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1000 Islands Kayaking

1000 Islands Kayaking Over 3 Days

Setting out from Gananoque, there are several options for a three day 1000 Islands kayaking trip – primarily dependent on your experience, comfort level on the water and location of the campsite or oTENTik cabin you’ve either reserved or are hoping to snag.

Camping is only permitted on islands that are part of Thousand Islands National Park. Reserve ahead where permitted (on Beau Rivage, Camelot, Cedar, Milton, McDonald, Gordon, Georgina, East and Central Granadier, Aubrey and Mulcaster Islands). Otherwise it’s first come, first served and that will definitely influence where you end up on a 1000 Islands kayaking trip.

Islands that are part of 1000 Islands National Park are all well-signed
Islands that are part of 1000 Islands National Park are all well-signed

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1000 Islands kayaking – Gananoque to Gordon Island 

Our trip took us to Gordon Island for the first night and then to McDonald Island for the second. On both occasions we stayed in oTENTik cabins.

The route to Gordon Island is straight forward if the weather is cooperative. Leaving on calm water, I thought we’d be able to beeline it to the island in under 90 minutes. But an hour in, and the wind blew in, as it tends to do on this section of the St. Lawrence River, so in short order we were riding waves with whitecaps.

Considering the water is much warmer here than where we usually kayak, neither of us were concerned. The paddling was challenging but fun though people new to kayaking might not enjoy this experience as much.

Gordon Island has dedicated landing spots for people staying at the oTENTik cabins accessed at the southwest end of the island. A couple of other docks are better suited to sailboats or motorboats as climbing up and out of the kayaks can be tough.

Spying a fisher (similar to a mink) at the first spot we pulled into, I was thrilled until I later learned just how vicious this animal can be.

There’s a beautiful trail around the circumference of Gordon Island that takes you through magnificent stands of old oak trees. Look up – it’s an inspiring sight. And don’t miss your chance to enjoy one of Parks Canada’s #sharethechair red chair moments either.

Staying put on Gordon Island on a windy afternoon
Staying put on Gordon Island on a windy afternoon
Exploring the trails on Gordon Island
Exploring the trails on Gordon Island
This old stone shelter offers respite from the wind on Gordon Island
This old stone shelter offers respite from the wind on Gordon Island
There seem to be a lot more sailboats than kayaks - and notice the docks; not meant for getting out of kayaks
There seem to be a lot more sailboats than kayaks – and notice the docks; not meant for getting out of kayaks
Our oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island
Our oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island
The view from our oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island
The view from our oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island

Gordon Island to McDonald Island via Mulcaster and Camelots Islands

On our trip, the wind didn’t let up until into the night so rather than fight the waves, we figured we’d stay put once on Gordon Island and then make the second day one of exploration on route to McDonald Island, even if meant five or six hours of kayaking.

Heading east initially we made a stop at Mulcaster Island, located in a maze of islands that are part of the Navy Group. From there it was scenic paddling past loads of cottages – almost all with Adirondack chairs on docks that looked very appealing.

Adirondack chairs beckon
Adirondack chairs beckon

Camelot Island is gorgeous and would be my first choice if I was camping. It’s got a sense of space, lovely trails and some of the campsites are very private. Beau Rivage Island is another excellent choice for camping though it’s a little busier. Again look for the red chairs, sit back and enjoy the view.

Private campsite on Camelot Island
Private campsite on Camelot Island

Our route to McDonald Island included a rough crossing of about 25 minutes. We were bounced around like plastic yellow ducks in a fast moving rapid, a feeling a new kayaker would not appreciate in the least. The final stretch to the landing spot on McDonald Island was also busy with tour boats and motor boats creating quite a wake.

But once we were settled into our oTENTik on the island it was close to idyllic. John was in bird heaven – and got sight of a flycatcher he’d never seen before. I was happy to have a swim and chill on the pink granite rocks that are reminiscent of the Georgian Bay. It’s definitely a busier island but people tend to congregate on the docks where the larger boats can moor. Stay away from there and you’ll have plenty of peace and quiet.

A bluebird day and calm waters at the start of 1000 Islands kayaking on day 2
A bluebird day and calm waters at the start of day 2
A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands
Coming around to Mulcaster Island
Looking out from Mulcaster Island
Looking out from Mulcaster Island
1000 Islands kayaking in the afternoon when the waves and chop have picked up
Kayaking in the afternoon when the waves and chop have picked up
Looking out and knowing the next 20-30 minutes will be very hard paddling
Looking out and knowing the next 20-30 minutes will be very hard paddling
McDonald Island is a popular docking spot for boaters
McDonald Island is a popular docking spot for boaters
Sunset from our campsite on McDonald Island
Sunset from our campsite on McDonald Island

1000 Islands kayaking – McDonald Island to Gananoque

Fast paddlers could probably knock off the McDonald Island to Gananoque section in 30 minutes. But take your time. It’s still a pretty area and if you paddle too quickly the adventure will be over in very short order.

The perfection of the morning on McDonald Island
The perfection of the morning on McDonald Island
Almost back in Gananoque after our 3 day kayaking trip
Almost back in Gananoque after our 3 day 1000 Islands kayaking trip

To make a campsite or oTENTik reservation call 1-877-737-3783 or visit the Parks Canada reservation page.

You can also read about a one day kayaking tour in the 1000 Islands.

A few things to take with you kayaking

These are things I always take with me on short or multi-day kayaking trips. 

Further reading on things to do in Ontario

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A multi-day kayaking trip in Ontario's 1000 Island can include stays in tents or oTENTiks but reserve well in advance

Thank you to 1000 Islands Kayaking for the use of their kayaks and to Travel 1000 Islands for organizing all aspects of our stay.

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I just started kayaking this summer, would love to do a trip like this…looks fantastic. No way my shoulders could handle that much paddling though. Excellent photos, I love that area.

  2. Hi, If you don’t mind, can you tell me the cost for 2 days in oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island? I’m planning a trip for my family 😀 and I see the view on your pics is so beautiful!

  3. Hoping for less winds when we go in August. Looking forward to some digital detox though! Thanks for the tips!

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