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Road Trip Ideas From NYC: Best Route To A 1000 Islands Vacation

*A big thanks to I Love New York for hosting my road trip!

Did you know there’s an archipelago of 1,864 islands straddling New York (USA) & Ontario (Canada)?

Honestly, it wasn’t until I was researching road trip ideas from NYC that I learned about the 1000 Islands.

How could I have not known about it, despite living in New York my whole life and even being an NYC tour guide?

Luckily, I made this year the one that I set out to have an epic 1000 Islands vacation; exploring the best the region has to offer.

Now, if you’re looking for getaways near NYC that you can get to in one day, the drive is only a little over five hours.

However, to make this a true Upstate New York road trip post, I’m including other not-to-miss stops along the way, too.

Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Looking to take a New York road trip upstate from NYC? In this travel guide, you'll learn where to go, what to do and how to get around for an incredible NY itinerary! * * * #ILoveNY #NewYork #RoadTrips #EastCoast #UpstateNewYork

Free Travel Planning Kit

Want help planning your Upstate New York travels?

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Click here — or click the image above — to snag instant access to my FREE Ultimate Travel Planning Kit.

Inside, you’ll find worksheets, checklists, packing lists and more to help you plan a getaway to incredible New York vacation spots and beyond!

Also, check out these 6 amazing apps to download before your road trip.

Road Trips From NYC [Video]

Before diving into this post detailing my road trip around New York State, watch the video:

New York destinations included in the video are:

  • Oswego County
  • Lewis County
  • Lawrence County & the Adirondacks (where you can hike Mt Van Hoevenberg as well as hike Mt Marcy, the highest peak in New York!)
  • The Thousand Islands

Quick note: “The Thousand Islands” and “The 1000 Islands” are the same thing. Either spelling is correct!

Also, this itinerary is great if you’re looking for solo road trip ideas!

Getting Around New York State

For trips around New York state, you have a few transport options from NYC.

You can choose to:

  • Take the train, specifically Amtrak or Metro-North.
  • Take the bus. There are many companies that have routes from NYC, like Trailways (which goes from NYC to Corning) and Megabus.
  • Rent a car.

Important:

I don’t recommend ever renting a car from NYC.

It’s way too expensive, and you’ll likely get stuck in traffic trying to leave the city.

Instead, take Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal or Harlem-125th Street and head just a bit north to rent from somewhere outside the city.

For instance, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars renting a car in Croton, New York — not far from the popular Old Croton Aqueduct Trail — instead of Manhattan.

Pro tip:

Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have 10+ tabs up trying to figure out which company is the most affordable.

Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool.

You can try it out here:

One Week Road Trip From NYC

Now, without further adieu, here is the itinerary I suggest for a road trip in New York. If you’re looking for road trip ideas, you certainly won’t be disappointed with this one.

I recommend allotting a minimum of one week to complete this trip.

Stop #1: Corning, New York

You probably know Corning for its glass; though you’re in the perfect spot to explore natural beauty, as well.

From NYC, you’ll drive about five hours.

Or, you can take the Trailways Bus from Port Authority in Manhattan.

Including a stopover in Binghamton, the bus takes about six hours.

Places To Stay In Corning, NY

Click here for a list of local hotels.

Click here for a list of rentals & accommodations, or view the embedded map:

Full disclosure:

I chose Corning as my first stop because I was a speaker at the Travel Blog Exchange Conference (TBEX).

Speakers were reserved rooms at the Radisson Hotel Corning, which was a very comfortable hotel.

The best part:

If you walk out their back door and through their patio restaurant, you’re right on Market Street; the hub of Downtown Corning.

If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast in Corning, a popular choice is the Rosewood Inn.

This property has a Victorian aesthetic, with a delicious spread of fresh fruit, juice, cereal, granola, yogurt, eggs, cheeses, breads or muffins served each morning.

Both of these Corning accommodations are about a 15-minute walk to the Corning Museum of Glass.

Things To Do In Corning, NY

There are number of worthwhile Corning attractions to explore.

My favorite:

Market Street, the main thoroughfare of Downtown Corning and part of the historic Gaffer District.

market street
Market Street in Corning, NY

Here, you’ll find loads of local shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries.

