The 1000 Islands Ontario’s Aquatarium
Discover a world of learning right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River!
Dive into the aquatic world of the St. Lawrence River from a “fish’s eye view” in our 1000 Islands aquarium experience. The Aquaria is a gateway to a world of underwater immersion, hands-on learning and exploration. The largest fish tanks in the Aquatarium can be found here, where the diverse environment of the St. Lawrence River is showcased in three distinct aquarium habitats: lake, river and shore. Each one has a unique ecosystem that you can explore from vastly different perspectives.
Observe bass, perch and sunfish from a cross-section of a typical St. Lawrence dock at our Shore tank or walk through an underwater tunnel where you will find yourself surrounded by many species of fish from the region. You will see the smallest shiner in the Shore tank, to the largest sturgeons in the River tank. Discover how plants, animals and microorganisms work together to maintain these unique St. Lawrence River ecosystems within our multiple aquarium habitats.
Finally, get down to a “fish’s eye view” in the sunken Keystorm pilothouse. The Keystorm was a mighty 258-foot cargo steamer built in Britain in 1909 that met its unfortunate demise while navigating the treacherous shipping channels of the St. Lawrence River. This legendary shipwreck remains submerged in the St. Lawrence today and is a popular diving destination.
Did you know that over 10,000 years ago, the cities of Montreal, Ottawa, and Brockville were actually underwater? That’s right! These cities that millions of people now call home were once the home of whales, seals and other forms of sea life. In the 1000 Islands Aquatarium’s Creation Experience, you can dive deep into the waters of history! Submerse yourself in the natural history of the region in Creation, a hands-on experience that lets you trace your way through the ages by following the evolution of rocks like granite, basalt, quartz and limestone. Start with ancient igneous rocks made from lava, and make your way to newer sedimentary ones. Learn how these changes came to be as video monitors tune you into the story of the geologic creation of this fascinating region, from glaciers two miles deep to the St. Lawrence River and Frontenac Arch.
The youngest explorers can get to know the ancient Champlain Sea and the marine animals who made their homes there in our saltwater touch tank, one of the many interactive explorations in the Aquatarium. Intrepid adventurers can dig up the past in a mini archaeological site with pieces of a large fossil just waiting to be discovered. Be sure to take in the massive scope of the beluga whale fossil suspended from the upper wall, keeping in mind that these white whales once graced waters a mere 50 miles from this very location on the St. Lawrence River.
Bring your family vacation album to life with high-resolution captures of your amazing Aquatarium adventures! You’ll always cherish the magic moments you create with the cutting-edge technology of our interactive Aquatarium Green Screen, a favorite among our activities for adults and kids alike! We have two different green screen adventures included in your admission:
Become a roving reporter: choose 1 of 3 BIG news events from the 1000 islands region to report on. We will provide the script and you do the rest!
Practice your best pose for a photo memory with your choice of specially themed background photos. Don’t forget to smile!
Capture these moments forever with digital video technology and share them on social media to show friends and family your amazing adventure. These two great experiences are included free with your general admission!!
Our video production studio produces high-quality Green Screen video at lightning speed while you wait; no need to interrupt your adventure to wait for processing or pick up prints.
THE OTTER EXPERIENCE
River otters, those wily little web-footed members of the weasel family, thrive in a variety of ecosystems and are often seen gleefully careening down the muddy banks of the mighty St. Lawrence River before splashing delightedly into the currents in search of a tasty snack from the river’s bounty.
Oliver and Brock invite you to take a step out of the ordinary and explore the 1000 Islands and Ontario from their point of view. Our 2 aquatic friends will keep you captivated as they swim and play throughout the massive glass-enclosed river habitat, complete with a rushing waterfall for the otters to delight in as they put on a show without even realizing it. View the entire immersive experience from our central Gazebo, perfectly positioned to give you a front-row seat to the otters’ spectacular show.
Our otters are rescued North American river otters and are not domesticated. As such, they have a different temperament than those you may see online where people are interacting with otters one on one. Those otters are usually short-clawed otters and are not native to the St. Lawrence river. As there is no safe way to allow people, including our team members, to directly interact with river otters, we are unable to offer close encounters with them.
