A cruise along the 1000 Islands in the Saint Lawrence River

Categories: Travel reports, North America, Canada

On our way from Toronto to Montreal we really wanted to make a short stop at the 1000 Islands. The Thousand Islands are a group of islands in the Saint Lawrence River between the United States and Canada and consist of a total of 1,864 islands of different sizes. Just 21 of them form Canada’s smallest national park with a total area of 24.4 square kilometers – the Thousand Islands National Park. The most famous sights include various castles, wrecks, millionaire’s mansions, the visitor center in Mallorytown and Hub Island, the (allegedly) smallest inhabited island in the world.

Thousand Islands National Park Headerbild

Interesting facts about the 1000 Islands

The 1000 Islands live up to their name – the archipelago in the St. Lawrence River between the USA (New York state) and Canada (Ontario) (location in Google Maps ) consists of a total of 1,864 islands , with Wolfe Island being by far the largest and island #15 the smallest. Just 21 of them, with a total area of 24.4 square kilometers, form Canada’s smallest national park – the Thousand Islands National Park . Established in 1904 as Canada’s first national park east of the Rocky Mountains, the park was known as St. Lawrence Islands National Park until 2013. Today the park is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Despite the small size, there are some highlights to discover here: castles, wrecks, millionaire’s mansions, the visitor center in Mallorytown and Hub Island, the smallest inhabited island in the world. Much of the national park is only accessible by boat. Boat tours of the Thousand Islands are available from both the Canadian and US sides. On Canadian territory, for example, the boats start from Gananoque, Brockville or Kingston. Hiking trails can be found on land along the 1000 Islands Parkway at Mallorytown Landing, Jones Creek and Landon Bay.

Thousand Islands

The 1000 Islands | © visit1000islands.com

The Sights of the 1000 Islands

The 1000 Islands can be explored in different ways. Either by hiking (e.g. on the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Trail), by bike, kayak, from the air with a helicopter or of course by boat.

A boat tour with City Cruises Gananoque

In order to explore the Thousand Islands, we decided to take a boat trip with City Cruises in Gananoque. The 3-hour “Depths & Discovery of the 1000 Islands” cruise, which costs CAD 44.50 per person (= approx. EUR 33), passes many old shipwrecks, Millionaire’s Row, the Bold Castle, the Thousand Islands Bridge and the St. Lawrence statue.

The ship is relatively large and offers several decks, a large outdoor area, a bistro, toilets and some TVs showing underwater footage of the many old shipwrecks in the river as you sail.

Islands, houses & lighthouses

We comfortably drove from Gananoque past Wellesley Island down the Saint Lawrence River. Everywhere you can see the many small islands, some uninhabited, some built with beautiful wooden or stone houses. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that nice that day, but we still really enjoyed the view.

The drive also takes you past Millionaire’s Row, a series of islands bought and built on with grand mansions by Golden Age industrialists such as George Boldt of the Waldorf Astoria, George Pullman, Frederick Gilbert Bourne (Singer typewriters) and William O. Wyckoff . The region is dotted with castles such as Bold Castle, Castle Rest or Singer Castle.

Thousand Islands Bridge

About halfway past Wellesley Island you pass part of the Thousand Islands Bridge , which connects the various groups of islands across the St. Lawrence River over a distance of 13 kilometers. The bridge system stretches from Collins Landing near Alexandria Bay (USA) to Ivy Lea near Gananoque (Canada) and provides a direct connection between US Interstate 81 and Canada’s Highway 401.

The bridges were built in 1938 and have small, narrow walkways, which are only open during the summer months. Initially, 150,000 vehicles per year drove over the toll Thousand Islands Bridge, today there are up to 2,000,000 vehicles per year.

Thousand Islands Bridge

The Thousand Islands Bridge

Hub Island – the smallest inhabited island in the world

Hub Island , which is often just called ” Just Room Enough Island “, is said to be the smallest inhabited island in the world at 310 m². The island was acquired by the Sizeland family in the 1950s and features a house, tree, shrubs and a small rocky “beach”.

Hub Iceland

Hub Island – the smallest inhabited island in the world

Zavikon Island – the smallest international bridge in the world?