Every morning, I’d have breakfast at the tasty Poppleton Bakery & Cafe, where almost everything on is made from scratch.

My favorite:

Their breakfast crepes. Heaven!

I also did my fair share of shopping local, buying soft t-shirts, a gorgeous floral planner and handmade soaps at stores like Connors Mercantile, Pip’s Boutique and Market Street Apothecary.

In the center of Market Street is a lovely square with a giant clock.

I loved coming here to sit outside and listen to the live music that was often playing.

downtown corning ny
The main square in Downtown Corning

Of course, no trip to Corning would be complete without visiting the Corning Museum of Glass. Honestly, no New York State tourist guide would be complete without mentioning it, too.

First of all, it’s the “world’s largest collection of glass,” showcasing about 50,000 objects sharing the story of 3,500 years of glass history.

But it’s more than simply looking at pieces; it’s interactive learning.

Don’t miss their inspiring Contemporary Art + Design Wing, glass blowing demonstrations or the glass science and innovation floor.

The best part, though?

Making your own glass!

corning museum of glass
Making my own glass bead at the Corning Museum of Glass

Personally, I made a lovely glass bead and added it to a bracelet string.

To get to the Corning Museum of Glass from Market Street, walk over the lovely Centerway Bridge.

This quiet pedestrian bridge offers lovely views over the Chemung River.

corning ny pedestrian bridge views
Views from the pedestrian bridge in Downtown Corning

Corning Day Trips

While there are many things to do in Corning directly, you’re also well-situated to take some unforgettable day trips.

From Corning, you’re near to the Southern Finger Lakes, where outdoor adventure, wine tasting and local farm-fresh food abound.

One highlight:

Wine tasting with a gorgeous view of Keuka Lake at Heron Hill Winery, about a 30-minute drive from Downtown Corning.

keuka lake wine tasting
Wine tasting on Keuka Lake at Heron Hill Winery

Whether you get to Corning via car or bus, it’s always recommended to have a designated driver.

Or, so everyone can imbibe, you can book a Keuka Lake Winery Tour, which visits five local wineries.

Another one of the top Finger Lakes attractions:

Watkins Glen State Park.

woman smiling in front of a waterfall at Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen. Photo via Jessie Festa

In my opinion, outside of Niagara County’s gorgeous state park and falls this is the most spectacular of the New York State Parks.

Encompassing 1,000 acres, you’ll find 400-foot cliffs and 19 waterfalls of varying sizes — some reaching 60 feet in height.

For an unforgettable New York hike, opt for the Gorge Trail, where you’ll see all of them; though note you’ll also need to climb the 180-step “Jacob’s Ladder”.

You can click here for a Watkins Glen State Park trail map.

Other not-to-miss local experiences in Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes include:

Also, there are so many beautiful hotels here it’s perfect for a Thanksgiving getaway from NYC, a romantic New York experience or another special occasion trip.

Stop #2: Oswego County, New York

Oswego County sits on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes.

Additionally, it has a rich history dating back to 1615, when Samuel de Champlain arrived from Europe to help create a settlement for trading furs with the Native Americans.

Luckily, it’s easy to explore both during a visit.

In terms of driving, the ride is about two hours and 20 minutes from Corning.

Hotels In Oswego, NY

Click here for a list of local hotels.

Click here for a list of rentals & accommodations, or view the embedded map:

You’ve got a number of options when it comes to accommodation in Oswego.

For a waterfront property, the Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel and Conference Center is a great choice.

This is where I stayed, and enjoyed the location on the Oswego River, included continental breakfast, and the indoor pool and sauna.

Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel and Conference Center
My room at the Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel and Conference Center

If you‘d prefer a bed and breakfast in Oswego, Serendipity Bed and Breakfast is a must. 

This warm, inviting 1870’s Federal-style home features four guest rooms decorated in beautiful antiques.

Moreover, your complimentary breakfast features items like fresh fruit picked from their garden, homemade scones and lemon-stuffed French toast.

