What to do in 1000 Islands, Gananoque
Travel to Gananoque takes about 1.5 hours from the city of Ottawa, along Highway 401. It is only a 30-minute drive from Kingston, and 3 hours from Toronto.
You can play some regional artists in the car, to get you in the spirit, such as Doug Clifford, Colin Slack and Kevin Head.
City Cruises Gananoque
Our first activity in the 1000 Islands was a cruise along the St. Lawrence River, through the islands, with City Cruises Gananoque. They offer two main cruises; the Original Heart of the 1000 Islands Cruise which is 1 hour long, and the Lost Ships of the 1000 Islands Cruise which is 2.5 hours. The other tour options are currently on hold due to Covid-19.
My partner and I hopped on the 1:00pm Lost Ships of the 1000 Island Cruise. The boat itself has 3 deck levels to enjoy, and we went right up to the top for the views. An audio recording presented lively commentary during the boat tour, as we learned general history of the region, and specific stories of shipwrecks as we passed. It painted a lovely picture of what it might be like to live in the area all those years ago, and even how the island life is today.
My favourite detail was that there are in fact 1864 islands in the 1000 Islands; I always wondered! We also learned that to be considered an island, the lone piece of land must be at least a square foot in size, have minimum one tree on it and stay above sea level year-round. This created a fun game for us as we pointed to the smallest islands, guessing if they were officially considered an island or not. Other highlights included the 1000 Islands International bridge (of which we saw both ends of it – it’s big!), the statue of St. Lawrence, the mansions of Millionaires Row and the iconic Boldt Castle.
I recommend putting your phone on airplane mode, as data goes in and out through the islands. You pass into American waters but do not need your passport as the boat does not anchor. Have fun enjoying the beauty of the islands and learning some entertaining history.
Address: 280 Main Street, Gananoque
Hours: The schedule may vary. First tour of the day sets off at 11:00am.
Check In: Comfort Inn & Suites Harbour District
There are multiple hotel options in Gananoque, with Comfort Inn & Suites being the most prime location to stay. This hotel is situated between the waterfront and the downtown area, where you are within walking distance of the majority of activities. The hotel includes WIFI and a fridge in the room, a fitness centre and a pool you can enjoy. There is hot breakfast offered every morning, which we took advantage of during the stay.
Click here for more hotel options in town.
Address: 22 Main Street, Gananoque
Hours: Check in any time after 3:00pm
Gananoque Brewing Company
Head into downtown Gananoque for a flight or pint of craft beer at Gananoque Brewing Company. We enjoyed a flight of their beer on a beautifully crafted wooden picnic table, next to a little patio garden and the stone building. A standard flight is 4 samples, but we were able to get a fifth; why not! I enjoyed all of the beers I tried, particularly their Scottish Ale and the seasonal Sour Cherry. The Naughty Otter Pilsner was easy drinking, something you could enjoy all night long. GAN Brewing has a popcorn machine inside, and it was a pleasant surprise when they brought a bowl of fresh popcorn to our table.
Indoor seating is also available and they often have live music. Updates on their social media pages.
Address: 9 King Street East, Gananoque
Hours: Open at 11:00am, until 11:00pm Friday Saturday, until 9:00pm Thursday, until 8:00pm Sunday to Wednesday.
Dinner: Anthony’s Restaurant
Anthony’s Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We sat inside for dinner in a cozy booth, but they also have a spacious patio under the trees, featuring twinkly lights above. This is a family-style restaurant, with meal options sure to please anyone in your group. We both had a chicken parmesan meal, enjoying each other’s’ company and the sound of locals having dinner around us.
Address: 37 King Street East, Gananoque
Hours: 8:00am-9:00pm Saturday, until 8:00pm Sunday, 11:30am-8:00pm Tuesday to Thursday, until 9:00pm Friday, closed Monday.
Get ready for a day full of epic adventures! We had breakfast in our hotel room before heading toward the waterfront.
