Thanks to thousands of miles of shoreline, New York State boasts many of the country’s best lake vacation destinations. Places that offer swimming, fishing, and boating in the warmer months, and a quiet retreat when the temps go down.
Here are fourteen of New York State’s most popular spots for the perfect lake vacation. The following lakes were chosen for the number of activities they offer and the availability of vacation rentals for big families.
Just east of the Hudson River, about 120 miles north of midtown Manhattan, Copake Lake has recently become one of the area’s hottest real estate markets for second-home buyers. The Lake has two separate marinas, both of which rent boats, jet skis, and kayaks. Along with several beaches, the area around Copake Lake has numerous hiking trails, picnic areas, and scenic waterfalls.
Located between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, pristine water earned Lake Clear its name. Its proximity to the St. Regis Canoe Area makes Lake Clear popular with kayakers. For anglers, the Lake also boasts a wide variety of fish species, including Atlantic Salmon, Largemouth Bass, and Pumpkin Sunfish.
Because of its high altitude, Skaneateles Lake holds the title of “The Roof Garden of the Lakes.” Located 23 miles west of Syracuse in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Skaneateles Lake’s pristine, blue-green waters are perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking. For boat owners, the Lake has four public launches within six miles of downtown Skaneateles. Powerboat, sailboat, PWC, canoe, and kayak rentals are also available at the Skaneateles Marina.
Also a member of New York’s Finger Lakes, Owasco Lake attracts anglers year-round thanks to an abundance of Perch, Walleye, Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Salmon. With an average depth of only 95 feet, Owasco Lake waters warm up nicely in the summer, making it ideal for swimming and boating.
The smallest and easternmost of the Great Lakes – Lake Ontario – divides Canada and the United States along New York State’s northwestern border. Dozens of state parks, beaches, and historical attractions line Lake Ontario’s 220-mile shoreline on the U.S. side. The Lake also feeds the Niagara River, as well as Niagara Falls, which is just 15 miles from its southern shore.
Beautiful lake views, lots of nearby attractions, and a unique variety of outdoor activities make Lake George a perfect family vacation destination. Downtown Lake George has several arcades, a wide range of eateries, and miniature golf on almost every corner. The Minne Ha Ha, an authentic sternwheel steamboat, offers daily tours of the Lake. The nearby Great Escape Amusement Park features rides for all ages and an excellent water park.
About 15 miles south of Niagara Falls, the second smallest Great Lake – Lake Erie – borders New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan on its southern border, and Canada on its north side. New York’s lakefront stretch has several large, full-service marinas, dozens of well-maintained beaches, and many historical sites.
Once known as the “Coney Island of Central New York,” Oneida Lake boasts over 50,000 acres of surface area and roughly 77 miles of shoreline. One of the Lake’s first attractions, the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, features old-fashioned rides and vintage arcade games. Verona Beach State Park, situated on the Lake’s eastern shore, has over 40 campsites, a mix of nature trails, and a gorgeous beach.
Located in the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Champlain runs north to south for almost 125 miles along New York’s border with Vermont. Local attractions include Ausable Chasm, High Falls Gorge, and the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves. At the Lake’s southernmost tip, Fort Ticonderoga offers a glimpse into the Lake’s strategic importance for early settlers.
Great Sacandaga Lake
Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Fulton County, towering pines, pristine waters, and fresh Adirondack Mountain air make the Great Sacandaga Lake a popular destination throughout the year. Numerous public boat launches, beaches, and campsites line the Lake’s 125-mile shoreline. Snowmobile races, ice-fishing, and cross-country skiing bring visitors during the colder months.
Just eight miles south of Lake Erie in New York’s westernmost corner, beautiful Chautauqua Lake offers a quieter, more laid-back experience than its larger neighbor. Along with typical lake pastimes, the Chautauqua Lake area also boasts more than 20 wineries, numerous lakeside eateries, and world-class golf.
Visitors to Seneca Lake often stop at nearby Seneca Falls – the model for the town of Bedford Falls featured in the 1946 classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As the largest Finger Lake, Seneca Lake has several locations for kayak, powerboat, and jet-ski rentals. There are also a number of free boat launches located around the Lake.
Also, one of New York’s Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake (a.k.a. “Crooked Lake”), derives its name from its “Y” shape. As part of Keuka Lake State Park, Keuka Lake features camping, a boat launch, several docks, and many quiet hiking trails.
Humphry Bogart called Canandaigua Lake (another Finger Lake) his summer residence for many years. Today, visitors to Canandaigua Lake enjoy lake tours on the Canandaigua Lady – a 19th-century replica paddleboat. At the north end of the Lake, the charming little town of Canandaigua has a pier, several scenic overlooks, and available watercraft rentals.