Work off your meal by hiking the trail-filled forest out back. It’s home to some lovely Upstate NY hiking!

lake ontario fishing oswego ny
Fishing on Lake Ontario in Oswego, NY

Things To Do In Oswego County

If you’re a history enthusiast, a visit to Fort Ontario State Historic Site is a must.

The original dates back to 1755; built by the British to protect the area during the French and Indian War.

Today, it’s a living history museum featuring period-clothed docents, who take you around the guard houses, army barracks, former kitchens and other structures — without breaking character.

There is also a room showcasing precisely-catalogued artifacts on display, an iPad sharing the story of each one.

Another highlight:

Taking in an aerial view of Lake Ontario, right before shouting “Ready, aim, fire!” and directing your docent to shoot his musket.

fort ontatio state historic park
Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Onsite is also Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, which was shockingly the only designated place for Jewish refugees — 982, to be exact — during the Holocaust.

You’ll undoubtedly leave with a heavy heart after walking through the exhibit, though it is important history to understand.

Afterward, refuel with Mexican food at the tasty Azteca Mexican Grill (get the fish tacos!).

Then, head to Lake Ontario to enjoy some water sports.

Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are all possible, as is fishing for large catch like 20-pound king salmon and walleye.

Just note you’ll need to get a New York State fishing license.

To be totally honest I’m not a fan of catch-and-release fishing, especially when it’s large hooks being used (ie not fly fishing), due to mortality rates for fish.

The great thing in Oswego is numerous restaurants can cook your fresh catch, so you can keep your fish.

One of these restaurants is Alex’s on the Water.

Alex's on the Water oswego cocktails
A sunset cocktail at Alex’s on the Water in Oswego County
sunset in oswego ny
A beautiful Oswego sunset

This waterfront Oswego restaurant is next door to the Best Western, and is the best place to be at sunset.

Even if you don’t bring your own fresh catch for them to grill, they make tasty seafood of their own. Yum!

Other local experiences in Oswego not-to-miss include:

  • Cycling within the Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area
  • Hiking in the Salmon River Falls Unique Area
  • Explore walkable Downtown Oswego, full of shops, restaurants and cafes

Stop #3: Lewis County, NY

Lewis County is where you go to have a more rugged, countryside New York experience.

Here they’re known for outdoor adventure, dairy farming and maple syrup production, with the town of Lowville being the hub and county seat.

Actually, here it’s possible to explore adventure within the Tug Hill Plateau, local farms in the Black River Valleys and the outdoor offerings of the western Adirondack Mountains.

Snowmobiling, ATVing, hiking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, fishing, hunting, kayaking, rafting, paddleboarding and more are possible in this Upstate New York vacation spot.

From Oswego to Lowville, it is about an hour-and-a-half drive.

lewis county ny landscape
Scenic Lewis County, NY
lewis county ny
The lovely countryside of Lewis County, NY

Hotels In Lowville

Click here for a list of local hotels.

Click here for a list of rentals & accommodations, or view the embedded map:

When I visited Lewis County, I stayed at The Edge Hotel.

This comfortable accommodation is actually located in Lyons Falls, within the Adirondacks Tug Hill Region.

Lowville is located only 20 minutes away, too, and you’re accessible to loads of adventure activities like skiing, hiking and ATVing.

The Edge Hotel in Lowville, NY
My room at The Edge Hotel in Lowville, NY

I loved the simple but complimentary breakfast, as well as the included free drink at Boondocks Restaurant across the parking lot.

Coffee and tea are available 24/7, as is strong Wi-Fi.

Want to really relax those muscles after an adventurous day?

Book a room with Jacuzzi!

If you’re looking for a cozy bed and breakfast in Lowville, check out Judge’s Quarters Bed and Breakfast.

This Lowville accommodation is a historic home featuring a cozy “grandma’s house” feel, but with a more polished presentation.

Actually, if you’re in Instagrammer this is the perfect place to up-level your feed with some really chic countryside photos.

Sit on the giant porch while sipping a cup of Fair Trade gourmet coffee, or play a board game in the den.

Breakfast showcases family recipes made using local ingredients, like homemade yogurt, lemon scones and Eggs Benedict.

There are always snacks and non-alcoholic beverages available for guests, too.

