.”
The area was discovered as a vacation destination in the late 1800s and many guests during that time traveled to the region from New York City by train. The 1000 Islands-Seaway Region continues to be a destination known for recreation and luxury loved by generations of families.
The vibe is classy yet comfortable with a welcoming “River casual” dress attire for most of the region.
There are a few rules to be an island on the United States side.
1. Above water year-round
2. It has to have a tree on it.
With so many islands in the water, a Navionics app is a must for helping to navigate the waters detecting shoals (rock in the water) and power lines.
Take an Antique Boat Ride with Classic Island Cruises
If you want to learn more about the history of the islands in a laid back atmosphere, you need to experience a boat tour with Classic Island Cruises!
Their tours can be customed to your preferences from full to half-day fishing trips, wine and cheese tours or special customized trips available during the day or evening.
We were lucky enough to spend several hours cruising the Saint Lawrence River in this beauty, a 1953 Chris-Craft named “Muskie”, owned by Captain Jeff Garnsey of Classic Island Cruises.
Captain Jeff is the third captain in his family and will continue the tradition by eventually passing it on to his son.
He retired after serving 26 years as a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Submarine Force and later received his Master’s Captain’s License in 2009.
The craftsmanship of the “Muskie” is pretty incredible. You are basically riding in a work of art with detailing and features that are unique and telling of the time. They definitely don’t make boats like this anymore!
Captain Jeff’s family has roots in the 1000 Islands spanning 9 generations and his return to Clayton carries on the tradition, appreciation, and love for fishing and the region.
If you want to learn more about classic boats, you will definitely want to also plan a visit to the Antique Boat Museum (750 Mary St, Clayton, NY) while you are in town. The museum recommends that you allow 1.5 hours to take it all in. At the museum, you will experience the maritime history of the region showcasing incredible boats.
View Incredible Summer Homes on Millionaire’s Row
Yes, the “summer homes” on Millionaire’s Row are most people’s regular house goals.
A boat ride along the Saint Lawrence River allows you access to see so many of the incredible properties with unique architecture and enviable views.
Accessible by boat only
Fisher’s Landing, NY
(Located about 4.5 miles northeast of Clayton, NY, off of Fisher’s Landing) There is docking available on Rock Island for private craft and guests on Clayton Island Boat Tours.
Another point of interest on our boat tour was the Rock Island Lighthouse that dates back to 1847, and was one of 6 lights used to help guide travelers along the Saint Lawrence River waterway.
The lighthouse is only accessible by boat and the views are beautiful from every angle.
When given the option to climb a spiral staircase, the answer is always yes!!!!
You can also climb the winding staircase to see the view from the top of the inside of the Lighthouse in the lantern room.
You will find 360-degree views of the Saint Lawrence River at the top of Rock Island Lighthouse.
There are several exhibits inside Keeper’s Cottage where you can learn more about the history and what life was like for the Lighthouse Keepers through the years.
After walking through the museum, you can also check out the gift shop if you want take home a souvenir.
From Rock Island, you can see The Thousand Islands International Bridge in the distance along with another perspective of the water that is so incredibly clear.
Located on 5 acres at Heart Island and only accessible by water. You can visit the island by either a personal pleasure craft or by a tour boat like Uncle Sam Boat Tours.
Passengers visiting from the Canada side need to make sure that they have proper identification on them.
Boldt Castle was built by George C. Boldt who was the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria and the Bellevue-Strafford Hotels.
The 6 story, 120 room castle was meant to be a gift as a labor of love for his beloved wife who died unexpectedly from congestive heart failure 18 months before the completion of the construction.
Construction began in 1900 until the death of Mrs. Boldt in 1904. Boldt ordered all work to stop after her death and never lived in the home.
The structure remained unfinished until 1978 when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority assumed ownership and began a project to stabilize and restore the structure.
During your visit, there is a lot to take in on the property so definitely allow a lot of time to tour both the inside of the castle, the Powerhouse, Aster building, and walk the grounds.
Download the Boldt Castle App for additional information on the history and restoration efforts.
As you tour the inside of the Castle, you will notice that no expense was spared down to every last detail and the castle even had an indoor pool!
