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This mesmerizingly beautiful drive will take you through some of the most picturesque islands in North America, The Thousand Islands. A tropical-like destination in summer and a brilliant excursion of fall colours after. This peaceful drive between Gananoque in Southeastern Ontario to Watertown in Northern New York State has endless shorelines, rich history and unique culture.

 

Gananoque

 

Gananoque, ON Photo by: @pam.code

 

We start our drive in Gananoque, considered as the “Gateway to the Thousand Islands”. Gananoque has some of Eastern Ontario’s finest waterfront communities. Gananoque is an aboriginal name that means “Town of two Rivers”, River Gananoque and the St. Lawrence River. The town is conveniently located on Hwy 401 and has equal proximity to some of the big cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and New York. Gananoque boasts a variety of healthy outdoor activities including sea kayaking, scuba diving, swimming, nature walks, and the 37 km Thousand Islands Bike Path. Take off from the area docks in search of muskie, pike, bass and other freshwater fish, as the St. Lawrence River has world-renowned fishing. Canada’s dockside theatre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, is a lovely theatre on the waterfront with a large walk-about deck and a great view of the St. Lawrence River produces theatre that entertains, engages and inspires the audience. The work truly resonates locally, throughout Eastern Ontario and across Canada.

 

Thousand Island Playhouse, ON Photo by: @thousandislandplayhouse

 

Rockport

 

Rockport, ON Photo by: @gourgon95

 

As we drive away from Gananoque on Hwy 401 and then head south on Route 137 we take a detour and head east on the riverside route, Thousand Islands Pkwy, to the historic village of Rockport. The Irish and the Scottish were the first settlers in the area around 200 years ago and the village of Rockport was an important steamboat centre. Rockport’s history of boat building is depicted by a mural on the boat building shed at Andress Boat Works. And if you have a little extra time in your hand be sure to do a walking tour of Rockport to get a glimpse of the village’s 200 years history. The walk could certainly make you hungry and in which case, the Boathouse Country Inn comes to your rescue. Grab a seat on their riverside patio and enjoy their favourite fish and chips while overlooking the waters.

 

Thousand Island Tower, ON Photo by: @natalia.zhyznevskaya

 

Now we head back on Route 137 and go over the iconic Thousand Island Bridge. The bridge over the St. Lawrence River goes across Constance Island and Georgina Island to reach the state of New York. Just before we cross the borders make sure to stop by at the Thousand Islands Tower. The 130-meter tall tower has an elevator that takes you to the top to give a spectacular view of the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence river. Don’t forget to take your cameras up there, we bet you’ll want to take a few shots from up top!

 

While on the drive, check out our TWR blog on “Kingston & Wolfe Island: Checking Off The “Day-cation” Bucket List” for some unique eats and off-the-beaten experiences and natural wonders in the 1000 island region.

 

Fisher’s Landing

 

Fisher’s Landing, NY Photo by: @visit1000islands

 

As we go across the river on the Thousand Island Bridge on route 81, we make another detour to the west on route 12 to get to Fisher’s Landing, our first stop across the border. This small community of only 100 people is situated on the banks of River St. Lawrence. The historic hamlet is known for its riverside views and marinas. The highlight though is the Rock Island Lighthouse situated on a small island called Rock Island. Clayton Boat tours offer boat rides to the island, so you can climb the spiral ladders on top of this well-restored lighthouse for breath-taking views. Truly an amazing experience you don’t want to miss out on.

 

LafargeVille

 

Can-am Speedway, NY Photo by: @kylie4984

 

Our next stop is LafargeVille, we drive south from Fisher’s Landing on Route 180 to get here. LafargeVille is the principal village of the town of Orleans with a population of fewer than 1000 people. The hamlet was named after John Frederick La Farge, a French immigrant and businessman who arrived here in 1826 and was previously called “Log Mills” because of sawmill business here earlier. And if you are a car racing fan, you are going to love the next stop we are about to make in this hamlet: Can-Am Speedway. This 2-mile dirt oval raceway is home to some serious car racing history where competitors from Canada and America compete for the title. Be sure to attend this car race!

 

Watertown

 

Little Trees Air Freshener

 

We head east on Route 81 as we continue our drive to our final destination on the banks of Black River, Watertown. The city was named after many waterfalls on the Black River. Located in northern New York state, the city is home to the most millionaires per capita than any other city in the States. The city was established in the early 19th century as an industrial and manufacturing centre. Fun facts: Watertown claims to be the origin of the Five and Dime store (variety store) and Safety pins. Also, you might have a Little Trees car freshener hanging on your car’s dashboard. Guess where it was made? If you guessed “Watertown” you are correct, Watertown is the home of Little Trees air fresheners.

 

This unique trip is perfectly curated for those who enjoy driving through small towns, experiencing the unique lifestyles of small hamlets across the US-Canada border in the Thousand Island region. And if you aren’t already in love with the Thousand Islands, spare some space for this beautiful region, it will surely take your breath away. As Charles Dickens rightly noted during his trip here in the 1840s, the Thousand Islands “can hardly be imagined.” Where else in the world can you find almost two thousand islands, all unique and just waiting to be discovered?

 

For more off-the-beaten-track experiences, one-of-a-kind eats, and natural wonders on the St. Lawrence Riverside, pop over to the partner page on the weekend route as well as the other blogs and vlogs for the area.

 

By following this preplanned route it is guaranteed that your trip along the water will be seamless yet unpredictable due to the off-the-beaten-track experiences, one-of-a-kind eats, and natural wonders that these off-the-water towns have to offer.

 

Try this route and email us at hello@theweekendroute.com with your experience or if you have other stops along the St. Lawrence that you think we should include in our route.  If you would like to become a  Weekend Route Adventurer send us your favourite off-the-beaten-track experience, a local one-of-a-kind eat, or a backcountry outdoor tip.

 

TWR Adventurer

Pratik