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Things To Do In Lowville (& Nearby)

Lowville itself is home to a number of worthwhile New York attractions, like Tug Hill VineyardsMaple Ridge Snow Park (for tubing) and Whetstone Gulf State Park.

The latter is a 2,100-acre state park sitting on the fringe of the Tug Hill Plateau, in and around a three-mile gorge.

tug hill plateau
Hiking around Whetstone Gulf State Park

In terms of trails, the most popular is the 10-mile Gorge Trail.

Keep in mind, at times you’ll be peering over from 200-300 feet, with the Whetstone Creek creating waterfalls below you.

Additionally, if you enjoy camping this is a great spot to do it.

The park features over 62 campsites, many of which have hot showers and comfort stations.

tug hill plateau ny
Hiking around Whetstone Gulf State Park in Lewis County, NY

Of course, one cannot talk about this area without mentioning the famous Tug Hill snowmobile trails (in winter) and ATV trails.

In fact, you’ll find over 500 miles of snowmobiling trails, plus the well-maintained Lewis County ATV Trail System.

If you’re interested in these activities, this is one of the best places to visit in New York for them.

ATVing in lewis county ny
Riding ATVs on Tug Hill Plateau

If you want to explore New York water sports at their finest, there are many options in Lewis County.

For the truly adventurous, whitewater rafting and whitewater kayaking are possible in certain sections of the Black River.

Moreover, the nearby Moose River offers Class 4 and 5 rapids.

Along other sections of the Black River, the water is calm and tranquil enough to offer incredible standup paddle boarding opportunities.

You can rent your gear from an outfitter like Mountain Man Outdoor Supply Company.

Here you can paddle right from Mountain Man on the Moose River, as their location has a dock.

Additionally, you can have your paddleboard delivered to another location (within a certain mileage).

black river ny paddleboarding
Paddleboarding the Black River in NY

And for the cyclists, the 46-mile Lowville-Dexter section of the Black River Bike Trail is a scenic way to get active.

When it’s time to refuel after all those calories burned, don’t miss Steak ‘N Brew.

Despite the name, it’s actually an old school Italian restaurant known for their tableside creations.

Don’t miss the tasty tableside caesar salad, complete with a full historical account of the dish.

Other Lewis County experiences to try include:

  • Sampling 75+ cheeses at Lowville Producers Cheese Store
  • Treking the peaceful 5.5-mile Gleasman Falls Trail
  • Savoring regional specialties like spiced Croghan Bologna, local honeys and maple syrups, and Amish butter

Stop #4: St. Lawrence County, NY

Once you hit St. Lawrence County, you’ll be in the prime location to explore one of the country’s most notable attractions:

Adirondack State Park.

This park is the largest in the continental US, encompassing 6.1 million acres.

According to Clarkson University, that’s larger than the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky National parks combined!

Here you’ll find mountains, woodland, waterfalls, streams and lakes across private and public land, with many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Hotels In Canton, NY

Click here for a list of local hotels.

Click here for a list of rentals & accommodations, or view the embedded map:

There are a number of towns, villages and hamlets to stay in St. Lawrence County.

One central recommendation is the village of Canton.

When I visited St. Lawrence County, I stayed here at the Best Western University Inn.

In terms of design it was basic; however, it was budget-friendly considering it included free amenities high-speed Wi-Fi, sauna and steam room.

If you’d prefer a bed and breakfast in Canton, NY, I recommend White Pillars.

white pillars inn canton ny
Photo via White Pillars Lodging

This lovely Civil War vintage home was originally the house the innkeepers, Donna and John, raised their children in.

Once the kids had grown up and moved out, the couple converted it into an upscale b&b.

Rooms are immaculately clean, with uber comfortable bedding.

Savor a homemade breakfast featuring locally sourced ingredients, enjoyed around a communal table.

Afterward, curl up by the fireplace, read a book from their extensive collective in the living room, or sit on the quiet porch and enjoy the countryside views.

Then, head out to explore all that Canton and Lawrence County have to offer.

Bonus:

They offer waterfront vacation rentals, too!

