1,000 exciting things to do in the Thousand Islands

The Thousand Islands region is an active area straddling the New York and southeastern Ontario border overflowing with fun things to see and do. Tourists have been coming here for over 150 years, enjoying multiple seasons along the exciting St. Lawrence seaway. The area is dotted with lighthouses, towering mansions, and elaborate castles. Historic tales run through its waters as outdoor lovers relish in the comforts of nature. It is a beautiful area where culture, good eats, and exciting adventures are around every corner.

Whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or with your family, there is something for everyone in the Thousand Islands. From boat tours and scenic drives, fish fries, and quaint towns bursting with history and culture, a few trips to the Thousand Islands will only scratch the surface of what this joyful New York/Ontario region has to offer.

What area makes up the Thousand Islands

The Thousand Islands constitute a North American archipelago of 1,864 islands that straddles the Canada–US border in the Saint Lawrence River. The region stretches for about 50 miles (80 km) downstream from Kingston, Ontario, with most islands existing between Alexandria Bay and Cape Vincent in the US and between Kingston and Rockport on the Canadian side.

Regional Map from Exploringupstate.com

What constituts an Island?

To be considered a Thousand Island, a piece of land must stay above water throughout the year, be at least one sq foot and support a living tree.

The islands of the 1000 Islands range in size from 40 square miles to smaller islands occupied by a single resident or uninhabited grouping of rocks.

The smallest inhabited island is known as “Just Room Enough” or Hub Island, believed to be around 3,300 sq feet.

When is the best time to visit the Thousand Islands

Although temperatures dip into single digits in the heart of winter, the region can be enjoyed year-round. It is primarily a summer vacation spot, but fall proves to be a beautiful time to visit for fall festivals, pumpkin patches, and stunning foliage.

Spring: Ice usually melts in late March to early April. You can start to see large ships making their way down the seaway and head outdoors for the first cozy outdoor campfires of the year. Temperatures in early spring reach highs in the low 40s, while May usually sees highs in the upper 60s and lows in the low to mid-40s.

Summer: Many seasonal activities are ramping up for the summer season, usually May-early September. Flowers will be booming, but crowds will be thick. Temperatures are in the high 80s to lows in the upper 50s.

Fall: A great time to visit as fall crowds are fewer after kids go back to school. Many seasonal businesses close after Labor Day, but new fall-themed attractions pop up through November. Temps in early fall are in the low 70s to mid-40s.

Winter: Many activities stop running, but new activities such as snowmobiling, Ice fishing, and skiing are introduced. Temps range from highs in the upper to low 30s and lows in the teens and single digits.

1,000 exciting things to do in the Thousand Islands

This list is organized by topic and includes activities and sights in both the US and Canada. So grab your passport and get ready to start exploring!

Although I’d like to say I have personally experienced all of the things on this list, it may take a few more years. So please use this post as a guide and know I can’t personally guarantee your experience for all listed activities.

This post is a working directory, so if you have any suggestions for fun things to do in the Thousand Islands, please share them in the comment section below. I’ll be updating this post often as I learn about more exciting things to do in the Thousand Islands.

Along with the Thousand Islands, the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes are two other areas I love exploring in Upstate New York, all within a few hours of each other.

Towns

These are the main towns that make up the Thousand Islands. They all offer something unique, and most have a curated main street filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants. Some are just over the US border, so make sure to bring your passport and check entry requirements before visiting. A fun-filled full-day is easily spent in any of these towns, strolling the streets, enjoying the views, having a drink by the bay, people-watching, or joining in on community festivals.

