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It’s no secret that Justin and I love kayaking. A kayaking trip was long overdue as it’s been a while since we last kayaked together. Our last excursion was over two years ago when we visited Put in Bay, Ohio. No, we did not try a tandem kayak (the supposed relationship killer). I have kayaked without Justin in the meantime when I was in St. Thomas with my sister. Yes, that was a tandem kayak. By some miracle, we didn’t want to kill each other.
Kayaking truly allows you to explore spaces that can be relatively inaccessible otherwise. In Put in Bay, we kayaked to Gibraltar Island where we paddled around the rocky cliffs of private land owned by a university. Only a few members of staff and students are permitted to set foot on the island; however, kayakers are allowed to drift around the craggy isle. In St. Thomas, we floated alongside the mangroves to Cas Cay, a wildlife sanctuary that’s a far cry from the crowded cruise port of Charlotte Amalie. And in the 1000 Islands, well, you can likely already tell by the name that there are thousands of locations to uncover.
Justin and I stayed overnight in Kingston after going stand-up paddleboarding on the St. Lawrence River. We headed out bright and early for our kayaking trip. We drove to Gananoque (pronouned Gan-an-aw-kway) to meet our tour guides at 1000 Islands Kayaking. Upon our arrival, we were delighted to discover that no one else had signed up for a full day kayak tour that day. The tour would be a private one for just the two of us. Here’s a preview of our kayaking tour in the Thousand Islands:
We met the owner of 1000 Islands kayaking, Scott, and our tour guide for the day, Kelly. Scott was so enthusiastic about kayaking and the region; his passion for the Thousand Islands was truly evident. Kelly took us out to the pier and talked briefly about the kayaks and paddles we would be using for the day. Before long, we were in the water and paddling away from Gananoque. We were mindful of the larger ferries and boats along the St. Lawrence River. This waterway hosts many larger ships carrying passengers all over the 1000 Islands. Though we did not encounter many vessels, we were certain to always give them the right of way.
Kelly guided us through a basic “Kayaking 101” lesson, showing us a few different types of kayaking strokes. These short lessons were naturally integrated into our kayaking tour as we meandered down the river. Despite the fact that we had kayaked before, we’d actually never been given a formal lesson. It was really nice knowing how to maneuver our kayaks easily when we needed to change our position (if we were about to glide into a rock…or each other). The most valuable part of this lesson was learning how to stop! Kelly was a great teacher who had such a bright and cheerful attitude throughout the day.
The 1000 Islands is actually comprised of more than 1800 islands in total. The islands are actually the tops of an ancient mountain range that once stood tall in this region before the last Ice Age. When the glaciers melted and water flowed, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River were formed. Most of the mountain range was submerged, leaving some rocky, granite land masses to protrude from the surface of the water. These are the islands that exist today.
Kelly guided us past Sisters Island and Pike Island. We floated along the river, passing many custom designed cottages and buildings on our way. One cottage was designed to look as though it was partially submerged into the water – how funny! Once we were past the larger mouth of the river, we entered much calmer channels. The water was very still with small ripples forming only when our paddles pierced the surface.
The 1000 Islands are part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is notable for its biodiversity. This region’s Precambrian rock provides habitat for many rare and endangered species, including many reptiles and amphibians. There are also over 250 species of birds that live in this area. We saw many types of birds while we kayaked, including a variety of geese, ducks, eagles, heron, and even an osprey (a species that nearly died out from pesticide use and whose numbers are slowly increasing due to conservation efforts).
Kelly showed us the remnants of a sunken shipwreck with an interesting tale. Back in the early 1900s, the ship was purposely run aground. At a New Year’s Eve party in the 1930s, the owners celebrated on the ship and decided to sink the ship once and for all. They lit the ship on fire and fled presumably across the frozen water back to land. As we paddled by, we could easily see parts of the ship visible underwater. The water was quite clear throughout our journey.
We continued to paddle around the Admiralty Islands in awe of our beautiful surroundings.
We kayaked to Half Moon Bay, a small cove at the southeastern portion of Bostwick Island. It is a secluded area with tall, rocky cliffs. Unlike some of the other islands, these cliffs are flat, smoothed by the rushing water during the glacial melt. This cove is a natural amphitheater, and also known as the tallest cathedral. Church services of a variety of denominations are held here on a regular basis. Since the 1800s, people have paddled their small boats into Half Moon Bay to worship together.
Our kayaking tour continued around Bostwick Island and past Mermaid Island. Our midday destination was Beau Rivage Island where we would eat lunch together.
Lunch at Beau Rivage Island
We informed Scott that we both consumed a vegan diet ahead of time, and he was happy to accommodate our diet. The meal relied heavily on fresh, local produce and could easily be altered into a vegan dish. While Kelly prepared our meal in one of the pavilions, Justin and I explored a section of Beau Rivage on our own. It was a peaceful and quiet island with only a few visitors who traveled there by boat. Camping was permitted on Beau Rivage, though we would only be staying a short while.
Kelly called us for lunch and we were astounded at how amazing this meal looked! It was hard to believe that we transported all of the ingredients stowed away in our kayaks, and Kelly prepared everything so quickly! There were loads of fresh veggies to be placed inside rosemary wraps from a local farmer’s market. The meal used almost all locally produced ingredients from the farms of the Great Waterway region. Some vegetables, such as the lettuce, came right from Kelly’s own backyard garden! She made a zucchini hummus and a quinoa/kale salad. There were also plates of fresh fruits that were perfectly ripe. We were so delighted with this healthy and delicious lunch.
Scott joined us for the remainder of our kayaking trip. We made one more stop on McDonald Island to catch some glimpses of the tiny beach and the glamping accommodations there. These cabins looked as though they would be a more comfortable alternative to camping, staying indoors within the wilderness. Justin and I aren’t hugely into camping, even though we love spending time outdoors. Glamping seems like the perfect compromise for us and we’re looking forward to trying it sometime.
On the way back, we took in the scenery all around us. The 1000 Islands is a breathtaking region and we only skimmed the surface of what it has to offer. Kelly went into great detail about the flora and fauna as we encountered it. She was not only knowledgeable about kayaking and the natural surroundings, but also cared deeply for the environment. It was wonderful spending the day with her. Kayaking in the 1000 Islands was such an enriching experience, both for the physical exercise and the gorgeous nature that was all around.
We highly recommend 1000 Islands Kayaking and their tours. We had a fantastic day, filled with many memorable moments. 1000 Islands Kayaking offers full and half day tours, kayaking lessons, and even a “paddle and a pint” where you go kayaking and then out to a local pub afterwards!
Looking for more adventures in the 1000 Islands and beyond? You can go hiking at the 1000 Islands National Park or check out the Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves on a road trip traveling west of Kingston.
Have you ever visited the 1000 Islands?