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The 1000 Islands region is home to many secrets and stunning natural wonders – the area has an uncanny ability to connect us back with the natural world. The most obvious, and what gives the region its iconic name, is the St. Lawrence River and the spatter of 1,864 Islands that lay stoic in the river’s water. There has always been a sense of power, peace and tranquility associated with water; listening to the soothing sounds of the mighty St. Lawrence as it kisses the shoreline has always been an ideal time for quiet reflection for many locals and visitors alike. Something about the river calls to us, calms us, and helps us reconnect with ourselves and those around us. Which is why, nestled in the Admiralty Islands group located just outside of Gananoque Ontario, you’ll find Bostwick Island, the home to Half Moon Bay and the highest cathedral roof in the world.
If you’ve ever been to the 1000 Islands, you know that this area is rich with history, absolutely stunning and scenic with lots of attractions that’ll keep you coming back time and time again. Half Moon Bay is no exception to this, rich in the history of the river – a crescent shaped refuge shaped over millions of years ago by the glaciers that once claimed the area as their own. In it’s tranquil waters people have gathered since 1887 to join together in worship. Generations of people drawn to this serene, open-air cathedral that boasts the highest cathedral roof in the world: in truth – that being no roof at all, just the endless, open blue skies above the granite walls of the bay. The natural formation of the bay serves as the church and is only reachable by water with parishioners gathering in the still waters of the bay, sitting in their boats, kayaks, and canoes that serve as pews. A granite shelf stands as the pulpit during services and its rocky walls are teeming with local foliage which overhangs the water and climbs across the rock face.
Many have dipped their paddles in the cool waters of the bay for a chance to sit and listen to the soft lapping of the water and trilling calls of the birds. If you’re a savvy kayaker or have your own boat, the easiest way to reach Half Moon Bay would be by departing from the public launch in Gananoque at Rotary Park, weaving your way through the Admiralty Islands to get to Bostwick Island. If you’re new to kayaking and are interested in having a guide, there’s also the option to join in a guided kayak tour with 1000 Islands Kayaking, which depart daily throughout the summer. And if you’re interested in seeing Half Moon Bay without the commitment of paddling yourself there, 1000 Islands Kayaking also offers a shuttle service to the islands, or there’s a free shuttle that departs from the docks on Water Street in Gananoque between 3:00 and 3:30 every Sunday to participate in the services held in the bay’s water. The flora, rocky walls and peace of the bay is stunning for any visitor to pay a visit to, whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, and open to the public throughout the week.
And yet, the natural beauty of the bay is only half of the majesty of the place. The other you’ll find at 4:00PM on every Sunday in the summer months, when boats fill the waters as pews. The sense of community in the waters of the bay is what truly makes it magical: boats interlocking together with kayakers holding on to each other’s boats to ensure they don’t drift away, everyone passing out hymn books to their neighbours, and non-denominational services that welcome everyone into the celebrations in the bay. Each year an open invitation is released to visitors and locals alike to come and join the services held every Sunday – and it’s truly an amazing experience, regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation.
Half Moon Bay is the embodiment of the lessons of the river; the flow of life, tranquility and community that the river creates is met in the calm, peaceful waters of the bay. Uniting people in their appreciation of the rich waters of the St. Lawrence River and their desire for a connection with not only the river, but with their community as well; bringing us all together under expansive blue skies. Its charm and serenity are not to be missed on a visit to the area – a little known secret to the world outside, but an experience that will easily be a favourite souvenir from a trip to the 1000 Islands.