Beauty in numbers

Beauty in numbers
For most tourists, especially first-timers, travelling to Canada’s Gananoque and the 1,000 Islands is not on top of the list. Relatively quiet, with roads free of heavy traffic and jostling touristy hordes, Gananoque town in Ontario is a must-do if you ever visit Canada.

The location is what makes it such a winner. Situated alongside the placid waters of St Lawrence River, Browns Bay, with the scenic 1,000 islands (big and small) that merge into the border with USA, and sandstone-outcroppings marinas, beaches and granite cliffs all around — Gananoque is a picturesque place. Add to this the live theatre, museum, water sports activities and cruises... and there is enough to keep you engaged for a week.

Sailing smooth
We began with the cruise, a big tourist draw of the area. The Gananoque Boat Line took us around the 1,000- islands archipelago straddling the Canada-USA border. The gentle and breezy ride over the calm and shimmering waters, which was accompanied by a commentary about the beautiful green islands that we went past and around, all made for an enjoyable morning.

We even got a chance to steer the boat for a minute or two each, thanks to a friendly captain. Some islands were large and had residences and roads, while the tiniest ones were uninhabited and more like a rock outcrop with only three or four trees.

There are a total of 1,864 islands in both countries, we were told. Another person said 1,867.

Along the way, we were shown the iconic Boldt Castle built around a century ago by a wealthy magnate, Louis Boldt, for his wife who, unfortunately, died before they could occupy it. Since abandoned, it’s now a tourist attraction. A large and ornate building on the lines of a German castle, it has 120 rooms, tunnels, a drawbridge, an enormous stone arch and Italian gardens.

One rarely gets to see plays when on a relatively short trip. So, sitting down for a play at the Thousand Islands Playhouse theatre seemed an exciting prospect. The play Don’t Dress for Dinner, a famous comedy, was delightful. A bonus was the superb views of the river from an observation deck alongside the theatre hall. We headed there during the interval — like so many others in the audience — and took in the beautiful view, before returning for the rest of the engaging entertainment.

Just when we felt that we hadn’t got enough of the islands came the helicopter ride over them. The 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours took us over the beautiful landscape that lay below including the border areas of New York state. The views were stunning and left us longing for more even as we touched down after 20 minutes of the ride.

Not to be missed
The Arthur Child Heritage Museum was one thing we missed due to paucity of time. The museum, a well-known landmark in Gananoque, traces the history of the area with its artefacts. You get to find out about the First Nations people, early settlers, fur traders...

We then visited the 1000 Islands Tower. It has a long and winding staircase, but the observation decks are reachable by an elevator. The skydeck, 400-ft tall, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounds, including St Lawrence River and the 1,000 islands. You can also glimpse the neighbouring USA on a clear day. Here, we saw a sign that said the 1,000 islands were actually only 997 islands, but the number is ‘exaggerated by including all shoals and rocks’ to make it 1867. For us, the stats were irrelevant. We had been completely charmed by the scenic beauty and tranquillity of the area.

As a waterfront destination, Gananoque abounds in outdoor activities. For those with time, take the 1000 Island Parkway Trail, a pathway that offers a great way to see this picturesque area. And, if you’re still looking for more, head to Gan Brewing Company for a tour and beer-tasting session, or the OLG Casino.
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