1000 Islands Kayaking
Explore the 1000 Islands with a leisurely kayak. 1000 Islands Kayaking offers various rental and tour options including guided-half day tours, guided full day tours, guided camping tours and self-guided rentals. Skills courses are also available.
We lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day for our Guided Half-Day Tour. It was amazing to see the islands up close and enjoy paddling along the river. The tour was 3 hours long, beginning at 8:30am with a brief introduction and lesson. There is an afternoon tour as well, starting at 1:00pm, but I enjoyed the quiet morning paddle and the calmer waters at 8:30am. Our guide, Mike, was energetic, chatty and knowledgeable – just the energy you need for a morning activity.
I was honestly a little worried beforehand that I wasn’t in well enough shape to keep up with a 3-hour long kayak, but the pace was fairly slow, and there were others less experienced than myself. We paddled together as a group for the most part, taking breaks to learn some history and quirky stories about the area. We even got to see a sailboat shipwreck up close! It was a shallow shipwreck, with a bit of a funny story, and was very cool to observe. There were other unique stops, but I’ll leave you with some surprises!
The last day of the season to enjoy a kayaking tour is Thanksgiving Monday.
Address: 110 Kate Street, Gananoque
Hours: Tour times vary. The first tours and rentals begin at 8:30am.
Lunch: Lighthouse Provisions
A gourmet shop in Gananoque, Lighthouse Provisions was truly the perfect place for a lunch stop. They make delicious fresh sandwiches, along with a selection of snacks, drinks to go, freezer meals, butcher meats and quality cheeses. I enjoyed the Bada Bing Italian Salami sandwich, which was stacked with goodness on fresh ciabatta. I loved the addition of pesto. My partner had the Montreal Smoked Meat. There is one small seating area inside, so we had our sandwiches, chips and drinks on their side patio. You could also take your meal to-go and have a picnic in Confederation Park, just across the street.
Address: 5 King street East, Gananoque
Hours: Open 10:00am-5:00pm Wednesday to Saturday, closed Sunday to Tuesday.
1000 Islands Helicopter Tours
What an experience! Our first time in a helicopter was with 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours, and it did not disappoint. There are five unique tours to choose from, as well as helicopter packages and fishing excursions. We did the ‘1000 Islands Tour’, the shortest helicopter ride lasting 10 minutes, where we were able to see the town beneath us, Wolfe Island, Howe Island and more. Our pilot did a great job explaining what was in sight, giving us some brief history and making a cheesy joke or two.
There really are no words to properly describe the feeling of first lifting off into the air, and being able to admire the 1000 Islands from the sky. You can appreciate the amazing blue waters flowing between the many islands, just starting to show pops of fall colours. It would be an outstanding view during the peak of fall rhapsody. I lost count of how many times I said, “wow”.
1000 Islands Helicopter Tours run year-round, so you can experience the thrill and see the remarkable views in any season!
Address: 88 County Road 32, Leeds & the Thousand Islands
Hours: Tours typically run every half hour, the first at 10:00am.
Field View Farms Pumpkin Patch
Pick your own pumpkin at Field View Farms! Wandering pumpkin patches is one of my favourite fall activities, and it was a pleasure to experience it on a new local farm. They have some pre-picked pumpkins of various sizes, as well as the full patch you can walk around and find your own. There are many photo opportunities here, to get that quintessential fall photo. Stand next to the Charlie Brown figure in the patch, pose on hay bales next to the barn or peak from behind a giant jack-o-lantern.
Address: 460 Cliffe Road, Leeds and the Thousand Islands
Hours: Open daily from the end of September to October 31, from 9:00am until sundown.
If you’re visiting during the summer and feel like swimming, you can go for a dip at Joel Stone Park, Halstead’s Bay or Brown’s Bay Park.
