1000 Reasons to love Gananoque
On a hot summer day, the 1000 Islands Parkway from Brockville to Gananoque is a lovely way to escape the 401 Hwy with its traffic insanity between Ottawa and Kingston. We’ve often stopped at either The Watermark Restaurant or Muskie Jake’s Tap Room at the Gananoque Inn and Spa for dinner on the terrace overlooking the harbour. I thought I knew all I needed to know about Gananoque, but then, 1000 Islands Tourism persuaded me that I’d barely scratched the surface.
Gananoque calls itself “the Gateway to the 1000 Islands” and the residents of those 1000 Islands have good reasons to regularly visit Gananoque for shopping, restaurants, services and entertainment. The presence of these affluent regular visitors has allowed unique businesses in this small community to thrive. It is fun just to explore the downtown shops. Stop in at the Gananoque Brewing Company for craft ale, visit the organic food booths at the Thursday night Farmer’s Market or just enjoy the musicians in the park and the harbour front views.
There are three harbour front museums as well as four art galleries downtown including the Heather Haynes Gallery, the O’Connor Gallery, the VAGA Gallery and the Woodchuck Gallery. You don’t even have to go into a gallery to appreciate the many murals around town depicting the life and history of Gananoque.
Gananoque Harbour is a fascinating place to sit and watch the boats go by.: tour boats, pleasure boats, fishing boats, hydroplanes, and yachts, there is so much happening on the waterfront. At the marina, 1000 Islands Kayaking is constantly launching flotillas of kayaks for short term paddles or longer expeditions lasting up to three days.
Want to get a bird’s eye view of the islands in this headwater of the St. Lawrence River, but only have a short time to visit? Thousand Island Helicopters will gladly take you up for a circle of the harbour and the International bridge. Flights can be for as short as 10 minutes to an hour. They also do group excursions to Prince Edward County stopping down for tastings at three wineries and lunch.
Daily thousands of tourists come to cruise on many of the tours offered by Gananoque Boat Line. The tours range from hour-long tours around the Harbour to three-hour tours down the waterway that give a glimpse at the lives of the rich and famous as the cruise passes by cottages, mansions and even castles.
They also offer five-hour dinner cruises that include a stopover to visit Boldt Castle on Heart Island with its tragic love story. The Rhineland style castle was built by famed New York hotelier, George C. Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria as a gift for his wife Louise. who died before the castle was completed. In 1977, the derelict building was bought by the 1000 Island Bridge Authority. People return year after year to see the ongoing restorations.
The 1000 Island Playhouse has two venues The Springer Theatre in a converted canoe club and the Firehall Theatre both border the St. Lawrence River with beautiful decks and balconies to enjoy the view. Their productions are family friendly, professional and often musical. Come for the evening and stay the night at one of the many reasonably priced local hotels and inns.
The area designated as the 1000 Islands Waterway stretches from Lake Ontario at Kingston to Brockville for 80 km of 1864 islands and rocky outcrops formed by the glaciers cutting through an ancient granite land bridge known as the Frontenac Arch UNESCO Biosphere, which connects the Canadian Sheild to the Adirondack Mountains in New York state. This is also the headwaters of the mighty St. Lawrence River.
The Canada-US border hops back and forth between the islands. Many of them are too small to be inhabited, others support year-round communities. For a spectacular view of the waterway, take the elevator up to the top of the 1000 Island Tower on Hill Island, not far from Gananoque, If you have your passport with you, this is also adjacent to a border crossing to the US by way of the 1000 Islands Bridge.
Spectacular views abound in the 1000 Islands, bring your camera and don’t miss the sunset. It is an hour of magnificent colours
What’s your favourite part of a visit to Gananoque?