The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, 200 Riverside Drive, Clayton, New York, is the third Hart Family property I visited on an Empire State Roadtrip last fall (all three are AAA four-diamond properties).
I had started at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron, New York, then drove to the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel on Seneca Lake, and finished up at 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton, New York.
Like the address says, the hotel is right alongside the river — in this case, the St. Lawrence River — just beyond where it begins at the fifth of the Great Lakes.
Most of New York State’s northern boundary is outlined by water. The 1000 Islands region is defined as the island-dotted area where the St. Lawrence River, to the east, pours out of Lake Ontario, to the west, creating an archipelago that straddles the border of New York and southeastern Ontario province.
The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel arranged a classic shore dinner for our group, cooked by a local fishing family. We ate in a tent pitched close to the river, and had our first taste of how 1000 Island Dressing was meant to be served — in a roll-up consisting of white bread, fried fat back, and sliced red onion.
Yes: you’re right. Tradition says this region is where that American classic salad dressing was first created in the kitchen of a fishing guide’s wife. Sophie Lalonde made the condiment in the early days of the 20th Century to top the salad part of the family’s shore dinner — a regional feast offered to guests who’d been out fishing with her husband George all day. One liked it enough to request the recipe, and then passed it on to another summer visitor who happened to own the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. George C. Boldt took it to his maitre d’ — et voilà — 1000 Island dressing became the rage of New York City.
The classic ingredients of 1000 Island Dressing are mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, eggs, cream, chili sauce, tomato purée or ketchup.
Bright pops of orange enlivened the neutral backdrop of my room, one of 105 guestrooms and suites. Instead of providing a coffee maker in the room, the hotel sets out an elaborate array of hot beverage choices in the elevator lobby of each floor every morning.
The town of Clayton is just outside the hotel fence. It’s full of quirky shops, an ice cream parlor with dozens of choices, and an Antique Boat Museum. Like to do wine tasting tours? You can drive the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail, which features eight wineries
Of course you’ll take a river cruise while you’re staying at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. One of the popular stops is Boldt Castle — built between 1900 and 1904 by the same George Boldt, who owned the Waldorf. It was to be a gift for his wife, Louise, but when she died, he stopped the project on Heart Island, and it gradually decayed for the next 70+ years. It was acquired by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority in 1977, and millions of dollars have gone into rehabilitating, restoring, and improving the castle and the boat house.
Like the Waldorf, the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel always has a magnificent bouquet of flowers in the lobby.
Rates start at $119 in the winter, but can surpass $300 in the busy summer months. You can make your reservation at the hotel website or go through a booking site such as Hotels.com, Expedia or others.
(Photos courtesy of the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel and by Susan McKee, who was a guest of the hotel.)