The extra flights of stairs are totally worth it so that you can see the stain glass ceiling from below and above.
The structure is still impressive today and definitely worth exploring all of the areas open to the public!
If you get hungry during your visit you can find quick service available at the Castle Cafe and Hot Dog Stand located near the ticket area or you can pack a picnic and enjoy it on a blanket or outdoor picnic table on the grounds.
(Just don’t pack bananas if you are riding on a boat because apparently they are bad luck and captains take that one very seriously)
This is the Power House structure built in the early 1900’s that was designed to house a generator for power for the island where Boldt Castle resides. Powerhouse did make steam and the design looks like a mini castle.
The Powerhouse structure is now used to share more of the family’s story and the history of the area around the time when the castle was being built. I loved looking through the historic images that were displayed inside.
The Alster Tower
The Alster Tower is often referred to as the “playhouse” and was intended to be used as a place for entertainment for the guests with areas for dancing, bowling, billiard tables, library, bedrooms, cafe, grill, and a kitchen.
The outside of the Alster Tower is a beautiful setting for pictures and vantage points but the inside of the tower has deteriorated greatly from so many years of non-use, because of that it is another area with restoration projects.
A Unique Post Office
15749 Round Island, Frontenac, NY
Another point of interest you can see from the water is the Frontenac Post Office. Mail for the residence of Round Island mail is delivered by boat by the oldest continuous river Post Office.
You can visit Wellesley Island by boat or from the America side crossing the Thousand Islands International Bridge. (There is a toll )
Wellesley Island State Park has the largest camping complex in the Thousand Island region and also has a marina, sandy beach, golf course, Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, and hiking trails. If you don’t want to camp, there are cabins and cottages also available for rent.
Wellesley Island is one of the largest and most populated islands in the Thousand Islands and the majority of its residents do not live there year-round.
The Main Dock in historic Thousand Island Park
Coast Ave West, TI Park, NY
If you want to explore, on and around, Wellesley Island, Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental, has you covered. We were led on a bike and kayak tour by Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental Owner, Holly Pelland.
She has a passion for the area and also has created a line of totes and cooler bags under the brand name Boomerang Canvas.
Kayak the Saint Lawrence River
You can rent kayaks as a single or tandem by the hour, 1/2 day, full day, 2 day, 1/2 week or the week.
A paddle on the Saint Lawrence River is so peaceful and beautiful.
The pace of a kayak really allows you the time to slow down to appreciate all of the surrounding wildlife and variety of islands of all sizes.
Own or Rent a Private Island
Yes, you can own your own private island!
We were invited to stop by Holly’s island for snacks and drinks from her floating dock.
If you’re not quite ready to buy, you can even rent an island for around $4000-12,000 a week.
Take a Bike Ride Around Wellesley Island
Another great way to explore the Wellesley Island is by bicycle.
You can rent a single-speed bike or tandem bike by the 1 Hour, 1/2 day, full-day, 2 day, 1/2 week or week with mandatory helmets provided.
Make a stop at the second largest white oak in existance in the state of New York and slow down to admire all of the charming colorful houses.
Admire the AMAZING Architecture
During our bike tour, we rode past so many adorable Victorian houses. The bright colors and unique details on each one were so intricate.
Great Places to Eat & Drink Around 1000 Islands
1010, 220 James St, Clayton, NY
A local favorite for breakfast for locals and tourists alike.
Koffee Kove has a local feel with a bit of sass, as demonstrated by their coffee cups.
You find great variety of breakfast options from sweet to savory and healthy to hearty.
200 Riverside Dr. Clayton, NY
The views of the water from the Seaway Grille are wonderful and so is the food!
I opted to add grilled salmon and shrimp to the Orchard Harvest Salad served with artisan greens, cheddar cheese, cranberries, apples and candied walnuts served with cranberry-orange vinaigrette.
After your meal, allow for some time to stroll the walking path or watch the boats from a park bench steps from the restaurant.
38289 NY-12E, Clayton, NY
Dine and drink on the property of a family-owned and operated a farm-based distillery and farm to table restaurant. Saint Lawrence Spirits distills onsite small batch craft spirits for Vodka, Gin, Moonshine, Absinthe, Whiskey and Bourbon.
