6 reasons why the Thousand Islands should be on your bucket list

The spectacular Thousand Islands in Ontario is made up of 1,864 islands in the Saint Lawrence River, straddling the US-Canada border. The Islands range in size from 50 square miles to just big enough to support a single tree, creating one of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in North America. The Islands have a mystical reputation, home to castles, lighthouses and secluded beaches, and should definitely be on your travel bucket list.

The archipelago stretches some 50 miles downriver from Kingston, with interesting towns like Gananoque – home to the famous Thousand Islands Playhouse – and Brockville dotted along the banks, making ideal stopovers on your tour. Discover this Gilded Age destination and explore the vibrant downtowns, theatres, golf courses, restaurants and more, all accessible by water.

Here are six reasons why you should visit the Thousand Islands:

1. They’re ideal for families

The Thousand Islands are a fantastic destination for families, with over 8,000 acres of Thousand Islands Land Trust and more than 30 miles worth of walking trails which are open to the public all year round. With plenty of opportunity for fishing, hiking, biking and kayaking, you certainly won’t be short of things to do. Accommodation ranges from rental cottages and campsites to B&Bs and luxury hotels, and you can even rent a private island! The wealth of options means you’ll find somewhere perfect the whole family – plus friends – to stay.

Power house on ontario Lake, Canada

2. You’re surrounded by nature

The Thousand Islands have an abundance of nature and are great for anyone who likes to be outside. Around 20 of the islands form the Thousand Islands National Park, which is one of the oldest of Canada’s national parks. This site is home to camping grounds, inland walking trails and waterfront parks – it’s time to get out and breathe the fresh air!

Hiking in Thousand Islands

3. It’s easy to enjoy the water

It’s difficult to avoid the river when visiting the Thousand Islands, and when there’s so much to do both on and in the water, why don’t know why you’d want to! Try the local pike fishing at Eel Bay on Wellesley Island, join a sight-seeing boat tour or hop in a kayak and paddle through your stunning surroundings in the Thousand Islands National Park. You can hire your own kayak or join a tour for a full day or half day trip, or for something more adventurous, try your hand at white water rafting with one of the many outdoor adventure companies.

Kayaking in Thousand Islands

4. There’s world-class diving

The Thousand Islands are known for having some of the best freshwater wreck diving in the world with a dozen wrecks at the bottom of the river, including the impressive Islander and the Keystorm. The water of the St Lawrence River and Eastern Lake Ontario is remarkably clear, thanks to the resident algae-eating zebra mussels, meaning visibility is excellent. The diving here is suitable for all levels and tours cater for entry level divers to advanced, so don’t be afraid to explore the wrecks!

Scuba Diving

5. You can spot some incredible wildlife

Canada is one of the best places in the world to spot wildlife and the Thousand Islands are no exception. From soaring birds to families of turtles, the possibilities of seeing animals in their natural habitats are endless. Some of the most common species to the region include eagles, ospreys, minke whales, white-tailed deer, map turtles and great blue herons. There’s also the chance to take part in wildlife and habitat preservation – a great family activity!

The Great One

6. There’s lots to explore

With its mystical reputation and rich history, there’s so much to explore in the Thousand Islands. Discover the Boldt Castle, a famous monument to one man’s love for his wife; accessible by water taxi or private boat, the castle is open for self-guided tours from May to October. If you’re interested in finding out more about the region’s maritime culture, take a trip to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton or explore the Lake of the Isles, a secluded area cut off from the rest of the St. Lawrence River and only accessible via two narrow passageways. A Thousand Islands cruise is the perfect way to see the beautiful castles, dine on the local seafood and hear tales of the region’s pirate and bootlegger history along the way.

Thousand Islands Castles

With nearly 2,000 islands, this will definitely be a holiday to remember!

Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Andrew says:

    As a Canadian, I have yet to visit this park, but this post has pushed it to the top of my list. I could easily see myself paddling between these little islets, as well as the bigger ones with all the unbelievably ornate mansions!

  2. Tom says:

    Please note that your 1000 Island wildlife description makes reference to minke whales. There are NO minke whales in the 1000 Islands region. There are lots mink (and ducks, geese, cormorants, loons, muskrats, snakes, several fish species and even a few beaver and swans), but NO minke whales. Also, please note that roughly half the area of the 1000 Islands are in upstate New York, U.S., along with more than half of the most popular tourist attractions.

  3. elise says:

    I went to the Thousand Islands a few times when I was younger. Every single time I went there it would somehow be super foggy and we would kayak in the mist – which made it creepy but awesome.

  4. Samantha says:

    Sounds amazing. I would love to do some river rafting. I love the water, but for some reason the rafting seems to scare me. One day I will just have to suck it up and do it. Why not in Thousand Islands? Thanks for a great post.

  5. Tom says:

    There is no white water rafting in The 1000 Islands. Head to the Ottawa River (Foresters Falls) for that. The current in The 1000 Islands can be very strong in places, especially around the Canadian bridge spans, but no raft-able white water. There are small whirl pools in places, hence the name Whirlpool Island near the Canadian bridge. If you want to go swimming keep in mind that you need to be a very strong swimmer in those areas, but there are lots and lots of bays and coves where the water is calm like a small lake (warmer too). Water activities include all forms of pleasure boating from paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, tubing, skiing, wake boarding, sailing and all the way up to super yachting (200′ plus – those require a river pilot to be on board to navigate as the water depth can go from a a couple hundred feet to just a few feet very quickly).

  6. Jim Corbin says:

    @ Tom…the 1000 Islands region includes Watertown NY which has world class whitewater rafting on the Black River. The US Side also has great wineries and distilleries to explore.

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