How To Ride From Kingston to Brockville on St. Lawrence River…

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour

Click above to view original Trailer Boating Canada Magazine article

Our 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour was an unforgettable, self guided, jet ski adventure in Ontario, Canada. Located on the St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Brockville, the Islands offer everything from open water to sheltered channels…plus countless magical opportunities for exploration and discovery of Ontario. Best of all, for Sea-Doo touring the waterway is well-marked and easily navigable, with little worry about unexpected rocks or shallow spots for riders of Sea Doo, Jet Ski or Waverunner personal watercraft.

We trailered from Gateway Powersports & Marine to our launching point, the Glen House Resort situated in the heart of the 1000 Islands, just east of Gananoque (see How To Launch Safely) The eight of us, each on his own Sea-Doo watercraft, planned to spend the first day cruising upriver to Kingston and back. The next day, we would navigate downriver to Brockville, then cross into American waters for our 1000 Islands jet ski return ride.

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour – Going Ashore in the US…

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that the north shore is Canada and the south is the United States. I could also see from St. Lawrence charts that once amid the Islands, some would be ours, others would be theirs, and a few would be a bit of both. Locals informed me that boating through American waters was no problem, but have your passport handy and don’t go ashore on U.S. soil without first checking in with U.S. Customs and Immigration. We decided not to set foot stateside and easily planned our fuel and food stops accordingly (see Tour itinerary below).

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour – Incredible Variety…

WOW…was I ever unprepared for the majesty of the 1000 Islands! Their picturesque topography blends rocky shorelines and dense foliage with rugged islets of every size and shape. Their magnificent presence quickly transformed my normal expectation that river riding consists of travelling a linear strip of unbroken water contained by two shores. Instead, we experienced a jigsaw puzzle of cruising choices…big water, small water, scenic channels, large bays, small coves, backwaters, hidden inlets, oodles of shore, and of course, too many islands to count!

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour –  Candy Cottages…

Photo of Boldt Castle on 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour

Boldt Castle

And how about those cottages…or should I say mansions? The 1000 Islands is a recreational playground for many well-off families whose palatial residences equal those of Muskoka. From century old to ultra-contemporary and everything in between, this eye candy architecture considerably enhances the area’s overall wow factor.

Navigating 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour…

I knew from our charts that the main channels and small craft routes are officially marked. Once I familiarized myself with key marker numbers, navigation was straightforward, with red to the right heading to Kingston. Generally, the markers parallel the mainland, so whichever set you follow (assuming that it isn’t a marina channel) will eventually merge with a main channel.

Note that there are parallel Canadian and American channels for much of the waterway between Kingston and Brockville. Clusters of islands separate them most of the time. Consequently, what we initially perceived as mainland often turned out to be another island. However, knowing that Canada was always north, we had little trouble working our way back to our side and Glen House Resort each day.

 

Photo of Statue of St. Lawrence on 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour

Statue of St. Lawrence

The charts also indicated numerous rocks and shoals, some similar to those found in Georgian Bay’s inner channel. From the seats of our Sea-Doo watercraft, all were either clearly visible or their markers were. That’s one of the benefits of riding a waterway frequented by lots of residents and cottagers with many big, expensive cruisers and runabouts…everything’s well marked for or by them!

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour – Cruise Boats Galore…

I bet there are as many cruise boats as there are islands! Based in virtually every centre along the river, they come in all sizes and configurations. These ubiquitous and slow moving boats hardly make any wake. When we had a doubt, following one (or watching from whence it came) helped put us back on route. We didn’t worry much about getting lost anyway, because even during those August weekdays, pleasure craft were abundant and many people were at their cottages.

Pick Your Day for 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour…

Wind was relatively calm for our two days, so surface conditions ranged from mild chop in the open to dead calm in protected areas. We did encounter prevailing turbulence caused by powerful undercurrents as the river narrows at the Ivy Lea – Thousand Islands International Bridge to the U.S. near Rockport. A similar phenomenon also happened in the wake of several huge freighters using the Seaway channel, but neither of these occurrences affected our very stable Sea-Doo’s. That said, I wouldn’t recommend venturing out, especially in open areas, if winds are strong.