  • Alexandria Bay– Known as the heart of the 1,000 Islands. A great place to base your self for access to tons of attractions.
  • Clayton– Known for the antique boat museum and annual boat parade. A charming town with local eateries, the year round Harbor hotel and the Clayton Opera House.
  • Cape Vincent– Charming river town boasting a locally curated main street with many handmade goods, craft brews and dining options. Also home to the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse.
  • Sackets Harbor– This village overlooks Lake Ontario and is a designated New York State Heritage Area with historic sites and attractions, free summer concerts and a bike path circling the village.
  • Henderson Harbor– Classic martime village, perfect for multiple fresh water activities
  • Ogdensburg-Home of the Frederic Remington Art Museum and the only US port on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Host to historic battle grounds and community festivals all year long.
  • Watertown-The “big city” for anything you may need from all the chain stores you can think of and the area’s closest International Airport
  • Kingston, ON– Settled in the 1600s this national historiacl site is a city rich in culture and history know as the “Limestone City” for the many limestone buildings constructed.
  • Prescott, ON– A picturesque town on the shores of St. Lawrence offering many arts, cultural and historic attractions.
  • Gananoque, ON-Stunning watfront community known as the gateway to the 1,000 Islands with tons of local festivals and event and pleanty of outdoor activities.
  • Brockville, ON– Bustling downtown home to over 300 locally owned businesses. Know as the eastern gatway to the 1000 Islands and one of the best locations for fresh water scuba diving in the world.

Yacht and Sport Clubs

Great for locals or seasonal patrons to enjoy a variety of sporting facilities. Visitors are welcome at yacht clubs in most cases to use the facilities with dockage or daily rental fees. Check updated visitor and membership information with each club directly.

Water Sports

Some days may be a bit choppy for kayaks and canoes, but the St. Lawrence seaway is a great place to rent a boat, jet ski, and even try flyboarding. In addition, many watercraft rentals are available all around the Thousand Islands for hourly, daily, or weekly rentals.

Water Craft Rentals

  • Wellesley Island boat rentals– Rents pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks and paddleboards boards
  • Wolfe Island Boat Club-Welcomes visitors for day rentals of canoes and kayaks
  • Aqua-Mania (Alex Bay)– Full-service marina offering pontoon and speed boat rentals
  • Riverbay Rentals (Chippewa Bay)-Boat, kayak, canoe and SUP rentals. Also offer guided 1/2 day kayak tours
  • 1000 Islands Kayaking (Gananoque)- Guided kayak tours, overnight camping tours along with guided boat tours and kayak rentals.
  • Boomerang Bike & Kayak Rentals (Wellesley Island)-
  • Jet Ski Rentals– currently no rentals available, will update as more information comes available
  • Allinadventures (Alex Bay)-Fly Board Rentals, available for up to 20 people, an experience you won’t want to miss!
  • Ahoy Rentals (kingston)- Canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding rentals with all saftey equipment included

Water Sport Trails

  • St. Lawrence River 1,000 Islands Paddle– 12 miles moderate waterway loop trail located in Gananoque, ON

Scuba Diving

Some of the best freshwater scuba diving in the world exist in the 1000 Islands region, where it is easy to explore over 200 shipwrecks that lay on the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

  • Blue Foot Diving (Clayton)-Recreational and technical dive charters geared toward excelent education of re-breathers, expeditions and hyperbaric chamber practices.
  • Hunt’s Dive Shop (Clayton)- Daily charters and rentals
  • Pat’s Dive Charters (Kingston)- Wreck dving at it’s best
  • Dive Brockville (Brockville CA)- From shore diving to wreck diving in the St Lawrence River to Lake Ontario

Here is an excellent resource for the best areas to dive in the St. Lawrence River

Outdoors

The Thousand Islands are an outdoors lover’s paradise. There are so many natural areas to explore and outdoor activities to get your blood flowing.

State Parks

The 1000 Island State Park region includes 26 state parks, two golf courses, and a Historic Site covering Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties. There are tons of hiking trails, fishing, camping, and swimming available at these NY state parks. Visit NYParks.gov for a complete list of all the parks and amenities they offer.

Hiking

  • Thousand Islands National Park (ON)- US does not have a National Park in this area but many national historic sites (listed in the “Historic Sights section” below) and state parks.
    • Jone’s Creek Trail– Sanctuary of scenic lookouts, rugged rock faces, and tall stands of pine. Hiking trails form 20 mins to 2 hours available
    • Landon’s Bay– Small bay bordered by various hiking trails and with opportunities to watch wildlife
    • Mallorytown Landing– Home to a selection of low difficulty trails that are great for the entire family, cutting through wooded areas and wetlands. 
  • The Gananoque Trail system (ON)– 12 km perimeter hike that may be divided into three returns to the Trailhead loops
  • 1000 Islands Parkway Trail (ON)– Hike or bike along the 37 km paved path that skirts the shoreline’s coves and bays on the waterfront. Runs between Gananoque and Brockville and also forms a section of Ontario’s Waterfront Trail that will take you through small port hamlets like Ivy Lea and Rockport.
  • Wellesley Island State Park– 2.3 easy loop trail with scenic views
  • Redwood Hills Preserve– easy, 1.2 miles with stunning view of Butterfield Lake

