One of the best travel experience is discovering a place of extraordinary beauty that you had never known. Thanks to my friend who planned this trip, my first ever to an archipelago! I had done zero research this time, and all the knowledge I gathered was from the guided boat tour.
A 7-hour bus ride from New Jersey, travelling through the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania, took us to Alexandra Bay in New York, where we took an hour-long boat ride through the 1000 islands. The number of islands to form this archipelago is not exactly a thousand but 1864 islands in total, bestriding the borders of US and Canada in the St. Lawrence River. Two-thirds of the islands belong to Canada, leaving the one-thirds to the US. The International border passes through St. Lawrence River, with New York on one side and Ontario on the other. Crystal clear water, lush green islands, and with the sun shining brightly, we were all set to step onboard and step back in time.
Our tour guide, a beautiful girl, with an immense knowledge of the place, shared important details throughout the journey. She called out when we crossed the international border and were on the Canadian side of the river, shared intriguing stories of the movers and shakers of the 19th century who flocked to these islands, made them their home, built castles, summer vacation homes, and grand hotels. One such interesting story was about the Boldt Castle on Heart Island, a private mansion built by an American millionaire for his wife. Boldt lost his wife before the castle was completed. A broken-hearted Boldt never returned to the island, leaving the structure as a monument of his love. Several years later, the island was acquired under the agreement that all revenues would be applied towards restoring the island to the state it was in when its construction halted. The castle has around 120 rooms and 365 windows – one for every day of the year. Try to imagine the castle in all its splendour had Mrs Boldt not died so early. Alas!
Another interesting story was around the period where the US had banned alcohol production and distribution. Local fishing guides turned drinking guides by night and 1000 islands became the gateway to America for quality spirits made in Canada. Bootleggers who risked their lives crossing the St. Lawrence river in the midst of the night were considered heroes by many people.
All along the cruise, we saw many jet-boat riders spinning and splashing, people fishing by the island shores, enthusiastic travellers trying to capture the beauty in their cameras, cruisers stocked on the upper deck of their ship waving at other boats.
From here on, I share only photos as words do no justice to its beauty. Thousand Islands to me will be an indelible memory for the serenity it has to offer and the excitement of being in two countries at the same time – by the water, not touching the land and without a visa 😉