Gananoque, The Gateway to the 1000 Islands and Adventures
By Marc Smith.
I love, love, love Gananoque. Aside from Toronto, Gananoque has the pleasure of being my most visited destination in Ontario and there is more than one reason for it. As the Canadian gateway to the 1000 Islands you have access to Canada’s first highway, the St Lawrence River, the Rideau Canal and a vibrant arts & culture scene you wouldn’t expect from a town of only 5200.
The World has been vacationing in the 1000 Islands for hundreds of years and yet it is still a hidden gem for most of us. It is time to change that.
After Peterborough and the Kawarthas the next stop on my eastern Fall Colours road trip from Toronto is the 1000 Islands.
I’ve chosen to stay in the heart of Gananoque at the Comfort Inn & Suites. Walking distance to restaurants, art galleries and the Gananoque harbour front. I love a hotel room with a soaker jet tub in my room where I can watch TV while I’m relaxing. Check it out.
Fall Colours by Land, Water and Air
At this time of the year I am less inclined to be on the water kayaking between the islands as I am to drive around the countryside seeing the spectacular Fall foliage. Most cottagers are closing up the family cottage for the season but don’t worry there is still lots to see.
WATER – Rockport Cruises offers a great 1 hour Heart of the Islands cruise through the 1000 Islands showing you a little bit of everything including the famous Boldt Castle.
AIR – 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours is the absolute best way to see all of the islands and the Fall colours from a perspective we rarely get a chance to have, 1000 feet in the air.
CAR – Hop in your car and drive. It doesn’t matter where you drive you will see some spectacular foliage. Of particular interest may be the 1000 Islands parkway which connects all the communities in the 1000 Islands together.
A Vibrant Arts Scene
Nothing speaks to the heart and soul of a community like it’s art and culture scene does. For a town of just over 5000 people it is shocking to discover that Gananoque has over five galleries and five museums within a 25 minute drive from the town centre.
A must visit is the Little Pump House overlooking Confederation Park and the Gananoque River. Home to over 30 local artisans there is something here to interest everyone. I may have bought a couple fo things myself.
Heather Haynes Gallery is just up the street from Little Pump House and is home to an impressive collection by Heather Haynes herself. It is also a working studio for Syrian artist Houssam Alloum who immigrated to Canada 1 year ago and was a finalist for the prestigious Kingston Prize.
Where to Eat & Drink in the 1000 Islands
Sushi, scratch made local fare and really good coffee are what I come to Gananoque for. Three places that caught my attention on this visit include:
Laverne’s Eatery is where I go for espresso (multiple times a day), pastries and really great scratch cooking. Whatever you choose here you will love.
Hot Roast Company not only offers great baked goods and amazing cakes but this “diner” also serves up a wicked English Breakfast they call the Full Monty! Sometimes you just want bacon, sausage, ham and baked beans with your fried eggs and hash browns.
Sushi Sun was once voted the best sushi in Ottawa and now that they are located in Gananoque you can get authentic Japanese food to take out or dine in. For me it was a Prawn Vegetable Tempura and an order of Gananoque Rolls to go. Yum yum.
And for a bit of fine dining check out Riva Restaurant. This Italian restaurant serves up comfy Italian cuisine with a nice wine list and it’s an easy walk home if you stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites (it’s next door).
Chaffey’s Lock Adventure
There is one final adventure I highly recommend when you visit the 1000 Islands during the Fall season and it is the Fall Colour Cruise with Rideau Tours out of Chaffey’s Locks. It is almost done for the season but if you get a chance to be in the area next year you will want to do this.
Out of Chaffey’s Locks you will board a pontoon board and Captain Luc will take you on a tour of the surrounding lakes and waterways that were created when the Rideau Canal was built in 1832.
When it is over you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch at the Locks and wish you could go back out for me.
I think you can now see why I visit Gananoque and the 1000 Islands so much. It really is a Canadian signature experience and one I feel all Canadians should have at least once in their life.
Until next time Gananoque, but now I head west 30 minutes to what could have once been the Capital City of Canada, Kingston.
Featured photo: Fall colours on display at Boldt Castle 1000 Islands. Photo credit: Marc Smith.