Finally, after years of driving over the Canada to USA bridge and thinking “I need to go here!” I spent a few days in the 1000 Islands. The best way to describe it: Incredible. 1000 Islands has something for everyone. Things to do in the 1000 Islands range from the relaxing to the adventurous.
My trip was 4 days, and we got to see and do all kinds of great things in 1000 Islands. We spent some time on active adventures and lots of time relaxing by the water. I came back feeling completely refreshed!
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a getaway, 1000 Islands is the place. This post includes everything you need to know about things to do in the 1000 Islands, restaurants, and places to stay, and a few suggested itineraries for the perfect visit.
Note: I travelled to 1000 Islands in August, 2020. All activities in this post are currently available.
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What to Expect in 1000 Islands
Go on a day trip or a getaway: If you’re in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, or any surrounding areas in particular, then the 1000 Islands is the perfect place for either a day trip or a few days vacation. I stayed for 4 days and 3 nights and this was a great length of time. I recommend a couple days if you like active adventures, like kayaking and hiking. There are some suggested itineraries at the end of this post!
It’s best to have a vehicle: although everything is fairly close together in the 1000 Islands, you will certainly have the most fun if you have your own vehicle. Drive your own or rent a car. This will make it easier to get to picnic spots, hiking trails, and other sites in the 1000 Islands. Special thanks to Ford Canada for making this adventure possible in the 2020 Ford Escape!
1000 Islands is perfect for adults or families: I visited the 1000 Islands with my boyfriend, and it was a great place for two adults on vacation. There are great breweries and pubs (restaurant recommendations below) and enough waterfront parks that there is always a peaceful, quiet spot. We noticed that the 1000 Islands was also a popular spot for families. Kids will love the parks and there are lots of entry-level, child-friendly hiking trails.
Getting to 1000 Islands
The 1000 Islands is an easy drive from several major cities in Ontario and Quebec. No matter where you’re coming from, I highly recommend you drive along the 1000 Island Parkway. It is a scenic, beautiful way to start your trip.
- Ottawa: take the 416 S out of Ottawa, towards Brockville. Merge onto the 401 W and then, right after Brockville, take exit 685 1000 Islands Parkway.
- Montreal: get on to the 401 W outside of Montreal. Watch for Brockville, and exit onto the 685 1000 Islands Parkway shortly after.
- Toronto: take the 401 E out of Toronto and take exit 645 for County Road 32 toward Gananoque/Crosby. You will not arrive via the 1000 Island Parkway, but it is definitely worth it to go for a drive to enjoy it.
Things to do in 1000 Islands
What I love most about the 1000 Islands is that there is something to do no matter what you’re in the mood for. Whether you want a relaxing afternoon, a big adventure, or just some great scenery, 1000 Islands has something for you.
- Tip: to get the full 1000 Islands experience, I recommend seeing the 1000 Islands a couple of different ways. Choose at least one thing to do that lets you see the 1000 Islands from the water and at least one thing to do that lets you see the 1000 Islands from above. The different perspective gives you a really well-rounded experience of the area.
1000 Islands Boat Cruise
Start your visit to the 1000 Islands with a boat cruise! This is an incredible way to orient yourself within the 1000 Islands and to learn about the area. There are two boat lines to choose from: Gananoque Boat Line and Rockport Cruises. Prices vary depending on the cruise type and duration, so check prices directly on the websites.
I went on the 2-hour Palaces and Palisades tour with Rockport Cruises and loved it! Currently (as of August, 2020), cruises are operating at significantly reduced capacity. It was lovely having lots of space and being able to roam the boat freely.
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail
Walk or bike along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. The section of trail in 1000 Islands follows alongside the 1000 Islands Parkway and will take you to beautiful locations and great spots to stop along the way. Pack snacks and pullover at Halstead Bay or Mallorytown Landing for a break and a great view.
The 1000 Islands Information Centre offers bike rentals (check for availability) or you can bring your own if you road trip to 1000 Islands!
1000 Islands Kayaking
Have a close-up experience with the 1000 Islands Kayaking. Book a half or full-day guided tour, or rent your own kayak if you’re a seasoned kayaker. I enjoyed the guided tour because we went to spots that I doubt I would have found on my own. You will learn a lot about the islands and be amazed by far you can kayak in just a few hours!
1000 Islands Tower
Take in a 360 degree view from above at the top of the 1000 Islands Tower. The views are jaw-dropping and if you have already gone on a boat cruise or kayaked, then you will have fun finding the places that you visited from a different vantage points. Rates, entry, and group sizes are subject to change so check the 1000 Islands Tower website for the must current information.
Picnic & Swimming
Pack a picnic and head to the beach! There are several lovely places to relax and swim in the 1000 Islands.
