Discover the enchanting wonders of Gananoque and the 1000 Islands through the eyes of your little explorers! In this guide, we’ll unveil the hidden gems and family-friendly adventures that make this charming town a perfect playground for kids. From captivating outdoor excursions to delightful indoor activities, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with laughter, learning, and endless memories in Gananoque and 1000 Islands with Kids!

Welcome to Gananoque, Ontario. Sign on road driving south to downtown.

The Canadian Gateway to the Thousand Islands is Gananoque in Southeastern Ontario. Gananoque, nestled along the banks of the majestic St. Lawrence River in Ontario, Canada, exudes an irresistible blend of natural beauty, historic charm, and vibrant cultural offerings. With a population of around 5,000 residents, this quaint town boasts a rich heritage dating back to its Indigenous roots and the early European settlers.

At the heart of Gananoque lies its picturesque waterfront, where visitors are greeted by breathtaking views of the river and the Thousand Islands archipelago. The town’s marina bustles with activity, serving as a launching point for scenic boat cruises, kayaking adventures, and fishing expeditions.

I love Gananoque tourist picture

The Canadian side of the Thousand Islands is a stunning mosaic of natural beauty, rich history, and recreational opportunities, spanning the eastern portion of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Comprising over 1,800 islands, this archipelago is renowned for its emerald-green waters, granite cliffs, and lush forests, creating a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


Exploring Gananoque and 1000 Islands with Kids

Exploring Gananoque and 1000 Islands with kids can be an enriching and memorable experience for the whole family. The town of Gananoque serves as the gateway to the Canadian Thousand Islands, welcoming visitors with its charming waterfront, vibrant arts scene, and array of recreational activities. From scenic boat cruises to kayaking adventures, there are countless ways to explore the archipelago’s hidden coves and secluded beaches.

Strolling through Gananoque’s streets, one encounters a treasure trove of Victorian-era architecture, boutique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes. The Gananoque Heritage Trail offers a glimpse into the town’s past, winding past historic landmarks such as the Thousand Islands Playhouse and the Gananoque Clock Tower.

Downtown Gananoque
The town of Gananoque is quaint and family-friendly. The waterfront park area is built around a park that boasts a splash park and play structure for the kids. As a single parent, I look for “easy” places to go and experiences to have so a lot of my time isn’t spent chasing two children at two different developmental and age stages in life. Taking kids on vacation in the Thousand Islands satisfies that. This is also a great place for multigenerational travel!

Here’s a guide on how to make the most of your family adventure:

1000 Islands Boat Cruise on Rockport Boat Line

Start your exploration with a scenic boat cruise through the Thousand Islands. Many cruises offer narrated tours, providing interesting facts about the islands’ history, wildlife, and legends. Look for cruises with kid-friendly amenities like onboard entertainment, snacks, and designated play areas.
We headed over to Rockport, where incidentally the kids and I also enjoyed some ice cream at a picnic table and wandered by their marina in hopes of seeing some sunfish. Spoiler: ice cream is good. Fish sightings? Few and far between by the kids wanted to keep looking anyway.
take the kids to rockport, ontario for Rockport Cruise Lines sightseeing in the 1000 islands
The cruise we took was 90 minutes long. The cruise took us around islands, we saw Boldt Castle. (this is on a USA island). A visit to Boldt Castle on Heart Island is sure to capture the imagination of young adventurers. Explore the castle’s majestic halls, winding staircases, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Don’t miss the intriguing love story behind the castle’s construction, which adds an extra layer of fascination for older kids.
Boldt Castle on Heart Island in 1000 Islands as seen from Rockport Cruise Line sightseeing boat

1000 Islands Helicopter Tours

Have you ever thought about taking your kids for a helicopter ride? You can in Gananoque and soar over the 1,864 islands in the St. Lawrence River and quite honestly, the view you are going to have is unrivalled. 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours and Kouri’s Kopters is the best way to see the islands, both Canadian and American from the air and give you the absolute best views.

Stunning 1000 Islands from helicopter

Up to 3 people can join the pilot, so I and my two kids work out perfectly. 

There is something extremely mesmerizing of seeing the 1000 Islands from the air. Seeing the islands, the colour of the water, the boats, the cottages and houses. Believe it or not, the water is fairly clear!

1000 Islands Helicopters offer a dozen tours of historic landmarks and regional activities. Their 20-minute Boldt Castle tour is a Destination Ontario Signature Experience and their 30-minute Two Castle tour is a Destination Canada Canadian Signature Experience. 

Approaching 1000 Islands in a helicopter

1000 Islands Kayaking With Kids

Take advantage of the region’s natural beauty by engaging in outdoor activities suitable for kids. Rent a family-friendly kayak or canoe and paddle along the tranquil waters, exploring hidden coves and spotting wildlife such as herons and turtles.
One of the best ways to see the 1000 Islands National Park is by curving in and out of her channels and inlets by kayak. 
kayaking with kids in the 1000 islands #1000islandskayaking

Our guide, Danni was super helpful and friendly and took the time to make sure the kids were cool. She knew the waterways expertly. I would absolutely recommend spending time on the water with them. They rent you the gear as part of the package so you don’t have to worry about having to strap your own to the roof of your car. The boats, life jackets and paddles are all cleaned and disinfected between usage. 