THE POWER OF WATER
Learn how the waters of the St. Lawrence River have shaped the world around us in this interactive learning exploration full of activities for kids. Water is useful for a lot more than just drinking! In our Power of Water experience, discover some of the amazing things the waters of the St. Lawrence River do.
Hydroelectric power, or electricity generated by water, is one of the world’s greatest renewable resources. In the Power of Water discovery zone, you can even create your own electricity at our hydroelectric generation table – one of our most supercharged activities for kids. Challenge a friend to see who can produce the most power! The water of the St. Lawrence River and Seaway is also vital to international trade. Every year, the St. Lawrence Seaway and St. Lawrence River at large handle up to 50 million tons of cargo! Watch a lively video showcasing this incredibly important avenue for economic sustainability for Canada.
The Power of Water isn’t just about economics! Water has the power to change the world around it physically, too. As it flows downhill across land, water cuts deep into the soil, creating gullies and streams in a process called erosion. Learn about working locks, dams and the power that is generated by the rushing currents in the St. Lawrence River. The Power of Water will help these processes come to life with its array of engaging and exciting activities.
THE HMS ONTARIO
Travel back in time to a forgotten era of battles, forts and shipwrecks: some of the most historically rich attractions in the 1000 Islands. Here, you can sail back in time and take the wheel of the ship of history in the Captain’s Quarters of the British warship and pride of the 1000 Islands, HMS Ontario. Step into the reconstructed Captain’s Cabin to explore a time of battles, forts and shipbuilding. The cabin is built to look and feel just like an authentic, 18th-century warship. The interactive table in the centre of the room responds when you touch one of four themed artifacts. Each artifact will display fun fact videos about the various wonders of the 1000 islands. The 18th and 19th centuries in the 1000 Islands and Ontario were an era in which bloody international battles were waged, warships and forts were constructed, and river pirates smuggled their wares up and down the St. Lawrence under cover of darkness.
The HMS Ontario was a British warship built in the 18th century and used during the American Revolutionary War. During a raging storm on Halloween night in 1780, the Ontario met its fateful demise in the deep, chilly waters of the lake with which it shared a name: Lake Ontario. All 130 passengers and crew perished along with their once-mighty vessel. But you can “fast forward” in time to over two centuries later in the Captain’s Cabin, one of the most lovingly preserved shipwreck attractions in the 1000 Islands.
THE BOATHOUSE & SKIFF HOUSE
For centuries, people have used the St. Lawrence River not only for adventure but also for hunting, fishing and commerce. Boating was more than a leisure activity – it was a lifestyle. Today, the 1000 Islands and St. Lawrence River continue to be a popular destination for lovers of boats of all types: motorboats, houseboats, paddleboats, sailboats and even rowers and skiffs.
In the Boat House & Skiff House, you can try your hand at a river boater’s life. The sights, sounds and mechanisms of a real boat give the Boat House an authentic feel. If you’re feeling ready for some hard work, you might even try rowing the boat for a little while in our simulators, challenging your family to a rowing duel!
A skiff is a small river craft, typically with a crew of only one to four people, that has been a vital part of the history of the St. Lawrence River. Starting in the late 1800s, river guides would row paying customers up and down the river all day long so that they could fish.
After racing your skiff, take a rest and unwind surrounded by natural river scenes.
THE CASTLE LIBRARY
Step into a world of mystery in our replica Singer Castle Library, where the walls have eyes, and secret passageways are waiting to be discovered. Singer Castle, nicknamed “The Castle of Mysteries” over 100 years ago, looms majestically over Dark Island in the St. Lawrence River.
Standing four stories high with 28 rooms, Singer Castle boasts a number of architectural curiosities, including dungeons, underground tunnels along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and even a two-story icehouse: a must-have for entertaining guests at the turn of the century! Bourne was sure to include a network of secret passageways as well, the better to spy on his guests from grates built into the tunnel walls.