- Joel Stone Beach is a sandy beach and has a beautiful garden area with picnic tables, right in Gananoque.
- Halstead Bay is a quiet spot to pull over for a picnic and hop in the bay, along the 1000 Islands Parkway.
- Browns Bay Park is further towards Brockville, and a beautiful, wide open space for a picnic and swimming. This is a Parks Canada location so there is a day fee ($7.50).
1000 Islands Helicopter Tour
Get a truly unique view of the 1000 Islands on a helicopter tour. You will have breathtaking aerial views of the islands and famous 1000 Islands landmarks, depending on which tour you opt for. Tours require 2-3 people to go up and run from 10 minutes to an hour in the air!
1000 Islands Hiking Trails
Head out an enjoy the natural beauty of the mainland with one of the area’s beautiful hiking trails. There are several hiking trails to choose from in the area, varying in difficulty level and scenery.
Landon Bay Centre
We hiked at the Landon Bay Centre. It’s an easy 20-minute hike to the scenic Landon Bay Lookout (pictured above) and then you can choose how much more hiking you want to do. Loop back along the Bay Trail for a walk along the water, or continue up Donevan trail for a longer hike. Veer onto Halstead Creek Trail for the change to see osprey in their nest! We were lucky enough to spot one on our hike. View Landon Bay trail map.
The hiking continues at Jones Creek, which is home to several trails varying in length and difficulty. For a scenic hike, take the Heron Trail and make your way to a lookout featuring the Parks Canada red chairs and a beautiful view of the creek below. There are two starting points for Jones Creek, both of which lead to different trails. View Jones Creek trail map.
Mallorytown Landing, a great picnic and camping spot operated by Parks Canada, also includes two beautiful and leisurely hiking trails. Check out the Smoky Fire Trail for a beautiful walk through the woods. View Mallorytown Landing trail map.
Explore the Town of Gananoque
The town of Gananoque is quaint, beautiful, and absolutely worth taking an afternoon to explore. Restaurants and cafés to visit are listed below. Here are some other great spots to see!
- King Street: Start with a stroll along King Street, the main shopping street in Gananoque. Pop in to cute shops, stop at Panache Bakery for a treat, and discover the local restaurants.
- Confederation Park: Next, make your way past Gananoque Town Hall and to Confederation Park. This lovely park is home to peaceful trails and beautiful gardens. You might spot some swans in the river!
- Main Street: Cross the Gananoque River and make your way down Main Street. Main Street leads to the waterfront, and it is a beautiful residential street.
- Joel Stone Heritage Walk: At the waterfront, take the Joel Stone Heritage Walk to the beach and park by the same name. The walk includes beautiful gardens and a waterfront view with a beautiful lighthouse.
Restaurants in 1000 Islands and Gananoque
Breakfast & Cafés
Laverne’s Eatery: serving breakfast and lunch, Laverne’s Eatery offers all the classic breakfast options and has a huge selection of lunch-time tacos.
Panache Café and Bakery: a counter-serve bakery on King Street, Panache Café and Bakery offers hot drinks and a wide selection of pastries to start your morning (or have for dessert).
Skiff Café: make your way to Skiff Café for lattes, baked goods, and homemade ice cream.
1000 Curry: this places comes in at a top 5 meals of all time for me. 1000 Curry is, hands down, the best Indian food I have ever eaten. You have to get the somosas!
The Purple House Café: true to name, the Purple House Café is a purple house on Main Street that serves wood oven pizza. Order take out and walk down to the waterfront to enjoy it!
Riva Restaurant: visit Riva Restaurant for the perfect upscale date night setting. Choose from their large assortment of appetizers, pasta, pizza, and other main dishes. Kids menu available.
The Maple Leaf: indulge in class pub fare at the Maple Leaf Restaurant, which boasts a huge selection of burgers and sandwiches. Kids menu available.
Anthony’s Restaurant: choose from a varied menu of the classics (tacos, burgers, wraps, etc.) and enjoy Anthony’s Restaurant’s lovely, lit up patio.
Drinks & Patio
Gan Brewing Co: a family-run business in a designate heritage building, Gan Brewing Co has a lovely patio and serves beer and IPAs, including seasonal brews.
Muskie Jake’s Tap and Grill: enjoy traditional pub-fare and great drinks. The real treat at Muskie Jake’s Tap and Grill is their beautiful location overlooking the water.
The Old English Pub: located along King Street, the Old English Pub is the perfect place for a pint and some delicious fish & chips.
BUSL Cider: located outside of Mallorytown, about 20 minutes from Gananoque, BUSL Cider is a must-visit. Located on a 300 acre farm, BUSL Cider offers a beautiful patio and seating out back so you can enjoy their delicious cider in a tranquil space. I recommend ordering a flight so you try several of their unique flavours!
