Gananoque & The 1000 Islands
Famous for being the birthplace of Thousand Island dressing—and so much more!—Gananoque and the 1000 Islands is one of North America’s most beautiful and unusual destinations.
Known as Manitouana, or ‘Garden of the Great Spirit’, by the Iroquois Confederacy and Ojibwa People, the Thousand Islands area is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve on St Lawrence River between Ontario and New York State. Slightly misnamed, the archipelago actually consists of 1,864 islands, with their emerald trees and forested shores perfectly contrasting the deep blue water.
Beloved by visitors from all walks of life, Gananoque and the 1000 Islands is home to castles, shipwrecks, National Parks, millionaire’s mansions, cute and quirky cottages, historical sites (including some from the War of 1812), waterside theatres, food, music, festivals and even a casino. Most popular in the summer months, the area is beautiful all year round, especially when the fall colours are reflected in the water, the snow falls in the winter, and everything bursts into life again in spring.
Often just a day trip destination, it’s worth spending a little longer so you can dig a little deeper and discover what makes the Gananoque and the 1000 Islands just so special.
To learn more about all there is to see and do in Gananoque and the 1000 Islands, scroll down or visit the two official tourism websites dedicated to the region.
Where is Gananoque & the 1000 Islands?
The gateway between Canada and the United States, where the St Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, Gananoque and 1000 Islands is just 15 minutes from the border, two hours from Ottawa and three hours from Toronto and Montreal.
Sixteen kilometres south of the famous Thousand Island Bridge, which links New York State to Ontario, Gananoque provides a perfect home base from which to explore this scenic region.
The Ottawa/Toronto VIA Rail train also stops in Gananoque once a day.
The easiest way to explore the region is by driving, walking or cycling. Once you get out to the 1000 Islands you can also travel around by boat, with car and passenger ferries and tour boats hopping around the islands and offering day cruises. It’s worth noting that if you’re coming from the Canadian side, you don’t need your passport for most boat cruises around the islands, but you might not be able to get off and explore.
Things to Do in Gananoque & the 1000 Islands
With 1,864 islands and destinations on the mainland to visit, there are easily a thousand things to do in Gananoque and the 1000 Islands. A haven for outdoor adventurers, history and culture lovers, sunset seekers, daytrippers and holidaymakers alike, the region is as well known for its land-based activities as it is for its water ones.
The best way to experience the 1000 Islands from the water is by hopping on a boat trip from Gananoque or Rockport. With the archipelago spanning over 80 kilometres, it’d be pretty tough to kayak your way around it all — and this way you get to find out some info about what you’re looking at too. Although there are a few different itineraries, most cruises will take you past the famous Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island, once home to the founder of Singer sewing machines.
To get the best view of the islands from above, you’re best off heading to the Observation Skydeck on Hill Island, close to the famous Thousand Island Bridge. Alternatively, the cycle path and walking trails along the 1000 Islands Parkway are a great way to enjoy the panoramic vistas without having to leave the mainland.
Well worth a visit, Ontario’s Thousand Islands National Park is a truly magical spot, with rugged shores and granite outcrops, beaches, camping, hiking and amazing viewpoints. Nearby, Wolfe Island, Howe Island and Amherst Island are also popular destinations for relaxing island getaways, with plenty of accommodation options and activities on offer.
During the busy summer season, Gananoque and 1000 Islands also hosts an array of different fairs and festivals, including the Lansdowne Fair, Lyndhurst Turkey Fair, Emerald Music Festival and Wolfe Island Music Festival. There’s also a weekly farmers’ market in Gananoque and Lansdowne.
Gananoque & 1000 Islands Neighbourhoods & Districts
Ontario’s gateway to the 1000 Islands, Gananoque is the perfect base to explore the rest of the region. Split between the United States and Canada, the majority of the Thousand Islands are unpopulated or privately owned—which is a little disappointing. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend a night or two in a (probably) haunted castle on an island on Lake Ontario?
Still, visitors can also set up shop on Wolfe Island and Howe Island, and there are other spots on the mainland also worth visiting, like Brockville, Lansdowne, and Mallorytown Landing.
Home to churches, a museum and a small handful of hardy year-round residents, Amherst is a peaceful island, with a relaxing, rural community vibe.
A little further up-river, Brockville is one of the oldest colonial settlements in Ontario (dating back to 1784) and the biggest settlement in the Thousand Island area.
Directly inland from the United States/Canada border crossing and 1000 Island Bridge, Lansdowne is a small community that hosts a weekly farmers’ market (May to Oct) and the Lansdowne Fair.
The biggest of the 1000 Islands, Wolfe Island was a traditional hunting spot for the Tyendinaga Mohawk People. Now, it’s a popular holiday destination with a vibrant arts scene and its own music festival.
Things to Know About Visiting Gananoque & the 1000 Islands
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Gananoque & Thousand Islands, it’s nice to learn what the locals know about the area.
Great place to see the fall colours
Don't forget to pack
Fishing gear. Gananoque and the 1000 Islands region of Ontario is home to some of the best freshwater fishing you can find in the Northern Hemisphere.