We are in the same boat as everyone else….itching to travel, but unable to escape to faraway destinations. What better way to settle down the travel bug than with a local weekend getaway close to home? You can safely travel close to home with precautions in place and not have to quarantine when you get back.
We will be honest; traveling close to home for relaxation is not something we have done much of in the past. It was always go big or go home. Plus, a little something you may not know about us, three out of our four children have played or are currently playing hockey. As you can imagine, that meant a lot of weekends in hotels across the state, which is how we discovered this little gem of a hotel in Clayton, NY.
The Harbor Hotel in the 1000 Islands is nestled along the bank of the St. Lawrence River in the picturesque town of Clayton. It opened in July 2014 and is a AAA Four Diamond Property. They offer luxury accommodations and an indoor pool and hot tub, along with upscale dining. Summer is their peak season, so you can find some incredible rates during the off season. We opted for a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend trip where we took advantage of their “buy one night get one free” deal.
Upon arrival, the exterior of the hotel is stunning and full of character. This is not just another block chain hotel. The staff is warm, welcoming and very helpful. We felt safe at check-in with plexiglass barriers in place and masks worn by everyone, at all times. Glancing around the lobby, you realize this is a place that you could see yourself lounging and relaxing in. It has a large fireplace surrounded by oversized chairs, marble floors and lighting that warms you from the inside. Sometimes you walk into a place and just know you are going to have a great time; this is one of those places.
As always, we had a plan. Surprise! Even if it is a plan to be laid back, we have a plan. We knew we were at the end of a long work week and would be arriving late afternoon, so we chose to wine and dine at the 1000 Islands Bar within the hotel. Reservations are recommended for the Seaway Grill, which is right off the side of the bar area, but if you choose to sit bar side it is first come first serve. We arrived promptly at opening and took two bar stools in a secluded corner of the bar. Again, the hotel made everyone feel at ease with the spaced seating and limited patrons allowed in at one time.
The bar is very classic in its look and takes full advantage of the natural beauty outside. Dark wood compliments the stone fireplace along the back wall, while subtle boat decor and color accents blend perfectly. Dim lighting offers an ideal mood setting, while still allowing you to see clearly. The far wall is a mass of large windows and an opening to an outdoor patio showing off the perfect view of the mighty St. Lawrence.
At this time, they were offering a special menu for Valentine’s Day, but there was still something for every taste. Since Craig could eat cheese at every meal, we went with the Artisanal Charcuterie Board. It did not disappoint. The perfect pairing of artisan cheeses, cured meats, fruits and crackers. There was also a savory mustard that Jen fully enjoyed, but Craig refused to poison his sacred meal. He has so much to learn.
There is a wide selection of wines, a variety of beers on tap, as well as every mixed drink your mind could invent. We enjoyed a relaxing , low key dinner with our favorite drinks and conversation flowing. Laughter filled the air as we compared our bartenders to Doug and Flanagan. Who knows, maybe we will see one of them someday at a Cocktails & Dreams.
We stayed in a King River View room. The accommodations are very spacious, with a sofa sleeper in addition to the king sized bed. There is a second vanity area just outside the bathroom, which is incredibly helpful for traveling with women. The bathroom offers a glass enclosed shower, granite vanity and two robes (super fluffy, amazing robes.) Down pillows and a pillow top mattress promise a great night of sleep to prepare you to explore the following day.
Each room, at least on the river side of the hotel, has large windows which makes it easy to sit on the sofa, sip a cup of coffee, and enjoy the river view. Some rooms come with a balcony to get you even closer to the great St. Lawrence River. This hotel was a great find, close to home.
The next morning was all about food. If you ever find yourself in Clayton, brunch at the Saint Lawrence Chateau is a must! It was about a five-minute drive from our hotel on NYS Route 12E. The property was originally a summer home built in 1937 by Carl Zimmerman, the Fairview Manor Estate. The stone structure was completely constructed from local river stone and is unlike anything you would see built today. The property consists of the farm to table restaurant, distillery and boutique hotel. The restaurant building is listed on the National Historic registry.
The base of a former Dutch windmill sits to the left serving as a conversation piece to an outdoor patio strung with lights. Further to the left is the distillery, which is situated in a new building. While this structure is new, it compliments the original estate and gives the appearance to have been designed by the original architect. All this incredible discovery and we have not even stepped through the doors!
We appreciate anyone that treasures and preserves history. It is so easy to demolish an old building or allow it to crumble to make way for a fancy new development. The Chateau honors the history and works to incorporate their look and business within the original manor. The door, oh my goodness the door. The original black steel door with the original fittings still in place. It gives the appearance you may be walking into a castle in Germany, even though we were close to home.
Jen is literally bouncing as we walk in. We were greeted in a grand entryway and brought quickly to our seats. We walked through the main dining area, with a long, classic bar along the back with views of the river below. The original, intricate hardwood floor remains, along with wrought iron doors at different entries. We were led to a table for two alongside a window giving us the perfect view of the outdoor terrace. For a moment we wish it were summer, so we could sit outside underneath the sun to enjoy the incredible view with our meal.
