Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mini stay-cation

Last weekend we were camping at Ivy Lea Campground at a Thousand Islands. What a beautiful place it is (not necessarily the campground itself, but rather the area it is in)! On our second day there we decided to be tourists for a day and go on one of those day cruises (well, 5.5 hours actually) and visit the Boldt Castle as well. What I didn’t realize, of course, is that this castle is located in the state of New York! Thankfully, I thought ahead and brought our Canadian passports as everyone getting off the boat at the island is required to go through passport control.

Let me tell you a little bit about our trip…

The Thousand Islands themselves are beautiful. They are a huge cluster of over 1,800 islands located in the Saint Lawrence Seaway along the Canada-US border (in the province of Ontario and the state of New York). They range in size from 100 square km to some really tiny-weenie ones. I looked it up – you can actually buy yourself a small island for $40,000! Approximately twenty of these islands form the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, which is considered to be the smallest of Canada’s national parks. The Thousand Islands Frontenac Arch region was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2002. The US islands include numerous New York state parks, including Wellesley Island State Park, and Robert Moses State Park - Thousand Islands located on an island in the St. Lawrence.

We were taken with beautiful cottages situated all along the coast and on the larger islands, ESPECIALLY the so-called Millionaire’s Row! One word “WOW”… 
Our destination was Heart Island, NY, upon which a beautiful house sits – the Boldt Castle. According to its history, “at the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.” However, she died suddenly in 1904, and all the work on this building was halted. George never returned to the island, and the castle fell into despair left to the mercy of the elements. Finally, in 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977 for $1 with a promise that through the use of all net revenues from the castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Several rooms have been fully finished while others still stand as they were.
The Power House of Boldt Castle, the first thing you see coming around the corner...

The Bodlt Castle itself

One of the few finished rooms

One of the MANY unfinished rooms.
Imagine the possibilities!
Things to remember:

* Bring your passports
* Pack a picnic (the ground have a lovely picnic area in the shade)
* Entry to the island is extra $8 for adults and $5.50 for children over 6

The Boldt Castle is a display of beautiful architecture and is worth a trip, I think. Though I could't escape the feeling that this is just some rich guy’s house that didn't get finished… Still, the finished rooms are beautiful and the unfinished ones give visitors the opportunity to imagine what they would have looked like in the early 1900s had they been finished; they are of beautiful shapes and grandiose size.
Yummy salt water taffy I tried for the first time :)

We were allotted approximately 2 hours on the island before going back to Canadian soil. The boat took us around the other way (north and around), and we were able to see a handful of notable islands such as Deer Island (owned by the Skull and Bones Society of Yale University), Longue Vue Island (the region’s only artificial island) and Zavikon Island.

This last island I just mentioned is interesting: technically, it consists of a large island that has a large cottage on it (with some lawn even) and a tiny island with only a tall cross standing. The tour operator told us that the large island in located in Canada while the small one is in the US. The bridge connecting the two is the world’s smallest international bridge. Naturally, I photographed it.
Zavikon Islands and the "world's smallest international bridge"
But it sparked my curiosity…

Why is it that I’ve never heard of this before given how close all of this is to Ottawa? I took to the Internet and found out that what we were told was simply NOT TRUE! Both islands are within Canada (see the map below)! Apparently this fact is a popular tale among the local tour guides.
courtesy of Google Maps
At the end of it all, it was a great day and we enjoy a wonderful sunset on our way back to Gananoque.



  1. Looks lovely. I've been meaning to visit Thousand Islands since I went to school in Kingston.
    One day!
    And yes, got to remember the passport. It's easy to forget!

  2. I'm from the west part of Canada and I've never even heard of this park! Thanks for the lovely "tour".

    1. You are welcome! I've been living just 2 hours away for the past 13 years and only now made it there!