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Looking for a New Summer Vacation Spot?

by Susan G Mathis

There are still a few places in our beautiful United States that are little-known gems, vacation spots that are full of beauty, history, fun and wonderful family-friendly experiences. The Thousand Islands in Upstate New York is one of them. To help you plan for a great Thousand Islands adventure, here are some ideas of what to do while you’re there.

The Thousand Islands sit in the St. Lawrence River on the border between northern New York State (USA) and southeastern Ontario (Canada). There are 1,864 islands, but to be an island, it has to have one living tree and stay above water 365 days a year. That can be a challenge when the water can rise several feet each spring.

There’s a lot of rich history in the islands. Gilded Age castles, mansions and grand summer homes abound. Pirates and bootleggers once ruled the river where vacationers can now enjoy boat tours around the islands, see the area’s beauty and experience nature at its finest. If you take a boat tour, you’ll pass by Pullman Island where President Ulysses S. Grant visited and started the interest in coming to the islands back in 1872.

Accommodations are many, from hotels to motels to campsites to private homes. You can find lodging on Airbnb, VRBO and other sites. You can even rent entire mansions like Casa Blanca that was featured on the Travel Channel. You can also stay at Singer Castle on Dark Island, a Gilded Age castle completely furnished with original period décor.

If the borders are open (ahhh…COVID), be sure to bring your passport and see the Canadian side of the islands. You can drive over the beautiful Thousand Islands bridge or take a ferry from Cape Vincent to Wolfe Island, Canada, traverse the largest of the islands, and take another ferry to Kingston, Ontario.

In case the borders aren’t open, here are my top picks of things to do on the American side:

  1. Take a boat tour. There are several companies and lots of choices to see Millionaire Row, Singer Castle, Boldt Castle, Rock Island Lighthouse and dozens of islands and Gilded Age mansions. You can take a sunset cruise or a lunch or dinner cruise too. All are fun, educational and memorable.

  2. Visit Singer Castle and Boldt Castle. Wow! The history and magic are worth every moment you spend there.

  3. Visit the Cornwall Brothers Museum in Alexandria Bay, and the Thousand Islands Museum and Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.

  4. Visit the War of 1812 historic Sackets Harbor and the Rock Island Lighthouse and Tibbets Point Lighthouse.

  5. Leave your diet behind. Dine by the river’s edge and be sure to stop for ice cream at one (or several) of dozens of roadside ice cream huts. Yum!

Finally, be sure to enjoy the quaint downtown areas of Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Cape Vincent. Whether you like boating, fishing, swimming, diving, mini-golf, batting cages, go-karts, arcades, a hedgerow maze, zoos, aquariums, golf, tennis or guided fishing charters, there’s so much to do. And do you enjoy special events? Try these: Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days, Blues in the Bay Festival, Fourth of July Fireworks over Boldt Castle, Fish Day in the Bay, Roaring ’20s Weekend, The Cape Vincent French Festival held near Bastille Day on the second Saturday in July.

Ready to make plans? I am. Hope to see you there.

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. She has eight in her fiction line including Peyton’s Promise. Susan has been published more than twenty-four times in full-length novels, novellas and non-fiction books. Find out more at


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