One such passageway can be opened from the Aquatarium’s own version of the Castle Library’s bookshelves—although you’ll have to find the entrance for yourself! It’s said it can be opened with a loonie, so be sure to keep one handy. Our comfortable Castle Library is the perfect place for quiet learning, so take a seat by the fireplace and see what you can discover about the St. Lawrence River, Singer Castle and beyond!
Our library provides many explorations and activities for kids, with treasure boxes, blocks and many books to explore.
SIR ROBERT PEEL AND DIVE TANK
Take a peek into our busy tank and the replica remains of the St. Lawrence River shipwreck the Sir Robert Peel, a Canadian steamboat that was seized and burned by real-life pirate Bill Johnston. Ever imagine you could walk into a real-life shipwreck on your own two feet, without the need for a submarine or diving equipment? Now you can!
Wander right through a gaping hole in the bow of our recreated Sir Robert Peel, a once-mighty steamer, and explore the bowels of the pirated ship. With native fish, a working underwater ROV and even a carefully hidden treasure chest, explorers will get an unprecedented view of the world of wonder just below the surface of our mighty river. Pirates once smuggled their wares up and down the busy waters of the St. Lawrence River, which now boasts the best freshwater shipwreck diving in the world. Travellers from all over come to see the many shipwreck attractions in the 1000 Islands and explore freshwater dive sites. Though pirating wasn’t common in our stretch of river, there were a few maritime men whose ambitions got a little bigger than their britches: smuggler and “river pirate” Bill Johnston’s name went down in history after he and a team of American and Canadian patriots captured, looted and burned the Sir Robert Peel in 1838, fueling the flames of war between the U.S. and Britain.
THE SS KINGSTON
Discover the steamship SS Kingston, once a popular ferry for travel down the St. Lawrence River. The great paddle steamer SS Kingston and other ships like her were hugely important to transportation on the mighty St. Lawrence in the days before buses, trains and cars carried people great distances over land. Our discovery centre allows adventurers to engage with the lifestyle of a bygone era when taking a trip to grandma’s house might have meant embarking from a river port and chugging down the river on a massive steam-powered paddle wheeler!
In our replica of the SS Kingston, explorers can engage with an interactive touchscreen to discover more about the 1000 Islands region. You can even compete against a friend in a trivia game based on interesting facts about the sites you would see on a boat trip up the St. Lawrence River!
Built in 1901 for the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co. Ltd of Montreal, the Kingston was a paddle steamer, a type of riverboat that used the power of steam to turn large paddle wheels that propelled it through the water. The SS Kingston was owned by Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) from 1914 to 1948 and operated as a transportation vehicle for people and goods. Her service was discontinued in 1949 after the tragic burning of another CSL ship, the SS Noronic. The massive fire cost many lives, and all ship service with CSL was halted. The Kingston never ran again.
Here at the Granite Sphere, you will find the major global trading routes destined for the St. Lawrence etched into a 5000-pound globe of granite. Explore great shipping ports all over the globe as you trace paths of international commerce forged with the help of the mighty St. Lawrence River. Learn about where the things in your home might come from by tracing paths of commerce from around North America, as well as those spanning the entire globe. What other Ontario getaway can cover that much ground?
About 25% of the cargo that passes through the St. Lawrence River and Seaway travels to and from ports in Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have served as trading routes for North America since well before Canada and the United States were nations. When it opened to navigation in 1959, the mighty St. Lawrence River’s shipping route, now called the St. Lawrence Seaway, has been a crucial path for trade around the globe. The seaway consists of a complex system of several locks for ships to pass through and ranges greatly in-depth, with some areas measuring in with a minimum depth of 8.2 meters (27 feet). The St. Lawrence Seaway can welcome vessels as long as 225.5 meters (740 feet)!!
Explore the Kelpie, a sailboat with an original 1000 Islands-made engine over a century old. Keep an eye out during your visit to our 1000 Islands Aquatarium, and be sure not to miss the Kelpie! This classic 30-foot sailboat extends three stories high into the vaulted atrium of our discovery centre, and if you’re lucky, you may get a special view of her masts as you “walk the plank” and jump from the top of our Ropes Course on the 40′ high AquaDrop! (Ropes Course and AquaDrop Page) Sailors in the 1000 Islands would often have to climb up to the mast and then back down again several times while navigating through the many storms that commonly churn the waters of the St. Lawrence River.
