Thousand Islands National Park is one of my all-time favorite places to visit in Ontario. The fresh air of the St. Lawrence River mixed with the breathtaking views of the chain of islands just off the shores makes the Thousand Islands, Ontario, unlike any other place in the world. It’s no wonder that Thousand Islands NP has become among the most famous national parks in Ontario.
Whether you’re looking for hiking, boat cruises, interpretive programs, or Thousand Islands camping, there are loads of things to do in the Thousand Islands for families. We’ve visited the Thousand Islands National Park with kids many times. And through these trips, I’ve racked up some of the best tips for experiencing the Thousand Islands for yourself.
Where Is Thousand Islands National Park Ontario
By national park standards, Thousand Islands National Park is pretty tiny. The park covers just a 24.4 square km (15.16 square mile) area between Landon Bay and Mallorytown Landing, while the islands stretch between the cities of Brockville and Kingston. Positioned on the eastern shores of the St. Lawrence River, the Thousand Islands sits right on the border of the United States and is a popular destination for both Canadian and American travelers.
The main entrance of Thousands Islands park is located on the Mallorytown inland just off of the Thousand Islands Parkway. The Thousand Islands Parkway runs along the St. Lawrence River from Gananoque to Butternut Bay, where it reconnects with HWY 401. The island chain of Thousand Islands park stretches through the St. Lawrence River. This means that much of Thousand Islands Ontario is only accessible via boat.
About The Thousand Islands Canada
The Thousand Islands are believed to have been inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago. Indigenous people arrived following the end of the last ice age and established routes along the St. Lawrence River. There are even pictographs visible on some of the shoreline cliffs. Although many have been damaged by weather and vandalism. For a look at some well-preserved pictographs nearby, consider a trip to Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Although the Thousand Islands consists of about 1,864 islands, there are only 21 islands within Thousand Islands National Park itself. The islands of the park are said to be the granite remnants of an ancient mountain range that once divided the landscape.
Although it’s small, the Thousand Islands, Ontario is rich in biodiversity. The park was established to protect this part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Thousand Islands National Park was the first Canadian national park east of the Rocky Mountains. It was established in 1904. Since then, it has grown to be one of the most popular destinations in the country.
Thousand Islands National Park Things To Do
Spending a weekend in the Thousand Islands is one of the best ways to experience Ontario. Whether you love nature, exploring, boating, or even exploring the quaint towns along the St. Lawrence River, there are more things to do in and around Thousand Islands National Park than you can imagine.
This Ontario park is a true family-friendly Ontario destination. Whether you’re looking for things to do in Thousand Islands National Park itself, or nearby, here are a few of our top Thousand Islands Ontario attractions.
Things To Do In Thousand Islands National Park
Whether you’re looking to paddle, hike, or camp, the turquoise waters of the Thousand Islands make for one of the province’s most magical getaways. Here are our top Thousand Islands things to do within the park itself.
Explore The Thousand Islands Visitor Centre
Every great visit to Thousand Islands National Park starts at the Thousand Islands National Park Visitor Centre. You can plan your park visit and learn about what makes this park such an incredible part of the province. You can get a hold of Thousand Islands National Park maps, access bbq facilities, and take in the park exhibits.
Families will find loads of nature programs, a playground, picnic shelters, and barbecues. Kids can join a scavenger hunt, geocaching activities, and even see live animal displays.
Thousand Islands Camping
Family camping is one of the best things to do in Thousand Islands National Park. Whether you want to enjoy one of the riverside oTENTiks or cabins or experience traditional tent camping in the Thousand Islands, there really isn’t a bad campsite in Thousand Islands National Park.
Waking up with a view of the sparkling water and countless islands before you is spectacular. And Thousand Islands camping makes for the perfect way to start a day exploring the park and the areas nearby. There are 5 oTENTIK sites located on the mainland in Mallorytown Landing. And there are 25 island campsites scattered throughout the park. If you’re interested in camping on one of the Thousand Islands, you will need a boat or watercraft.
All campsites in Thousand Islands National Park come with fire pits and picnic tables. Cabins and oTENTiks also include a charcoal bbq (bring your own charcoal), and Muskoka chairs. Facilities and quality throughout the Thousand Islands camping spots can vary from island to island. If you have specific needs for your Thousand Island camping experience, connect with the park staff at (613) 923-5261.
There are no Thousand Islands RV campgrounds available. If you’re taking an RV to Thousand Islands National Park, consider visiting the Ivy Lea KOA. It’s situated just a short distance from the Landon’s Bay Centre.
Thousand Islands oTENTiks
oTENTik accommodations at Thousand Islands National Park are among my favorite. They all offer amazing views of the water. The Thousand Islands National Park oTENTiks sleep up to six people on bunk-style beds and provide tables, chairs, lighting, power for charging electronics, and a charcoal barbecue.
