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Thousands of visitors come to Boldt Castle, a short trip by ferry across the St. Lawrence River
Thousands of visitors come to Boldt Castle, a short trip by ferry across the St. Lawrence River

This is the third part in Laura Pedrick’s series exploring New York’s 1000 Islands region. Check out part 1 here, part 2 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.

Fishing and the Salmon River Falls
The previous night (full day here), I ordered the Salmon River Signature Sampler from the Tailwater Lounge—an appetizer combination of lump crab fritters, potato skins, chicken quesadilla bites, and buffalo chicken wings. At the bar was a man talking fish with the bravado of someone who knows all the secrets. I leaned into the conversation and learned that what makes Altmar a fly-fisherman’s paradise is the nearby 110-foot Salmon River Falls. It is the barrier that keeps the fish from swimming any further up stream.

Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River
Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River

And so the next morning, after watching this same guy give the Connecticut couple fly-fishing lessons in the river behind the hotel, we head to the falls for a quick visit.

Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley

Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
As we head to the heart of the 1000 Islands region, Alexandria Bay, we stop for breakfast at Tin Pan Galley, a fabulous restaurant located on Main Street in the quaint, historic town of Sackets Harbor (about an hour’s drive). 

Overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor offers year round activities for the whole family
Overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor offers year round activities for the whole family

Seated under the shade of old growth trees and surrounded by ferns and topiaries, we indulge in crème brûlée French toast ($13.50), the “Everything New York Eggs Benedict” (capicola-and-provolone-infused Italian sausage on garlic toast; $14.50), a Mediterranean shrimp omelette ($14.50), and—since our group was a party of 12 we ordered pretty much everything listed on the menu—quite simply the best breakfast I have ever had.

The Uncle Sam Boat Tours fleet consists of six vessels
The Uncle Sam Boat Tours fleet consists of six vessels

Cruising the St. Lawrence River
An hour’s drive brings us to Alexandria Bay, 
perhaps the best place to begin a true 1000 Islands journey. We have reservations for the popular Two Nations Tour with Uncle Sam Boat Tours.

The Two Nations Tour is a two-and-a-quarter hour sightseeing cruise that explores the American and Canadian waters of the St. Lawrence River. From the top deck, a lively tour guide highlights interesting facts about local mansions, wildlife and stories about bootlegging, as well as the rich and famous who’ve passed through this scenic region.

What constitutes an island? Its land mass must be above water 365 days a year and support at least one tree.
What constitutes an island? Its land mass must be above water 365 days a year and support at least one tree.

We end the tour at Boldt Castlea Rhineland-style, 120-room castle that was built at the turn of the 20th century by millionaire hotel magnate George Boldt. It was to be a gift to his wife, but she died suddenly just months before its completion on Heart Island. Grief-stricken, Boldt ceased construction and the summer home remained vacant for many years. A shuttle returns us to the port we left.

The Antique Museum is North America's premier freshwater nautical museum
The Antique Museum is North America’s premier freshwater nautical museum

Antique Boat Museum
Before meeting for dinner, we drive 20 minutes out to Clayton, where we’re treated to a private, after-hours tour of the Antique Boat Museum. Our guide is the super-knowledgeable Fred “Fritz” Hager. 

If you're lucky to have executive director Fred "Fritz" Hager, as your guide at the Antique Museum, he'll have an answer for almost every question
If you’re lucky to have executive director Fred “Fritz” Hager, as your guide at the Antique Museum, he’ll have an answer for almost every question

Fred is passionate about this place and quick with colorful, fascinating facts about every freshwater nautical piece we inquire about. More than 320 exquisitely restored watercrafts—old, new, bizarre, and exotic in every kind of way—are displayed throughout the 27,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space. A ticket ($14 adult/$8 youth) also includes a tour of the period-furnished 1903 houseboat La Duchesse moored along a dock, just outside the main building.

Medium rare flatiron steak at Bella's, a popular bistro in downtown Clayton, NY
Medium rare flatiron steak at Bella’s, a popular bistro in downtown Clayton, NY

Dinner at Bella’s
Up to this point, the weather has been spectacular, but as we’re seated outside at riverside bistro Bella’s 
for dinner, it begins to drizzle—and then pour. Despite the summer showers, the views of the St. Lawrence are breathtaking and our party is very cozy dining under a canopy, enjoying every dish that chef Mick Knutson has prepared for us.

Our personal favorites: flatiron steak with hickory-smoked carrots; pan-roasted salmon with crispy basil black rice; and brined, skin-on airline chicken breast with ginger wild rice (all under $25).

View of Bonnie Castle Resort
View of Bonnie Castle Resort

For the night: Bonnie Castle Resort
We check in at the Bonnie Castle Resort, which has a great view of Boldt Castle and the St. Lawrence. It’s a 129-room hotel divided into two buildings: one that looks out on the St. Lawrence, and another that faces the marina. Our hectic schedule keeps me from visiting the resort’s Pointe Bar & Grill, a waters-edge structure built into the side of a granite cliff, but I’m still able to photograph it from the cruise boat earlier as we returned to port.

Laura’s adventure through New York’s 1000 Islands region continues here.

Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River
Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River
Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River
Private fly-fishing lessons at dawn on Salmon River
110-foot Salmon River Falls: the natural barrier that keeps fish plentiful in this region
110-foot Salmon River Falls: the natural barrier that keeps fish plentiful in this region
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley is second to none in Sackets Harbor
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley is second to none in Sackets Harbor
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
Breakfast at Tin Pan Galley
Fresh fruit for breakfast at Tin Pan Galley in Sackets Harbor
Fresh fruit for breakfast at Tin Pan Galley in Sackets Harbor
Of our many selections for breakfast at Tin Pan Galley, the Creme bružleeŽ French toast was the favorite
Of our many selections for breakfast at Tin Pan Galley, the Creme bružleeŽ French toast was the favorite
After the creme bržuleeŽ French toast, our favorite at Tin Pan Galley was the Everything New York Eggs Benedict
After the creme bržuleeŽ French toast, our favorite at Tin Pan Galley was the Everything New York Eggs Benedict
Overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor offers year-round activities for the whole family
Overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor offers year-round activities for the whole family
Boys resting in front of Calla Lillies, a popular gift shop in downtown Sackets Harbor
Boys resting in front of Calla Lillies, a popular gift shop in downtown Sackets Harbor
Entering Alexandria Bay, best place to begin a 1000 Islands journey
Entering Alexandria Bay, best place to begin a 1000 Islands journey
No shortage of gift shops line Main Street in Alexandria Bay
No shortage of gift shops line Main Street in Alexandria Bay
Signage along Church Street in Alexandria Bay
Signage along Church Street in Alexandria Bay
One of many gift shops in downtown Alexandria Bay
One of many gift shops in downtown Alexandria Bay
Visitors walking in downtown Alexandria Bay
Visitors walking in downtown Alexandria Bay
Alexandria Bay offers lots of activities for visitors
Alexandria Bay offers lots of activities for visitors
Thousands of visitors come to Boldt Castle, a short trip by ferry across the St. Lawrence River
Thousands of visitors come to Boldt Castle, a short trip by ferry across the St. Lawrence River
The Uncle Sam Boat Tours fleet consists of six vessels
The Uncle Sam Boat Tours fleet consists of six vessels
A bridal party arrives to board a shuttle that will get them to Boldt Castle, site of the wedding
A bridal party arrives to board a shuttle that will get them to Boldt Castle, site of the wedding
Tour guide Geneva Wagner kept us informed and entertained onboard the Alexandria Belle
Tour guide Geneva Wagner kept us informed and entertained onboard the Alexandria Belle
Sights along the St. Lawrence River
Sights along the St. Lawrence River
What constitutes an island? Its land mass must be above water 365 days a year and support at least one tree.
What constitutes an island? Its land mass must be above water 365 days a year and support at least one tree.
Enjoying the sights along the St. Lawrence River on one of the Uncle Sam boats
Enjoying the sights along the St. Lawrence River on one of the Uncle Sam boats
Captain Kenny Belfield gives a young passenger a chance to be at the helm
Captain Kenny Belfield gives a young passenger a chance to be at the helm
Captain Kenny Belfield gives a young passenger a chance to be at the helm
Captain Kenny Belfield gives a young passenger a chance to be at the helm
Enjoying the sights along the St. Lawrence River on one of the Uncle Sam boats
Enjoying the sights along the St. Lawrence River on one of the Uncle Sam boats
Passing under one of the bridges that connects the US to Canada
Passing under one of the bridges that connects the US to Canada
Disembarking the boat at Boldt Castle
Disembarking the boat at Boldt Castle
A boat passes Heart Island, home of Boldt Castle
A boat passes Heart Island, home of Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle, a Rhineland-style, 120-room castle that was built at the turn of the 20th century by millionaire hotel magnate George Boldt
Boldt Castle, a Rhineland-style, 120-room castle that was built at the turn of the 20th century by millionaire hotel magnate George Boldt
One of the 120 rooms at Boldt Castle
One of the 120 rooms at Boldt Castle
Medium rare flatiron steak at Bella's, a popular bistro in downtown Clayton, NY
Medium rare flatiron steak at Bella's, a popular bistro in downtown Clayton, NY
Roasted potatoes with Bella's homemade 1000 Island dressing
Roasted potatoes with Bella's homemade 1000 Island dressing
View of Bonnie Castle Resort
View of Bonnie Castle Resort
My room at Bonnie Castle Resort
My room at Bonnie Castle Resort
The Antique Museum is North America's premier freshwater nautical museum
The Antique Museum is North America's premier freshwater nautical museum
If you're lucky to have executive director Fred
If you're lucky to have executive director Fred "Fritz" Hager, as your guide at the Antique Museum, he'll have an answer for almost every question
Admission to The Antique Museum includes a 30 minute tour of the 1903 houseboat La Duchess.
Admission to The Antique Museum includes a 30 minute tour of the 1903 houseboat La Duchess.
View from behind my Bonnie Castle Resort room is the covered marina below
View from behind my Bonnie Castle Resort room is the covered marina below
Laura Pedrick

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