A charming small town known as the "Gateway to the Thousand Islands"
Gananoque Ontario is a small town of just over 5,000 residents located on the St. Lawrence River just east of the city of Kingston affectionately known as: “The Gateway to the 1000 islands” as it is these beautiful islands in the middle of the river which are part of the larger Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve that are by far the towns main draw.
The town’s unusually sounding name is actually an aboriginal name meaning the “town on two rivers” as the Gananoque River flows through its middle while the St. Lawrence River forms its southern border. At first site it is hard for most people to pronounce but an easy way to learn the right pronunciation is to remember this little rhyme: “There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Gananoque”.
United Empire Loyalists who came north after the American Revolution originally settled the area and the actual town site was established by Colonel John Stone in 1789. The small settlement grew in importance and became a military storage depot and when the War of 1812 broke out between the United States and Britain it became an important target for American forces and was almost immediately attacked and sacked. The British responded by hurriedly building a military blockhouse fortification but the Americans never returned and the town eventually lost its military importance and developed into the vibrant tourist destination that it is today.
The main draw to the region in undoubtedly the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River and most activities and attractions are centered on these premier Ontario tourist destinations.
Location of Gananoque Ontario
How to get to Gananoque:
Gananoque Ontario sits astride Highway 401, the main east west transportation corridor in the province. As such, to find your way to this community simply navigate to this highway from your starting location and then heads either east or west.
By Public Transport
Gananoque also sits along the main east-west railway line linking Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal. As such there is regular via rail passenger service. For more information visit: www.viarail.ca
Gananoque’s small airport does not offer passenger service and is utilized mainly as a centre for skydiving. The closest airport for domestic flights would be Norman Rogers Airport in Kingston while the International Airport in Ottawa would be the closest airport handling international flights.
Other means of public transport serve the community so well it is highly recommended that if flying into either Pearson International in Toronto or Ottawa International, travelers should simply transfer to one of these other modes of transport to complete the trip to Gananoque Ontario.
Sitting along the main transportation corridor between Toronto and Montreal Gananoque is well serviced and easy to get to by bus.
Gananoque Attractions and Activities:
Thousand Islands Parkway
This scenic two-lane 40 kilometre (25 mile) long parkway runs along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River from Gananoque to Brockville. Originally part of the main east-west route between Montreal and Toronto it is now a secondary route most noted for its beautiful stretches of scenery amongst the magnificent Thousand Islands. A cycling and walking path runs parallel to the roadway along its entire length and there are many clearly marked scenic viewpoints, lookouts and points of interest along the way.
1000 Islands Heritage Museum
Officially named the Arthur Childs 1000 Islands Heritage Museum it is located in downtown Gananoque on the site of the former 1000 Islands Railway station and is part of the much larger Historic Thousand Islands Village complex. The museum was the brainchild of local citizen Arthur Child and it highlights the cultural and historical contributions of the 1000 Islands region including the Thousand Islands – Frontenac Arch UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Visitors will see exhibits and artifacts from various eras of the regions history including:
- Early First Nations peoples
- Early European explorers and voyageurs
- The First settlers
- The War of 1812
- Construction of grand “castles” and cottages
- Unique flora and fauna of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve
There is also a very nice observation tower on site that gives magnificent views over the Admiralty Island group portion of the 1000 Islands.
As the Gateway to the Thousand Islands Gananoque Ontario is one of the premier places from which to take a 1000 Islands boat cruise. The Gananoque Boat Line offers regular cruises from mid-May to mid-October. Cruises vary in length from 1 to 5 hours and take in various sites amongst the islands including historic Boldt Castle.
This small St. Lawrence River port is a hub of boating activity in the busy summer months. Boaters from across the province and for that matter the continent and the world flock to Gananoque as it is at the centre of the 1000 Islands, the St. Lawrence River and is also very close to the entranceway of the Rideau Canal waterway.
Additionally, many American boaters from the many small ports and marinas on the other side of the river make frequent trips to the well-maintained marina in the centre of town. Boat dockage and rentals are available.
