Sep 9, 2013

Wellesley Island in the 1000 Islands is a Great Destination

I have visited Boldt’s Castle many times and have seen it go from a
crumbling castle to one that is being upgraded.  John especially loves the Yacht House where some of Boldt’s 57 boats are on display.  What I didn’t realize until we stopped overnight on Wellesley Island is that there is an easy, less expensive way to visit the Yacht House and Boldt’s Castle.  There is direct access to the Yacht House from the Island and then the free shuttle takes people to the Castle. The Castle has restored the first floor to the way the Boldt’s had planned. There are six buildings to explore, exhibits and a video with a glimpse into the days of the “Robber Barons” – the days before income tax. 

Wellesley Island is a great destination on its own with a wide variety of accommodation options. It was once the playground of the rich and famous but now everyone can ‘play.’ Wellesley Island State Park offers a variety of options from tenting to cottages.  Hart House Inn, a lovely, historic inn, was once on Boldt’s Heart Island that was moved across the ice to Wellesley Island.  One of the most iconic places to stay is the Wellesley Hotel in the Victorian village of Thousand Island Park.  However, we elected to stay at a villa at the Thousand Island Country Club.  The two-bedroom villa offers great value with a patio, living room, kitchen, and two bathrooms.  We didn’t make use of their golf packages but they are also value-laden. They also have
a pro shop, a marina and Hacker’s Pub & Grill. Jo Ann Schwalm, owner of the Thousand Inland Country Club graciously offered to show us “her” island.  Without her we would have missed out on some of the fine points of the island. While tootling around her two golf courses she pointed out places where George Boldt had planned to create a series of canals in the manner of Venice but like his castle it was never finished.  The historic Old Course was opened in 1894 and expanded to 18 holes in 1924 by famed golf architect, Seth Raynor. 

We dined at the Wellesley Hotel located in a lovely Victorian Village that was founded in 1875 as a Methodist Campground and thrived as a family retreat in the spirit of a Chautaugua. Today it is still a family retreat with a Norman Rockwell ambiance. There are many “Painted Ladies,” an old-fashion ice cream place called “The Guzzle,” an unmanned post office with quaint mailboxes, a museum, several shops and the Tabernacle where non-denominational services and special events are held. Truly a step back into an earlier time. 

We stopped by Cross Island Farms, where they raise certified
organic vegetables, meat, and eggs. They grow over 200 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Along with farm tours they also offer primitive camping. I loved their on-your-honor farm stand. We also stopped at The Minna Anthony Common Nature
Center, a year round facility that overlooks Eel Bay, with eight miles of hiking and cross country ski trails crisscrossing its 600 acres. Schwalm says it her favorite place to bring her grandkids. The center has a variety of educational opportunities for all ages. It must be a glorious place to hike in the fall. A great first stop is the Thousand Island Welcome Center where there are a plethora of brochures and staff to answer questions.