The village of Clayton is situated on the St. Lawrence River where it begins converging with Lake Ontario in central New York State's Thousand Islands region. Seemingly untouched by time - not a chain outlet to be found among local shops in historically preserved storefronts along with grand Victorians in a walkable street grid - it's in this setting that an adjacent, long waterfront lot underutilized as a fuel depot was recently transformed into 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, a spendid, full-service, AAA 4-Diamond resort.
Checking into the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel begins in a rustically furnished grand entry vaulted ceiling and leading to hallways lined with vintage photos depicting Clayton's historical ties with the river. Artistic lighting, intricately patterned carpeting, and water view windows wherever possible provide a distinctive ambiance to the common areas while rooms feature hardwood composite flooring, bay windows overlooking the St. Lawrence, and floor to ceiling tiled showers. The hotel's six suites include spa tubs, lavishly outfitted wet bars, and at least one balcony.
The onsite Seaway Grille has grown into a local dining hotspot with just as many outside patrons as guests savoring freshly prepared dishes like curried barley, frenched pork chops, and a tender house made gnocchi served with sage butter, asparagus, prosciutto and pumpkin seeds topped with feta. Executive chef Patrick Leibacher also regularly schedules culinary experiences like a "Wild Game Dinner Series" and a "Seven Continents Dinner" of dishes paired with wines from across the globe. This culinary inspiration spills over into the adjoining 1000 Islands Bar with local Wood Boat Brewery on tap, accompanied by small plates like sunflower seed dusted scallops and a regionally inspired North Country charcuterie board.
With over 6,000 square feet of conference and banquet space including a grand ballroom, you can bet that plenty of weddings are booked here overlooking the river with fire pits interspersed throughout their extensive riverside patio. Partnering with two local spas, the hotel's in-house spa packages include sparkling wine and strawberries upon arrival, in-room massages by Creative Edge Salon, and breakfast in bed. A "Romantic Getaway" package bumps it up a notch with a bottle of Champagne and rose-petal turndown.
Next door to the hotel, step down onto the 49-slip municipal floating dock and look clear to the bottom. You'll see why the St. Lawrence River is a fishing and recreational boater's paradise as well as a key shipping route a.k.a the Seaway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Dotted with actually 1,864 islands, many of the Thousand Islands are private and large enough to only accommodate a small cottage while others grandly display Gilded Age mansions like Boldt and Singer Castles, regularly open for tours.
As part of the hotel's Island Cruise Package, you can board the Muskie, of Classic Island Cruises' 1953 wooden cruiser for three-hour river excursions. Instead of large double decked tour boats narrated by an unseen guide over an intercom, captain Jeff Garnsey describes what you're seeing right from his wheel on a deck accommodating no more than six passengers. Garnsey customizes his voyages to include local wine and cheese pairings; stop off at Boldt Castle; provide close up views of storied homes on Millionaires Row; and follow a route bootleggers used back in the 1930’s. Garnsey also incorporates a "Shore Dinner Experience" into his cruises, featuring traditional ingredients and techniques developed over more than a century as a St. Lawrence River tradition.
Other can't-miss 1000 Island attractions include Clayton's Antique Boat Museum, with 4 1/2 acres worth of exhibits depict the evolution of recreational boating from sleek wooden cruisers of the 1930s up through the roaring 50's & 60's when speed boats were built for the masses. The Seaway Wine Trail, winding through 78 miles of the scenic byways includes Clayton and rewards wine enthusiasts with local award-winning Coyote Moon and Thousand Islands wineries with pairing possibilities made all the more authentic with local River Rat Cheeses.
Photos:1000 Islands Harbor Hotel & Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a partially sponsored visit.