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1000 Adventures on The Great Waterway

THE PARKWAY CHRONICLES—Episode Two

KAT heads to Southeastern Ontario's Thousand Islands and Gananoque for a moto-tour full of history, camping and zip lining!



In this second of three pieces about great motorcycle routes in Ontario that also happen to be parkways, we continue our journey by riding the Thousand Islands Parkway, one of the best ways to travel the shores of the St. Lawrence River by motorcycle…

THE MAIN ATTRACTION: THE THOUSAND ISLANDS PARKWAY

Gananoque and the 1000 Islands are a paradise for boaters, fishermen, hikers, cyclists, and motorcyclists. There’s a waterfront adventure around every curve and stretch along the almost 40-km route of the Thousand Islands Parkway, and it’s easy to see why the area is regarded as one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Featuring two world famous UNESCO designated sites, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere and Rideau Heritage Route, and situated amid the spectacular scenery of the deep greens of the woodlands, the spectacular rock formations, and the dark blue of the water, the 1000 Islands (in fact 1,864 islands) truly live up to their reputation as a world-class waterfront destination.

No matter your starting point (it's 1.5 hours from Toronto and 2.5 hours from either Ottawa or Montreal), the Thousand Islands Parkway is a heavenly diversion from the 401 and the more leisurely—and enjoyable for entirely different reasons—Highway 2. Whether you ride through the Parkway on your way to another destination or use one of the many campgrounds (including Thousand Islands National Park and Ivy Lea Campground) as a "home base" and spend several days exploring the region, the Thousand Islands Parkway truly is a place to make some great memories.

For an "end-to-end" synopsis of the Parkway, you can visit the website for the St. Lawrence Rec Trail—it offers information and advice for cyclists, but the overview is a great snapshot of what you can expect from Parkway entrance to Parkway entrance.

FIVE NOT-TO-BE-MISSED POINTS OF INTEREST:

IVY LEA CAMPGROUND

The Parks of the St. Lawrence offers eight campgrounds and six day-use areas along the St. Lawrence River in Ontario East. 

Located at the base of the Thousand Islands Bridge to the USA, Ivy Lea Campground is a welcoming place with 150 spots (146 campsites and 4 Camper Cabins) arranged amongst tall trees, and the lushness of the forests and granite formations that make up the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve (one of only 15 in Canada).

I was joined by fellow motorcyclists and old friends, Scott and Cathy, for a great ride from Napanee all the way to my cabin at Ivy Lea Campground and they were just as impressed by the campground and my accommodations (an amazing little Camper Cabin named Echo Lodge) as I was, joining me for a little "explore" including checking out the campground’s beach.

THE TOWN OF GANANOQUE

Known as the "Gateway to the Thousand Islands," Gananaoque—a First Nations name meaning "Town on Two Rivers"—is located in the heart of the 1000 Islands and recognized as one of Eastern Ontario's most visually stunning waterfront communities. 

Home to Canada's largest outdoor contemporary art exhibit, Confederation Park in Gananoque is a lovely spot to stop and rest, take a walk, admire the scenery, check out the artwork and sculptures scattered throughout the park, and make a friend with some Canada Geese and a swan or two.

1000 ISLAND BOAT CRUISES and the VILLAGE OF ROCKPORT

The historic village of Rockport is a river community and a welcome oasis with two entrances off the Parkway. In addition to being a great place to park your motorcycle and wander the walking paths (marked with heritage interpretive signage and historic photo murals), there is an historic church (Church of the Redeemer, built in 1896), a Red Maple tree and a Ginkgo tree to symbolize the Chinese  Friendship Agreement between the 1000 Islands Canada and the 1000 Islands Lake in China in September 2009, and, of course, the famous Rockport Boat Line’s Thousand Islands boat cruises.

From the company’s website: "Cruise in the 'Heart' of the 1000 Islands. Castles on every cruise. Discover the rugged natural beauty of the St. Lawrence River as you set off from the historic village of Rockport, Ontario. This wonderfully lush landscape is dotted with luxurious cottages and vast estates."

You can choose from their one, two, or three-hour sightseeing cruises, and there are lunch or sunset dinner cruises plus a Boldt Castle tour and Two Castle tours. You can enjoy views of the St. Lawrence River from one of their waterfront restaurants or outdoor patios, and make sure to pick up a souvenir or two from the Rockport General Store and Gift Shop.

LA RUE MILLS CEMETERY HERITAGE PROPERTY

I don’t know about you, but I love to go off the beaten path and do some exploring when I see signs like this while I’m out riding. It may take a few passes along the particular section of the Parkway where this sign is posted before you find the cemetery up among the trees, but it’s worth parking your ride and taking a peek.

When I got home, I did a little bit of research and discovered that Vermonter Bill La Rue and his family, loyal to Britain in the War of Independence, fled to Canada in 1784, settling at the creek that bears his name. His saw mill and grist mill were some of the earliest in the region, and important in the lives of early settlers.

The La Rue Mills Cemetery on the Thousand Islands Parkway is just west of Mallorytown Landing. The oldest cemetery in the township, it is sheltered by a grove of trees that shade the burial ground on even the hottest days. The tombstones are still there and legible. William La Rue, his wife Abigail, and six of their nine children are buried in the La Rue Mills Cemetery; his son, Joseph (who died in 1804 at age 6), is buried in the oldest grave on the site. 

BROWN’S BAY BEACH & PICNIC AREA PLUS SKYWOOD ECHO ADVENTURE

Brown’s Bay Beach & Picnic Area is the oldest of all of the Parks of the St. Lawrence. Before the St. Lawrence Seaway came into existence, Brown's Bay was the only provincial park between Gananoque and the Quebec border. It continues to be a popular stopping point for travellers to enjoy some outdoor recreation and magnificent scenery en route between Toronto and Montreal.  

Just across from the beach in the old Brown's Bay Campground, Parks of the St. Lawrence has opened Skywood Eco Adventure Park.  An exciting new outdoor experience, Skywood features zip lines, canopy tours, aerial games, and a large children's treehouse play area.

My friend Scott and I packed a change of clothes in our saddlebags—including a pair of running shoes, comfortable athletic clothing, and gloves—and rode the Parkway together to Skywood Echo Adventure. What is Skywood Eco Adventure? Skywood Eco Adventure is an aerial game, zip tour and Treewalk Village park operated by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and crafted by Treetop Trekking, the original leader in tree top challenge game parks in Ontario and Quebec. Equipped with the latest in safety harness technology and a helmet, you get to explore a series of obstacle courses leading from tree to tree high above the ground. 

The adventure courses are made up of zip lines, balance logs, bridges, and other unique and exciting games. Courses are at various heights and range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. An eight-zip line canopy tour takes you on an exciting adventure through the treetops, over a limestone cliff face and 70 feet over the Jones Creek Marsh. 

Some info and pointers about this amazing experience (and great day trip combo—riding the Thousand Islands Parkway and visiting Skywood): 

  • Reservations are recommended—call/book ahead so you aren’t disappointed!
  • Visit their website and look through their FAQ section—you’ll find out everything you need to know right there
  • Costs: Adventure Courses - Adult (age 16 or older) - $50.00, Adventure Courses - Youth (age 12 to 15) - $45.00, Adventure Courses - Youth (age 12 to 15) - $45.00, Taxes and reservation fees are extra

KAT (aka KimberleeAnna Taplay) is a member of the ‘What A Ride!’ correspondent team and is happily enjoying her explorations of Ontario as a newly-minted ‘M’ rider. To share your adventures in riding, pass along a photo, or make a suggestion for a story you’d like to see from KAT, send her a quick message at [email protected]

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