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Wolfe Island and other island pleasures: Motorcycle Travel in New York and Canada

Steve Side
April 17, 2008
Filed under Favorite Rides: Motorcycle Rides from Rider Readers, Motorcycle Rides, Roads and Self-Guided Travel, Touring and Rallies

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Sunday is my favorite day of the week because Sunday is the day my wife and I get the Harley out, polish it up, and go for a leisurely cruise. Living where we do in the Thousand Islands region of Northern New York State, we are afforded ample opportunities to explore many wonderful places—most of which are only a few hours from home. Each weekend we pray for warm, sunny weather; Jean is a sun worshipper and frowns on riding in temperatures below 75 degrees.

With 80-degree weather, our plan was to go to Cape Vincent, New York, and take the ferry to Wolfe Island, Ontario, for some sight-seeing. From there we’d take the other ferry to Kingston, Ontario, and finally head toward home, stopping off at the Thousand Islands Casino in Gananoque for an hour or so.

We left Alexandria Bay about 1:30 p.m. and headed South on Route 12E toward Cape Vincent. Traveling along the St. Lawrence River there is a wonderful view as ships head up and down the river while you travel. We went through several little towns—Fishers Landing, Clayton and Millens Bay—each as nice as the next and filled with several unique shops and restaurants. Stopping off in any of them for an hour or two would be well worth your time.

We did a little cruise around Cape Vincent, traveling up to view Tibbetts Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1827 and features an original working Fresnel lens and a telescope that provides a view of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The lighthouse is open to the public late May to October and also contains a hostel for folks looking for a place to stay.
The best thing about taking your motorcycle on the ferry is a guaranteed spot. Plus, you get off first, which is great because you are first to make your way through Canadian customs. The ferry normally operates on the hour except during peak season when you can catch the ferry every half hour. The trip was very short (about 10 minutes) and enjoyable. The cost was $7. (Keep in mind that proof of U.S. citizenship and photo ID are required.)

Landing on Wolfe Island is like going through a gate to another world. We went on Kings Highway 95, a tree-covered two-lane road that we shared with cars and bicycles. If you take a left onto Reeds Bay Road, you will eventually come upon one of nature’s untouched miracles, Big Sandy Bay. Here you can stay in one of the many little bed-and-breakfasts that dot the island, or you can opt to stay on Main Street at the General Wolfe Hotel. We have eaten at the General Wolfe Hotel in the past and their duck recipe is one of the most wonderful I have ever enjoyed.

If you choose to stay on Wolfe Island for any length of time you will find that there is much to do. There are two golf courses, and hiking and biking in abundance. During the summer months there are many special events. Check with the Chamber of Commerce for dates and times.

As we finished our tour of the island, we headed toward the ferry to Kingston. Once again we were shuttled ahead of the line to assure our spot. The Wolfe Islander III runs year round from Kingston to Wolfe Island. There is no fee for the ferry ride. The view from the ferry is amazing as you approach Kingston. Old Fort Henry looms along the shoreline, and the river is dotted with sailboats.

Leaving the boat on Barracks Street in Kingston, we had many choices of things to do—shops, bookstores, boat tours, and restaurants, all within minutes of the ferry. Historic Fort Henry is only five minutes away. We decided to turn on to Highway 2 and head east towards Gananoque, Ontario. This scenic ride passes many marinas and restaurants along the way.

As we approached Gananoque we decided to head toward the river to see what we could see. The beauty of this small city can take your breath away. The historic Gananoque Inn was absolutely gorgeous and as we passed by we talked of returning to spend the night. The Gananoque Boat Line and the Thousand Islands Playhouse also looked inviting as we passed. We made notes to come back and spend the weekend to take advantage of some of the local amenities. As we traveled around the block we noticed many cute shops and fast-food restaurants. We decided to visit the Thousand Island Casino. Slot machines and card tables were filled with some serious-looking gamblers out to increase their wealth. Unfortunately, after spending an hour in the casino, we were not among the lucky.

Due to the growing lateness and cooling temperatures we decided to take the speedy 401 East and head back to the States. If you are in no hurry, the Thousand Islands Parkway is a gorgeous ride with marinas and restaurants, and the scent of the water is almost intoxicating along the bays.

It took us about 15 minutes to reach the Bridge to USA exit. After paying the $2.50 U.S. toll to cross the Canadian span you will shortly be on top of the world looking down. The smell of campfires drifting up to us only added to the ambiance as we viewed the beautiful St. Lawrence River.

After going through customs we found ourselves on Interstate Route 81 heading south. We were on Wellesley Island, home to several golf courses and many state park campgrounds. If you feel like exploring or having lunch, you can skip up and visit the small Victorian community of historic Thousand Islands Park.

Staying on Route 81 took us again into the air as we crossed the Thousand Islands Bridge, and once again viewed the breathtaking river and its scenery. We exited Route 81 and headed home to the world famous Boldt Castle and the “heart” of the Thousand Islands. The Bay is another booming river community filled with unique four-star resorts, shops, and lots of nightlife.

We returned home about 7:00 p.m., and if we hadn’t stopped at the casino we would have spent only $45, which included gas, lunch, and both bridge and ferry tolls. It was a great trip for little money with lots of memories.

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