The 1000 Islands Region, located between New York State (USA) and province of Ontario (Canada) on St. Lawrence River, is a perfect destination for those seeking beautiful scenery, outstanding fishing, and excellent water sport opportunities. According to the recent count, there are 1864 islands located in this stretch of St. Lawrence River. Some of them are just uninhabited outcroppings of rocks but the largest islands are up 40 square miles. Medium size islands are often occupied by single owners. Their houses range from simple cottages to elaborate mansions and even two castles! One of them, beautiful Boldt Castle, is a major tourist attraction of the region.
To truly appreciate the area, you need to take a river cruise. There are many tours to choose from. This year while camping with friends at Wellesley Island State Park, I decided to go with Clayton Island Tours mainly because it was very convenient to be picked up right from the park. We chose Boldt Castle and Two-nation Tour that included:” several miles of the Canadian shoreline encompassing the magnificent summer homes, Whirlpool Channel, Tom Thumb Island, the Statue of Saint Lawrence, the Canadian span of the 1000 Island Bridge system along with the smallest International Bridge.” We stopped at Heart Island for a self guided tour of Boldt Castle. I was pleasantly surprised with how far its renovation went since my last visit two years ago. Our next attraction was Millionaires Row, where we viewed beautiful houses of the rich and famous. Overall, I liked the tour. It reminded me how beautiful the 1000 Islands region is.
Boldt Castle – 1000 Islands, NY
The Boldt Castle, located on Heart Island in the 1000 Islands Region, is the main attraction of the area. It was built by the manager of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, George Bolts, as a gift of love to his wife Louise. When Louise suddenly died in January of 1904, devastated George abounded the castle and never returned to the island. The construction was stop and left exposed to harsh weather and vandalism for over seventy years. In 1977 The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority from the State of NY assumed ownership of the island and began its rehabilitation.
Many tours of the 1000 Islands stop at the Boldt Castle, but give limited time to explore. If you wish to spend more time there, your best option is Boldt Castle Shuttle departing from Alexandria Bay. Admission to the castle is not included in the price of tours or shuttle.
I visited the castle many times. The rehabilitation process seemed like a struggle. From one visit to another, I did not see significant changes. That is until my last camping trip to the area. While touring the islands, (click here for more information and pictures) I decided to give it another try. This time, I was finally able to see the castle in its intended glory. It is not finished yet, but for me already impressive. What I liked the most was the grounds, carefully manicured and transformed to beautiful gardens, highlighted by magnificent views of St. Lawrence River.
I spent so much time enjoying the outside of the castle that I have little time left to check the inside before it was time to go back on the boat. As soon as walked in, once again I was surprised how much progress was made. Some rooms are already finished and other still waiting to be furnished. I hope, soon I will able to see this project completed.
Wellesley Island State Park Camping
I visited 1000 Islands Region many times before lured by its beauty and exceptional recreational opportunities. There are many logging choices along St. Lawrence River, but my favorite is Wellesley Island State Park, NY. Camping is outstanding there. There are multiple sites right on the water. For the summer, they need to be reserved months in advance. My favorite area of the park is section B, but since our trip was almost last-minute, I felt lucky we got anything waterfront. Our A21 site was specious and offered nice views of the river.
From when I started visiting the park over 20 years ago, a significant improvement took place. Bathrooms now are modern and clean. They are nice playgrounds for kids in many sections of the park. There is also a recreational hall by the marina. It is a huge park so biking and walking are popular. There are many large open fields to play ball. Little children enjoy a designated beach area, but majority of people go swimming anywhere they feel like. After all, this park’s main attraction is water. Boating and fishing are excellent. You can dock your own boat at the marina (fees apply) or rent a boat at the park or Alexandria Bay, NY.
When planning your trip to Wellesley Island State Park, remember there is a bridge that leads to it. It costs over $2 to cross it. You can only pay with cash or credit. EZ Pass is not accepted. The closest grocery store is about 9 miles away, on the main land in Alexandria Bay. Bring what you need with you, otherwise running for milk will cost you not only gas but also the bridge toll.
Wellesley Island State Park offers more comfortable logging options than just tent camping. One of them is camping cabins. They are extremely difficult to reserve because of their prime location. They are right on the water, some sitting high on the cliff overlooking the river. For those looking for conveniences of home, the park provides cottages with kitchen, bathroom and separate bedrooms. They are also very difficult to reserve even though their views and location are not as impressive. For RV lovers there is a large designed area of the park – not appealing to me at all. It is just an open field with no shade or privacy. That should not be an issue for those with their own boat, since they will spending majority of their time on the river.
Overall, the park has something for everyone. It is a perfect choice for an inexpensive vacation in a beautiful surrounding.