Where We Stayed for 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour…

Photo of 1000 Islands International Bridge on 1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour

1000 Islands International Bridge

We picked Glen House Resort because of its location, amenities and ample parking (It also offers the Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course.) Easily accessible from the Thousand Islands Parkway off the 401, Glen House is also situated at waterside in a sheltered bay, with its own boat launch and docks for guests. The main Canadian channel crosses directly in front of that bay at marker H18, so we set course from there for Kingston to the starboard and Brockville to port.

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour Highlights…

Besides those already mentioned, highlights of our ride included the Martello towers and Old Fort Henry at Kingston Harbour, the imposing statue of St. Lawrence overlooking Raft Narrows on the Canadian shore just east of the Ivy Lea – Thousand Islands International Bridge, and the Singer and Boldt Castles located on islands in the U.S. channel on the way back from Brockville.

I was so impressed with the 1000 Islands, that I made a return Sea-Doo trip several weeks later with my wife. She really loved that ride too, and we both agree that it will become a regular destination for us in summers to come. So whether by PWC or a runabout, trailer boating doesn’t get any better than spending a few summer days exploring the 1000 Islands.

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour Itinerary – Day One…

Glen House Resort to Kingston return (4 to 6 hours, depending on speed, fuel and lunch stops)


View 1000 Islands Sea-Doo Tour – Day 1 in a larger map

  • Outbound Route: Turn to starboard at H18 and again to starboard at H23. Go through Gananoque narrows to J2 and follow markers past Gananoque. Turn starboard again at J18 into Bateau Channel and follow it to Kingston.
  • Return Route: Proceed east from Kingston Harbour to H43 and keep bearing to starboard at H42 and H39 to the south side of Howe Island. Parallel shore to H34 in centre of Canadian Middle Channel and on to H33. Go through narrows to H30 and turn starboard, then follow markers back to H18.
  • Fuel Stops: Starting with full tanks, we fuelled at Rideau Marina, Kingston and Gordon Marina, Gananoque.
  • Restaurants near docks: Several at Confederation Basin, Kingston; Island Grill, beside ferry dock on Wolfe Island; Gananoque Inn.

1000 Islands Sea Doo Tour Itinerary – Day Two…

Glen House Resort to Brockville return (4 to 6 hours, depending on speed, fuel and lunch stops)


View 1000 Islands Sea-Doo Tour – Day 2 in a larger map

  • Outbound Route: Pick up HV9 outside bay just east of resort and turn to port. Follow HV markers under Ivy Lea – Thousand Islands International Bridge through Raft Narrows and bear slightly to port at Rockport into marked small craft route between Tar and Grenadier Islands (U20). At U17, bear starboard into small craft route that parallels the north (Canadian) shore all the way to Brockville.
  • Return Route: Just before reaching the Three Sisters Islands at Brockville, turn 90˚ to starboard (southeast) and cross the St. Lawrence to Morristown, NY, and follow the U.S. shore back (watch out for Singer Castle at R166) to Alexandria Bay (opposite Boldt Castle) and then into the American Narrows (marker 194), which take you under the U.S. span of Ivy Lea –Thousand Islands bridge. Between markers 216 and 216A, take a 90˚ starboard and head north into a large bay, at the back of which is The Narrows. Proceed through and maintain northerly course straight across Eel bay and to the Canadian Middle Channel dead ahead. Turn to starboard at H23 and then port at H18 back to Glen House Resort.
  • Fuel Stops: Gilbert Marina, Brockville; Ed Huck Marine, Rockport.
  • Restaurants near docks: Bud’s on the Bay, Brockville
  • Area Sea-Doo Dealers: Ed Huck Marine
  • Other Resources: Islands Galore article – #ontariowaterways

Like this ride? Check out my other Sea-Doo Rides!

Riders should reconfirm the Sea Doo tours routes and services mentioned in this article as they may have changed since publication. Any map is for reference only and any marked lines or locations are not intended as an exact or accurate depiction of positions.

 

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