Biking

Rentals

Bike Routes

  • Great Lakes Seaway Trail– Its New York portion stretches 518 miles along a freshwater shoreline, including the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara Riverand Lake Erie.
  • Thousand Islands Waterfront Trail– Easy, 23 mile, point to point paved trail great for walking, rolling or biking near Leeds and the Thousands Islands, ON, pets welomed
  • Great Lakes Waterfront Trail– Signed route connecting 155 communities and First Nations along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes region for over 2,000 miles. Brockville to Kingston is the popular 1,000 Island route
  • St Lawrence Seaway Ride– Mostly flat 52 mile trip along the Seaway trail in St. Lawrence county.

Camping

Fishing

The St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are famous for bass, northern pike, muskellunge, brown trout, and salmon. Fishing in the 1,000 Islands requires a license from New York state or the province of Ontario.

Uncle Sam boat in Alex Bay, NY

Swimming

There are a lot of areas for swimming around the Thousand Islands, from beaches, lakes, and swimming pools.

Here is an excellent resource for swimming areas near Alex Bay from AARP. Other places to consider are below.

  • Southwick Beach State Park (ON)– popular with campers and day-use visitors for the outstanding swimming and sunbathing on its long sandy beach. 
  • Central Grenadier Island and Thwartway Island (Thousand Islands National Park ON)- Sandy beaches for swimming

Golf Courses

  • Smugglers Glen (Landsdown, ON)-Championship 18 hole golf course with resort hotel and dining
  • Thousand Islands Country Club– Features two scenic 18 hole golf courses that offer challenging layouts and scenic views of both the St. Lawrence River and the Lake of the Isles.
  • Gananoque Golf and Country Club– Public course offering a challenging nine hole 2845 yard, par 35 course, with a second set of men’s and lady’s tee boxes for the back nine variation
  • Green Acres (Gananoque)- Play “the Greene” regulation length course of 3200-3400 yds, Par 35/36, 6000sq ft greens with separate tee blocks for 18 hole play.
  • Lyndway Hills– 9 hole public course, 2905 yards par 35, no tee times required
  • Wellesley Island State Park Golf Course (42773 County Rd 100)- Tuesday & Thursday afternoon discounts

Tours & Sightseeing

Boat Tours

Most boat tours are seasonal, operating from the end of May to early October.

Scenic Drives

  • Thousand Island Seaway– 52 mile biking and driving path
  • Thousand Island Bridge– Park at the visitor’s center and walk over the bridge
  • 1000 Islands Parkway, ON- 25 miles long linking the villages of Butternut Bay and Gananoque

Historic Sites

Lighthouses

There are over 13 lighthouses in the Thousand Island Region. Most are inactive or privately owned. Some have been preserved and moved to alternate locations to welcome visitors. A few offer tours and overnight stays, while some are accessed by boat or ferry only. One thing they all have in common is their fascinating history and charming stature; which still attracts many visitors. More information on these lighthouses can be found here.

