Weekending in The Thousand Islands: Fun on the Water With Kayaking, Boat Tours and a Harbor Hotel

Pack your sunscreen and swimsuit — we’re gonna get wet.

the thousand islands

Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands. Photograph by George Fischer

This chain of more than 1,800 tree-capped islands dotting the St. Lawrence River makes an ideal home base for water sports. Start by renting a stand-up paddleboard or kayak at Boomerang ($20 per hour) in Thousand Island Park on Wellesley Island. Paddle on a self-guided tour, keeping your eyes peeled for otters, bald eagles and walleyes. Even novice anglers should cast into the St. Lawrence, one of the top bass-fishing destinations in the U.S. Seaway Charters has rods and bait, plus they’ll fillet your catch and pack it to go.

Visit the only-accessible-by-water Boldt Castle, a 129-room manse inspired by the palaces along the Rhine River in Germany. Hitch a ride with a tour operator like Uncle Sam Boat Tours (tickets $9.50), which runs shuttles every half-hour. Tour the landscaped grounds and climb to the sixth-floor balcony for a panoramic view of the river and the surrounding village of Alexandria Bay (“Alex Bay” to locals). Stay out on the water a little longer with Clayton Island Tours (from $20) for a roughly three-hour cruise aboard a glass-bottom boat that takes you to Rock Island State Park, where you can soak up the scenery and climb to the top of the historic lighthouse.

Find a plush home base at the Harbor Hotel (from $199 per night), southwest of Alex Bay in Clayton, where rooms come with waterfront views, pillow-topped mattresses, and mini fridges to store your fresh catch. Find an Adirondack chair on the riverside patio to steal the sunset.

Published as “The Thousand Islands” in the “Escape to New York” guide in the September 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.