The Return of Cross-Border Travel

Crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is getting easier April 1, and that’s no April Fool’s Day joke! It’ll be the first time in more than two years that most visitors can easily cross without testing. Read below to get ready for your cross-border trip and find out what’s new on each side of the border since you were last there!

Travelers vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be required to take a test to cross the border via the Thousand Islands Bridge or by boat. Travelers into Canada, regardless of vaccination status, are still required to enter their information into the ArriveCan app. The U.S. does not have a similar requirement. Be sure to bring along your proof of vaccination.

Unvaccinated travelers are still limited to essential reasons for permitted cross-border travel. The best source for the latest requirements are Canadian Border Protection Services and U.S. Customs and Border Services websites.

What’s New?

Watertown (NY) rolls out new dining and shopping

The popular Hobby Lobby store opened in the Salmon Run Mall just off I-81 and about 20 minutes drive from the border. Watertown’s downtown Public Square saw the launch of Starch, a trendy café housed in a long-ago laundromat with a retro vibe that includes antiquated furnishings including artifacts from places such as Boldt Castle. There’s also Empire Square, a contemporary bistro with a Prohibition-style bourbon bar that’s worth the foot traffic since it’s nearby favorites such as Spokes and Boots Brewing.

May Opening for Treetop Trekking in Mallorytown (ON)

Formerly known as Skywood Eco Park, Treetop Trekking on the 1000 Islands Parkway between Brockville and Gananoque is opening this spring and will be expanding hours of operation into the summer! This is a truly unique experience and can be the reason to revisit the Canadian side for Americans who’ve been away.

Clayton (NY) More Beautiful Than Ever

The riverfront community of Clayton underwent a massive facelift while the border was restricted. The downtown core removed all unsightly utility poles, added ornamental lighting, healthy trees and redesigned sidewalks to shine this crown jewel of the 1000 Islands region. A pedestrian walkway now lines the St. Lawrence River, allowing visitors to truly enjoy life along the water.

Tallships Return to Brockville (ON)

The border is reopening just in time for Tall Ships Brockville! Happening June 24-26, the waterfront festival includes massive tall ships that visitors can climb aboard for deck tours, a Parade of Sail, nautical demonstrations, musical entertainment, historic encampments by re-enactors a classic/antique boat showcase and much more.

New – Ultimate Sightseeing Tour

Debuting in 2021, the Ultimate Sightseeing Tour is the only St. Lawrence River cruise that includes stops at Boldt Castle, the Boldt Yacht House and the Rock Island Lighthouse! Offered by Clayton Island Tours, this five-hour tour proved immensely popular and includes a picnic-style lunch, fully stocked bar and tours highlights including Eel Bay, Millionaire’s Row, the Clayton waterfront, Devil’s Oven and more.

The View from Above

Only on the Canadian side can visitors to the 1000 Islands see the view from above. 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours flies everything from scenic cruises above Boldt Castle to winery stops! Yes…winery stops! Want to stay a bit more grounded but still see the islands from up high? The 1000 Islands Tower opens for the season in May! Enjoy the quick ride to more than 400 feet above the islands, within sight of the border.

Cool town alert – Sackets Harbor (NY)

Located along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor underwent a bit a few changes for the better since border restrictions were put in place. The downtown hotel got a full rebrand but kept the same local ownership and now the Harbor House Inn boasts all new rooms, furnishings and fun like daily wine meetups with the owners. The Whiskey Coop, Battlefield Eatery and The Sandwich Bar all opened within the past year as well while old favorite Tin Pan Galley underwent some popular changes with new ownership. Be sure to check out Sackets on your trip stateside.

Cool town alert – Kingston (ON)

Historic Kingston still holds the title for coolest urban vibe in the 1000 Islands. With far too many to name, the Limestone City’s seemingly endless dining spots are a reason enough to visit. Add in breweries, fun and amazing retail and you’ll quickly learn that the past two years haven’t dulled Kingston’s shine.

Duty Free Savings

Two years of border restrictions limited traffic to Duty Free Americas and 1000 Islands Duty Free, meaning deals are awaiting savvy travelers looking to stock up on favorite spirits and wines, apparel and specialty food products. A duty free store flanks each border station so be sure to stop in before heading back home.

More Savings South of the Border

For Canadians heading into the States, there are savings to be had on retail goods. Each Canadian can being back $200 worth of American goods tax free and a 48-hour trip – think a weekend – allows each Canadian to bring back a whopping $800 in goods tax free!