Gananoque Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands region in particular are world-renowned fishing destinations. You can enjoy some of the best freshwater fishing in the world and land many different species of game fish including:
- Muskellunge (muskie)
- Northern Pike
- Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass
- Yellow Perch
Boat rentals are available but whether dropping a line from shore or from on the water itself you will be sure to experience one of your greatest fishing adventures ever.
As with most areas of the 1000 Islands region canoeing and sea kayaking is a hugely popular summertime activity. On any given weekend during the busy summer months you are sure to see thousands of these small personal watercraft plying the many narrows and channels amongst the islands.
For visitors that wish to partake in this splendid sport rentals and tours are available at 1000 Islands Kayaking located right in the heart of Gananoque.
Swimming in the waters of the St. Lawrence River is also a hugely popular summertime activity and there are a number of small beaches in the immediate Gananoque vicinity including:
- Joel Stone Beach – a nice monitored sandy beach with an accompanying splash pad for small children it is located right in the centre of town near the marina and the Arthur Child Heritage Museum.
- Rotary Beach – Located just east of the marina in downtown Gananoque swimming is available although this location is a better spot for launching a canoe and/or kayak.
- Grass Creek Park – Just west of Gananoque oh Highway #2 a small but nice sandy beach id available at this small park.
You can also swim at Landon Bay which is located on the Thousand Islands Parkway just outside of Ganagoque. There is a large overhanging lookout rock where swimmers can dive into the waters with its sandy bottom.
The treacherous channels that run between the Thousand Islands have long been a ship captain’s nightmare. The waterway has long been a main transportation route for both Canadians and Americans alike and the result is that many ships have failed to navigate through safely and have gone to the bottom. The result today for tourists is a thriving shipwreck diving industry. There are a few companies in the general Gananoque Ontario vicinity that cater to these specialized dives.
A popular activity in the Gananoque Ontario area since the early 1970’s Skydive Gananoque offers freefall tandem and single jumps from heights up the 13,500 feet. Operating from the small Gananoque airport 8.0 kilometres (4.8 miels) outside of town it is one of the main skydiving centres in the province and full instruction for beginners or first time jumpers is provided.
The 40 kilometre (24 mile) cycling path that runs parallel to the Thousand Islands Parkway draws cycling enthusiasts from across the province and the northeastern United States and on any given summer weekend you will see thousands of cyclists enjoying the wonderful sites along the river.
The pathway is safe and clearly marked and features many locations along the route for you to pull over and safely park your vehicle while you hop on your bikes for a leisurely ride. There are also numerous refreshment stops along the way and you will pass through the small towns of Rockport and Mallorytown on the way to Brockville with each offering public facilities.
Cycling the path along its entire length can easily be completed at a leisurely pace in 2-3 hours so for many a round trip is a great way to spend an afternoon while enjoying the beautiful sights the Thousand Islands has to offer.
For out of towner’s that wish to partake in this activity but don’t have their own bikes rentals are available in Gananoque at 100 Islands Cycle. For more information call: 613-382-5144
The Thousand Islands Parkway trail is both a cycling and hiking path. As such the 40-kilometre (24 mile) route is constantly filled with hikers and joggers during most daytime hours. The route is also part of the much large Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail that stretches from the Quebec border to Fort Erie in Southern Ontario and you will find the odd hiker that is traversing its entire length during a prolonged hiking adventure.
Gananoque Ontario itself also has the town administered 12 kilometre (7.2 mile) Gananoque Trail System that allows hikers the chance to see the beauty of the town from a different perspective. The downtown system is divided into three loops:
- Lions Loop
- Rogers Loop
- River Loop
Thousand Islands Playhouse
A live theatre company offering summer performance at two waterfront venues:
- Springer Theatre (site of the former Gananoque Canoe Club) – 360 seats
- Firehall Theatre – 140 seats
Hugely successful performances are offered from late-May until early November. Docking of small pleasure crafts for visitors is available on site.
OLG Casino Thousand Islands
With all the amenities expected from a small casino, gamblers have a number of options from which to try their luck. In addition to 500 slot machines there is also 18 tables offering games such as:
- Various Poker games
Located just outside Gananoque Ontario at the junction of Highway 401, Highway #2 and the 1000 Island Parkway.