  • Cape Vincent Breakwater Lighthouse (1912)-The remaining origional wooden tower now stands beside Route 12E on the southern outskirts of Cape Vincent, accessible by car.
  • Tibbetts Point (1854)-Still in service, 17 miles from Clayton marking the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River.
  • East Charity Shoal Lighthouse (1935)– Located in the shipping channel leading to the St. Lawrence River.
  • Galloo Island (1820, privatly owned)– The first American lighthouse built on Lake Ontario.
  • Horse Island Lighthouse (1831, privately owned)– Also known as Sackets Harbor Light.
  • Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse (1822)-The fourth lighthouse to stand watch over the mouth of the Oswego River and is still active today.
  • Rock Island Light House (1847)-Now open for public viewing, accessible by private boat or local shuttle.
  • Salmon River (Selkirk) Lighthouse (1838)-Located near Port Ontario. It is One of only four lighthouses in the United States to retain its original bird-cage lantern and is also one of three lighthouses along the Seaway Trail that visitors can rent for overnight stays.
  • Stoney Point Lighthouse (1869, privately owned)-Located on the shores of Lake Ontario near Henderson Bay. Still has great views from the road.
  • Sunken Rock (1847)– Located on Bush Island in Alex Bay. Can be viewed by boat tour or at the end of James Street.
  • Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse (1834, privately owned)-Can be viewed via nearby park, lighthouse grounds are closed to the public.
  • Sister’s Island Lighthouse (1870 privately owned)– Best viewed by boat, located up river from Singer Castle.
  • Nine Mile Point Lighthouse (1833, ON)– Located on Simcoe Island, 9 miles southwest of Kingston, access by a cable ferry
  • Crossover Island (1848 private property)-Best views are via boat. Catch a glimpse between houses off of River Edge Road (runs parallel along Route 12) just west of Chippewa Bay.
  • Wolfe Island (Québec Head) Lighthouse (1861)-still active today accessible via 20 min ferry from Kingston/Marysville dock.
Tibbetts Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, in the 1,000 Islands New York

Arts & History

Museums

  • Antique Boat Museum (Clayton)-A beautiful and charming museum celebrating the importance of boating to North America.
  • H Lee White Maritime Museum (Oswego)-Offers tours to the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse on Fridays and Saturdays between June and September.
  • 1000 Islands History Museum– Founded in 1995, the museum tells the story of Gananoque’s varied history, from glaciers and muskies to pirates and picnickers.
  • Thousand Islands Boat Museum– Located on the waterfront in Gananoque, Ontario. A hands-on Museum where history becomes something that can be touched, built, and experienced.
  • Frederic Remington Art Museum (Ogdensburg)- A full spectrum of the artist’s work displayed in a house Remington frequently visited.
  • The Starr Clark Tin Shop and Underground Railroad Museum (Mexico, NY)– Tells of Underground Railroad sites, stories of local abolitionists and regional history in a historically restored tin shop
  • Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, commemorating America’s only shelter for Holocaust survivors. 

Theater

Festivals

Many towns are known for their annual festivals running throughout the year. From fish frys and fishing derbys, BBQ and live music, crafts and games for all ages, there is a festival for everyone no matter if you are visiting in the heart of summer or just before Santa arrives.

Here is a great website to stay up to date on all Thousand Island Events.

  • River Shiver- (Ogdensburg, February)- kicks off with a polar plunge
  • Polar Bear Dip- (Alex Bay, Bonnie Castle Resort, February)- A long-running community event supporting River Hospital
  • Porch Music Fest (Sackets Harbor, September)- Sponsored by the historical society, musicians heard playing around the village for the day.
  • Can-Am Festival (Sackets Harbor, July)- Celebrating the relationship between US and Canada with live music, battle of the bands and a parade with over 70 units
  • Car-B-que (Odgensburg)- 1st Saturday in June at the Dobisky Visitor’s Center. A combination of barbeque and classic cars, along with entertainment featuring door prizes, music, raffles and much more.
  • St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (July & August, Prescott) -award-winning preformances at the riverside Kinsmen Amphitheater

Culinary

The Thousand Island region might not be known for its food, but the local fare paired with good hospitality and great waterfront views is something everyone will enjoy!

Restaurants

Elevated Dining

  • Thousand Island Club– Offers a “come as you are theme” with cutting edge innovative menu selections including freshly flown in fish, choice organic steak & chops, and inviting tapas and G-free small plate specialties.
  • St. Lawrence Spirits Chateau (Clayton)-Offering fine dining inside and a seperate menu for casual dining on their open air deck
  • The Ivy Resturant (Lansdowne, ON)-The beautiful main dining room and spacious veranda offer a fine dining menu focused on steak, seafood and local produce and the outdoor stone terrace has a casual menu with pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads.

