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A Kayaking Trip In The 1000 Islands, Ontario

A Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands, Ontario

If you live in or plan to visit the Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal corridor this summer then try to fit in a stop to the charming town of Gananoque so you can spend at least a day on a kayaking trip in the 1000 Islands.

Gananoque (don’t miss great coffee at the Socialist Pig Coffeehouse either) is one of the gateways to the 1000 Islands, an archipelago consisting of 1,864 islands sandwiched between Canada and the United States in the St. Lawrence River. Of all the islands, just 21 are part of Thousand Islands National Park, formerly St. Lawrence Islands National Park.

"Peaceful, easy kayaking"

Peaceful, easy kayaking

Rocky granite islands, more reminiscent of the Georgian Bay area, windswept pines, and super clear water – thanks to the invasion of zebra mussels – greet you. While I was there in May it was non-stop bird song too, a function of the fact that the islands are located in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. In fact it is the second most biodiverse area in all of Canada. Over 250 species of birds, 53 mammal species, 17 types of amphibians, 15 snake types and 98 species of fish have been observed.

Apart from the peaceful, easy kayaking through the Admiralty Islands that I did – past many a summer cottage, some on islands not much bigger than the cottage itself, there is the chance to get a taste of Canadian history thanks to the knowledge of my guide Scott, owner for the past seven years of 1000 Island Kayaking.

  • Thwartway Island is a place where soldiers from World War II recovering from shell shock – post-traumatic stress disorder as we currently call it – would come to recuperate. When the camp closed the island was overtaken by forest and now boasts the largest intact ecosystem of all.
  • Half Moon Bay at the southeastern corner of Bostwick Island merits a stop. On Sundays in July and August afternoon church services are held. The pulpit is made of rock and the surrounding area is a quiet bay more like a rock amphitheater and one that to this day holds spiritual significance for the native people.
"Heading into Halfmoon Bay"

Heading into Halfmoon Bay

  • Don’t miss the rusted out moorings left over from the days when massive rafts made of white pine and white oak were floated down to Montreal for shipment to Europe. You can see it on Gull Rock – a tiny speck of an island.
"Rudder adjustment time"

Rudder adjustment time

Scott - demonstrating kayak strokes

Scott – demonstrating kayak strokes

Kayaking in the 1000 Islands"

Heading off towards the 1000 Islands

"Getting a history lesson about the shipwreck below our kayaks"

Getting a history lesson about the shipwreck below our kayaks

"Houseboats anchored on Beau Rivage Island"

Houseboats anchored on Beau Rivage Island

"It looks and feels like summer on the May long weekend"

It looks and feels like summer on the May long weekend

"Thanks to Zebra mussels the water is super clear"

Thanks to zebra mussels the water is super clear

One of the highlights of my day trip – apart from kayaking – was the gourmet lunch offered. It was healthy and delicious – with three types of bread, three types of meat and cheese including organic cheddar, vegetables galore, fruits and smoothie type drinks offered.

"The 1000 Islands kayaking company serves a gourmet lunch"

The 1000 Islands kayaking company serves a gourmet lunch

"Pretty campsite on Beau Rivage Island"

Pretty campsite on Beau Rivage Island

"The landscape is more like the Georgian Bay - granite and windswept pines"

The landscape is more like the Georgian Bay – granite and windswept pines

"Yellow kayak in the 1000 Islands"

"Kids playing on McDonald Island - one of the busier islands in Thousand Island National Park"

Kids playing on McDonald Island – one of the busier islands in Thousand Islands National Park

"Swan in the 1000 Islands"

"Heading back to the town of Gananoque via kayak"

Heading back to the town of Gananoque

Scott, the owner of 1000 Islands Kayaking sums it up nicely- accessible wilderness is what you get when you kayak through the 1000 Islands.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore them if you’re in the area.

Useful information about kayaking in the 1000 Islands

Highlights: Warm water for summer swimming, beautiful islands, history, bird life, rocky landscape, biodiversity, interesting geology

Where:  Gananoque is located on the St. Lawrence River, 150 kms (93 mi) south of Ottawa, 300 kms (186 mi) east of Toronto and 200 kms (124 mi) west of Montreal.

Grade: Easy but moderate if the weather turns and the wind picks up.

Time Needed: A minimum of a half day and up to three or four days if you have the time to weave your way through the islands

When: Early May through to October

How: Bring your own kayak or rent one in Gananoque and launch from the docks behind the headquarters for 1000 Islands Kayaking.

Cost: Kayaks can be rented starting at $35+ tax/3 hours for a single from 1000 Islands Kayaking. Prices go up from there. Primitive island camping permits are $15.70 per night and most are on a first come first served basis though you can reserve ahead of time on Beau Rivage, Mulcaster and Camelot Islands beginning in April.

Don’t forget: Watch for storms that can arise quickly. Check yourself for black legged ticks. Cellphones work out on the water.

Interesting fact: To count as one of the 1000 Islands there are three criteria; the island has to have an area greater than one square foot, the island must remain above the water level on a year round basis and it has to support at least one living tree.

Have you ever considered kayaking in the 1000 Islands?

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 13 Comments
  1. Dying to do a kayaking trip! Agh! I was so intrigued b the name 1000 Islands when driving through here on the way to TBEX. Love the photos.

    1. @Candice Can’t believe you haven’t done a kayaking trip in Newfoundland. I’d do the 1000 Islands again in a heartbeat and I know John would like to go out for a week long expedition.

  2. Wow. This place is stunning! So far, Scott and I have 2 trips planned for Canada. It’s time for us to start exploring this beautiful country!

    1. @Mette I have a Pentax K5-II and the lens I had on the day I was kayaking was a 18-55mm waterproof lens. Actually everything was quite small and I had it in a drybag right in front of me.

  3. Wow! I had no idea these islands existed!
    Also I am not sure I believe you about the good coffee! I couldn’t find a good cuppa when I was in Canada. Might have to check that out myself!

  4. Wow, this is absolutely gorgeous! I love all the scenery from your photos and would love to spend a few days visiting the different islands. Adding to the list!

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