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1000 Islands Kayaking: What A 3 Day Trip Looks Like

1000 Islands Kayaking: What a 3 Day Trip Looks Like

Setting out from Gananoque, there are several options for a three day kayaking trip in the 1000 Islands – 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 its first come first served and that will definitely influence where you end up kayaking.

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

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

Gananoque to Gordon Island

Our trip took us first 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.

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Staying put on Gordon Island on a windy afternoon

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Exploring the trails on Gordon Island

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

This old stone shelter offers respite from the wind on Gordon Island

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

There seem to be a lot more sailboats than kayaks – and notice the docks; not meant for getting out of kayaks

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Our oTENTik cabin on Gordon Island

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

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 en 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.

1000 Islands Kayaking: What a 3 Day Trip Looks Like

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.

1000 Islands Kayaking: What a 3 Day Trip Looks Like

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 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

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

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Looking out from Mulcaster Island

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

In the afternoon the waves and chop pick 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

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

McDonald Island is a popular docking spot for boaters

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Sunset on our campsite on McDonald Island

McDonald Island to Gananoque by kayak

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.

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

The perfection of the morning on McDonald Island

A 3 Day Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands

Almost back in Gananoque

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

You can read what a day tour in the 1000 Islands looks like here. It’s a great introduction to the area.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

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

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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 8 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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