Once patrolled by pirates and bootleggers, the 1000 Islands between Kingston and Brockville are now a sightseer’s paradise where you’re just as likely to discover historic castles and quaint waterfront villages as opulent vacation homes and rich wildlife. And perhaps the best view of it all comes while aboard one of the many different cruises offered in the region. Here’s what you can expect from the six cruise operators setting off in the 1000 Islands this summer.
The sightseeing and dining tours offered by 1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises should satisfy almost every one of your cruising needs. In 2011, the Brockville-based company introduced a high-speed catamaran called the “WildCat” that whisks you into the heart of the 1000 Islands on a two-hour “AdrenIsland” cruise ($59.95) featuring views of Boldt and Singer Castles or a one-hour “Singer Castle Express” cruise ($32.50). If speed isn’t your thing, there are traditional tours, including the 1.5-hour Jewels of the St. Lawrence Tour ($22.50), which features a tour of the Eastern Group of the Thousand Islands, Millionaire’s Row and Brockville’s historic waterfront. There are also fully licensed lunch, brunch and dinner cruises available starting at just $37.17. 1000islandscruises.com
With five triple-decker aluminium vessels at its disposal, Gananoque Boat Line is the oldest and largest cruise operator in the 1000 Islands. That size and experience allows it to offer traditional one-hour tours of the islands around Gananoque ($20.95) and Ivy Lea ($20.95) as well as a rare five-hour Boldt Castle Stopover Cruise ($40.74) and a 2.5-hour Lost Ships of the 1000 Islands Cruise ($31.43) that uses side sonar technology, researched interpretation, underwater video and historical photos to reveal several shipwrecks in the area. They also have a full lineup of evening tours, including a pirate cruise, dinner and dancing cruises, live music cruises, and a murder mystery dinner cruise. ganboatline.com
Rockport is a tiny village about twenty kilometres east of Gananoque that’s now a major terminus for seven Thousand Islands cruises offered by the Rockport Boat Line. The relaxing “Heart of the Islands” cruise is a one-hour tour that takes you past Boldt Castle, Zavikon Island and Millionaire’s Row ($22). For castle lovers, there’s the “Boldt Castle Tour,” which takes you on a 3.5 hour long voyage and includes a stopover at Boldt Castle ($30 plus $8 admission fee to the castle), and the “Two Castle Tour,” which includes stops at Boldt Castle and Singer Castle ($95). The two-hour “Palaces & Palisades Cruise” features the Canadian Palisades where a statue of St. Lawrence watches over the river that bears his name ($28). There’s also a “Sunset Cruise” without a dinner option ($30). rockportcruises.com
One of two cruise companies operating out of the Limestone City, Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises has three ships for you to choose from. The Island Star is a 200-passenger capacity glass top vessel perfect for cruising the islands while sampling from the lunch or dinner menus, which feature items like Atlantic salmon and chicken Florentine. The Island Queen, a 300-passenger capacity Mississippi Paddlewheeler, takes you on three-hour “Heart of the Island” tours through the small cottage islands of the Admiralty group, past the new Mandalay Mansion and by the historic sights of Kingston. The Island Belle is a 150-passenger capacity replica St. Lawrence Steamer that offers 90-minute “Discovery Cruises.” Narrated by the living spirit of Canada’s First Prime Minister and Kingston native son, Sir John A. Macdonald, these cruises are the perfect introduction to the unique sights and heritage of the region and Canada’s first capital. 1000islandscruises.ca
This family business that’s been operating for thirty plus years offers a four-day, three-night voyage of the 1000 Islands that boards and disembarks from Kingston. The stately Canadian Empress — which features two decks, a dining room, a grand salon, a lounge and three observation decks — will be your guide as you meander your way amongst the bays, channels and passages of the Thousand Islands. The tour also includes stops at Fort Wellington and a bus trip to the 1000 Islands SkyDeck, among a variety of other activities. Your overnight ports will be 1000 Islands Anchorage, Ivy Lea and Brockville. stlawrencerivercruise.com
Everything’s Better on the Water
Local cruises of South Eastern Ontario reveal the mystery, tales of treasure, and stunning beauty around every bend. Discover more cruising options here.