Okay, yes, it takes awhile to drive there from almost anywhere, including our home in Philadelphia, but the Thousand Islands is worth the travel time. This is one of the best kept secret destinations in the U.S. We have been there several times for bass fishing tournaments and last year we went for a pure vacation.
We stayed at the famed Thousand Islands Hotel which has Victorian style bed and breakfast quality rooms over the famed restaurant (where Thousand Islands salad dressing was invented). I've NEVER had a disappointing meal at this restaurant and I've been coming here more than 15 years.
Walk out onto the porch and you have a magnificent view of the St. Lawrence River and some of the "thousand islands" that give this place it's name. We took our fishing poles and fished off the breakwater and docks along the shore, caught some small fish and fed them to the seagulls.
The best part of the trip was renting a boat from a nearby marina - it cost about $350 a day but was well worth it. Some people take a $100 cruise on the river so for a few hundred dollars more we could drive anywhere we wanted up and down the river (watch out for submerged reefs and small unmarked rocky islands and outcroppings!) - including driving under the Alexandria Bay bridge to Canada. We did some fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskies, panfish...and saw hundreds of fish in the crystal clear water (bring your polarized sunglasses). Then we anchored in one of the hundreds of picturesque bays and had a picnic. Our boat had a canopy and handled the water beautifully - be careful of huge ocean going ships making huge wakes that you need to watch for and negotiate as a boater, esp. if you haven't driven a boat on "big water" before. We had to pay a large deposit against damage so be prepared to pay the deposit when you rent the boat. Pay the deposit and drive carefully, watch for rocks - get a MAP of the river BEFORE you take the boat. The nautical charts are very good and show where all the rocks and islands are. By the way, the view from ON the river is extraordinary - there are islands with castles on them, and some very unique sculptures along the shore, lots of scenic bays...the water is crystal clear and on a calm day you can see fish on the bottom 30 or more feet down!
We returned to our hotel and spent one day just poking around the town of Clayton, which is very small and the hotel and shops and restaurants are all walking distance. You can meander along the river's edge, poke around antique shops which have some really interesting items linked to the river. There are small cafes and a diner that serves really home cooked meals, lots more. Clayton Bay and Alexandria Bay are easy drives, just a few miles apart. There is more congestion and things to do including family friendly activities in Alexandria Bay although we stayed at the Thousand Islands Inn which is in Clayton and more secluded.
We also drove across the bridge to Canada - this is one of the tallest bridges in the U.S. and if you have vertigo, you will get a thrill peering down from the very high bridge - the view from the top of the bridge is incredible. We bought some cool stuff in Canada and visited some parks on the Canadian side of the river.
If you're a fisherman (or fisherwoman), consider visiting in the Fall (Sept-Oct), you can visit this area and try some salmon fishing in any of the rivers along the Ontario shore - I've been salmon fishing about a dozen times and it's just like salmon fishing in Alaska of the Northwest...these are freshwater salmon that live in Lake Ontario (although a few come all the way from the Atlantic Ocean) - there are at least 4 species of salmon, plus huge brown trout and steelhead that feed on the salmon eggs. The salmon have white flesh, not pink, because ocean salmon feed on red colored krill which gives them their pink or red color. There are cleaning stations all over the salmon area in trucks that clean the fish free in exchange for keeping the salmon eggs. Be aware that the cleaners remove the flesh along the lateral line and stomach to remove any possible pollution or contaminants.
These are a few reasons why we consider the Thousand Islands a "best kept secret." We didn't write a review last year after our vacation but I decided to provide this review when my wife recently said she'd love to go back this year because it was so much fun, so I'm sharing this with anyone who might be interested.
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