A Journey into the Thousand Islands

The beautiful St. Lawrence River, which runs some 1,200km (746 miles), was a significant trade route in New France and, to this day, remains Canada's most important commercial waterway. Traveled by explorers, fur traders, and missionaries in the 17th century and later by settlers en route to Ontario and the plains west, the river is still a magnificent sight. In some stretches, the river swells to more than 19km (12 miles) wide.

Along this stretch at Kingston, the St. Lawrence is known primarily for its Thousand Islands region. The Thousand Islands are nationally administrated as the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, headquartered at 2 C.R. 5 in Mallorytown (tel. 613/923-5261; www.pc.gc.ca). Canada's smallest national park is a beauty, encompassing an 80km (50-mile) stretch of the St. Lawrence from Kingston to Brockville. Along that stretch, you'll find a good supply of motels, cabin colonies, campgrounds, RV sites, and boat-launching sites, but development has mostly been contained. The park's visitor center and headquarters are on the mainland, where you'll find a picnic area, beach, and nature trail; access to the park's island facilities is via boat only. Most of the islands have docking and picnicking facilities, available on a first-come, first-served basis; primitive campsites cost about C$16 per day. Three consecutive days is the docking limit at each island.

Kingston is a good jumping-off point for touring the Thousand Islands. In summer, cruise boats navigate the channels, past such extraordinary sights as Boldt Castle, built on Heart Island in the early 1900s by millionaire George Boldt as a gift for his wife. (When she died suddenly, the work was abandoned, and it stands as a symbol of loss.) From Kingston Harbour at City Hall, in May to mid-October, you can take a 3-hour cruise for C$32 adults, C$16 children 4 to 12, on the Island Queen, a triple-deck paddle wheeler; a lunch on the boat during the cruise costs extra. The 90-minute cruises (about C$24 adults, C$12 children 4-12) aboard its sister boat, the Island Belle, take in the Kingston Harbour and waterfront. Both boats are used for 2-hour sunset cruises. Sunset dinner cruises of 3 1/2 hours are also available. For details, call tel. 613/549-5544 or check the website www.1000islandscruises.ca.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.