1000 Islands Hotels & Camping
Gananoque Inn & Spa: enjoy lovely accommodations on the waterfront at the Gananoque Inn & Spa. The inn offers beautiful, spacious rooms, a lovely waterfront patio, and you can book a facial, massage, or hand & foot care through the spa.
Comfort Inn & Spa Thousand Islands Harbour District: for a central, clean place to stay at a great rate, choose the Comfort Inn & Spa. I would suggest checking this place out if you are travelling with kids and it is where we will stay if and when we visit 1000 Islands again.
Colonial Resort & Spa 1000 Islands: stay a little further inland at the beautiful property that is the Colonial Resort & Spa 1000 Islands. The Colonial is open seasonally and includes indoor and outdoor pools, games, a gift shop, and a spa.
Camping: camping in the 1000 Islands can be booked through Parks Canada. There are several campsites to choose from, although space is limited and some campsites are unavailable for 2020.
1000 Islands Itineraries
1000 Islands Day Trip Itinerary
The 1000 Islands is a fantastic day trip destination from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, or any surrounding area. I loved 1000 Islands so much that I am planning to visit again on a day trip (this time with my Mom) before summer ends! Here’s a great day trip itinerary for a leisurely visit
- Morning: arrive in Gananoque along the 1000 Islands Parkway. Explore the town and stop at Panache Bakery for a mid-morning coffee and pastry. Have lunch at one of the recommended spots in Restaurants in 1000 Islands and Gananoque.
- Afternoon: go on a 1000 Islands boat cruise to experience 1000 Islands from the water. Time-permitting, stop at BUSL Cider before or after and enjoy a flight of cider on their beautiful patio.
And if you’re looking for a more adventurous visit:
- Morning: hike to Landon Bay Lookout or go up the 1000 Island Tower. Either one will take less than an hour and both provide a stunning view of the 1000 Islands. Have lunch at one of the recommended spots in Restaurants in 1000 Islands and Gananoque.
- Afternoon: embark on a half-day guided kayaking tour after lunch and see the islands from up close. Relax at Joel Stone Beach with a pizza from Purple House Café when you get back!
1000 Islands Weekend Itinerary
Stay a night (or two) and spend a weekend in the 1000 Islands. This is a great weekend destination whether you want to adventure or relax a little.
- Saturday: arrive in Gananoque and explore the town. Stop at Panache Bakery and have lunch at one of the recommended spots in Restaurants in 1000 Islands and Gananoque. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a helicopter tour. In the afternoon, go on a 1000 Islands Boat Tour. Have dinner at 1000 Curry in Gananoque.
- Sunday: wake up bright and early for a half-day guided tour with 1000 Islands kayaking or make your way to the 1000 Islands Tower for a birds eye view a little bit later. Have lunch in Gananoque. In the afternoon, explore the 1000 Islands Parkway, go hiking, or relax by the water. Head to BUSL Cider before closing and then make your way home.
1000 Islands Getaway Itinerary
Have a few days to enjoy in 1000 Islands? I suggest a leisurely approach, with 1-2 activities per day. Make the most of the beautiful waterfront location and bring some deck chairs to relax. This is our itinerary from our visit, along with some alternative suggestions:
- Day 1: arrive in 1000 Islands on the 1000 Islands Parkway and start your vacation with an afternoon boat cruise. Make your way in to Gananoque to check into your accommodations and have dinner. Enjoy an after-dinner drink at Gan Brewing Co.
- Day 2: get an early start and go on a half-day guided kayaking tour with 1000 Islands Kayaking. You’ll kayak over 7km and get a close-up perspective on the islands. Have lunch in Gananoque, then make your way to a picnic + swimming spot (above) to relax for the afternoon or spend the rest of the day exploring the town of Gananoque. Unless you’re an avid kayaker, you definitely need to take the afternoon to relax so you can enjoy your last couple of days without being too tired!
- Day 3: in the morning, take to the 1000 Islands Tower or a 1000 Islands Helicopter Tour for a birds eye view of the sights you’ve been exploring from the water. Get takeout from a local restaurant and some snacks from Panache Bakery and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Halstead Bay. When you’re done eating, go hiking across the street at the Landon Bay Centre. Head down to the waterfront in Gananoque for sunset with some pizza from Purple House Café.
- Day 4: if you’re up for another hike, visit Jones Creek Trail and do the Heron Loop for great views. Alternatively, sleep in a little and get a later start to your day before checking out. Have lunch in Gananoque and then head to BUSL Cider for cider overlooking their orchards before making your way home.
Enjoy your time in the 1000 Islands! I hope you love it there as much as I did.
A big thank you to 1000 Islands Tourism for gifting us with several of the activities that we did during our visit.