Another whimsical Canton accommodation option:

24 East Main Street Bed & Breakfast.

Pro tip:

While all the rooms in this beautiful b&b are cheerful and inviting, ask for one with a Jacuzzi and sauna.

Things To Do In Canton, NY (& Nearby)

When I visited St. Lawrence County, the #1 thing on my to-do list was the above-mentioned Adirondack Park.

I spent time in the Tooley Pond Road section along the South Branch of the Grasse River.

Tooley Pond Road stretches 16 miles between Route 27 in DeGrasse and Route 3 in Cranberry Lake…

…and it’s stunning.

First of all, you’ll find Tooley Pond, a photographer’s dream with the reflections.

tooley pond adirondack park ny
Tooley Pond in Adirondack Park, NY

Second, there’s epic hiking, kayaking, canoeing and fishing.

Finally, this area of the park is known for its seven major waterfalls, including:

  • Rainbow Falls
  • Bulkhead Falls
  • Flat Rock Falls
  • Twin Falls (featuring a 55-foot drop!)
  • Sinclair Falls (the more gentle of the falls)
  • Basford Falls
  • Copper Rock Falls
rainbow falls adirondack park
Enjoy the beauty of Rainbow Falls in New York’s Adirondack Park

When I visited, I made a short 10-minute trek to Rainbow Falls.

I loved photographing the 40-foot drop of the falls and stopping for a pre-lunch snack with a view.

hiking in adirondack park with a dog
Trail dog in Adirondack Park

Additionally, I did the Tooley Pond Mountain Trail Loop.

It’s a 2.2-mile scenic trek with a 298-foot elevation gain.

Looking for something longer?

Cranberry Lake has a scenic 50-mike hike around.

After you’ve worked up an appetite, head nearby to one of the best restaurants in Potsdam:

Jake’s On The Water.

This farm-to-fork eatery is worth the trip to Potsdam in itself, though this St. Lawrence County town is a cultural hub thanks to the nearby universities.

Jake’s On The Water only adds to that culture.

First of all, the craft cocktails (hello cucumber basil mimosa!) paired with gorgeous views are unforgettable.

Moreover, the indoor-outdoor restaurant features dishes made using ingredients from local farms.

You’ll recognize options like pancakes and eggs, but expect a local seasonal twist with each.

jake's on the water Beignets
Jake’s beignets are really good!
eggs benedict jakes on the water
Jake’s on the Water is known for their eggs benedict. Yum!

Some sample dishes on the brunch menu when I visited:

  • Nectarine and cream French toast laced with bourbon maple syrup
  • Award-winning Benedicts laced with everything from crab cake to fried green tomatoes
  • Lemon ricotta beignets dusted in powdered sugar and citrus curd

After you’ve eaten, spend time hanging out on the waterfront swing or the Adirondack chairs.

Which, yes, were invented in the Adirondacks.

jakes on the water ny
Enjoying the swings at Jake’s on the Water

After a satisfying local meal, rest up for an evening adventure:

Sunset kayaking with Madrid Mercantile.

Two of my favorite local characters I met along my upstate New York road trip were the owners of this business, Philip and Nicholas.

This couple has quite a heart-warming story.

Philip grew up down the road from the gorgeous waterfront home they now own, and knew at a young age that one day he’d buy it.

Madrid Mercantile ny
Enjoying the scenery at the Madrid Mercantile

Well, he did.

And along with renovating it to live in, Philip and Nicholas have turned the property into a small farm and kayak launch, with aspirations to turn the home into an inn.

We went out with these guys at sunset, and saw a number of birds, not to mention the sky completely lit up.

sunset kayak madrid ny
An incredible sunset in Madrid, NY, near Potsdam

The water was still, the paddle — and the occassional swimmer —cutting it like glass.

Other not-to-miss St. Lawrence County experiences include:

Stop #5: Thousand Islands Region, NY (Jefferson County)

Driving from St. Lawrence to Jefferson County, you can see Canada nearby — so close it feels like you could swim to it — as you cross the St. Lawrence River.

Jefferson County resides within the larger Thousand Islands Region, an idyllic stretch of 1,864 islands  shared by New York (USA) and southeastern Ontario (Canada).

