Photo courtesy of 1000 Islands Tourism
1000 Islands / Brockville Region
Does Ontario come to mind for your next island getaway? It should. The Thousand Islands region stretches east along the St. Lawrence River and includes a staggering 1,864 islands between Canada and the United States. Originally a favourite spot for the Haudenosaunee, who called it Manitouana or “Garden of the Great Spirit,” the region shines in the summer and has plenty to do during the cooler months too.
Updated November 15, 2022
A TURN OF THE CENTURY ESTATE – 10:00 AM
FOUNTAINS, SCULPTURE, AND PAINTINGS – OH MY!
Senator George Taylor Fulford made his fortune selling “Pink Pills for Pale People,” an iron-rich tonic that treated anaemia, clinical depression and lack of appetite or energy. This invention afforded him a 20,000-square-foot mansion, finished in 1901 and built as his summer home.
Fulford Place was lovingly restored by the Ontario Heritage Trust. Inside, find original tapestries, ceramics, and paintings from his world travels. Outside, enjoy a stroll through the Italianate-style gardens. Originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers – who also designed New York’s Central Park.
AN INDUSTRIOUS NINETEENTH CENTURY CITY – 11:00 AM
ICONIC CANADIAN ARCHITECTURE ALONG THE RIVER
Settled along the bank of St. Lawrence, Brockville was one of many ports where ships would dock and ferry goods and visitors from far afield. The city became even more integrated with trade networks across Canada when the Brockville Railway Tunnel opened in 1860. The historic tunnel was recently refurbished and is now open seasonally, often featuring special community events and live music inside.
The downtown core is packed with historic buildings that served multiple purposes for the bustling nineteenth-century community – even City Hall used to be a combination concert hall, office space, and indoor market!
As you drive up County Road 29 to the stately Brockville Courthouse, spot the intricate stonework of the Thomas Fuller Building, named for, and designed by the 15-year-tenure architect for the Canadian Government. This building also used to be the Brockville Post Office, further connecting the community to news, business, friends, and family from across the country.
WHAT’S IN AN AQUATARIUM? – 2:30 PM
LEARN ABOUT THE ST. LAWRENCE’S HISTORY AND ECOSYSTEM.
Your next port of call is the Aquatarium, an interactive science and education museum which teaches about the unique ecosystems of the St. Lawrence and the ships that once cruised it. Navy buffs will love it here: there’s a reconstructed Captain’s Cabin from the 1780 HMS Ontario, a storm-sunken British warship used during the American Revolutionary War.
For a picnic in the area, head over to the scenic Blockhouse Island, which is walkable from the mainland by a short road.
LOCAL HISTORY AT BROCKVILLE MUSEUM – 3:30 PM
Since 1981, the museum has housed the stories of Brockville’s past. Learn about the Indigenous legacy and presence in the area, dive into the industrial and manufacturing story, and discover notable history from the region, including its Black history. The museum also centres the role immigration played for the city with its award-winning exhibit, Travel Trunk: Unpacking Brockville’s Cultural Stories, geared towards children and featuring newcomers’ firsthand accounts.
Keen on the spookier, creepier side of Brockville? Take one of many Brockville Ghost Walks and Haunted Tours offered by the museum during the summer.
STROLL THROUGH KING STREET WEST – 6:00 PM
FIND YOUR CREATIVE HOME AT THE ARTS CENTRE.
A place for music, talks and theatre shows, the Brockville Arts Centre has a long history of serving creative communities. Now situated in a building first constructed in 1858 as a townhall and fire engine house, in its nearly 125-year history, it transitioned artistic uses as art and entertainment technologies evolved, welcoming opera performances and cinema screenings alike. In 2009, the building was fully restored and renovated to be a fully accessible building while retaining much of its original charm, including some original stone.
After a show at the centre, round out your night with an evening walk along the waterfront, stopping in at shops, cafes and sights to see along the St. Lawrence River.
THE SECRETS OF THE LAKE – 10:00 AM
WAKE UP EARLY FOR ISLAND HOPPING.
From the neighbouring city of Gananoque, you’ll head off on a 2.5-hour cruise. Aim to arrive in Gananoque half an hour early, as the boat departs at 10:00 am sharp. On your boat ride, see the remarkable islands, historic structures along the river, and even treasures sunken beneath the water’s surface.
For a different kind of watery adventure, check out The Lost Ships of the 1000 Islands Cruise. Over the centuries, the St. Lawrence has seen thousands of ships pursue travel, trade, and warfare, but not every vessel completed its journey – many wreckages now rest underwater, and at least one, the Iroquoise/HMS Anson, has been sitting there for well over two centuries.
This cruise takes visitors past the famous Boldt Castle (c. 1900), the 1000 Islands International Bridge, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Catch glimpses of dozens of wreckages, like the Islander, Oconto, and Kinghorn. On the boat, get to know these ships better with an audio-visual presentation and side-scan sonar images of the various wrecks.
THE CHARM OF DOWNTOWN GANANOQUE – 12:30 PM
A MUSEUM ON THE BANKS
You won’t have to go far after disembarking your boat ride: the 1000 Islands Museum is in the Heritage Village district, right on the picturesque waterfront. The museum is a treasure trove of local history, documenting the islands, the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee First Peoples of the region, and the European settlers who came after. At the museum, you’ll also learn about the Black history of the area, like stories of Black soldiers, sailors and farmers in the region.
Stepping into downtown Gananoque, you’ll find a charming small town with a collection of antique stores, galleries and shops to peruse. Several historic structures are hiding in plain sight, like the local library which was once the Victoria House & Jones Shovel Company.
Then detour down Stone Street to take in more of the small town’s history. Visit the Clock Tower, which chimes every hour, before making your way to the swing bridge by the water.
Close your night out with a cut across to watch the sunset on the waterfront. The area around the 1000 Islands Playhouse is charming, with a great view of the islands and plenty of spots to eat, including Japanese, steakhouse and Italian cuisine.
YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE
YOUR TRIP AT A GLANCE
This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.
All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Li Robbins.