Thousand Islands of charm on Wellesley

The Wellesley Hotel

Wellesley Island Tabernacle With no less than three State Parks and three golf courses, Wellesley is one of the largest islands in the St. Lawrence River. It’s accessible by driving over a hyper tall (150 feet) but super narrow bridge from Cape Vincent, NY, a US/Canada connector first christened by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

Besides flora and fauna, there’s also a summer community of part-time residents that vacation on the southern tip in large Victorian homes with wrap-around porches and quaint fishing cottages. This is a retreat, a place to unwind, a hamlet of childhood homes that are passed down from generation to generation. Wild flowers of purple irises and yellow daisies border crumbling sidewalks and loose gravel roads.

Few people are hardy enough to brave winters on the island. My friend Marie escapes the din and dust of Delaware to vacation here in the warm months. She can vouch for the relentless isolation and blinding snow storms that hammer the St. Lawrence Seaway in the winter. But, in the summer, it’s a dream.

The district is referred to as The Thousand Island Park (TIP) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1875 as a Methodist tent city, the colony has manifested beyond its religious sentiment and is now a draw for anyone who likes to soak in history and the natural beauty.

We didn’t have time to dine but the grand Wellesley Hotel, built in 1903, with it’s renovated veranda and historic vibe, was busy with evening dinners. Marie’s son works as one of five cooks and returned home with a wad of tips and the smell of raw oysters.

The noble Tabernacle is still a center for rallies, arts and crafts, films and socializing. And, the Pavilion, once used to dock steamers and skiffs, is aging well thanks to a fresh coat of paint and meticulous maintenance.

Unlike its pious beginnings, visitors are welcome to visit without being charged an admission fee. Enjoy a Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, or fly a kite on the Gazebo Green or peruse history at the TIP museum or bring your binoculars and cheer on the Regatta Fun Day.

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