By Chuck Miller, “The Traveling Guy”
For over one hundred years, thousands upon thousands of golfers, fishermen, boaters and vacationers have enjoyed the atmosphere in and around the small village of Clayton, New York located on the St. Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands region of northwest New York State. In the early 1900’s, during the summer months as many as fifteen trains a day arrived in Clayton bringing vacationers eager to enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, golf and relaxing vacations in Clayton’s friendly village.
Golf has been played in the area since 1894 when the 1000 Islands Country Club’s Old Course first opened making it one of the oldest golf courses in the U.S. During its historic past, wealthy tycoons like John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, hotel magnate George Boldt, millionaire proprietor of New York City’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and George Pullman, who designed and manufactured Pullman railroad cars, all traversed its fairways.
Located on Wellesley Island, a short twenty minute drive from downtown Clayton, the 1000 Islands Country Club has two courses, the aforementioned Old Course, which blends wide rolling fairways and left and right dog legs with undulating greens and forest views, and the Lake Course which features a number of holes with views of the St. Lawrence River.
The par 71 Old Course can be played from three sets of tees ranging from 5250 to 6603 yards. The Lake Course, somewhat shorter at 5000 yards, is a par 70 track with a course rating of 113. Although not fancy, both courses are well-maintained, fun to play, and open to both residents and visiting golfers.
In addition to 1000 Islands Country Club’s Old and Lake Courses, the third eighteen-hole course in the area is the family owned and operated par 71 C-Way Golf Club, located a mere five minutes from Clayton’s historic district. It can be played from the Red tees at 5077 yards, the Gold tees at 5384 yards, the White tees at 5492 yards and from the tips at 5808 yards. Although C-Way has mostly flat wide fairways, it is still a challenging layout for both men and women because of a number of blind fairway shots, several dog legs and numerous elevated tees and greens. Also in the area are the Clayton Country Club, the LA Golf Club, the Wellesley Island Golf Course, and the Smugglers Inn Golf Course, all of which are nine-hole courses.
Accommodations in and around Clayton range from camp sites at local state parks, family owned motels, cottages, and bed and breakfast inns, to the upscale AAA 4-Diamond 1000 Island Harbor Hotel. Opened in 2014, the hotel which has delightful views of the harbor and the St. Lawrence River, is a member of the Hart Hotel chain. It offers 105 deluxe guestrooms and suites and the outstanding Seaway Restaurant and Bar where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served both indoors in the comfortable and well laid out restaurant or on the spacious patio which looks out at the Clayton harbor.
Other amenities at the hotel include an in-house concierge, a fitness center, an indoor heated swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a business center, several conference rooms and high speed Internet service throughout the hotel.
The 1000 Island Harbor Hotel, conveniently located within a day’s drive of the northeast section of the U.S., offers excellent promotional packages: a summer Getaway Package, a Romance Package, a Wine & Dine Package, a Bed & Breakfast Package; a Hook Line and Sinker Package, and for all the family, a Family Fun & Fitness Clayton Retreat Package.
When not playing golf, boating or fishing for trophy fish in the St. Lawrence River, there is plenty to see and do in picturesque Clayton. The Antique Boat Museum, one of the village’s three museums, is a must for boat enthusiasts. Its six buildings contain over 300 watercraft, hundreds of inboard and outboard motors, over 3000 artifacts, some of which date back to the 1800’s, and the 106 foot historic houseboat of George Boldt of Waldorf Astoria Hotel fame. Clayton also has two art galleries, numerous quaint shops, and the Clayton Opera House which has staged concerts, plays and performing art events for over a century and is a member of the Nationally Registered Historic Places.
For those who enjoy visiting wineries and wine tasting, the area hosts eight wineries on the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail. The Coyote Moon Winery, one of the wine trail’s eight wineries, has an excellent tasting room located on Riverside Drive, Clayton’s historic main street. For those who prefer sipping vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, or Moonshine, the St. Lawrence Spirits distillery also has a tasting location on Riverside Drive.
When visiting Clayton, cheese lovers delight in the opportunity to taste and purchase wide varieties of cheese as well as purchase bottles of the “Original” 1000 Island Dressing at the River Rat Cheese store. Although there are three different versions of how 1000 Island Dressing came about, the most widely accepted version is that it was created by Mrs. Sophia Lalonde for her fisherman husband who served it to hotel magnate George Boldt on Boldt’s yacht. The story goes that Boldt liked the dressing so much he named it after the region and introduced it to his chef at the Waldorf Astoria…and as they say…the rest is history.
For anyone interested in architecture, a free city walking tour map is available at the Chamber of Commerce. It designates and describes Clayton’s three block historic district which houses thirty-one buildings all built between 1854 and the 1920’s.
A definite must when visiting Clayton is a cruise on the St. Lawrence River. The Clayton Island Tour Company offers multiple cruises including the highly popular
3 3/4 hour Two-Nation Tour. While cruising on the river, you see both tiny homes and large mansions built on amazingly small and large islands in the river. When your cruise boat crosses into Canadian waters, you motor under the 1000 Island International Bridge on which cars travel high above the St. Lawrence River into Canada.
One of the highlights of the cruise tour is the forty-five minute stop for a self-guided tour of Boldt castle, the six story, 120-room elegant summer home Boldt had built in the style of a European castle. Begun in 1900 on a private island he purchased for $20,000, his the castle was constructed by more than 300 skilled workmen at a cost of $2,500,000. Today the castle is valued at over $60,000,000.
For shoppers, Clayton has numerous quaint shops with local and unique items. (My wife particularly enjoyed shopping at Hilda’s Next Generation Ladies Shoppe on Riverside Drive while I sampled vodka and gin at St. Lawrence Spirits tasting room a few doors away).
For those who enjoy leisurely dining, in addition to the excellent Seaway Grill in the 1000 Island Harbor Hotel, Clayton has a number of other restaurants in and about town.
For additional information about golf, fishing, boating and the multitude of activities available in picturesque and friendly Clayton, New York, or to request a Clayton Visitor’s Guide, go to www.1000islands-clayton.com.