Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Alexandria Bay, NY

  • Published 2022/12/13

This beautiful and welcoming historic village sits in the heart of the 1,864 islands for which the region takes its name.

It has always been a little archipelago paradise for tourists and residents alike.

Alexandra Bay lies in the gentle waves of the St. Lawrence River, a part of the town of Alexandria situated in the Thousand Islands Region of Jefferson County, New York.

The waters embrace a place of year-round loveliness strewn with old castles, rocky lighthouses, historic summer homes, and miles of spectacular islands within its borders.

Whether one is strolling the waterfront, going on a shipwreck dive, admiring the historical architecture, having a hiking experience, or taking a scenic boat tour of the islands, there is no end to the exploring to be had in Alexandria Bay.

The village has all that adventure-seekers and sightseers could need, and there is more than one way to get to know it better.

In many aspects, Alexandria Bay is the spirit of the Thousand Islands, and once you get here, you’ll understand why.

Come aboard and check out this list of the best things you can do in Alexandria Bay.

Marvel at Boldt Castle

Exterior of Boldt Castle

Felix Lipov /

The towers and spires of this majestic castle rise to the heavens against the crystal-blue backdrop of the St. Lawrence River.

Boldt Castle is an essential stop for anyone coming to Alexandria Bay for the first time.

In the 1900s, immigrant George Boldt started building a castle in Heart Island, a symbol of his love for his wife, Louise.

Facade of Boldt Castle

Khairil Azhar Junos /

Louise died unexpectedly at the age of 42, and the broken-hearted George put a halt to construction on the castle, which lay empty for almost 70 years.

In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority started restoring the castle, fulfilling the Boldts’ dream of creating a summer haven as beautiful as any castle in Europe.

Today, the grounds hold a breathtaking structure seemingly right out of a fairy tale, a fitting monument to the tragic love story that birthed it.

Steps leading to Boldt Castle entrance

sarahnev /

Walk amidst the castle’s grandness, look around the library with its gilded pictures and lines of books, soak in the opulent ambiance in the ballroom and dining room, admire the lush ornamented gardens, and draw in a deep breath on the castle’s balconies as you look out at the river.

See the cathedral-like stained glass ceiling, seek out the elegant carvings, and especially look for heart-shaped features all across the island.

Appreciate Alster Tower with its architecture like no other, the Boldt Yacht House with its antique wooden boats and yacht, and the Power House and Clock Tower with its quaint medieval outlines against a backdrop of St. Lawrence River.

There is so much to find at Boldt Castle, so make sure you don’t miss anything in your explorations!

Daytime view of Boldt Castle

boreccy /

Learn History at the Cornwall Brothers Store and Museum

Exterior of Cornwall Brothers Store and Museum

Steven Hamsness, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to learn more about the history of Alexandria Bay, the Cornwall Brothers Store and Museum is your best bet.

This museum, built in 1866, devotes itself to preserving the lifestyle and history surrounding the River.

Here, you will gain insights into the river culture and the not-too-distant past of the Thousand Islands.

Learn about the Thousand Islands’ storied past here and get a glimpse of its local color: settlers from the first days; early shipwrecks; boats, skiffs, and other water occupations; street racing during the ’30s; histories of local families; 19th-century past times, and a lot more.

The museum is free, but the kindly patrons very much accept donations.

The staff hold a wealth of knowledge and are only too glad to pass it on and let the world know what makes Alexandra Bay so exceptionally itself.

Watch Movies at the Bay Drive-In Theatre

Drive-in movie theaters are always an innovative way to watch your favorite films.

If you want to catch some movies under the sky during your Alexandria Bay vacation, you can do no better than the Bay Drive-In Theatre with its blend of modernity and nostalgia.

Bring your loved ones out to catch double feature films for the price of one: pick the best spot, park your vehicle, turn the radio on to the designated station, and you’re set for a fantastic outdoor movie night!

Or even bring lawn chairs or blankets and place them outside your vehicle, so you’ll be watching movies outdoors like you’re right at home.

Other fantastic features are the tasty food from an old-fashioned 50’s style diner, the companionable staff and moviegoers, and the old-time atmosphere that will make you reminisce about earlier days.

Drive-in places are becoming a rare novelty, so be sure to experience the Bay Drive-In Theatre for yourself.

