A Day at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY

Hello, dear readers! My sincere apologies because I know it’s been a long time. We’ve been getting back into our old lives and habits this year (as I’m sure many of you have been as well), and it’s been keeping us pretty busy. Fortunately, though, some of that busyness has included recent travel, and we’re excited to share some new adventures with you, starting with our fabulous visit to the Thousand Islands region in Upstate New York. We had never visited the area before and absolutely fell in love. In particular, one of our favorite stops was at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY!

Visiting the Antique Boat Museum

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For those of you who have been following along for a while, you know my husband and I are sailors. Any vacation where we can spend time on boats is a good vacation in our minds (if you don’t believe me, check out our past boating adventures, especially on the Erie Canal!)

The Thousand Islands is located on the St. Lawrence River, which separates the U.S. and Canada and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. This area is a boater’s dream! Not only can you spend an entire week ON boats, but you can also enjoy a whole day admiring the spectacular collection of more than 320 boats at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY.

Located on the St. Lawrence River, the Antique Boat Museum was founded more than 50 years ago with the goal of “collecting, preserving, interpreting, and celebrating boats and related artifacts to advance public understanding of the importance of boating to the cultural history of North America and the St. Lawrence River in particular.”

The museum has a great video to introduce you to who they are and what they do – check it out!

What to Do and See

There are three main attractions at the Antique Boat Museum, and I’d recommend that you not miss a single one during your visit! First, the museum exhibits themselves are fabulous. After you check in at the admissions desk, you can visit all the exhibits within the main building itself. The launch building has multiple classic motor boats and leads out to even more boats in the outdoor dock space.

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The launch building
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Classic racing boats

You can watch boats being restored in another building or walk across the street to a completely separate building that is chock full of classic racing boats. You can easily spend 1-2 hours just looking at all the exhibits! And if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, you can even rent rowboats and sailboats in July and August. 

Next, you can sign up to do a 30-minute tour of La Duchesse, which is a restored 106-foot houseboat that once belonged to George Boldt, the founding proprietor of NYC’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. La Duchesse was used as a summer residence when the Boldt family came north to summer in the Thousand Islands each year.

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A fireplace on La Duchesse
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The upper deck of La Duchesse

Museum guides will take you through the houseboat to explain its history and point out its original features. You may also be surprised to learn that the boat had been partially submerged at one point because it looks to be in excellent condition now. (And if you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss out on a trip to Boldt Castle, also formerly owned by George Boldt’s family. It’s truly spectacular!)

And finally, the third attraction is a Ride the River speedboat ride on the museum’s 30-foot replica Hacker-Craft speedboat. This 45-minute ride will take you through 10+ miles of the St. Lawrence River, and your captain will point out various local features as you navigate through the main shipping channel and some narrower, more hidden sections of the river. You’ll be able to admire some of the gorgeous homes within the river and along the coast from the comfort of this classy-looking and beautifully-maintained boat. 

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Miss 1000 Islands III (Miss TI)

There are several options for purchasing tickets for your visit to the Antique Boat Museum to suit a variety of schedules and budgets. You can visit just the museum as a base ticket if you’re in a bit of a rush or sticking to a budget. Or you can do just La Duchesse and the museum OR just Ride the River and the museum if you have a bit more time and funds available. And finally, you can do what we did and buy a ticket to all THREE attractions: the museum, La Duchesse, and Ride the River. Personally, I feel that if you have the time and budget, you will want to do all three!

No matter what you decide, if you like boats or just enjoy admiring some classic craftsmanship, I think you’re going to have a great time at the Antique Boat Museum. If you’ve already been, let me know how you enjoyed your own visit!

Plan Your Own Visit

Where to Go

When to Go

  • The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during the season, which typically runs from May through Columbus Day.  Through the rest of October, the museum is only open on weekends.

Tips for Visiting

  • The museum website recommends budgeting at least 1.5 hours for your visit, which is probably fine if you only want to visit the museum itself. If you plan to add on the speedboat ride and the La Duchesse tour, though, I’d suggest planning for about 3-3.5 hours for your visit.
  • If you want to do a Ride the River speedboat ride, you’ll need to reserve your ride in advance, as the boat only takes 6 passengers per trip.
  • To schedule your tour on La Duchesse, check in with the admissions desk upon arrival to be assigned a tour time. If you’re doing the last speedboat ride of the day, you should arrive a couple hours earlier to visit the museum and tour La Duchesse before your ride.
  • There is no on-site cafeteria at the museum, so you should plan to eat before or after your visit to the museum. (We highly recommend the Wood Boat Brewery right across the street!)

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