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Thousand Islands Cruise

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by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
Published December 13th 2017
Have you ever wondered how Thousand Island dressing got its name?

Wonder no more as I discovered the name is based on not just 1,000 but over 1,800 islands on the St Lawrence River that straddle the border of the United States in northern New York State and Canada in south-eastern Ontario.

Thousand Islands cruise
Off we went

A boat trip departing from Ivy Lea (just under 2hrs south-east of Canada's capital of Ottawa, half an hour north-east of Kingston, Canada's former capital, and 3hrs north-east of Toronto), saw us enjoying this waterway that was once a fashionable retreat for the elite. Today it serves as a hub for a variety of outdoor activities, from kayaking to fishing and scuba diving around shipwrecks.

It was a partly overcast day for our 1hr round trip when we set out but the weather held well with no rain and we nonetheless enjoyed the beautiful views. We weaved in and out of passageways with commentary providing education on the islands and points of interest along the way.

St Lawrence River, Ivy Lea Cruise
Picturesque houses dot the river

Our boat was a comfortable triple-decker decked in both Canadian and US flags with rest rooms on each deck, a coffee shop selling snacks and a couple of bars alleviating thirst. In addition to indoor seating with large viewing windows, there are a lot of outdoor spots to roam to obtain photos from various angles.

Along the picturesque shorelines were camping spots and marinas as well as houses on the water's edge and elaborate mansions higher up with Canadian flags flying proudly, whilst on a rocky outcrop the white Statue of St Lawrence stood amongst the trees overlooking the vessels and the mighty river.

St Lawrence River, Ivy Lea Cruise
Hope it doesn't flood

St Lawrence River, Ivy Lea Cruise
My next house - I wish

Statue of St Lawrence
St Lawrence watching over his river

We cruised past islands that vary considerably in size. There are small ones that bear nothing but plants and trees whilst others are inhabited or habitable and huge. One such larger island is that of Heart Island and it comes complete with a castle, the beautiful German- style Boldt Castle with its story of love and tragedy. The castle was to be a summer dream home and tribute to the wife of millionaire hotel magnate George C Boldt (proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York) but his wife Louise passed away suddenly, just months before the castle was completed. With Mr Boldt inconsolable, construction halted and the property was left vacant for 73 years. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and began building and restoring what was destroyed by vandals and the mercy of wind, rain, ice and snow.

Thousand Islands, Canada
One of the smaller islands

Boldt Castle, Heart Island
Just Boldtin' round the back of the castle on Heart Island

The castle and its grounds have many gorgeous features, including magnificent Italian gardens, the Power House and Clock Tower, the Entry Arch of Honour with its swan pond, and the Alster Tower or Playhouse that housed a bowling alley in the basement.

Boldt Castle Power House, Heart Island
The Boldt Castle Power House & Clock Tower - simply amazing

Boldt Castle Entry Arch of Honour
The castle's entry Arch of Honour hiding a swan pond behind it

Alster Tower, Boldt Castle
The Alster Tower of entertainment

As we circled around Heart Island we saw the castle's elaborate stone structures and nearby on the river another building that looks like an old English inn. It turns out it is the Boldt Castle Yacht House, aka the garage, that housed the family's yachts and houseboat.

Boldt Castle Yacht House
That's some 'garage'

Simply amazing, this castle and its surrounds, it was certainly a highlight of the trip. Other sights to see along the journey include the Skydeck, the Thousand Islands International Bridge and the Zavikon Islands (containing the smallest International Bridge in the world).

Thousand Islands International Bridge
Uncle Sam beating us under the Thousand Islands International Bridge

This cruise is run by the Gananoque Boat Line who also run cruises a bit further down from Ivy Lea at their main base of Gananoque. There's a 2.5hr Lost Ships cruise and a 5hr Heart Island stopover cruise that allows you to explore the castle. The website is currently listing 2018 rates as $28 per adult and $13 per child aged 6-12 years for the Ivy Lea cruise. Children 5 years and under are free.

Ivy Lea Cruise, Thousand Islands
Our patriotic boat, one of five run by Gananoque Boat Line

We certainly enjoyed our taste of this area. It's breathtaking and very worthwhile experiencing this part of our wonderful world.

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Why? An Island cruise around the US-Canada border
When: See website for various times
Phone: 613.382.2144
Where: 95 Ivy Lea Rd, Ivy Lea
Cost: Adult $28, Child $13 (6-12yrs)
Your Comment
Very interesting Irenke
by May Cross (score: 3|8260) 1927 days ago
Great trip, nice to know where that unusual dressing name came from, thanks
by Kate Blake (score: 3|1501) 1927 days ago
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