Head to the 1000 Islands This Year for Canada 150
Ontario is such a beautiful province lush with scenery, flavours, and of course, a sense of community no matter where you travel. I found this to be the case in abundance when visiting Gananoque and seeing the 1000 Islands for the first time. A beautiful little town East of Toronto near Kingston, this region of the province certainly should not be missed when planning that quintessential summer road trip.
First a Little about the Town
Gananoque is one of the most beautiful harbourfront towns in Ontario. Located on the east coast of the province within the 1000 Islands, it most certainly qualifies as a must-see destination when visiting Canada. Ontario being on the five great lakes, obviously is home to thousands and thousands of islands at its doorstep. (I mean, Midland Ontario is the gateway to the 30,000 islands too!)
Plan your holiday right and you just may luck out with a local event demonstrating the truly remarkable local spirit. There are yearly festivals that bring thousands of visitors near and far to catch a glimpse and a taste of the gems that bring Gananoque on the traveller’s radar.
There are quite a few things to do here in this beautiful thriving town, but one thing in particular I would highly recommend based on experience, is the 1,000 Islands Cruise.
The 1000 Islands span Ontario, Quebec and New York through the Saint Lawrence River. Hop aboard the glorious scenic cruise complete with upper and lower decks, refreshments, and thorough commentary as you explore a paradise unlike any other.
The imminent showcase among the waves allows passengers to marvel at historic castles nestled among the river shores, the beautiful cottages painted in every colour of the rainbow, and inhabited islands surrounded by lush shrubbery, marine life, and sand perfect for that budding architect’s prized creation(s).
It’s funny, but not all land poking out from underwater qualifies as one of the prestigiously crowned 1000 islands. There is actually specific criteria in place for land to be included. To date, nearly 1900 islands comprise the grouping within the Saint Lawrence and the majority are owned privately. If you want your piece of land to make the cut, permanent real estate is required, with demonstrated habitation. And, your home needs to be left on the island for at least 365 days. (So sorry guys, that fold-up yurt simply won’t do!). These were the rules set by the Canadian and US authorities! Plus you couldn’t simply have a vacation home on its own… A minimum of two trees must adorn your property and your house must be at minimum one square foot in size. Talk about tough rules! But I suppose the clout and fame make it worthwhile among your 1000+ neighbours.
What is the smallest qualifying island you ask? Well it is called “Just Room Enough” sitting proudly with its tiny dwelling and bushy trees.
As your cruise departs, take a moment to fathom the idea of 1000 islands within the horizon waiting to be explored and captured via zoom lens. Get ready to be mesmerized and some of the most incredible landmarks in the areas including Millionaire’s Row and Boldt Castle.
Who would have thought a castle would be within a cruise itinerary outside of Europe? I didn’t. I had no idea that Boldt Castle existed (embarrassed face.)
A young castle compared to many of its European cousins, the Boldt Castle started becoming a gorgeous American landmark in 1900. Millionaire George C. Boldt wanted to pay tribute to his wife Louise through epic and ornate architecture. And he certainly did not disappoint with sculptures, gardens, tapestries, and majesty all in the heart of the 1000 Islands.
Although this magical masterpiece was to woo his wife into further wedded bliss, she sadly succumbed to illness months before this dream home was completed and never saw the finished product. Overcome with grief, George ceased the construction, leaving it empty and isolated for 70 years. The weather was unkind with the wrath of wind and sleet. But nevertheless, how could Sir George Boldt possibly live in a royal residence without his queen?
In 1977 the Thousand Island Bridge Authority purchased this masterpiece on Heart Island and began restoration efforts to bring it to the stately appearance shown off today. Millions of dollars were invested into this glorious tourist attraction that nowadays wins the hearts of hopeless romantics, curious travellers, and boaters alike.
Have additional time? There are multi-day tours with stops to explore Boldt Castle! Just keep in mind that it is USA territory fully equipped with Passport Control. If you do not bring along your travel documents, you will NOT be admitted on the island! So don’t be a ninny and forget your passport!
Many homes and summer villas within the 1000 Islands were such and expensive overhaul for construction to qualify as islands. This being said, the beautiful islands were nicknamed Millionaires Row. These home do cost a pretty penny to maintain, however, they also serve as a wonderfully scenic outlook for visitors.
Just think of them as the water version of the Hollywood Homes tour in Los Angeles as you crick your neck to see just how these wealthy homeowners live in such a beautiful environment.
Home of the Famous Salad Dressing!
Have you ever heard of 1000 Island Salad Dressing? Well, this is the exact place it was inspired and created! A famed New Yorker, Sophie Lalonde was responsible for bringing this deliciously popular salad dressing to North American dinner tables. Grab a copy of the original recipe in the many Gananoque gift shops after you disembark.
The Smallest Canada/USA Border!
The 1000 Islands famously houses the smallest border between Canada and the USA! There are many who will dispute this via Google lines and state it as an urban myth, but those owners of said island distinctly mark their land appropriately on each side of the bridge denoting their property’s location. If you look closely to the left base of the bridge you will see the Canadian flag painted proudly.
I hope this has inspired you this Canada 150 year to head to the Canadian Shield’s Eastern side and hop on the cruise of the 1000 Islands. It is worth the time and effort to get out there and catch a glimpse of even a small fraction of the beautiful islands within the region. Enjoy the pristine waters, picturesque backdrops, and of course, the unmatched nostalgia of a world famous salad dressing.
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