When people think of 1000 Islands, the image of a charming but rundown cabin undoubtedly comes to mind. Who knew there was a 4-star hotel hiding away in upstate New York? Who knew it’s a fun place to visit in the off-season? And that it’s only two and half hours from Toronto? Why hello there, 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.
Spending the weekend in Clayton, New York, this time of year is quiet, but I like it that way. Adam and I visited local breweries, wineries and cheese stores with zero wait times and were able to actually chat with proprietors for extended periods of time. We learned about New York’s terroir, the cheese made there and that Wood Boat Brewery makes some damn good beer.
1000 Islands Harbor Hotel is a CAA/AAA 4-Diamond property and the only large hotel in the area, with 105 rooms and suites. Most accommodations in the immediate area consist of motels or B&Bs, so many of the locals know the hotel well (in fact, our border agent raved about it). Positioned at the end of Riverside Drive, the main street with boutique shops and restaurants, it’s an ideal home base for exploring Clayton and for venturing to the islands’ castles and outdoor activities.
Even though the hotel opened in 2014, there’s a sincere shout out to the area’s history portrayed in the decor. The restaurant and bar have sophisticated dark wood paneling and the lobby has a giant stone fireplace, reminiscent of the mansions built in the area by New York’s elite in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Black and white photography line the hallways, featuring cottages, islands and boats from the area’s heyday. They’re on loan from the Antique Boat Museum, one of Clayton’s biggest attractions, and contribute to the sense of history here.
Outside, the property is expansive, sitting on a large lawn buttressing the St. Lawrence River. Even though we visited during the off season, the river was teeming with activity — Adam spent a lot of time watching the boats go by. During the summer you can eat a meal on the Riverside Patio, and in colder months sit by the fire with a cocktail.
In addition to historical ambience, 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel has the full range of modern amenities expected (and appreciated) at a four star hotel, like free Wi-Fi throughout the property. There’s also sunlit pool area with Jacuzzi.
The small but state-of-the-art fitness centre is on the second floor overlooking the river. If you have to work out, that’s not a bad view to sweat to, is it?
Big is beautiful guest rooms
There are several types of guest room spread across the second, third and fourth floors of the hotel. While the citrus accents were a little orange for me, the decor is simple, clean and cozy. There’s no carpet, which I love — because carpet in hotel rooms is just gross — and the rooms are huge! The double queen rooms are great for families, and have the sweetest little window seats overlooking the river or the charming town of Clayton.
We stayed in a king room on the fourth floor with a lovely view of the river and sitting area. I would definitely recommend asking for a river view room when you arrive! The hotel offers nightly turn down service, something I always associate with ultra-expensive hotels, so the chocolate on the pillow was an extra special touch for me.
One of my favourite features of this hotel? It’s coffee related, obviously. The hot beverage service is available every single morning on each floor. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, plus all the fixings are stationed by the elevators.
It was nice to just relax in bed with a coffee that I didn’t have to make in a crappy hotel coffee machine. Plus, all of the refills.
Dining at Seaway Grille
The 1000 Islands Bar is adjacent to the main restaurant, serving up classic bar snacks and daily happy hour specials.
Breakfast lunch and dinner are served daily in the main dining room, the Seaway Grille.
We only ate dinner at the restaurant, but it was lovely. With a roaring fire in the fireplace and prosecco, what more could a girl want?
And seriously, the bread basket might have been my favourite part of the meal.
We started with calamari, beautifully battered with spicy sundried tomato sauce.
For my main, I went with duck breast served with port wine cherry gastrique and wild mushroom risotto. The sauce was amazing and paired so well with the earthy risotto, but the portion was so big I couldn’t finish it! Adam chose the special for the evening: lobster risotto. He demolished it.
1000 Islands Harbor Hotel is suited for both families and couples who are looking for a romantic getaway. I cannot wait to go back again in the summertime to explore the hiking trails and cozy up with s’mores by the fire. The hotel also has a bunch of events throughout the year, including Fire & Ice Celebration coming up in February at their ice bar! Check out their website for details.