Touring the Thousand Islands


In Eastern Ontario, where the Saint Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, there’s a region with beautiful scenery that’s divided between Canada and the United States. Stretching downstream from the City of Kingston for approximately 80 km (50 mi.) you’ll come across island after island that make up the archipelago called The Thousand Islands. Now you may think that there couldn’t possibly be one thousand islands here, though in fact this is an understatement – there are actually a total of 1,864!

Many very small islands are only large enough to support one tree, and there are many that can hold just one building; often a summer home. At the other end of the scale some are much larger, covering an area of 100 sq. km (40 sq. mi.), and since the late 1800s this has been a popular vacation spot for both Canadians and Americans.

The Thousand Islands popularity is still alive and strong today and if you’re exploring around Eastern Ontario this is one stop that I highly recommend! Of course the best way to see and appreciate The Thousand Islands is by boat, but if you don’t have your own boat handy don’t worry, there are several boat cruise companies who offer guided tours.

From the Canadian side of the Saint Lawrence there are two starting points for cruises around the Thousand Islands, from the city of Kingston or the town of Gananoque, and they offer quite a different cruising experience. Kingston is right at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence where it meets Lake Ontario, so if you take a cruise with Kingston 1000 Island Cruises you’ll be treated to the southern end of the islands, while from Gananoque, a cruise with the Gananoque Boat Line takes you further downstream along the Saint Lawrence. My personal experience is of Gananoque Boat Lines, and if you choose to go with them they offer several different cruises, ranging from the quick 1 hour trip, to the 5 hour cruise with stopover at the beautiful Boldt Castle.

If you’re interested in seeing Boldt Castle but not visiting (it’s in American waters after all, so there’s a certain rigmarole to go through if you decide to visit), you can see it from the boat on the 2.5 hour cruise. You’ll also get to see many unique looking homes that have been built on numerous islands, and hear the stories about how some of them were built. You may also be told about, and see for yourself, what’s described as the world’s shortest international bridge. It spans a very short distance between two islands, one of which is allegedly in Canadian waters, and the other in American. They even have the flags on the small footbridge, though there are claims that the geography is not correct! I’ll let you decide for yourself, and in the meantime you can see the bridge in the photo above!

And one more point … yes, the Thousand Island Dressing did originate here!

Photo and article copyright Claire Bolgil. Claire is a freelance travel writer based in Beautiful BC. Find out more about her at

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