Real Estate

Cottage real estate region: Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River

Aerial image of Thousand Islands. Photo by Russ Heinl/Shutterstock

Ontario’s portion of the mighty St. Lawrence River has two vastly different stretches. East of Brockville, the river flows wide and almost island-free. From Brockville west to Kingston and Lake Ontario, it flows even wider around a bewildering maze of islands. The Thousand Islands archipelago is the eroded remnant of billion-year-old mountain peaks, where the Canadian Shield lifts its ancient backbone through the rolling plains of Southern Ontario.

There have been cottages on the Thousand Islands for more than 100 years, and many are under fifth- and sixth-generation ownership. Communities date from Loyalist and American Civil War days, with strong ties across the border. Summer people today, just as in decades past, cottage on both mainland and island shores. They’re drawn to the granite landscape, the rich forests, and the myriad channels, large and small.

This area has perhaps Canada’s richest ecology: five of the continent’s forest regions converge here. The islands, more than 20 of which are in the Thousand Islands Nat­ional Park, attract visitors from around the world and boaters from all over Lake Ont­ario, who camp on them or drop anchor in their sheltered bays, making the area boisterous on summer days. A downside for cottagers is that security along the Canada-U.S. border means mandatory government check-in on both shores, no matter how short the visit. Regardless of this inconvenience, a large number of Canadian waterfront cottages are sold to Americans. Many properties, particularly on the mainland, are year-round homes.

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