Sailboats may be a common sight in the 1000 Islands, but the real treasure of the Kelpie is hidden in its inner workings. The one and only St. Lawrence Engine Company manufactured the engine of this very sailboat on this very site over a century ago in 1905! With its dependable, locally made two-cycle engine, the Kelpie could easily maneuver the 1000 Islands region and safely sail anywhere she wanted. The St. Lawrence Engine Company manufactured these two-cycle marine engines for nearly 50 years and shipped the engines to boats all over the world. That means that even today, little pieces of 1000 Islands history can be found far from our aquarium – they’re found in sailboats now docked from the USA and Mexico all the way to Egypt.
THE MAGEDOMA YACHT
Gently glide 100 years back in time in the beautifully reconstructed day cabin of a world-famous yacht, the Magedoma. You and your fellow intrepid voyagers can take a virtual tour down the St. Lawrence River 100 years in the past. While warships and massive shipping barges have always chugged up and down the waters of the St. Lawrence through the 1000 Islands, the area’s richest residents preferred a more relaxed mode of river travel for day trips in Ontario: the well-appointed yacht.
Onboard you’ll feel just as if you’re one of George Fulford’s prominent guests taking luxurious day trips on his private yacht as you make your way down the St. Lawrence River. Canadian businessman and politician George Taylor Fulford bought the Cangarda, a 42-metre (138-foot) steam-powered yacht in 1904. He christened it the Magedoma, by combining parts of his family’s names to create the new nautical nickname: MA from Mary, GE from George, DO from Dorothy, and MA for Martha. Though Fulford tragically died in a car accident only one year after the debut of his proud vessel, his family entertained many renowned guests, including several Prime Ministers, on day trips for years to come.
Explore a stunning range of possibilities in and around the St. Lawrence River with video footage that whisks you away with the wonder of nature. Here in the high-definition three-screen theatre, children and adults alike can enjoy feeds from dive boats, the rigging of ships, and unique perspectives of the 1000 Islands region. Check out original video produced especially for the Aquatarium, including stunning footage of attractions in the 1000 Islands that offer perspectives usually reserved for those with access to a private plane!
The Theatre isn’t just for exploring attractions in the 1000 Islands! It is a truly multi-purpose room that can be customized and reorganized for a range of events. Formal dinners, children’s “on the floor” events, conferences, corporate meetings and even weddings can be hosted here. The walls of the theatre fold away to accommodate up to 250 people, and areas can be partitioned off to host multiple events at the same time.
A movie adventure can be added to your birthday party!! After we are closed for the day, your birthday party continues by watching a movie (provided by you) on our three screens starting at only $90!!! Visit our birthday page for complete details: Birthday Parties @ the AQ
THE WIND WALL
Test a miniature sailboat at the Aquatarium Wind Wall, one of our favourite interactive activities for kids. Our adventurers will test model sailboats like the real ones on the St. Lawrence River. They will learn how to position the boat’s sails to help them best sail windward and leeward.
Testing your sailboat will connect many of the themes of your trip to the Aquatarium: nautical science, water transportation, and the history of sailboats throughout the St. Lawrence River, 1000 Islands, Ontario and beyond. This play-based learning centre, full of engaging activities for kids, is the perfect way to put into action what explorers have discovered on their voyages through the Aquatarium.
THE WATER LAB
Explore our hands-on interactive classroom for an in-depth science experience! Our experienced, friendly educators lead a variety of weekend classes in both a more traditional “dry” classroom setting and a “wet” setting where participants can push up their sleeves for hands-on aquatic activities.
In the Water Lab, our instructors and special guest presenters will guide you as you perform exciting experiments, study marine animals from the St. Lawrence River and beyond and even build your own underwater robot! The water lab is used for scheduled special programming which requires a separate sign up and is not open daily to the general public. For more information or to book your lab visit, please reach out to the educational team at Email Education