Casual Dining

  • Cavallario’s Steakhouse (Alex bay)- Family owned and operated since 1962.
  • JK’s Road House (Redwood)-Daily specials, know for thier Friday fish fry
  • Di Prinzio’s Kitchen (Clayton)- Italian dining with outdoor patio serving weekend brunch, lunch and dinner.
  • Bella’s (Clayton)-Casual waterfront dining on the St. Lawrence River
  • Good Fellos (Sackets Harbor)-Brick oven pizza and wine bar
  • Tin Pan Galley (Cape Vincent)–Cozy resturant in one of the smallest historic towns of the U.S.A
  • The Ivy Resturant Stone Terrace (Lansdowne, ON)- Casual menu with pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads.
  • Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smokehouse (Kingston)- Where a classic east coast kitchen meets the flavours of Mexico

Farmer’s Markets

  • Gananoque Farmers Market (ON) -every Thursday from 4 pm – 7 pm at Town Hall Park
  • The Clayton Farmers‘ Market – Every Thursday from June 3 – October 1
  • Henderson Farms (Wolfe Island, Kingston)- Family owned fruit farm specializing in all natural, homemade jam, jelly, chutney, and marmalade.
  • Watertown Farmers Market- Local farm fresh produce, meats, eggs. baked goods, plants, barbecue, and more. Open every Saturday from 9 until 2 beginning the first Saturday in June until the last in October.
  • Alex Bay Farmer’s Market (Kinney Drugs off of Route 120- Fridays during summer season 9am-3pm.

Wineries

One of the best ways to enjoy the wineries in this region is to follow the 78-mile long 1000 Islands-Seaway Wine Trail. It meanders throughout Jefferson County and makes a terrific day trip while stopping at some of the seven family-owned and operated member wineries along this trail. The trail uses NY Routes 3, 180, 12, 26, 11, and 342. Green grape cluster signs mark wineries.

The trail includes Tug Hill Vineyards in Lowville, Yellow Barn Winery outside of Sackets Harbor, the Cape Winery in Cape Vincent, Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton, the Thousand Islands Winery outside of Alexandria Bay, Venditti Vineyards in Theresa, and Otter Creek Winery in Philadelphia, NY. (River Myst Winery is now closed)

  • Tug Hill Vineyards (Lowville)-Enjoy leisurely wine and spirits tastings and lite food offerings in the Vintner’s Lounge
  • Yellow Barn Winery (Watertown)- locally owned and operated for over 20 years
  • The Cape Winery (Cape Vincent)- One of the newest wineries on the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail with goals to grow or purchase locally grown grapes to produce at least 60% of the wines that they sell, which they have acheived or exceeded each year
  • Coyote Moon Vineyards– One of the most award winning wineries in New York State being named the 2016 & 2017 New York State Winery of the Year
  • Thousand Islands Winery (Alex Bay)- Enjoy tastings and vineyard tours
  • Venditti Vineyards (Theresa)- Became one of only 10 New York State wineries to win the prestigious “double gold” medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2014
  • Otter Creek Winery (Alex Bay)- Produces over 7000 gallons of 13 different varieties of wine

Additional Wineries, not members of the wine trail

  • White Caps Winery (Chaumont)- Sits on farmland at the edge of Chaumont Bay, once known by Native Americans as Hungry Bay. 
  • Northern Flow Vineyards (Alex Bay)- Small farm winery since 2015 offering live music, food truck and wine slushy

Distilleries

  • Dark Island Spirits (Alex Bay)- A true craft distillery, discover how they handcraft and Musically Mature their award winning Bourbons, Whiskeys and Brandies along with Vodkas, Gins and Liqueurs
  • Clayton Distillery– Homegrown, handcrafted, farm based distillery
  • St. Lawrence Spirits Chateau (Clayton)- 2019 & 2020 NY State distillery of the year

***

As you can see, there is a slew of things to keep everyone entertained while visiting the Thousand Islands Region.

Some of my favorite summer weekends are spent on the water enjoying the scenery and freshwater breeze. Not sure where to start? Check out my weekend itineraries for the 1,000 Islands (coming soon) filled with the best ways to make the most out of your Thousand Island vacation.

I hope you enjoyed this list of 1000 Exciting things to do in the Thousands of Islands. I’ll be updating it periodically with more information and more unique things to do, so bookmark this post and keep checking back.

Leave any suggestions you have in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Sam

After a lay off from the corporate world I decided to SEE the world. Sharing all my bucket list experiences to help spark your wanderlust and inspire your next adventure!

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