Take your adventure to new heights! Or should we say: altitude?
So far, we’ve explored South Eastern Ontario by car, on foot and upon the waves of the mighty St. Lawrence River. This time, we planned a day trip to the 1000 Islands Gananoque to get a birds-eye view of the area.
Since childhood, I’ve been lucky enough to fly in various types of aircraft from small propellor planes like Cessnas to jetliners, helicopters and even gliders during my brief time as an Air Cadet. Heidi, on the other hand, has only flown twice in her life. Both were on commercial flights, so this would be her first time in a smaller private aircraft and a helicopter no less.
Get To The Chopper!
The day turned out to be cloudy with a low altitude ceiling, but otherwise excellent visibility and calm winds. Our pilot was Jordan Mol – who is the Chief Pilot with 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours. Our aircraft would be a Robinson R44 Raven II, which is the most popular and highest safety-rated civilian choppers on market.
After a quick safety briefing, we climbed aboard and got strapped in while Jordan ran through the preflight diagnostics. Flying in a helicopter feels similar to flying in an airplane, but the takeoff sequence is entirely different.
During dust off, there is a sensation of gravity’s pull, similar to going up in an elevator. One moment you’re on the ground, and then quite suddenly, you’re floating. The pilot then pivots the copter, throttles up – and suddenly you’re achieving a thrilling and steady rate of climb. To this day, it still gets a “WOO HOO!” out of me every time. I could tell by the ear-to-ear smile on Heid’s face that she was feeling the same rush that I felt on my first flight.
A fresh layer of snow made for some spectacular aerial views of the 1000 Islands. The once thick layers of ice on the river and surrounding lakes were receding steadily. The water was so clear, that in some instances we could make out the shapes of rocky shoals beneath the surface.
The sensation of flying, combined with the breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River was exhilarating. Not only was it visually captivating, but it also gave us an impression of just how immense the 1000 Islands is. Flying is one of those things that you have to experience for yourself. There is nothing quite like it.
Coffee & Treats At Panache Bakery
After safely returning, we were ready to grab a coffee and sit down for a breather. I’ve said it before, that no trip to Gananoque is complete without a visit to the Panache Bakery & Cafe, and I meant every word of it. It’s pretty much mandatory in my book.
I went with an irresistible raspberry turnover, while Heidi selected the cinnamon bun. The bright and cozy cafe was the perfect spot to sit, enjoy a hot drink and reflect on our adventure in the skies.
Take A Stroll Through History
Gananoque is a beautiful riverside town rooted in Canadian history. To appreciate the impressive selection of architecture, we decided to take the Heritage Walking Tour. This took us to many of the town’s landmark buildings. The warm afternoon made for a fantastic afternoon stroll through time.
We started at the iconic McDonald House (above, left) which was built in 1831 by prominent businessman John McDonald. In the years since it has been used as a courthouse, a jail and today houses municipal offices.
Nearby, the Chrysler House with its vibrant red roof and amber-hued brickwork is an example of The Victorian Age’s sense of design and class. Today, it is home to Beaver Hall Bed & Breakfast. Also notable, is the Parmenter House which was erected in 1800 for the relative of a prominent industrial tycoon. Now it is the home of Gananoque’s premier dining venue: Riva.
The profound red-brick spire, Gananoque Clock Tower was gifted from the late Charles Macdonald in 1903. A short walk from the tower will also bring you to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, which is the town’s oldest first built-in 1854.
The last stop on our mini-tour of Gan’s historic buildings was the former Spring & Axle Company (above). Today the building houses the Axle Works, Steel Style Garage a clothing retailer, and a yoga studio called the Ledger Room. This is also the location of a particularly famous dining venue and our next destination!
Conquer Your Foodie Goals At Laverne’s Eatery
Formerly the Socialist Pig Food For Everyone! This eclectic cafe and diner is now known as Laverne’s Eatery. It’s still the same fantastic food that fans of The Pig knew, with the same relaxed vibe that keeps you going back for more. I’ve spent the past few months drooling over their Instagram and was Laverne’s fanboy before I ever set foot in their diner.
For lunch, Heidi had the California Club sandwich which combines roast chicken, avocado, bacon, and pea sprouts tossed in a zappy grapefruit vinaigrette. This clubhouse also came stacked with cheddar, fresh tomato, cranberry tomato chutney, cilantro and sriracha crema.
I chose the irresistible Bahn Mi sandwich which married smoked beef brisket with BBQ ginger chilli sauce, pickled veggies, and fresh cilantro on a grilled bun. For dessert, we couldn’t pass up on an Americano and a butter tart square that made for the sweetest end to lunch.
Confederation Park & Sculpture Gallery.
After lunch, we crossed the street to check out some more landmarks at Confederation Park. Standing watch by the Visitor’s Information Centre is the famed Engine 500 AKA Susan Push. This antique engine stands to commemorate the long gone 1000 Islands Railway.
The visitor’s centre itself (above, left) was built in 1840 and was once the Victoria Hotel & Jones Shovel Company which operated until the mid 1900’s. Today it also houses the local library in addition to the tourist information centre. Just beyond that, is the outdoor sculpture gallery and Confederation Park. Inside the sculpture park is an excellent selection of contemporary artwork, including some works created by local artists.
Good Things Are Brewing In Gananoque!
Our final stop was a visit to the Gananoque Brewing Company which was conveniently right across the street from the sculpture park. When we arrived at the brewery, we were treated to a tasting and a tour of the brewery.
Gan Brewing is located in the historic Bell Tower Mall which was first built in 1860. It was originally a manufacturing plant for the springs and axles used in horse-drawn carriages. The shimmering gleam of the fermentation tanks, combined with the stone and wooden beams gives you an overall sense of history.
I sampled a small selection of beers, including the Thursty Pike Pilsner which was a smooth traditional Czech-style beer with a crisp flavour. Also in the flight, was the robust Black Bear Bock which was an instant favourite. I also enjoyed Cooper’s Hawk American Pale Ale which is a perky but not overtly hoppy APA with a citrusy finish.
Gan Brewing’s operation makes high-quality craft beer in small batches, resulting in a rotating selection of delicious beverages. What I enjoy the most, is that many of them, including the American Pale Ale, appear to be unfiltered. This results in a cloudy appearance but otherwise vibrant taste profile that only a well crafted beer can provide.
By the time we wrapped up our tour and tasting, so it was time to bring our amazing day trip to an end. But, not before stocking up on a few cans of beer first!
Take Your Adventure To New Levels!
One of the best things about exploring South Eastern Ontario is that there is no shortage of unique and delightful experiences that will leave you with beautiful memories. You never know what you might find, or who you might encounter by simply exploring your own backyard so to speak.
Photography: Heidi Csernak