There are five oTENTiks available on Gordon Island, 2 on McDonald Island (only accessible via boat), and five available at Mallorytown Landing. You’ll need to make sure you pack bedding or sleeping bags (2x queen size bed and 2x double beds), food, dishes, and enough energy to explore all the things to do in the Thousand Islands.
Thousand Islands National Park Hiking
Both Mallorytown Landing and Landon Bay have a series of great Thousand Islands hiking trails. The hiking trails in Thousand Islands National Park range from easy 20-minute strolls to moderate two-hour hikes. Landon Bay offers the most extensive trail network in the park, although a series of accessible walks can be found near the visitor center in Mallorytown Landing.
The Lookout Trail is famous for having one of the most breathtaking natural views in the area. Make sure to pick up a map to discover the best hiking trails in Thousand Islands Park.
Boating And Paddling The Thousand Islands
One of the best ways to explore Thousand Islands National Park is by boat. From the water, you can experience shipwrecks, Thousand Island castles, and the stunning landscapes of the St. Lawrence. You may even get the chance to see locals wildlife such as turtles and bald eagles.
Thousand Islands National Park doesn’t rent boats or paddle gear themselves. However, there are several businesses nearby that offer rentals for a few hours or a few days. In Gananoque, check out 1000 Islands Kayaking company and Pecks Marina for rentals. If you’re basing yourself in the Thousands Islands Kingston side, try Ahoy Rentals. These companies can offer Thousand Islands boating maps, tips, and safety instructions to help make your day unforgettable.
Launching Your Own Boat in the Thousand Islands
The towns surrounding Thousand Islands National Park have several marinas and launch sites for boats. However, if you’re looking to launch your own boat to explore the Thousand Islands, Mallorytown Landing has a great boat launch, dockage, and parking facilities.
Things To Do Near Thousand Islands National Park
The fun of the Thousand Islands doesn’t end at the park borders. One of the great things about Thousand Islands National Park is how many incredible things there are to do nearby. Here are some of the best things to do near Thousand Islands National Park.
Thousand Islands Boat Tours
Thousand Island boat tours are one of the top things to do near Thousand Islands National Park. There are a few tours that bring you in and around the islands where you can see some of the gorgeous homes and cottages that lucky landowners have managed to snap up. But if you want to have the full Thousand Islands boat tour package, bring your passport and experience the whole tour that includes visiting the two Thousand Island castles.
Boldt Castle and Singer Castle are both located on the US side of the Thousand Islands. While you can see them from the water, the actual experience requires landing and exploring their magnificent grounds firsthand. You can join tours with Gananoque Boat Lines in Gananoque, Ontario. This is the same company that runs the popular Hornblower tours in Niagara Falls. You can check out their tour offerings here.
In Kingston, consider the Kingston 1000 Island cruises. They have excellent Thousand Island boat tours that can include the castles. You can check out their website here.
Thousand Islands Helicopter Tours
While boating in the Thousand Islands can give you a great perspective of the beauty of the island chain and the St.Lawrence River, the true scope of the Thousand Islands is best appreciated from the air. Seeing the majesty of the islands’ stretching out along the river waters is a sight that is not easily forgotten. You can book Thousand island helicopter tours right out of Kingston, Ontario. You can book a Thousand Islands helicopter tour from Kingston here.
Thousand Islands SCUBA Diving and Snorkeling
The St. Lawrence River has some of the best SCUBA diving and snorkeling in Ontario. The region around Thousand Islands National Park especially has a wealth of shipwrecks. There are dive shops in Brockville, Gananoque, Mallorytown, and Kingston that offer SCUBA and snorkeling tours of the Thousand Islands.
Skywood Eco Adventure Park
If you’re on a family trip to the Thousand Islands and are looking for some great activities for youngsters and teenagers, consider a visit to the Skywood Eco Adventure Park in Mallorytown. This fun-filled Thousand Islands attraction has zip-lines, canopy tours, aerial games, and a treetop village that is perfect for young children. You can check out their website here.
Upper Canada Village
One of our regular stops on a Toronto to Montreal drive near the Thousand Islands has been Upper Canada Village. This Parks Canada attraction is a recreation early Ontario village that comes complete with dozens of “locals” in period-dress that demonstrate the lives of those in turn-of-the-century Ontario. You’ll find everything from lumber and wool mills t0 farms, post offices, and more.
Upper Canada Village is also a great place if you’re considering exploring further south into Prince Edward County. If you’re looking for a fun way to experience Ontario history, this is a can’t-miss stop. You can find out more about Upper Canada Village here.
Brockville Aquatarium At Tall Ships Landing
One of the coolest places for those touring the Thousand Islands with kids is the Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing in Brockville. This hands-on interpretive center lets visitors learn about the Thousand Islands both above and below the waves. Visitors can touch starfish, steer ships, learn about the region’s weather patterns, and much more. You can find out more about the Aquatarium here.