Thousand Islands National Park
Just off of the 1000 Islands Parkway you’ll find the Landon Bay hiking trails, part of the Thousand Islands National Park. You can park at the Landon Bay trailhead or across the street at Halstead’s Bay. The main trail loop is the Donevan Trail, a moderate trail loop about 4.5KM long. We opted for a shorter route, starting on Donevan Trail and connecting to Bay Trail, along the water’s edge. Make sure you don’t miss the Lookout Trail when circling back, for some amazing views of the bay and St. Lawrence River. The Lookout Trail is marked yellow and connects to the Donevan Trail Loop. Trails are well marked and colour coded, matching the trail map at the entrance.
There are a couple areas with slight incline, but overall it was an easy hike. The most elevation was found on the Lookout Trail, but totally worth it for those views from above!
Address: (Parking at Halstead’s Bay) 291 Thousand Islands Parkway, Leeds & the Thousand Islands
If you’re looking for more hikes nearby, check out Marble Rock Conservation Area, Jones Creek Trails or Rock Dunder Conservation Area.
Photo Stop: Joel Stone Park
Joel Stone Park is only a 5-minute walk from Comfort Inn & Suites, right next to 1000 Islands Kayaking. At the tip of the park is a lovely lighthouse, a common photo spot for tourists and locals alike! We enjoyed the view of the bay, watched the afternoon kayakers come in from their tour, and took some pictures at the lighthouse.
Address: 125 Water Street, Gananoque
Dinner: Laverne’s Eatery
Laverne’s Eatery is a VIBE! Indoor dining was closed during our stay, but they were still open for patio dining and takeout. They serve Mexican inspired dishes on Fridays, complete with Spanish music playing around you for the complete Fiesta Friday experience. Fiesta Friday takes place during dinner, from 5:00pm-8:00pm. The patio itself has beautiful twinkly lights and outdoor chandeliers, inside the décor is fun and lively. My beef burrito was delicious, and according to the menu the beef brisket is smoked for 16 hours – yum! My partner enjoyed his chicken fajita plate, and we both sipped on some classic margaritas.
Address: 21 King Street East, Gananoque
Hours: Weekends 8:00am-4:00pm, weekdays 8:00am-3:00pm. Friday dinner 5:00pm-8:00pm.
Breakfast: Panache Bakery & Café
Whether you want to dive into lunch with a soup and sandwich, or start the day with a simple pastry, Panache Bakery and Café offers a variety of fresh meals and baked goods. They also make frozen gourmet meals like quiche and pies, if you want to take something home. I really enjoyed the iced coffee, along with my pain au chocolat AKA chocolate croissant, as my partner dug into his turkey club.
Currently they are offering takeout only, and since it was raining we opted for a little car picnic. On a nicer day, you could walk down the street and have a picnic in Confederation Park.
Address: 162 King Street East, Gananoque
Hours: 8:00am-2:00pm Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday.
I had visited BUSL Cider previously and was happy to return with my partner. He was impressed with the setup and views over the orchard and fields – it’s such a beautiful location. I definitely suggest trying a flight of four cider flavours, as they usually have even more than that to choose from! My personal favourite is the ‘Aurum’, dry apple cider flavour, which they carry year-round. If this is your first visit, I recommend trying the Haskap flavour, another one of their standards, made with haskaps grown on the property. They also have beer and seltzer on site, made by their sister companies.
They have a few places to sit indoors, but the outdoor view is where it’s at! If the weather isn’t suitable to sit out on the giant rocks in an Adirondack chair, they have a covered patio section with spacious barrel tables. This is where we sat to enjoy our drinks. We left with a bottle of their seasonal Pumpkin cider – a lovely fall drink we plan to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.
Address: 75 Quabbin Road, Mallorytown
Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 12:00pm – 5:00pm. Closed Monday to Thursday.
A big thanks to Tourism 1000 Islands for the wonderful weekend in Gananoque. This is a sponsored blog post; as always, all words and opinions are my own.