This is a great restaurant to go to for a date night or evening with friends. The Chateau has great dining options both inside and outside on the patio with a wonderful view of the river.
Of course, I had to try one of their drinks for research purposes…I highly recommend the Hunter’s Cocktail
(Saint Lawrence Spirits Captain’s Flask Bourbon & Rye Knot Rye Whiskey, Perique Tobacco Liqueur, Local Maple Syrup, Black Cherry, Rocks)
Our table also shared a few seasonal appetizers and I enjoyed the Bourbon & Brown Butter Waygu (Seared-Coffee Rubbed Mishima Reserve NY Strip. Sliced & Served With a Fingerling Potato – Trelleborg Galette, Bourbon Barrel Infused Brown Butter & Roasted Baby Carrots)
Even though we were full, we had to try a few bites of dessert and it was worth every calorie!
506 Riverside Dr, Clayton, NY
Another great location for waterfront dining in a laid back casual atmosphere that’s great for families.
We started with the mozzarella cheese sticks followed by salads with Thousand Island dressing….when in Thousand Islands. The dressing’s name originates from the region but the origin story depends on who you talk to because there is more than one contendor claiming bragging rights.
On the menu, you’ll find plenty of seafood options along with traditional American options.
I highly recommend sitting on the outdoor patio especially if you are dining around sunset because the views with the water are absolutely stunning!
On your way back through the restaurant stop to view a few of the vintage photographs on the wall from the area. It’s hard to imagine dressing up like they did in the olden days while boating.
17371 County Rd 3, Clayton, NY
A wine tasting from the award winning Coyote Moon Vineyards is another must while you are in the area.
This family business takes pride in every part of the winemaking process down to the label of the bottle that the wine is served in. The name derives from a run-in with a coyote on a harvest moon night.
Founded by self-taught winemaker, Phil Randazzo, the business has continued to grow, creating the next generation of winemakers with Italian roots and a lineage of winemakers in Sicily.
During our visit we learned more about “cold hardy grapes” which can handle 30-40 degrees below used to make wine in the 1000 Islands region. A boutique winery, they hand-harvest in September and use nets to protect the grapes from the birds in the fall.
They use open bins for fermenting with barrels from Hungary and France and they were the first winery in New York State to can wine.
The best part of a winery visit is of course, the tasting! Coyote Moon started with two reds and a white and has continued to expand their selection. They are most known for their Barrel Aged Dry Red Wine “Marquette.”
You’ll find options for just about every pallet and preference.
Mrs. Randazzo created a lot of the artwork design for the wine labels. Some of the bottles you will want to buy just for the label with designs ranging from scenic to humourous.
The business has expanded to three locations with a tasting room downtown Clayton, farm operation with tours and a store in the mall in Watertown and Coyote Moon Vineyards also offer wine cruises.
242 James St, Clayton, NY
Now that you have your wine covered, don’t forget the specialty cheese!
We were first introduced to River Rat cheese during our kayak ride to the island and after trying it, I understand why it’s so popular! You can find their shop in downtown Clayton.
Where to stay at 1000 Islands
200 Riverside Dr. Clayton, NY
During my visit I stayed in the Double Queen Village View room at 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. The hotel is located steps from Saint Lawrence River in downtown Clayton, walking distance from many restuarants and shops.
My room had two queen beds with pillow-top mattresses and a nice window seat. My bathroom was really large with a bathtub and oversized shower.
Each floor has complimentary morning coffee and tea bar located across from the elavators and nightly turndown service.
The property has lots of seating areas for guests to enjoy spending time outdoors both during the day and at night by the fire pits.
I woke up extra early one morning so that I could enjoy the sunrise views from the walking path by the hotel. The atmosphere at the hotel makes you feel relaxed from the moment that you arrive and take in your first view of the water.
Nearby Cities by Car
By car Clayton, New York is located an hour from Pulaski, New York and Syracuse, New York is about 1.5 hours at 100 miles away.
Closest Airports to 1000 Islands
Syracuse Airport is the largest nearby airport and the travel time from the airport to the 1000 Islands International Bridge is about 1.5 hours.
So the next logical question is ….how soon can you get there?
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