The Thousand Islands: A Totally Unique Summer Retreat

The Thousand Islands: A Totally Unique Summer Retreat

I have heard about the Thousand Islands my entire life. My brother used to visit a friend there (in Upstate New York) every summer, and come back with wild stories of water tubing, motor boating, island hopping, and just plain good old-fashioned adventuring. The name itself – Thousand Islands – has always intrigued me. So when my family and I got an invite a couple of summers ago to visit an old friend of my husband’s, we jumped on it. Our girls being 5 and 3 at the time, we figured it was the perfect age to introduce them to some real outdoor river fun. 

About the Thousand Islands

Yes, the Thousand Islands are located on a river, the Saint Lawrence River, along the border between the northern part of New York State and the southern part of Ontario, Canada. Comprised of 1,864 islands stretching 50 miles from Kingston, Ontario downstream to New York, some islands range in size of up to 40 square miles, while others are so small that they house only one single residence. It is by far one of the more unique places I’ve ever been to.

There are several towns one can visit when staying in the Thousand Islands, both in the U.S. and Canada, and the town our friend lives in is Clayton, NY. A charming, quaint town on the water, it is perfect for strolling around, window shopping and grabbing an ice cream with a river view. It is also home to the renowned Antique Boat Museum. Another main town, Alexandria Bay, NY, is probably the most well known, with many more touristy things to do like Boldt Castle, the Aqua Zoo Aquarium, miniature golf,  go-carts, arcades, and more.

cursing around in the Thousand Islands New York.

Exploring the Thousand Islands and Saint Lawrence River

There are many other towns as well, but it’s not in town where we spent our time. It was the river. Looking and feeling more like a lake in parts, we swam, kayaked, went water tubing, water sliding, etc. But the most fun was motor boating all throughout and around the islands, including into Canada (bring your passports!), and getting a glimpse of all the unique islands and their beautiful homes that make up the area.

From houses to castles to light houses to island mansions, each one has its own flavor. There are so many islands, and all seem to have a tale. Whether it be Boldt Castle on Heart Island, with its famous story of millioanaire George C. Boldt building it for his beloved wife in 1900, and suddenly halting construction four years later when his wife died, or the tiny island with the one house that seemed to be engulfed by the water, and how much longer would it last, most have a story behind them.

Water tubing in the Thousand Islands.

The landscape and scenery is beautiful as well, with leafy green trees and woods all around – it sort of felt like camp. We spent three days there, and all three days we crashed at the end from all the water activity. It is its own world up there, one where you are surely taken away from every day life. If you want a true outdoors and adventure escape, this is it.

Although we stayed with our friend, there are plenty of hotels and organized activities to do with your kids. Make sure to go on a scenic boat tour or cruise, where you will hear the history behind the islands, including pirates and bootleggers, and the Gilded Age rich and famous who used to live there. For all this information and more, see the website Visit the 1000 Islands. You will find everything you need to know to book your trip, such as towns to visit, hotels, tours, activities and more.

Kayaking in the Thousand Islands

House with a water slide in the Thousand Islands.

An incredibly fun family destination spot, the Thousand Islands is the perfect summer escape!

* Note: photos taken with my Iphone on the go – hence the blurriness!

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Thousand Islands on the border of New York and Canada are one of the more unique places on the east Coast to visit during the summer.



  1. June 12, 2015 / 5:53 pm

    This is such a cool area that I would love to go to. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. June 12, 2015 / 8:27 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it – thanks so much for reading! 🙂

  3. June 16, 2015 / 7:04 pm

    very pretty – imagine living on one of those islands being the only house! Cool!

    • June 17, 2015 / 2:42 am

      I know – it’s the coolest. Like nowhere else I’v seen. Thanks for reading!

    • June 17, 2015 / 2:43 am

      Thanks so much Jean, glad you enjoyed it :).

  4. Anna
    July 3, 2015 / 5:36 am

    Didn’t know about this place, but it looks so beautiful! You can always have fun when there’s water involved!

    • July 8, 2015 / 3:22 am

      This is true! It’s so completely unique, hope to get back there sometime soon!

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