Zavikon Island consists of two small islands in the Saint Lawrence River. The smaller island, also known as “Little Zavikon Island” has a U.S.-Canada Boundary Commission landmark from which, along with other coastal and island landmarks, surveys are conducted to determine the turning points of the International Waterway Boundary Line to calculate.

A popular but unfortunately incorrect fairy tale has it that the larger island is in Canada while the smaller island is in the United States, and that the footbridge between the two islands is the “shortest international bridge in the world”. However, Canada’s Department of Natural Resources says that Zavikon Island is entirely in Canadian territory and is therefore part of the municipality of Leeds.

Zavikon Island, International Bridge, 1000 Islands

Zavikon Island with the smallest international bridge in the world

Bold Castle

Boldt Castle is one of the main tourist attractions and landmarks of the 1000 Islands, which we also got a chance to see from our boat.

At the turn of the century, George C. Boldt, a multimillionaire owner of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set about building a European-style castle in Alexandria Bay on Heart Island. He wanted to build the largest and most beautiful private residential building in North America for his family, which should also be a token of his love for his wife Louise.

In 1894, 300 workers, including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists, began building the six-story, 120-room palace with tunnels, a power plant, Italianate gardens, a drawbridge, Alster Tower (children’s playhouse), and dovecote. Not a single detail and no expense was spared. Construction was almost complete in 1904 when Boldt’s wife died suddenly. Work on the building stopped that same day and Boldt never set foot on the island again. Over the years, Bold Castle fell into disrepair until 1977, when the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took over the site, extensively restored it and restored it to its unfinished 1904 state.

Heart Island and Bold Castle are in United States territory. Therefore, when visiting from Canada, entry with all the necessary formalities must be completed. For this purpose, a checkpoint of the American Customs and Border Protection Agency was set up on the island.

St Lawrence Statue

Our 1000 Islands cruise also passes the St. Lawrence Statue. This statue, approximately 15 feet tall and weighing 9 tons, is made of Indiana limestone and was placed on a bluff overlooking the Saint Lawrence River on the Canadian side.

Statue of St. Lawrence, 1000 Islands, Sightseeing Cruise, City Cruises, Canada, Travelogue

Statue of St Lawrence

1000 Islands Tower

The 1000 Islands Tower is an observation tower on Hill Island, which is essentially on the US-Canada border, but actually in Ontario rather than New York State. Erected in 1965, the tower offers a panoramic view of the Thousand Islands of both states from a height of 120 m above the St. Lawrence River. It is usually open from May to October. Admission costs CAD 17 (= approx. EUR 13) and for children over 5 years CAD 9 (= approx. EUR 7).

1000 Islands Tower, Sightseeing Cruise, City Cruises, Canada, Travelogue

1000 Islands Tower

Our campsite Ivy Lea Campground

We spent the night with our camper at the Ivy Lea Campground, which is located directly at the foot of the Thousand Islands Bridge. The campsite offers 146 pitches and 4 camper cabins. Showers, a launderette, Internet access, a dumping station and shopping facilities are available. We paid CAD 72.76 (= approx. EUR 53) for one night for our pitch with electricity and water. A map of the campground can be downloaded here.

All travel reports from our camper round trip through Canada

Vacation with the camper or motor home in Canada - for many probably quite normal, but for us it was actually the first time. We have never been on the road with a camper, but always wanted to try it. In total, we drove almost 3,300 kilometers with our camper and explored beautiful regions and cities in eastern Canada.
Reiseberichte Kanada » Our Holiday in Canada 2021 - Flight, Entry & Itinerary
» Camping in Canada - Our Questions, Experiences & Tips
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» Canyon Sainte-Anne - Waterfalls, Cascades & Suspension Bridges
» Tadoussac - Whale watching on the Saint Lawrence River
» Parc Omega - Drive-Through Safari in Quebec
» Ottawa - The capital city of Canada
» Algonquin Provincial Park - Lakes, forests and magnificent viewpoints
» Bruce Peninsula National Park - Dreamlike bays at Lake Huron
» Niagara Falls - The largest waterfalls in North America
» Toronto - Things to do, Sights & Photo Spots
» Thousand-Islands National Park - 1.864 Islands in the Saint Lawrence River
» Montreal - Things to do, Sights & Photo Spots