~ The Empire State Road Trip, hosted by the prestigious Harbor Hotel Collection ~
Cover photo: Boldt Castle, courtesy Gerry Barker
It’s day two of our visit to the 1000 Islands and the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, and we have another full agenda, starting with a trip to see a castle.
As mentioned in the previous post, the 1000 Islands have been a playground for the rich and famous since the fabled Gilded Age in the late 1800s. Their imposing mansions and estates dot the St. Lawrence River on both the Canadian and American sides. One of the more famous examples is Boldt Castle, built by hotel magnate George Boldt for his wife, Louise, on Heart Island.
In 1900, hundreds of construction workers began work on the six-story masonry home, along with a massive yacht house on nearby Wellesley Island. Then tragically, in 1904, Louise died before it could be completed, and Boldt ordered all work to cease immediately. He never returned. The castle has since been restored to its original state, with the first two floors completed to show how they have would looked.
You can only reach the island by boat, so our first stop today is Clayton Island Tours, just over a mile from the hotel. For the next two-and-a-half hours, we’ll sight see on the St. Lawrence River and tour Boldt Castle. Adjacent to the tour office is Kay’s Kitchen, a food truck that offers passengers picnic lunches to go. Pam and I opt for chicken tenders, and just the aromas make me ready to eat right now.
It’s another gloriously sunny day, and not quite as hot. Picture perfect for a boat ride.
Once on Heart Island (be sure and look for all the hearts – both in the landscaping and inside the house), we follow the path into the first floor and begin our tour. We learn normally it would be more crowded, but with the COVID protocols in place, there isn’t the usual tourist traffic from Canada.
Going through the rooms and admiring the awesome views from the windows and terraces, one can only imagine the splendor should all six floors had been completed. Outside, we stop at the Italian Garden and decide, amid the flowers and fountains, this is the spot to have our picnic lunch. As we enjoy Kay’s delicious chicken, we watch two giant cargo ships as they transverse the river.
Side note: One question a lot of visitors ask is the origin of Thousand Island Dressing. There’s some dispute, but the prevailing story is that it was the creation of a fishing guide’s wife in the early 1900s. Regardless, it did come to the attention of Boldt, who ordered it placed on the menu at his Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York.
Back from the tour, we have penciled in visits to some of the wineries that dot the area. Our first stop was Northern Flow Vineyards, established in 2015. Located on a farm by the St. Lawrence, it specializes in growing a new variety of cold-resistant grapes. We have our tasting at one of their outdoor tables, near a picturesque, flower-covered trellis.
Our next stop is Coyote Moon Vineyards, which we noticed also maintain a tasting room on the river walk near the hotel – and where they also offer boat wine cruises from the pier. Their family-owned vineyards are located some four miles away on 400 acres that once was an abandoned farm. Inside, we find a safety-conscious stuffed coyote on the bar wearing a face mask.
Coyote Moon also produces their wine from Northern grapes, and we enjoyed it so much we bought a bottle of their LaCrescent, a white wine with “strong citrus notes and a hint of sweetness.” Like many of their wines, it features distinctive label artwork by the owner’s wife, Mary Randazzo.
Now it’s late afternoon and time to get back to the hotel for dinner at the Seaway Grille and a parting Harbor Breeze cocktail. One more stroll on the river walk to soak up the beautiful scenery along the St. Lawrence and it’s time to start packing. The trip back to Florida starts tomorrow.
Next up: Wrapping up the trip