While for many years this region was a summer getaway for wealthy industrialists, today visitors of all income backgrounds enjoy its beauty.

If you love charming waterfront towns and villages where everything from stand up paddle board yoga to riding historic wooden skiffs is possible, then this is your happy place.

Where To Stay In The 1000 Islands

Click here for a list of local hotels.

Click here for a list of rentals & accommodations, or view the embedded map:

In the New York Thousand Islands, there are a number of charming towns and villages to stay in.

Personally, I stayed in Sacket’s Harbor, at the maritime-themed Harbor House Inn which is also one of the most romantic getaways in Upstate New York!

As soon as I reached the front desk and saw the beaming smile of Marsha — who owns this inn with her husband, Tomm — I knew I was in for a treat.

Interestingly, the building was once a dog biscuit factory, though has been accommodating visitors for the last four years.

Sackets Harbor house inn
My comfortable room at the Harbor House Inn in Sackets Harbor

This hotel has so many delightful touches that make all the difference, like a 24/7 Keurig machine, a delicious spread of local baked goods in the morning, minimalist sea-themed rooms with quality linens and body products, and uber comfortable robes I never wanted to take off.

For the digital nomads like myself, the strong WiFi was a definite plus.

Another popular place to stay is the town of Clayton, NY, home to many 1000 Islands attractions and restaurants.

In terms of accommodation, you’ll find numerous 1000 Islands cottage rentals right on the water.

What’s nice about both Clayton and Sackets Harbor is they don’t feel overly touristy, like the village of Alexandria Bay can.

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Things To Do In The NY Thousand Islands

No New York State road trip to this region would be complete without booking a 1000 Islands cruise along the St. Lawrence River.

From Alexandria Bay, there are a number of tour boats taking visitors to see some of the 1864 islands and providing fascinating history.

1000 islands boat tour
Taking a boat tour of the 1000 Islands from Alexandria Bay, New York

Not all of the islands are inhabited, though all are above water year-round and have flora of some kind — the definition of “island” for the region.

I loved my excursion with Uncle Sam’s Boat Tour, who offer a many start times and tour themes.

The guide was really funny as he shared the unique facets of the islands and area.

For instance, did you know that Yale’s secretive Skull & Bones Society owns one of the islands?

The surprisingly rundown Deer Island, to be specific.

You’ll also see “Millionaire’s Row,” a gorgeous stretch of opulent waterfront homes.

While none of the islands have hotels on them, many have vacation rentals — which you can view on this map.

Now, above I mentioned Millionaire’s Row; though the most lavish home of all is actually on Heart Island:

Boldt Castle.

I’m usually not a castle person, but Boldt Castle has such a beautiful back story.

Plus, the grounds are gorgeous for taking photos.

boldt castle 1000 islands
A lovely view while exploring the Boldt Castle grounds
boldt castle 1000 islands
Entering Boldt Castle, which you can tour on your own or via audio guide / app guide

Boldt Castle was built by wealthy hotel magnate, George C. Boldt, as a summer home for his wife, Louise.

It was an expression of his love, assembled atop an island shaped like a heart.

Construction began in 1900, though in 1904 — just before the grand structure was almost completed — tragedy struck.

Louise Boldt had suddenly died of heart failure at 41 years old; extremely young by today’s standards.

George halted construction, never returning to the island again.

For about 70 years, the castle sat to rot.

Then, in 1977, the island was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, who restored the castle and turned it into a popular Thousand Islands attraction.

boldt castle view 1000 islands
Taking in the view from the top of Boldt Castle

Today, visitors can explore the restored — though never-to-be-finish — attraction.

This includes beautiful gardens, ornate living quarters inside, and various structures around the island, like Alster Tower and the Gazebo.

Pro tip:

The best views, in my opinion, are near the Power Station, which is larger and more beautiful than my apartment.

And nobody even lived there!

boldt castle Power House
Staring off at The Power House at Boldt Castle. Isn’t it lovely?!

If you want to continue your castle exploration, head to Singer Castle on Dark Island.

This 28-room castle was built as a hunting lodge by Commodore Bourne — president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company — in the early 1900s.