Eat Ice Cream by the Water

Cool off from your wanderings and have yourself a scoop or more of sweet and cold ice cream while sitting by the water.

Dig into the big, creamy, smooth servings and specialty sundaes at Whole Scoop Ice Cream while chilling and watching people walk by at the picnic tables.

Try out The Gal’s Place with their vast flavor selection and scrumptious soft scoops – their portions are enormous, so make sure to gauge precisely how much to finish.

Or find multiple treats at Lil’ River Fudge Co, with their hand-dipped chocolates, fresh-made fudge, and delicious ice cream.

A yummy treat by the waterfront is the perfect ingredient for summer in Alexandria Bay!

Journey With Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours

View of Uncle Sam's Boat Tours

Khairil Azhar Junos /

When it’s time to get to know the St. Lawrence River, what better way to experience it than out on the water?

There are boat tours going all over the archipelago for thoroughly exploring the Thousand Islands around Alexandria Bay.

Uncle Sam Boat Tours is among the best water tourists around and has been operating in the Islands for nearly 85 years.

Their Millionaire’s Row Tour takes you to a historic part of the Island to see the stately mansions built by some of the richest families from the early 1900s and the late 1800s.

On the other hand, their 2 Nation Tour takes you 22 miles out into American and Canadian waters to look at landmarks, narrow passageways, homes from the gilded age, and other pieces of history shared by both nations alike.

View of Uncle Sam's Boat Tours sailing

Dirk Ingo Franke, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Their Sip N’ Sail Tour brings you on an enchanted evening cruise when the River is a different tranquil experience than during the daytime: its atmosphere is perfect for romantic getaways with the evening sky above and the river splashing below.

They have a 1000 Island Dinner Cruise for evenings of wining and dining along the Island channels while music plays and the stars twinkle above.

Their Luncheon Cruise serves a palatial lunch and takes you on an in-depth guided historical tour into the beautiful Islands.

Make your river getaway with Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours, one of the most educational and scenic Island journeys in Alexandria Bay.

Ride at Alex Bay 500 Go-Karts

At 1 mile long, Alex Bay 500 Go-Kart has the longest Go-Kart track in the New York State!

It’s a great place to spend time on summer afternoons, and you can bring your kids for some exciting rides or race with your friends and bring out the inner child in you.

You can cruise on the Go-Karts, and the track is in neat shape with lots of twists and turns so that you will have a zany time racing around.

The best part: anyone can go as many laps as they want at a reasonable price.

You can also have fun putting at their mini-golf area and playing games at the arcade.

So if you’re ready to hike up that holiday energy and go for a ride, do it here!

Fishing With Reel Commander Fishing Charter

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you’ve struck gold in Alexandria Bay which attracts avid anglers from everywhere in the country, year-round!

The waters of St. Lawrence run richly with catches of walleye and smallmouth bass, northern pike, and muskellunge.

Among experienced fishermen, there even exists a “Muskie Madness” search to find the largest muskellunge, as the species can grow up to six feet long.

It’s tradition for enthusiasts to hire fishing charters that take them out on the water so they can reel the catch of the day in with experienced guidance from better anglers.

One such guide is Reel Commander Fishing Charter, headed by Captain Dave Cortright, who believes fishing should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that puts a smile on anyone who tries it.

Captain Cortright knows the St. Lawrence River back and forth and has an instinct for scouting out the dispositions of various types of fish on different days and throughout the seasons.

You will be boating and fishing deep in the Thousand Islands, graced with stunning views and all the excitement of a great fishing trip.

And then there’s the shore dinner where you will dock on an island and enjoy your catch of the day deliciously prepared on a wood fire stove while watching the sunset and ships sailing downriver.

For a top-rate fishing trip, you can’t go wrong with Reel Commander Fishing Charter.

Discover Singer Castle

Exterior of Singer Castle

Victoria Lipov /

Do you feel like walking into another castle straight out of a story?

Come on over to Singer Castle on Dark Island, steeped in mystery and even rumored to be haunted.

Singer Castle was the creation of the president of the Singer Sewing Company and was initially called ‘The Towers’, an island refuge for his family and a perfect spot for entertaining magnates and millionaires back in the day.

Far view of Singer Castle

Victoria Lipov /

A reverend bought the castle from the Singer family in the 1960s and turned it into a religious retreat.

And in 2005, German investors bought the castle and opened it to the public amid rumors of mysterious goings-on and even hauntings.