1000 Islands Kayaking offers fully guided full-day, half-day and overnight kayaking excursions along the mighty St. Lawrence River for all experience levels. 

Wildlife as seen from kayak in 1000 islands

Go For a Hike With The Kids In 1000 Islands

Nature enthusiasts are drawn to the surrounding wilderness, where opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting abound. Nearby attractions like Thousand Islands National Park and the Skydeck offer panoramic vistas and adrenaline-pumping experiences.

Hiking trails in Landon Bay, 1000 islands

On our way to Rockport for an island boat cruise, we stopped at the Landon Bay Centre and hiked to the lookout point. This gem of a view is barely a kilometre hike from where you park and super easy for kids to get to!
There is an extensive trail network at Landon Bay. You could spend an hour like we did or you could hike all day there.  The view from the Lookout Trail has long been recognized as the best natural view in the Thousand Islands area.
Hiked to the Landon Bay look out in 1000 Islands with kids for the best view

Experience A Coveted Thousand Islands Sunsets

You might know the 1000 Islands for the waterway and St. Lawrence River, but what if I told you that some sunsets from Gananoque, Ontario are parallel to none?

Sunset at the marina in Gananoque, Ontario in 1000 islands

These photos were taken at Joel Stone Park in Gananoque. What’s awesome about this area is that the kids can play at the park and catch the majesty of the sky.

Sunset at Joel Stone Park in Gananoque, Ontario

We must acknowledge that the name “Gananoque ” has a couple of meanings and is indigenous land first; “ Water Rising over Rocks” or “Garden of the Great Spirit”.
If anyone is inclined to learn about the history of Gananoque, it was a Loyalist stronghold base and supplies can in and out of The St. Lawrence River between Montreal, Cornwall and Kingston. There are remains of the canons that were used to protect the town are there. You’d have to picture that from here, you would be able to see American forces coming from across the water.
kids on a canon
Discover the region’s history and marine heritage through interactive exhibits and museums. The Thousand Islands Boat Museum in Gananoque features hands-on displays, historic boats, and workshops suitable for all ages. Kids can learn about boat building, navigation, and the importance of preserving the region’s maritime legacy.

Where To Stay In Gananoque, Ontario

Consider staying at a family-friendly accommodation with amenities like swimming pools, playgrounds, and organized children’s activities. Many resorts and hotels in the area offer special packages and discounts for families, making it easy to plan a memorable getaway.

During our stay, we are at the Colonial Resort and Spa, in the west end of Gananoque. Price point wise, this is a very affordable place for families to base themselves from.

My jeep at the Colonial Inn and Spa where we stayed in Gananoque

Here is what we liked about the Colonial Resort and Spa:

  • Motel-style parking outside your door. We did not have to go into any internal hallways or pass by other guests inside
  • Outdoor pool for the kids to play in
  • Ample outdoor space for the kids to stretch their legs and play
  • The gift shop at the check-in desk area – could purchase bottles of water and sweaters for late summer air chills so you didn’t have to travel elsewhere
  • Free wifi throughout the grounds. Great in the room, seemed a little slow by the pool.
  • Fairly contactless interactions and a clean room when we arrived.

Kids playing in exterior pool at Colonial Resort and Spa in Gananoque

Where to Eat in Gananoque

Refuel and recharge at one of Gananoque’s family-friendly restaurants or waterfront cafes. Look for establishments offering kid-friendly menus, outdoor seating, and stunning views of the river. Many restaurants also cater to dietary restrictions and offer options suitable for picky eaters.
The food menus here are fairly decent. The kids are I were in Gananoque for two dinners. We ate at Muskie Jake’s Tap & Grill and had a nice sunset view from the balcony.
We also ate at The Maple Leaf Restaurant, which is famous for authentic Czech cuisine including schnitzel, pierogis, and spaetzle.
Be sure to drop by Panache Bakery & Café at 162 King Street East for coffee and pastries in the morning.
exterior of Panache Bakery & Café at 162 King Street East, Gananoque
Throughout the year, Gananoque hosts a lively calendar of events and festivals, celebrating everything from music and theatre to local cuisine and maritime heritage. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, Gananoque beckons with its warm hospitality and timeless allure.
For a small town, this Gateway to the Thousand Islands has it all. Gananoque and the 1000 Islands region is a welcoming place with plenty of open-air and distance. Never did the kids and I feel unsafe, smothered or that we were in danger. There were plenty of activities to satisfy their interests and it’s a very outdoorsy place.
Older colonial type Gananoque setting
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