It’s full of grand spaces to explore, and quite honestly has a haunted feel.

Now after touring the 1000 Islands, you’ll likely be hungry.

My recommendation:

Head to Bella’s Restaurant in Clayton for a waterfront lunch.

bella's restaurant facade
Bella’s In Clayton NY

First of all, their baked goods are made fresh daily.

They greet you right when you walk in, and you’ll likely leave with a few chocolate chip cookies and scones.

fish tacos at bella's restaurant
My fish taco lunch at Bella’s
bella's cocktail
A craft cocktail — with paper straw — at Bella’s

Additionally, the beloved 1000 Islands restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy your fish tacos or lemon ricotta-stuffed French toast right on the St. Lawrence River.

Cocktail recommendation:

The “Beet Berry Basil” featuring beet berry purée, cayenne, basil, lemonade and vodka.

After lunch, walk less than 20 minutes to the Antique Boat Museum.

This local Clayton attraction showcases the largest collection of recreational boats in North America across a 4.5-acre campus.

Over 300 of them!

Not only will you see boats dating back to the 1600s — displayed across multiple rooms — but you can row a traditional St. Lawrence rowing skiffs.

Which, by the way, is much trickier than it sounds.

skiff rowing antique boat museum
Learning to row an antique skiff

Rowing is nothing like paddling, and trying to figure out how to back up and move forward was comical to say the least.

That being said, it was a unique opportunity.

Another highlight:

Seeing racing boats souped up like vintage cars.

antique boat museum boats
How neat are these souped up classic boats?
antique boat museum views
The Antique Boat Museum has so much to offer — including views! Photo taken by Vanessa Raine Hunt of Wanderlust Crew.

After the museum, don’t miss a sunset sail with Sail Ontario.

The owner, Brett Kessler, will even show you how to steer.

Or, if you’d prefer, you can sit back and simply enjoy the stunning views.

Honestly, it was too beautiful to put into words.

Let me show you instead:

1000 islands vacation sunset sail
Learning the ropes of being a captain on a sunset sail
1000 islands vacation sunset sail
A fiery Sackets Harbor sky at sunset
lake ontario sunset sackets harbor
At the end of the sunset, it turns from gold to pinkish purple

After the sunset cruise on Lake Ontario, visit Italy — at least through the palate — for dinner at Goodfellos Brick Oven Pizza & Wine.

Conveniently, this indoor-outdoor eatery is right next door to the hotel — especially helpful if you plan to imbibe with a few glasses of wine.

They have an open kitchen, so you can watch your food being made.

This is especially fun as you see chefs throw dough into the air for pizza pies!

My recommendation:

Start with some antipasti (stuffed meatballs, yum!).

From there, the “Carceofi Pizza” showcasing garlic, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, feta, spinach, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes is delicious!

Other unforgettable experiences when you vacation in 1000 islands include:

New York Travel Insurance

When visiting Upstate New York — or anywhere else in the world — make sure to get travel insurance.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Have other road trip ideas from NYC?

Anything to add on how to have an epic 1000 Islands vacation?

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This unforgettable New York road trip itinerary features a mix of urban, countryside, mountain and island (yes, island!) experiences. You'll visit NY state parks, sample local syrups and honeys, and even visit the famous Boldt Castle. * * * #RoadTrip #NYTravel #NYTrip #NewYorkGetaway #1000Islands
Researching Upstate New York travel? In this amazing NY road trip itinerary, you'll explore the diverse offerings of the state, from scenic NY hiking trails to whimsical small towns to visiting the famed 1000 Islands! * * * #ThousandIslands #NewYorkItinerary #NYItinerary #BestRoadTrips #RoadTripIdeas

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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2 Comments

  1. Karyn on at 11:56 am

    How bout mining for “Diamonds” at Herkimer Mines just outside of Herkimer NY. Or perhaps go caving (cavern) at Howe’s Cavern. Both of these places were pretty cool to visit and I will return to Herkimer again and again.

  2. SailawayNY on at 8:11 am

    Thanks for participating in this information. your blog is good and I got so important informative knowledge.

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