4 Awesome Activities Touring the Thousand Islands

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Are you always on the lookout for a new weekend getaway experience? My wife and I retired about 4 years ago and weekend getaways, especially places we haven’t seen, are always a priority with us. Recently we had an excellent weekend touring the Thousand Islands.


Related: Favorite Towns on the Finger Lakes for a Weekend Getaway


Have you ever visited this area? We totally enjoyed our 2 day visit and highly recommend it to others. Let me explain why.


Region background

The Thousand Islands (1000 Islands) Region is an international tourism destination, encompassing communities on both sides of the US and Canada border along the St. Lawrence River. The region takes its name from the more than 1000 islands that dot the international waterway. The region extends from Kingston to Cornwall on the Canadian side and from Oswego to Massena on the US side.


weekend getaway
Our weekend getaway in Alexandria Bay.

Alexandria Bay

While Alexandria Bay has a relatively low population during the winter months, the late spring, summer, and early fall seasons bring an influx of vacationers and avid boaters that cause the population of the village to exceed 15,000. There are a variety of motels and hotels in the immediate village area. Boat tours are available daily. It is the best option of locations to stay for touring the 1000 Islands.


We stayed at the Capt. Thomson’s Resort, while it is not a five star hotel, it is a very nice hotel that has been serving visitors for over 45 years. It is located on the St Lawrence Seaway, with a great view of some of the awesome places to visit (directly across from Boldt Castle on Heart Island, which we describe below).


Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle

Touring the Thousand Islands … Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle was built at the turn of the twentieth century by multi-millionaire George C. Boldt for his wife, Louise.


Mr. Boldt came to America in the 1860′s from Prussia, the son of poor parents. A man of tremendous industry and organizational skill, with daring and imagination, he became the most successful hotel magnate in America. He owned the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the president of several other companies, a trustee of Cornell University, and the director of the Hotel Association of New York.


For Boldt, to “dream” and to “do” were synonymous. And Boldt Castle stands as an eternal monument not only of a man’s love for his wife, but also as a reminder that what a man’s mind can conceive, his heart can accomplish. George Boldt was one man whose dreams, however fantastic, proved to be within his capacity to achieve.


Related post: Never Give Up Your Dreams


Like an ancient landmark of northern Europe, the castle is modeled after buildings of the 16th century, when newly revived classical details were applied to the towered, medieval forms, combining traditional elements with modern features, such as large, plate glass windows and extensive verandas. Rising six stores from the foundation level of the indoor swimming pool to the highest tower room, an elevator served the 120 room mansion.


An underground passage led from the servants’ dock on the water’s edge. Goods transported from barges at the dock through this tunnel to storage rooms within the Castle’s foundation. The tunnel also housed water pipes and electrical wiring from the Power House.


Boldt invested over $2.5 million to build this replica of a Rhineland castle, bringing in the finest of artists and the most skilled craftsmen for this project. He planned on presenting it to his wife on Valentine’s Day, 1904, as a monument of his love for her. Work was underway on the eleven buildings that would comprise the castle complex when tragedy struck. In January of 1904, several months prior to completion, Louise Boldt died.


Boldt immediately telegrammed his construction crews ordering that all work be stopped. Three hundred workmen dropped their tools and left the island. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving it instead as his unfinished monument.


For 73 years the Castle and the other structures on the island were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow, and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the Castle operation, it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Since then several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating and restoring the Heart Island structures.


You can explore the Castle’s 120 rooms, and try to imagine how they might have been luxuriously furnished and used in their entire splendor, if Louise Boldt had not died so early. Gaze out the Castle’s 365 windows that overlook the magnificent beauty of the Thousand Islands.


The first level of the Castle has been turned into a museum, filled with exhibits dedicated to the lives of George and Louise Boldt and the development of the Thousand Island region.


Stroll the paved walkways that traverse the island leading to the Castle, the Power House, Alster Tower, the Hennery, the Gazebo, and even the boat house. It is an amazing place to visit.


Boat Tours

Boating is a major pastime in the Thousand Islands. And even if you don’t bring your own boat, you will definitely want to spend some time on the water with your own marine adventure. Each side of the international border along the St. Lawrence River offers its own unique view of the Thousand Islands Region, and each of the several boat tour companies on each side offers a variety of tours. To get the most of your Thousand Islands vacation experience, we recommend you travel with several different thousand islands boat tour companies, at least one from each side of the border. Both sides offer dinner cruises. Sunset on the Saint Lawrence River is an experience no one should miss.


Departing from Alexandria Bay, the Uncle Sam Boat Tours can take you around the 1000 islands like never before. Enjoy the scenic views and the historic atmosphere that surrounds you.


Here are a few reasons to give this tour a try:

  • Custom-built shallow-draft vessels get you close to the islands
  • Their open top-deck gives you a 360-degree panoramic view
  • Unlimited stopover at historic Boldt Castle
  • Several different types of tours
  • Professional tour guides on all cruises

Not all the island homes belong to the “Rich and Famous.” Some folks are just plain rich, with their biggest claim to fame being that we talk about their spectacular homes as we pass by. But you’ll also see the island retreats of “regular” people too, for many of the islands and their homes are within the reach of the average working family today.



Located in the geographical center of the famous 1000 Islands, on a peninsula jutting out into the beautiful St. Lawrence River, Clayton is one of several small communities that make up the New York side of this very popular tourist mecca. It is only a short 11 mile drive from Alexandria Bay.


It is a great little town with several unique (non-tourist) shops that we found very interesting. We recommend visiting during the lunch hour and trying the lunch at Bella’s Bistro right on the St Lawrence in downtown Clayton. By far, the best meal we had on the trip (5-star), with a table outside overlooking the water.


Web Site : http://www.bellasonlinenow.com


Be sure to look up while you stroll our main streets. The upper stories share attractive architectural features- window crowns, and cast-iron cornices. If you are interested in architecture, be sure to pop into the Chamber of Commerce for their walking tour brochure. It’s a self-guided passport into the intriguing history and charm of Clayton’s commercial buildings, homes and churches.


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So, give the Thousand Islands a go for a very unique and entertaining weekend getaway.


It’s a great place to keep improving your tourism and travel creativity.


All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.


When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.


Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.


Are you devoting enough energy improving your travel planning?


Do you have a lesson about making your tourism planning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find him on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  


Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.


More reading on travel recommendations from Digital Sparks Marketing’s Library:
4 Extraordinary Vacation Ideas and Recommendations
4 Awesome Activities Touring the Thousand Islands
8 Awesome Things to Do in the Finger Lakes Region
12 Amazing Finger Lakes Resorts for Getaway Celebrations
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+FacebookTwitter, Digital Spark Marketing, and LinkedIn.



4 Awesome Activities Touring the Thousand Islands