I try to visit National Parks during any trip, and my trip to Ontario was no exception. After checking a map, I found that except for Rouge National Urban Park, Thousand Islands was really the only park I was passing near. So I took the bus to Kingston from Toronto, rented a car, and checked out this park. I’m glad I got out of the cities and took the time to experience this neat park. I only wish I could have gotten in the water and checked out some of the islands!
Thousand Islands, formerly known as St. Lawrence Islands National Park, was one of the first national parks in Canada. It was the very first national park east of the Canadian Rockies.
I would call Thousand Islands “sprawling” if it were a bit larger. It has several properties on the mainland, and contains over 20 islands in the St. Lawrence River. While much of the park can only be accessed via boat, several hiking trails, day use areas and the Visitors Center are on the mainland. Even though it is smaller than many of the National Parks in the west, it packs a lot into a compact area.
It is definitely a place for bonding with your family through outdoor cooperative activities. From canoeing and kayaking to searching for their geocaches, you will find plenty of fun things to try with your kids! They have many items – including GPS units for the geocaching. I think this is a great way to get your kids hooked on this fun activity. There are also varied hiking trails for every activity level.
Camping here is also a breeze. They have a couple of oTENTiks, or wooden structures, that make camping a little easier and more comfortable than a normal tent. Let’s be honest, if you are flying to the location there’s no way you want to tote a tent onto the plane. These oTENTiks take that out of the equation completely. However, linens are not provided and you should plan to bring bedding or sleeping bags.
If you are driving in, there are normal camping opportunities – including on some of the islands. You can rent a kayak, and take your tent out to an island for some family time where you are truly unplugged.
Fishing is also possible, but you need an Ontario fishing license and outdoor card. This can get costly if you are outfitting the whole family, and you aren’t a resident. Because of the cost of licenses, this might not be the best place to casually try out fishing for the first time. However if your family enjoys it, Ontario is known for their quality fishing experiences!
Important Note – Lyme Disease carrying ticks are known to be in Thousand Islands National Park. PLEASE read this information about how to minimize you and your child’s risk!
The park is located in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, an area known to have the greatest biodiversity in Canada. If you take your time exploring the park, you should see quite a few varieties of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles.
The Visitors Center was very well maintained and set up to offer casual education to their young visitors in an exciting way. There were hands on activities, living animals, and books galore.
There is also a cool program, the Parks Canada Xplorers, that helps the kids engage with the National Park, and gain a small souvenir when they complete their booklet. This is just like the Junior Rangers program with the US National Park System, and my kids love it!
Parks Canada’s Thousand Islands National Park website
The St. Lawrence River on the online Canadian Encyclopedia
Disclosure : I was a guest of Parks Canada during my visit to Thousand Islands National Park. But my impressions and witty snake humor are all mine.