This week’s travel dream: The countless pleasures of the Thousand Islands

The archipelago in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario straddles the U.S.-Canadian border and is known as the “freshwater-boating capital of the world.”

For months, I’d wanted to travel somewhere exotic but not too distant, said Patrick Kelly in National Geographic Traveler. Finally, I found the place—the Thousand Islands, an archipelago that straddles the U.S.-Canada border between New York state and Ontario. Scattered throughout the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, these 1,800-some islands are “foreign, even mythic, and right on America’s doorstep.” Once an exclusive playground of the wealthy, the Thousand Islands are now affordable to anyone with a love of leisure and a reverence for the outdoors.

Even so, the “well-heeled of yesteryear” left behind plenty of picturesque reminders. During the 19th century, moneyed families such as the Kelloggs flocked to this haven, staying at grand hotels and building summer homes “complete with docks for their 100-foot steam yachts.” None of these structures can compare, however, to the one on Heart Island. This five-acre, heart-shaped private islet is home to Boldt Castle, built by the founding proprietor of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, George Charles Boldt, for his wife, Louise. This medieval-style monument of love is, like the Taj Mahal, “impressive yet tinged with sadness”: Though Boldt “spent a king’s ransom” to please her, his wife passed away before the castle’s completion.

Today the Thousand Islands are known as the “freshwater-boating capital of the world.” The shores of Grindstone and Wellesley islands have become a “sport fishing paradise,” home to black bass, northern pike, and muskellunge, a “prehistoric-looking creature weighing up to 70 pounds, with a mouthful of needle-like teeth.” Though I’m a novice fisherman, I took pride in my role as first mate aboard a vintage 1951 Chris-Craft Day Cruiser Hard Top, helping my captain reel in dinner. That night’s “made-from-scratch meal” will long remain in my memory: a hot, deep-fried pork-and-onion sandwich to start, followed by northern pike cooked in flaming fatback grease—all served with potatoes, corn on the cob, local curd cheese, and salad topped with (what else?) Thousand Island dressing. Even before my arteries started to function again, I knew that this was how I wanted to spend my summers from here on out. Contact:

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