Today, the marvels of the castle and island are right here for the world to see.

Facade of Singer Castle

Bert Dunn /

See the magnificent entranceway guarded by armored knights and trek the marble staircase up to the breakfast room, looking out the Gothic windows at the River below.

Find the Clock Tower behind the boathouse, whispered to have clock faces composed of pure gold and with its chimes sounding out every 15 minutes.

Look at the castle’s old furnishings like lithographs, paintings, bronze and brass works, wrought-iron chandeliers, and furniture carved intricately by hand.

Side view of Singer Castle

Bert Dunn /

Discover the much-fabled secret passages in the Library and the Drawing room panels, which even feature a portrait and grates from which anyone can spy behind the walls.

Visit Singer Castle for yourself and know why the romantic fascination with it has endured over the years.

Hike at Otter Creek Preserve

Alexandria Bay has many walks and trails for hikers in search of an excellent path to trek.

Find one of these at Otter Creek Preserve, with its acres of woods and 1.9 miles of trails for hiking and walking, and even snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.

Have a fun afternoon adventure exploring the preserve’s wide and well-marked trails that feature serene sights of New York’s nature scene.

The trail has two loops that reward you with attractive views at the end of each.

Climb boulders, outcroppings, and scenic overlooks to see habitats alive with a great diversity of wildflowers, plants, and wildlife.

You can even go up a two-story wildlife observation tower to take in the most of the lovely view.

The preserve is part of the wetlands and is home to many sorts of living creatures, so try to look out for them on your hike.

The trail goes through wooded areas, has a pretty overlook at Otter Creek, and even goes over a suspension bridge, and you will enjoy the wild natural surroundings while also exercising your feet.

Have a good hike and connect with the natural world at Otter Creek Preserve.

Dive at the Wreck of the Islander

You might be ready to find a different world in the waters of the St. Lawrence River.

The waters around Alexandria Bay are perfect for scuba diving with their clarity, underwater diversity, endless diving spots, shore accessibility, and numerous shipwrecks

One of these wrecks is the Islander, a wooden steamer that burned and sunk in 1909 and now lies 35 to 50 feet deep underwater, parallel to the shoreline with its bow facing upriver.

Underwater, the wreck stays sturdy with wood and metal, one side slightly collapsed but leaving the ship still primarily intact.

Sometimes the locals plant things in the wreck for the tourists to discover, so leave any treasures you may turn up for the next diver.

The wreck of the Islander is now one of the best places to get introduced to shore diving in Alexandria Bay: a place for beginner divers, tourists who want a unique view, and divers who­ wish to increase their underwater skills.

Close to the wreck, you will find an underwater training platform and obstacle course for improving and refining one’s scuba diving.

Diving is a most indescribable experience: there’s nothing like getting swept away to another world entirely by the sights found underwater.

The heart of Alexandria Bay is one of the best places to go to experience it for the first time or do it all over again.

Sip Wine at Thousand Islands Winery

One can find the largest farm winery in the New York State right along the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Thousand Islands Winery is a flourishing place that produces fifty thousand gallons of wine every year and has won 198 awards in wine competitions across the country.

Founder Steve Conaway, who already had a love for Riesling grapes, got inspired by the power and beauty of the St. Lawrence River, the grand stone castles, and the lovely scenery.

All that was missing, he thought, was a vineyard and winery that could stand up to the best of Europe.

Thousand Islands Winery now produces twenty-three different kinds of wine divided into five categories: sweet, semisweet, fruit and dessert, dry, and semi-dry, from variations of rare wine grapes planted on their farm.

You will have a blast sampling generous pours of delicious wine at this winery!

There is a picturesque outdoor area and tasting rooms with a soothing ambiance where you will have a glass to taste and can choose from an assortment of cheeses, dips, and other snacks.

The warm, hospitable people on the staff make this place wonderful to visit and are no stranger to the flavors that visitors can explore.

Thousand Islands Winery also offers tastings of craft beer and local-created distilled products, as well as their signature wine slushy.

There is something for every individual palate, and you might even leave having purchased several bottles of your own luscious wine.

Visit Thousand Islands Bridge

Aerial View of Thousand Islands Bridge

Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Appreciate this path between two nations in the heart of the Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands Bridge serves as a connection between north New York in the United States and southeast Ontario in Canada.

