Top Things to Do in 1000 Islands New York

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.

Clayton New York

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.”

boat tour on 1953 Chris Craft

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.

view of other islands from Rock Island Lighthouse

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 and detecting shoals (rocks in the water) and power lines.

Antique boat ride with Classic Island Cruises 1000 Islands

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!

Classic Island Cruises tour of 1000 Islands

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. 

Antique boat ride with Classic Island Cruises

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 Garnsey 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.

1953 Chris Craft

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!

steering wheel for the boat

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.

Large house 1000 islands

View Incredible Summer Homes on Millionaire’s Row

Yes, the “summer homes” on Millionaire’s Row are most people’s regular house goals.

beautiful house 1000 Islands NY

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.

Boat to Rock Island Lighthouse 

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.

view from boat of Rock Island Lighthouse

Another point of interest on our boat tour was the Rock Island Lighthouse which dates back to 1847 and was one of 6 lights used to help guide travelers along the Saint Lawrence River waterway.

Rock Island Lighthouse in New York

The lighthouse is only accessible by boat and the views are beautiful from every angle.

stairs in the Rock Island Lighthouse

When given the option to climb a spiral staircase, the answer is always yes!!!!

selfie in Rock Island Lighthouse

You can also climb the winding staircase to see the view from the top of the inside of the Lighthouse in the lantern room.

view from Rock Island Lighthouse

You will find 360-degree views of the Saint Lawrence River at the top of Rock Island Lighthouse.

Inn keeper house 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.

exhibit Rock Island Lighthouse

After walking through the museum, you can also check out the gift shop if you want take home a souvenir.

sunflowers at Rock Island Lighthouse
Rock Island Lighthouse New York
view of bridge from Rock Island Lighthouse

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.

Boldt Castle and Heart Island

Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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.

Uncle Sam Boat Tours

Passengers visiting from the Canada side need to make sure that they have proper identification on them.

US customs on Heart Island

Boldt Castle was built by George C. Boldt who was the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria and the Bellevue-Strafford Hotels.

boat view of Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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.

Marriage certificate George C. Boldt

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.

Boldt Castle 1000 Islands

The structure remained unfinished until 1978 when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority assumed ownership and began a project to stabilize and restore the structure.

Boldt Castle

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.

stain glass window Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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!

staircase Boldt Castle and Heart Island

The extra flights of stairs are totally worth it so that you can see the stained glass ceiling from below and above.

stain glass ceiling Boldt Castle and Heart Island
glass ceiling detail Boldt Castle
top of the stain glass ceiling Boldt Castle

The structure is still impressive today and definitely worth exploring all of the areas open to the public!

The Powerhouse Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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)

the Powerhouse

The Powerhouse

This is the Power House structure built in the early 1900s 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.

entrance to the Powerhouse
vintage photos in The Powerhouse

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.

Alster Tower Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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.

Alster Tower
view from Boldt Castle and Heart Island

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.

Frontenac United States Postal Service e1565870351567

A Unique Post Office

15749 Round Island, Frontenac, NY

United States Postal Service Frontenac New York

Another point of interest you can see from the water is the Frontenac Post Office. Mail for the residents of Round Island mail is delivered by boat by the oldest continuous river Post Office.

Thousand Island Park New York e1566128442615

Explore Wellesley Island

You can visit Wellesley Island by boat or from the American side crossing the Thousand Islands International Bridge. (There is a toll )

marina Wellesley Island

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.

owner Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental

Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental

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.

Boomerang bags

She has a passion for the area and also has created a line of totes and cooler bags under the brand name Boomerang Canvas.

kayaks for rent on Wellesley Island e1565964443162

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.

Saint Lawrence River kayaking 1000 Islands

A paddle on the Saint Lawrence River is so peaceful and beautiful.

kayaking to an island

The pace of a kayak really allows you the time to slow down to appreciate all of the surrounding wildlife and a variety of islands of all sizes.

Saint Lawrence River 1000 Islands
view of house on an island from kayak
kayak tour with Boomerang Kayak Rental

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.

private island view
map of islands
floating deck 1000 Islands
crackers and River Rat Cheese

If you’re not quite ready to buy, you can even rent an island for around $4000-12,000 a week.

Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental Wellesley Island

Take a Bike Ride Around Wellesley Island

Another great way to explore Wellesley Island is by bicycle.

