When someone says Upstate New York, most people think of the Finger Lakes, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo – that region – but if you take a look at a map, you’ll see these cities are actually closer to the center of the state than they are the northern tip.
My theory for this misunderstanding comes from the tendency for those that live in Manhattan to label anything north of New York City as “upstate,” a mindset that I find counterproductive to the state’s fruition as a whole. I’ve heard people say it as a way of making a “joke,” insinuating there’s no reason to travel further north than the city limits, that all you’ll find are farms, cows, and northern hicks.
Truth is New York is one incredible state, with or without Manhattan. The central and northern parts of New York have some great places to visit, yet they seem to have this unknown, foreign aspect to them as a result of the aforementioned attitude of city dwellers. Although it is sad on one hand that this attitude has prevented the rest of the state from becoming a regular weekend getaway for tourists and locals alike, I suppose that’s what continues to make it such a pleasant part of the state to visit.
This past weekend I went to the northern most part of the state – Upper Upstate, if you will – an area known as the Thousand Islands Seaway or the St. Lawrence Waterway. The St. Lawrence River begins at the northeast corner of Lake Ontario, snaking its way toward Quebec City through Montreal, and serves as the border between Ontario and New York. The Seaway consists of 1864 islands, and the US/Canadian border zig-zags through the middle of it all. What constitutes an island? Two things: It must be above water 365 days a year and support at least two living trees.
Boating, jet skis, water-skiing, copter rides, golfing, and waterfront bar-hopping are all part of the culture there, the islands providing the inspiring backdrop. There’s historic beauty in the 100-year old castles – some of which you can spend the night in – and “millionaires row,” a string of private islands with single houses, provides incredible scenery for boats leisurely cruising the Seaway. My recommendation is to stay in Alexandria Bay, which is a salty-dog style town located in proximity to Boldt and Singer castles. Check out the photos below.
What was that about spending the night in a castle? It’s almost a tease touring these incredible properties, ropes and restrictions preventing full exploration. Singer Castle, built by the President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, is one of the few that will let you stay the night in what they refer to as the “Royal Suite.”
It can sleep up to six people – $700 for the first two and $50-$60 a person thereafter. Seems expensive, but the sticker shock wears off when you divide $900 by six and realize that you’re staying in a four-story castle in the middle of the Thousand Islands Seaway