Where to EAT!
The St. Lawrence River carries the fresh water from the five Great Lakes to the saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean, creating a unique fishery. The Thousand Islands Region of New York State has a long history as a premier vacation destination, including a long, storied history with angling.
This is the river that Arthur Lawton caught his impressive 69 lb-15 oz muskellunge back in 1957, a record that still stands today in the Empire State. On the weekend my wife (Sandy) and I visited, it was the opener of walleye and northern pike season.
However, this area is also more laid back than many tourist destinations as far as the fish guide community. When I contacted Allen Benas, the head guy with 1000 Islands Fishing Charters, he didn’t have his boat in and he couldn’t find anyone else that did either.
That’s not to say there isn’t good fishing available this time of year, there is. For walleye, some of the best action is around the horn near Henderson Harbor and around the mouth of the nearby Black River. With the Lake Ontario Counties, the Annual Trout and Salmon Derby is going on, anyone targeting walleye can try their luck there if they want the best chance to win. The leader going into the final day of Derby action was an 11 pound, 14 ounce ‘eye caught off the Black River on opening day. Check out www.loc.org to see the final leaderboard.
In addition to the fishing that these hotspots have to offer, don’t forget about the many boat tours that are available. If you’ve never been to Boldt Castle located on Heart Island, you owe it to yourself to take the tour and delve into this tragic love story. While this may be the most popular of all, Clayton Island Tours is now also offering Rock Island Lighthouse tours, and you have the option of being in a glass bottom boat to take in the river life beneath the surface of the water. To find out more, log on to www.claytonislandtours.com.
Local wineries are making a name for themselves too. This time around, we visited the Thousand Islands Winery (www.thousandislandswinery.com). If you like dry whites (to go with your seafood of course), you’ll want to sample their Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or semi-dry Riesling, these were “all-approving” to our palate. There are many other things to sample here too. Their operation is in the shadow of the 1000 Islands International Bridge.
An important part of all my getaways – short or long – is the food. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to use dining establishments as important waypoints and landmarks so that folks know where I am at all times! This time around was no different, starting with The Clipper Inn at Clayton.
This is a fine dining establishment that I’ve never had the pleasure to sample, but it is a restaurant that has been in the Simpson family for 35 years. The Simpson Family is native to the 1000 Islands area and goes back even farther. Mary was our waitress and she gave excellent recommendations, starting with our Seafood Pate appetizer and on to our entrees. My salad was slathered with, of course, 1000 Island dressing. I had a king crab and Delmonico steak combo that was to die for. Sandy had a Boston cod dinner that was exquisite. As is usually the case when the food is this good, I ate way too much. If you are in the area, this restaurant comes highly recommended. Check out www.clipperinn.com, remember that you will need reservations.
Our Saturday evening dinner was also exemplary, with the icing on the cake being on the water as the name suggests, at Channelside. The view is mesmerizing and the food is very good. We started things out with some Channelside Chips that are reminiscent of nachos, but with a personalized touch and unique flavor. We also had Bang Bang Shrimp, that was a great treat. My plate for supper was a perch dinner , and then a Haddock fish fry for Sandy. Both of us left begging for more, if we only could have finished both! The flavor was special. Check out the menu, visit www.thechannelside.com. Our waitress was Lori, also a great server. The service can make or break a meal no matter how good the food is.
Breakfasts were at the Koffee Kove Restaurant, where owner Laurie runs a tight ship with more good eats. While muskellunge fishing was out of season, the Musky Breakfast wasn’t. Give it a try. The Everything Omelet was their version of a tasty garbage plate that was also very appealing if you have a hearty appetite in the morning. They’ve been around for 44 years, so they must be doing something right.
Sandy and I love exploring new restaurants as we can find our way around town. And let’s not forget the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel either, more good food to chew on if you want to stay close to your lodging.
No stop would be complete without a visit to the 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese shop. Their aged cheddars are scrumptious and there’s always something new that ends up in our cooler for the trip home. The fresh cheese curds are to die for (at least if I listened to my doctor)! To see the wide selection of products go visit www.riverratcheese.net.
This is only the tip of the iceberg (lettuce – with Thousands Islands dressing of course), when it comes to what the area has to offer. You can find many more offerings at the Chamber of Commerce website at www.1000islands-clayton.com.
This area is also part of Jefferson County, featuring other locations like Sackets Harbor, Henderson Harbor, Watertown and Alexandria Bay. Ask for a travel guide at www.visit1000islands.com or call 1-800-847-5263.
I can think of thousands of reasons to spend more time there!