Winter Activities In Thousand Islands National Park
The fun Thousand Islands things to do don’t stop when the weather gets cold. There are plenty of winter activities in Thousand Islands National Park to bring some warmth to your day.
Many of the Thousand Island hiking trails are converted to snowshoeing trails during the winter months. Strap on some snowshoes and hit the trails.
Visit nearby Kingston for some outdoor skating at Springer Market Square. There are heated washrooms and skate rentals available for the whole family.
Thousand Islands National Park For Kids
Visiting Thousand Islands National Park with kids is a blast. Families can enjoy any of the activities listed above. Children between the ages of 6-11 may also love the Parks Canada Xplorers program. This Parks Canada program starts with a series of fun activities at the Thousand Islands Visitors Centre. You can find out more about this program here.
Where To Stay Near Thousand Islands National Park
Whether you’re looking for Thousand Islands camping or oTENTiks, or Thousand Island hotels or B&Bs, there are loads of great places to stay near Thousand Islands National Park. Personally, I LOVE staying in the oTENTiks. Nothing beats the fantastic views of the river or cooking smores under the stars. You can reserve oTENTiks and island campsites on the Parks Canada website.
If you’re looking for Thousand Island hotels or other accommodations near the Thousand Islands, consider these.
Donald Gordon Hotel In Kingston
One of the highest-rated hotels in Kingston is the quaint and quiet Donald Gordon Hotel near the Queens University Campus. This Thousand Islands hotel offers free WiFi and daily breakfast. It’s just a short drive from the harbor and is popular for couples and families. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Stonewater Manor B&B in Gananoque
If you’re looking for a quieter and more luxurious experience, consider this Thousand Islands cottage-style B&B. The Stonewater Manor B&B in Gananoque is just a short paddle or boat ride from the Thousand Islands Playhouse at Boldt Castle. This highly-rated spot has an on-site restaurant, bar and offers WiFi throughout the property. They can even arrange bicycle rentals. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites 1000 Islands in Gananoque
If you’re looking for something that the whole family will love, consider the Holiday Inn Express in Gananoque. This Thousand Islands hotel has an indoor pool, sauna, and gym. There is a breakfast buffet available and the hotel offers easy access to Thousand Islands boat tours. This is one of the most popular Thousand Islands hotels for kids. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Our Thousand Islands Road Trip Video
We love to share videos of our travels over on our YouTube channel. You can check out our Thousand Islands road trip video right here. Make sure you like and subscribe to help support our content.
What To Pack For Visiting The Thousand Islands Canada
Before you head out to the Thousand Islands in Ontario, prepare for your visit by packing what you need. It will give you more time to explore the islands instead of running around chasing after forgotten items. If you’re camping in the Thousand Islands, you might want to check out our complete guide to family camping. It has a list of everything you may want to bring for camping with kids. Otherwise, here’s the basics of what to pack for exploring the Thousand Islands Canada and Thousand Islands National Park.
- Boating License (Optional): If you’re going to be using a powered boat in the Thousand Islands, you’ll likely need a valid boating license. These are not required for canoes, kayaks, and some houseboats. You can apply for the license here.
- Tent: Remember that tents sizes are for the number of bodies a tent can fit. Not the number of bodies that a tent can fit comfortably. If You are a family of four, consider a 6 person tent like this one.
- Sleeping bags: Pick something comfortable and light like this one for summer camping, or a cooler rated one for spring and autumn camping.
- Bug spray (something with DEET, especially during the early and late season to keep black flies and mosquitoes at bay)
- Cooking supplies (camping pots, plates, cutlery). I use a set like this one and it’s lasted me over 15 years so far.
- Water bottles: Personally I prefer using filtered water bottles. They can be refilled anywhere and ensure clean water is always at hand. You can check out my list of the 5 best filtered water bottles here.
- Water (We recommend bringing a large, refillable water container)
- Matches and fire starters
- Swimsuits and towels
- Fishing poles and bait
- Hiking shoes
- First Aid Kit
- Camping stove and propane (even if you are planning on cooking on the fire pit it’s important to remember that there are sometimes fire bans)
Final Thoughts On Visiting Thousand Islands National Park Canada
Whether you’re looking at Thousand Islands camping or exploring the Thousand Islands by boat or on foot, it will continue to be one of the best outdoor spaces in Ontario. It’s the perfect place to explore by water. But there are lots of options to explore by land as well. Visiting Thousand Islands National Park will make it very clear why it’s one of the most popular National Parks in Ontario.
Have you visited the Thousand Islands? What are your favorite things to do? Drop a comment below or tag our Instagram page in your photos. We would love to hear about your travels.
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