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VIA Rail: Gananoque ON—1000% Charmed by 1000 Island Epicenter

VIA Rail: Gananoque ON—1000% Charmed by 1000 Island Epicenter

Old Oct 9th, 2021, 05:41 PM
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VIA Rail: Gananoque ON—1000% Charmed by 1000 Island Epicenter

My last travelling foray took me to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. While Gananoque and Niagara-on-the-Lake are both found in the same province, are both similar in size, both located on connected bodies of water, both spots with a degree of tourist popularity, the personalities of the two I find to be quite remarkably different. Both have much to recommend them but Niagara-on-the-Lake I found had an air of upscale, with a wealthy Ontarian golfer and fancy boater scene, Gananoque in contrast seems more salt-of-the-earth Ontario, a place where the woman cashier at the LCBO (Ontario wine store) said “oh, have yourself a lovely evening dearie”, when I left; loved her. Ontario-posh vs Ontario-friendly?

The motto of this province is “Ontario—Yours to Discover” and the more I see of it, the more I realize the gulf of my own ignorance and what a tremendous amount indeed there is to discover in this enormous territory. So many different microcosms and so many gems. Up until my mid-30s, all I essentially had seen was Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls; I’m glad I live in neighbouring Quebec, as I don’t know if I would have ever taken the time to go explore more if Ontario weren’t so darn close, easy and a nice weekend getaway especially for long ones like the present one, Canadian Thanksgiving. From Kingston to Brockville to Niagara-on-the-Lake to now Gananoque, I’ve come to realize that despite having checked out a variety of Ontario communities, I have only scratched the surface of what Ontario has to offer.

*Tomorrow: my first ever 1000 Islands boat excursion.*

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Old Oct 10th, 2021, 06:47 AM
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*Getting to Gananoque by Rail*

So, VIA Rail stops in Gananoque (pronounced: Gan a Knock Way) once a day on the Toronto to Ottawa train route. Which meant getting here from Montreal was interesting. So, to get here, I caught the Montreal to Toronto train and had to switch to the Ottawa-bound train in Kingston. Which is funny because you *pass* the Gananoque train station en route to Kingston. Here comes Gananoque, there goes Gananoque. I had about an hour layover in Kingston, so not the end of the world; I thought it was interesting that Kingston (a city of ~100,000) had a business class lounge; pity I was in economy class LOL.

So, after about a 20-minute ride from Kingston to Gananoque (pop. ~5600), I arrived at the somewhat dilapidated, unmanned station with no indoor waiting area, I call Gananoque Cab and they say it’ll be a 30-minute wait perhaps before a cab can come. The train station is on a desolate road with a large field visible and barns. As I’m waiting with air redolent of horse manure wafting to my nose, I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve signed up for with this visit.

I needn’t have worried. Gananoque is compact, charming, walkable, has a lively central core and has some quite picturesque spots along the Gananoque and Saint Lawrence Rivers. Al fresco dining was visible on the main drag of King Street, ranging from English-style pubs to Indian and Vietnamese restaurants to pizzerias. There’s even a craft brewery that had lively outdoor entertainment last night.

For the return trip, I have a 2-hour layover in Ottawa. I really think that given the charm of the town and given the popularity of Thousand Island cruises, that it would be appropriate for VIA Rail to do better by the town of Gananoque. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to have at least one train on the Montreal-Toronto route stop there each day. And this along with investing in the Gananoque train station would pay dividends, bringing visitors who might never have checked out the town otherwise. While I think the town deserves to have the station manned, at least providing a place people could wait inside (especially in inclement weather) would be nice; it looks like the station was once used for such a purpose, so possibly only fixing it up would
do the trick. I realize the governments can’t make such changes for all towns, but for Gananoque, I think it makes sense.

*Activites in Gananoque to come next*

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Old Oct 10th, 2021, 02:27 PM
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I found visiting the 1000 Island history museum, steps from where the City Cruises Gananoque 1 hour boat excursion leaves, was an interesting place to while away the half hour before boarding. In the late 19th/early 20th century, the Thousand Islands were an extremely popular getaway for those living in New York City, and after the cruise I did, it was not difficult to see why.

The excursion on the boat Thousand Islander III leaving the dock at Gananoque was just what the doctor ordered. All the cottages and docks found on multitudinous small islands, some just big enough to hold ONE cottage, give the islands such a magic. One has a sense of people escaping civilization and the rat race to have a little private oasis, only accessible to the mainland by boat, in a way here that resembles nothing else I’ve seen elsewhere. Periodic islands of birds, lighthouses, kayakers, boaters and the beginning of fall colours on the trees add to the picturesque views.

Sitting in my base, the Trinity House Inn, a home built in 1859 which echoes of another time, I don’t think I could have picked a better spot for a long weekend getaway. While there are plenty of other worthy candidates for a long weekend out of Montreal, Gananoque & the 1000 Islands are a destination I’d overlooked for far too long.

Oh and it seems my pronunciation of the town was a bit off (although is how many I know pronounce it); the boat tour seemed to pronounce it more “Ganna know kway” (first syllable rhymes with manna).

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving all!


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Old Oct 10th, 2021, 02:31 PM
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1000 Islands & cottages

Gananoque Inn & Spa
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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 10:14 AM
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Always enjoy your TRs, thanks!
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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 10:34 AM
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I am Canadian born and have seen very little of it. But many Toronto friends have spoken lovingly of the Thousand Islands and your TR has decided me.
I always enjoy your writing, Daniel - thank you.
And Happy Thanksgiving to you and all Canadians!
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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 12:36 PM
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Thank you thursdaysd and BowenLinda. I always appreciate your comments.
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Old Oct 12th, 2021, 07:32 PM
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The train station wasn't always a dump.

http://www.cnr-in-ontario.com/Report...s/RSR-173.html

Ganaoque is #212 on the list

Back in the days there was a 5 mile railway spur that would bring passengers from the station to Gananoque.

Old Time Trains

Our plan for next summer is to take our sailboat up the Ottawa River, through the Rideau Canal to Kingston
and then sail with the following current and wind back to Montreal.

I have only seen a glimpse of the Thousand Islands from the Thousand Island Bridge on our annual drive to the Carolinas and have always wanted to experience them from the water level.

PS

Last edited by cdnyul; Oct 12th, 2021 at 07:37 PM.
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Old Oct 13th, 2021, 07:55 AM
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Thanks cdnyul for a bit of the history. I found it interesting that there was a little train that used to take passengers from the station into town; I didn't see even any remnant of that this recent visit. When I went to a museum in Brockville a number of years ago, I learned that in the late 19th century and early half of the 20th century, there used to be regular trains from New York City up to the Thousand Islands, such a popular summer destination it was at the time, with glamorous hotels, night cruises and regular boats from communities on the US side of the river to the Canadian side of the river (for example Clayton NY to Gananoque). It's mind-boggling to think how Gananoque went from that to today's neglected train station, despite being still a delightful, atmospheric town that I have never seen promoted by VIA Rail advertisements and whose passengers in the dozen or so trains that whiz by daily may only see in a blink of an eye as a blur of a forlorn waiting area alongside a forgettable country road surrounded by barns.

I hope you do that sailboat adventure next summer; I think the Lake Fleet group and Admiralty Group of islands near Gananoque will be a place you will be happy to pass through.

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