At a charity auction over the winter, my mother-in-law won a 1,000 Islands cruise for two with Rockport Cruises. She then turned around and gave it to me as a Christmas present. Wanting to use it before the summer tourist rush, we made the trip down to Rockport for a May 27, 2017 sailing. It turns out, that was the first day visitors were able to access Heart Island and Boldt Castle.
The cruise that was won was the Heart of the Islands tour, the shortest and least expensive from Rockport’s roster of excursions. For a small amount of money, we upgraded to the Boldt Castle Cruise. The difference was that the Heart of the Islands cruise just passes by Heart Island but does not stop. The Boldt Castle Cruise follows the same route but allows for two hours on the historic island.
For large-size, high resolution versions of any of the photos in the image gallery, simply click on the individual picture. Some were taken with the Canon Rebel T3i and some with the GoPro Hero 5 Black. See below for more detailed information on our experience, Boldt Castle, George Boldt and Rockport Cruises.
It’s a question that is often asked. Is Boldt Castle haunted? It’s an old castle with a creepy vibe but logic would state that it is not haunted. After all, it was never completed and no one has ever lived in the mansion. It would seem that if it was a haunted castle it would need some eligible ghosts – which it does not.
Boldt Castle Image Gallery
Boldt Castle is open to visitors from mid May until mid October. It is located on Heart Island, in the St. Lawrence River in the town of Alexandria Bay, New York. The island is a short distance across the water from the town. Originally, the island was called Hart Island.
In 1900, George Boldt began construction on what would have been one of the largest private homes in the United States. In 1904, construction stopped abruptly when George’s wife Louise Kehrer Boldt suddenly passed away. He never returned to the island after her death and the uncompleted castle slowing succumbed to Mother Nature.
In 1977, the island was purchased by the 1000 Islands Bridge Authority. This purchased included the George Boldt Yacht House on a nearby island. The Yacht house was listed on the national register of historic places in 1978.
Since 1977, the bridge authority has steadily completed construction of George Boldt’s dream house, funneling back all money collected from visitors over the years.
Tour boats come from Alexandria Bay in New York state, along with Ganonoque, Rockport and Ivy Lea in Ontario, Canada. Visitors coming from Canada must pass through the U.S. customs office located on the docks at Heart Island.
George Boldt was born on April 25, 1851 in Bergen auf Rugen, Germany. He passed away on December 5, 1916 in New York City. Boldt immigrated to the United States in 1864, at the age of 13. George went from a poor immigrant to one of the richest men in the U.S. through the hotel industry.
He was general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, a structure since torn down to accommodate the Empire State Building. He bought the Bellevue Hotel and Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the side of the Stratford Hotel, Boldt build the 1,090 room Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, completed in 1904. This is now the Park Hyatt.
Rockport Cruises is located at 20 Front Street in Rockport, Ontario, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Rockport Boat Line was originally founded in 1954. Boat tours are run from mid April until the end of October and all include at least a view of the Boldt Castle.
Tours range the one hour Heart of the Islands Tour to the 6.5 hour Two Castle Tour. Prices range from $28 (CAD) for adults for the Heart of the Islands to $115 per adult for the Two Castle Tour. The Two Castle Tour includes a buffet lunch served on board and admission to both castles.
Originally, we were to take the Heart of the Islands cruise that would last an hour and take us around the islands with no stops. We upgraded to the 3.5 hour Boldt Castle Cruise. The difference in price is just $7 per adult. However, there is an additional fee to enter Heart Island which is not included in this tour as it is in the Two Castle Tour.
You must also take a passport as Heart Island is in the United States of America. There is a U.S. customs office on the dock at Heart Island but it was under water when we visited. The temporary office was at the counter of a snack bar. The water was said to be the highest in 100 years. It was so high that a temporary dock had to be built on top of the existing dock that raised it about a foot.
The parking at Rockport was free and ample. There are clean washrooms at the parking lot but they can get a bit crowded with multiple coach buses rolling in at the same time. Food is not an issue in Rockport with a few restaurants and snack bars.
As for the boat tour, you get to see Alexandria Bay up close and get a intimate peak at some pretty luxurious cottages on private islands. The two hour stop at Boldt Castle is just about perfect timing. You do have the option to stay longer and catch a later boat back to Rockport. There were not many on our return trip, suggesting that a number of people would be cramming into the later return cruises.
We did not stay overnight in Rockport, or even Gananoque. Instead, we spent two nights in Kingston, Ontario at the Ambassador Hotel & Conference Centre. This is a nice location along Princess Street, close to the 401, close to downtown and close to the Kingston Penitentiary. Primarily, we booked this hotel for the indoor pool that includes a water slide. I would suggest it for anyone visiting the area. If arriving by train, the VIA Rail station is within walking distance.