The menu. Where to begin. Ok, lets start with the easy stuff, drinks. Obviously, we both had coffee, which was served with a coffee set you would see in your grandmother’s china cabinet. It transported you back in time and you could imagine, just for a moment, what it may have been like to drink coffee in this exact spot 80 years ago. That was just the coffee. They also offer tea, juices and if you are feeling up to it, a variety of mimosas.
We had already perused the menu online prior to our arrival to get an idea of what we wanted. Tip of the cap to Executive Chef Christian Ives, who designed the menu and prepares the mouth-watering delights. Christian is as daring with his food as Steve Irwin was with crocodiles. You won’t be disappointed in any of his offerings, Mate.
Craig’s mind was set on “I Like Pig Butts and I Can Not Lie.” This is one of their cast iron skillet meals with a bed of seasoned home fries, with pulled pork and topped with a fried egg. On top of the how mouthwatering that sounded, Craig also just wanted to say that out loud to the waitress. Jen chose the strawberry cream cheese stuffed red velvet French toast, drizzled in white chocolate sauce. Both were everything they sound like, amazing and then some.
The menu is filled with brunch favorites, such as eggs benedict, waffles, pancakes, quiche and even brunch burgers. It was very difficult to choose just one. We are pretty sure that neither of us spoke during our meal; we just savored each and every bite. Our senses were on overload at this place. The surroundings, the food, the company. It was perfect. This is a MUST stop. We now have a new favorite brunch place close to home. Check out this link for the Saint Lawrence Chateau for reservation information and to check out the menu.
While we did not want to leave, we were afraid they would frown upon a sleeping bag being thrown down for the night. We slowly left and admired the beauty of the building and imagined the summers here. We promised each other we would be back to spend a weekend here to enjoy every facet the Chateau has to offer.
Time to do some local shopping! Riverside Drive in Clayton is where all the cute boutiques and unique gifts can be found. While many shops are closed during the off season, there are enough open to fulfill your shopping needs. The Mason Jar offers home decor, one of a kind wedding and baby gifts, along with something for yourself. As you can imagine, most souvenirs are geared for “The River.” Our next stop was the Eagle Shoppe, which offers beautiful clothing you will not find in any box store.
With bags in hand, we returned to the hotel to relax for a little bit before our next outing. What better way to unwind than with a dip in the hot tub? Due to safety at this time, we did need to make reservations with the front desk. With our time slot ready, we took the opportunity to soak in the hot water and ease our muscles. This is something we have never done before. Our trips are normally filled with activities that do not allow much time to go down to the pool area. It was nice to slow down and take advantage of the amenities.
We are now ready for our next stop, the Thousand Islands Winery. Planning is never a bad thing. We pulled up their website a few weeks before our trip to double check their hours. They were having a Valentine’s Weekend Event and reservations were necessary for entry. We booked a spot for two in the afternoon and with tickets in hand, made our way to Seaway Avenue in Alexandria Bay.
Alexandria Bay is another riverside village full of great tourist spots close to home. On this day, however, the winery was our only destination. The winery is situated about a quarter mile off Route 37 with the Thousand Islands Bridge serving as a backdrop. We entered the tasting room filled with wine barrel tables along the exterior and a small square bar in the center. Apparel is for sale along the left wall, dipping oils and jellies to your right and the remainder is lined with bottles and bottles of wine.
The friendly staff sat us at our table and began our wine tasting. Normally you would be able to take a tour of the many buildings to see the wine-making process, but at this time we could only get the tip of the iceberg. There were roses, chocolates and another charcuterie board waiting for us, along with our tasting sheet. We each were able to sample five wines and at the end choose one glass. We chose this winery because they make our favorite wine, North Country Red. While that is our favorite, it was fun to try new flavors and possibly find a new favorite. You can check them out here.
We recently made a wine bar in our dining room and are always looking for unique bottles to place on the shelves. While absorbing our surroundings we noticed a few bottles with gold embossed labels. Craig grabbed one and discovered a special line of their wines give a portion of their proceeds to the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division of the US Army based out of Fort Drum, NY.
Our waitress informed us that they write a check quarterly and the last donation was $25,000. We were so impressed with this incredible community involvement that we grabbed two bottles to take home; Mountain Resolve and Riva Ridge Red. The names of each of these specially bottled wines has a historic meaning to the 10th Mountain Division.
Reluctantly we made our way from the inviting winery with another promise to return. With a full day behind us, we chose a quick dinner at a pub within walking distance of the hotel. We grabbed pizza, a few drinks, witnessed some local entertainment and made our way back to crash in our hotel.
While we were only a short distance, this weekend getaway close to home reminded us why we love to travel. It is the discovery of new things in the most unexpected places. Submerging yourself in the area and its history and finding places that call to your soul. You do not have to be across an ocean to find that; sometimes it is in your backyard.
Where is your favorite getaway close to home? What is your favorite part of travel? Tell us in the comment section below.
Thank you so much for reading and #NeverStopPlanning
Craig & Jen