It is a part of a series of five bridges that span the St. Lawrence River.

View of Thousand Islands Bridge

Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The bridge affords a great view over the many islands nestled in the River, so try to take photos of your vantage point while crossing it.

Admire the panoramic sight from the inside of your ride or while strolling its pedestrian walkway, but do tread carefully if you have a fear of heights as this bridge is quite high over the River.

Road of Thousand Islands Bridge

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The view is the most stunning between the two suspensions, and one can spot the ripples, streams, and shoals in the River from way up high and almost feel like they can count all 1 864 islands.

A walk or drive down the Thousand Islands Bridge will invigorate you for your adventures.

Structure of Thousand Islands Bridge

debra millet /

Relax at Keewaydin State Park

Keeywaydin State Park is a 282-acre park that sits southwest of the village.

Keewaydin State Park gives you the chance to stay in some of the loveliest waterfront campgrounds in Alexandria Bay and also shares its shores with Canada: anyone can actually camp in one nation and look across at another!

Stretch your legs on the trails that lead to the riverbank, enjoy the sight of the warm earth and greenery embracing the aqua-blue water, and watch the boats pass by.

Catch beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River and great perspectives of the islands from the pavilions and the waterfront gazebos by the water.

One of the park’s highlights is a large and refreshing Olympic pool with a good deal of room for exercise and clean and revitalizing bathhouses: just pay a day fee, and you’re all set.

If you want your dose of water recreation, dock at the boat launch or head to the marina, which will give you the amenities for a day out on the River.

Off-season, the park holds plenty of other activities such as geocaching, an outdoor recreational hunt in which you and your companions can use a GPS receiver or device to seek out ‘geocaches’ hidden at specific coordinates.

In the winter, go fishing through the ice or cross-country skiing on the hiking trail near the frozen River beside the woods.

No matter the season, you definitely won’t run out of things to occupy yourself at this state park.

Stop by the Antique Boat Museum

Do you want to learn more about life along the St. Lawrence River?

This museum dedicates itself to chronicling the impact of boating culture on North America, particularly on the River and the sea around it.

It ‘collects, preserves, interprets, and celebrates’ boats and other related artifacts and currently has over 320 boats in its permanent exhibits.

The museum also collects materials for their archive and library; boat fixtures, accessories, and hardware; historical tools for boat building; marine and sailing equipment; and tools and materials for their boatbuilding workshops.

View the antique boats now restored to operative condition, admire the masterful craftsmanship, and marvel at these works of maritime history right in front of your eyes.

You might also want to join a workshop and watch the restoration process piece by piece or take a guided historical tour around the museum and along the waterways.

Let the Antique Boat Museum teach you about the thousand aspects of life on the water.

Have a Relaxing Day at Scenic View Park

If you’re looking for a place to just relax and unwind for the day, Scenic Park is located right along the St. Lawrence River on Fuller Street.

Take a relaxing stroll on the boardwalk and enjoy the riverside view with a glimpse of Boldt Castle from afar.

If you want to get into the water, the Wreck of the Islander just off the park’s shore is a spot you can dive right from the park.

You can reach Casino Island through a footbridge that’s similar to the Thousand Islands Bridge; you can stay at the benches and lovely gazebo or go fishing by the shore.

There are lots of spaces for a picnic around the park like the covered pavilion and tables with grills for your barbecue.

Your little ones will also enjoy the modern playground; likewise, take snapshots of the lovely gardens and rock landscapes.

If you want to head off to the beach, Alexandria Bay Beach Park is next to Scenic View Park, so you can the sands and more of the river water.

Taste Dark Island Spirits’ Uniquely Crafted Drinks

For genuinely crafted spirits, Dark Island Spirits on Church Street is a great distillery to stop by.

Their award-winning Whiskeys, Bourbons, and Brandy selections are always a hit, along with other concoctions like Vodkas, Gins, and Liqueurs.

Their spirits are “Musically Mature”, which means they are moved to different music genres to achieve a certain level of flavor.

And that’s really a cool process, isn’t it?

You can have a free tour of the distillery upon request and learn all about the distillery process from grain to glass.

Drop by the tasting room and lounge and savor their signature drinks like the 80-proof Eleanor Glen Phantom Piper, a straight American single-malt whiskey, or the Eleanor Glen Highlander, an American single-malt whiskey that’s completed in sherry casks.

