Pet-friendly Gananoque, Ontario: the gateway to the 1000 Islands with your dog

Gananoque, Ontario is that hard to spell small town along the St. Lawrence River where travelers usually do one of three things: stop there along the way from Toronto to Ottawa (which my dog and I did); visit as an access point to the Thousand Islands (which my dog and I did); or rent a houseboat here and tour the 1000 Islands with your dog, which – you guessed it – I did.

Gananoque promotes itself as the gateway to the Thousand Islands and as such is a picturesque town and all about the waterfront. That means, many of the attractions are outside so bringing the dog is possible although mostly on a leash – mostly. There’s one small hidden gem.

Gananoque Waterfront Park

First, the Joel Stone Heritage Park waterfront – this is the magnetic pull for most venturing to the area especially in the summer and fall but even in the winter because frost covered islands in the wide constantly moving river are photo perfect. City Cruises operates three-level sightseeing tour boats from this location (no pets allowed). The park’s bandshell hosts free outdoor concerts on Fridays throughout the summer, and yes, you can take the dog.

Dogs on leash can enjoy the expansive waterfront and picnic area – it’s also an access point to the Gananoque trail system, which is 12 km of hiking trails around the perimeter of town divided into three loops: Lion’s Trail takes about 90 minutes; Roger’s Trail is a full two hours; and the River Trail is shortest at 30 minutes starting and ending at the St. Lawrence waterfront park.

Also at the waterfront is a marina, of course, and a splash pad for kids (but not dogs, obviously). However, when I propped my dog on the over-sized ‘1000 Islands’ Muskoka chair for the perfect pic, out of nowhere a little kid jumps up on the chair and hugs my dog. Fortunately, my young Sprocker loves kids (and was raised with them as a new puppy) and took it all in stride. Not all dogs would. Consider how kid-confident your dog is before you venture new a splash pad!

Gananoque Sculpture Garden

Second, the outdoor art park along the river was surprisingly under utilized when we visited, though we encountered a few dog walks (during our next visit we’d learn why). The sculpture park in Gananoque, like most outdoor art parks, is a great place to walk the dog and engage your mind to. It’s not big, but runs on either side of the river with a bridge at both ends – one a walking bridge over the waterfall and the other a main street through town.

The sculpture park is the inspiration of the local Rotary Club who rejuvenated the former industrial site along the river into a public in 1967 by adding walking trails, a pond, water feature, and art. Today, local artists are commissioned to add pieces to the growing list that started with anchor piece, Blue Heron by Bruce Mellon. Inspiration for all pieces? Gananoque’s environment and history, of course.

Gananoque Leash-free Dog Park

Third, the hidden gem – at least for me and my incredibly high energy pup: a short walk from the river-side sculpture park is the Gananoque leash-free dog park. It’s small, with one gate, no water source and no separate big and small dog areas, but idea to run out some energy before a long car ride back home. And that’s where the dog walkers we met at the art garden were headed.

I found the Gananoque leash-free park on my second visit to town with my new dog Victoria and couldn’t believe I missed it the first time. Our second time there was a stop on the way home from our 1000 Islands with the dog weekend. Gananoque is the closest town to the Thousand Islands, so it’s an obvious stop to burn off some energy before we hit the road home. Gananoque leash-free dog park is located at 165 River Street. There’s a picnic table and running tunnel in a fully fenced square neighbourhood park.

Dog-friendly Gananoque Patio

This one is on the list for the next visit – hopefully, when travel is back to normal: The Purple House Café is a family-owned restaurant steps from the St. Lawrence River specializing in wood fired pizza and salads made from local produce and ingredients, some grown on site. The lush ‘secret’ gardens with picnic tables are dog-friendly; water bowls and treats are apparently offered. Pizza specials change weekly.

Dog-friendly Gananoque Pub

We missed visiting this site, but noticed it was an easy walk across the street from the sculpture gardens – Gan Brewing Company is an independently-owned brewer and tap house specializing in Naught Otter Lager, Boathouse Blonde Ale, and Revival Stout. Know for its handmade wooden interior, Gan Brewing Company is open Thursday to Sunday and the outdoor patio is dog-welcoming.

Dog-friendly Event: Bark Bash!

If you’re in the area July 24, 2022 (and I plan to be with my dog), check out the annual Thousand Islands Bark Bash that celebrates all things dogs. Free admission, 10 am to 4 pm at the Gananoque Town Park.

Travel Guide: Gananoque

Gananoque leash-free fully-fenced dog park is located at 165 River Street, Gananoque, walking distance to the outdoor sculpture park.

Confederation Park, waterside sculpture garden and paths, 2 King Street E., Gananoque.

Joel Stone Heritage Park, waterfront park, bandshell and splash pad,125 Water Street, Gananoque.

Gananoque Farmer’s Market, Thursdays, 4 to 7pm throughout the summer at Town Hall Park, 30 King Street E., Gananoque.

Gan Brewing Company, dog-friendly tap house (across the street from the sculpture park), 9 King Street E., Gananoque.

The Purple House Café, wood-fired pizza oven and outdoor gardens, 165 Main Street, Gananoque.

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