Boomerang Bike and Kayak Rental bike tour

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.

second largest white oak in New York State

Make a stop at the second-largest white oak in existence in the state of New York and slow down to admire all of the charming colorful houses.

green house amazing architecture Wellesley Island

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.

yellow heart house amazing architecture Wellesley Island
yellow heart house amazing architecture Wellesley Island NY
watermelon house amazing architecture Wellesley Island
library amazing architecture Wellesley Island
green house amazing architecture Wellesley Island NY
colorful architecture Wellesley Island
book stack Wellesley Island
Bell Tower amazing architecture Wellesley Island
beautiful architecture Wellesley Island
architecture Wellesley Island
amazing architecture Wellesley Island New York

Great Places to Eat & Drink Around 1000 Islands

Koffee Kove Restaurant NY e1565870996345

Koffee Kove Restaurant

1010, 220 James St, Clayton, NY

A local favorite for breakfast for locals and tourists alike.

coffee cup Koffee Kove Restaurant

Koffee Kove has a local feel with a bit of sass, as demonstrated by their coffee cups.

parfait Koffee Kove Restaurant
breakfast at Koffee Kove Restaurant

You find great variety of breakfast options from sweet to savory and healthy to hearty.

back patio 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

The Seaway Grille

200 Riverside Dr. Clayton, NY

The views of the water from the Seaway Grille are wonderful and so is the food!

salad with salmon The Seaway Grille

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 some time to stroll the walking path or watch the boats from a park bench steps from the restaurant.

outside Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau

 Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau

38289 NY-12E, Clayton, NY

Dine and drink on the property of a family-owned and operated farm-based distillery and farm-to-table restaurant.

Saint Lawrence Spirits distill onsite small-batch craft spirits for Vodka, Gin, Moonshine, Absinthe, Whiskey, and Bourbon.

patio view from Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau

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.

dining at Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau

Of course, I had to try one of their drinks for research purposes…I highly recommend the Hunter’s Cocktail

Hunters Cocktail Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau

(Saint Lawrence Spirits Captain’s Flask Bourbon & Rye Knot Rye Whiskey, Perique Tobacco Liqueur, Local Maple Syrup, Black Cherry, Rocks)

appetizer at Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau in New York
Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau in Clayton NY appetizer e1565874767950

Our table also shared a few seasonal appetizers.

Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau entree

I enjoyed the Bourbon & Brown Butter Waygu (Seared-Coffee Rubbed Mishima Reserve NY Strip.) It was served with a Fingerling Potato – Trelleborg Galette, Bourbon Barrel Infused Brown Butter & Roasted Baby Carrots.

dessert Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau e1565874869541

Even though we were full, we had to try a few bites of dessert and it was worth every calorie!

gorgeous sunset The Channelside

The Channelside

506 Riverside Dr, Clayton, NY

Another great location for waterfront dining in a laid back casual atmosphere that’s great for families.

thousand island dressing

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 contender claiming bragging rights.

meal at The Channelside
fish at The Channelside

On the menu, you’ll find plenty of seafood options along with traditional American options.

sunset at The Channelside

I highly recommend sitting on the outdoor patio especially if you are dining around sunset because the views of the water are absolutely stunning!

vintage photo The Channelside
The Channelside vintage photo

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.

wine tasting at Coyote Moon Vineyards e1565869106761

Coyote Moon Vineyards

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.

award winning wines Coyote Moon Vineyards e1565869665796

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.

view of the vineyard at Coyote Moon Vineyards

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.

Coyote Moon Vineyards grapes on the vine

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. 

grapes in the vineyard Coyote Moon Vineyards

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.

Coyote Moon Vineyards grapes

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 its selection. They are most known for their  Barrel-Aged Dry Red Wine “Marquette.”

Coyote Moon Vineyards wine tasting e1565869750820

You’ll find options for just about every pallet and preference.

Coyote Moon Vineyards creative wine labels

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.

creative wine labels Coyote Moon Vineyards

The business has expanded to three locations. There is a tasting room downtown Clayton, farm operation with tours, and a store in the mall in Watertown.

Coyote Moon Vineyards also offers wine cruises. 

1000 Islands River Rat Cheese Shop

1000 Islands River Rat Cheese

242 James St, Clayton, NY

Now that you have your wine covered, don’t forget the specialty cheese!

1000 Islands River Rat Cheese

We were first introduced to River Rat Cheese during our kayak ride to the island.

After trying their cheese, I understand why it’s so popular! You can find their shop in downtown Clayton.

outside 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

Where to Stay in 1000 Islands, New York

 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, Clayton

200 Riverside Dr. Clayton, NY

During my visit, I stayed in the Double Queen Village View room at 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.

guest room 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

The hotel is located steps from Saint Lawrence River in downtown Clayton, walking distance from many restaurants and shops.

tv 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

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.

guest bathroom at 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

Each floor has complimentary morning coffee and tea bar located across from the elavators and nightly turndown service.

firepit 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

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.

dock view near 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

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.

sunrise by the dock 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel Clayton NY

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, 100 miles away.

Syracuse Airport NY

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?

sunset Clayton New York

Save this article for later. Pin the image below>>

Top Things to Do in 1000 Islands New York copy

Leave a Comment