Try Annie on Fire, apple brandy infused with flavors of natural cinnamon and red chili, or the 70-proof citrus-infused vodka called Island Citron vodka.

Other selections available at Dark Island Spirit include Vodka Cocktails, Bloody Mary’s, Rum Cocktails, NY Craft Beer, Whiskey Cocktails, Martini Style Cocktails, and Mix & Match slushies and spirits.

Tour and Enjoy the Food at North Country Welcome Center

Your tour to Thousand Islands should definitely include a visit to the North Country Welcome Center.

Located on Collins Landing Road near the Thousand Island Bridge, you’ll enjoy the boathouse-themed architecture and designs as you step in.

You’ll see promotional videos about Thousand Islands’ beautiful destinations and local attractions on the LED screen.

Take snapshots of the Boldt Castle mural and view the displays at the Antique Boat Museum that highlight the boating heritage along with items that represent the region.

You can also get local gift items and I LOVE NY merchandise to remember your trip.

Outside, you can take more pictures of the huge I LOVE NY sculpture and see the Walk of Fame of famous New Yorkers; likewise, your kids can also play and enjoy the castle-themed play area.

And of course, don’t forget to have some tasty breakfasts grubs like The Bridge Breakfast Sandwich and Spinach Goat Cheese Quiche.

They also have lunch specials like Clayton Caprese Panini or The Bay Steak and Cheddar, baked items like breads, cookies, and pastries, and assorted coffee and tea.

The North Country Welcome Center is operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

Camp Out at Grass Point State Park

Enjoy camping with the family at Grass Point State Park on Grassy Point Road.

The park sits on a piece of land that projects into the American Channel along the St. Lawrence River.

The area is among the best fishing spots in the country and is also a popular camping and day-use location.

Enjoy a boat ride, or take a cool swim in the waters; you can also stay at the sandy beach area and wade in the shallow waters with your little ones.

There’s also plenty of space to run, play games and do some outdoor sports.

If you prefer to get full-service accommodation, the Grass Point cottage is available with amenities like a bathroom and shower, a kitchen with appliances, and fully furnished rooms; you’ll even enjoy a stunning view of the river at sunset.

Catch the Alexandria Bay’s Rollin’ Street Thunder Event

See amazing classic automobiles and motorcycles at the Rollin’ Street Thunder held every first weekend of September.

Organized by the Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce, this annual event happens at Market Street.

Meet other classic car and motorbike enthusiasts from across New York at the Thunder Hogs and Rods Show event.

You’ll see cool 1950s and 60s-themed cars and big bikes lining up for awards like Best Mopar, Best Vintage Class, Best Custom Paint, Best Stock Class, and the People’s Choice Award; otherwise, you can watch the Loudest Pipes and Muffler Contest.

Take pictures with these vintage autos and hot rods at the Rollin’ Street Thunder and enjoy other fun attractions.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore With Clayton Island Tours

Another way to cruise the waters around Alexandria Bay is by taking Clayton Island Tours, which is a few minutes’ drive away from Alexandria Bay.

They gather a small, intimate group into passenger boats and show you the islands’ sights from a closer distance, such as the magnificent homes, lighthouses, freighters on the Great Lake, and the Thousand Islands Bridge.

Go on their Heart of the Thousand Islands tour, which takes you to view castles and the houses of the rich and famous of yore, and also brings you to Rock Island Lighthouse, where you may enjoy magnificent views of the St. Lawrence Seaway

Their Rock Island Lighthouse and Nature Tour involve going on a glass-bottom boat where you can view a shipwreck, underwater shoals, the river bottom terrain, and long-ago dock cribs, and then later explore Rock Island State Park.

Their Sunset Cruise shows off the unique and singular beauty of the islands at twilight, a soul-soothing experience and a chance to see them as you’ve never seen them before.

There are many other tours to take, and the tour guides will share with you the folklore, mysteries, and legends surrounding the places as you go on your excursions.

Experience the River in a whole new way with Clayton Island Tours.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to go very far in Alexandria Bay for a getaway of castles, islands, waterways, and stunning beauty within your reach.

This little village in the Thousand Islands draws in anybody looking for the next adventure around the bend.

There’s always something here for the restless wanderer inside everybody, so if you are up for it, make Alexandria Bay the next stop on your journey.

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