Of course, if you are coming to the Finger Lakes, you are going to want to enjoy the water. The best way to do this is by getting out on the lake, either in a boat, canoe or kayak, or by taking a cruise.
Here's our guide to getting out on the water in each of the major Finger Lakes:
Otisco Lake is perfect for tooling around in a pontoon boat or powered row boat—both of which are available for rental at the Otisco Lake Marina in Marietta. The Marina also has a store so you can stock up on supplies before heading out on to the water. Public access to the lake is very limited, but for those in the know, it's not a problem. The most convenient public boat launch (hand launch only) is at the west side of the Causeway off of Masters Road and the Otisco Lake County Park, on Otisco Valley Road, just north of Amber. The Otisco Lake County Park is a good spot for boat launching (hand launch only), with about 600 feet of lakefront access.
Owasco Lake is a big draw for people who enjoy being on the water. The lakefront is highly developed, so public access to the lake is extremely limited. The only public beach—the only public access, period—is at Emerson Park in Auburn. You'll find two hand and trailer launches here. There are no other public boat launches on the lake, though a few unofficial spots can be found. Unless you're renting a lakefront property, you'll be putting in at Emerson Park. Owasco Inlet, a creek that feeds into the southern end of Owasco Lake, is great for kayaking and canoeing. Owasco Inlet becomes Owasco Flats just before feeding into the lake, and nature lovers will find these wetlands provide a scenic vista to be treasured. The north end of the lake is also a good spot for boating, as the outlet at Emerson Park provides easy access to the lake and, for those in kayaks, the waters north of the lake up to the dam in Auburn. Boats putting in at Emerson Park pass under a footbridge en route to the lake, limiting the size of boats that can enter the lake via this public access point.
Skaneateles Lake is very popular for sailing and other recreational boating. Environmental controls are relatively strong, though, so public boat launches are few. if you're bringing your own boat, we'll give you the inside scoop: The New York State Public Boat Launch, about 2.5 miles from downtown Skaneateles, along Route 41A, has ample parking and is a good place to put in. Further south, the Skaneateles Town Boat Launch is a well-known local spot, but non-residents have to pay for parking. 2880 West Lake Road is one of the few public boat launches on Skaneateles Lake. There are two small docks as well, for approach by water. This is a fishing spot - no swimming here.
Cayuga Lake is very popular for sailing and other recreational boating. If you are based near Ithaca, Allan H. Treman State Marine Park (607-273-3440) is the best place for public boat launches and dockage. Call ahead: the park is popular, and transient slips go quickly. Cayuga Lake is also well known for its cruises. Cayuga Lake Cruises (607-256-0898) is a big operator on the lake; their three-hour dinner cruise is especially popular with visitors to Cayuga Lake.
As one of the deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is an exceptional spot for sailing and other recreational boating. Marinas in Waterloo and just south of Geneva offer boat rentals, campgrounds and marine supplies. The big double-decker cruise boats that depart from Watkins Glen are popular with visitors. You're sure to spot these ships if you're on the lake for the day. The Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva features public boat launches and a marina, as well as a picnic area and a swimming beach.
The Municipal Campgrounds and Marina in Montour Falls is a great spot off the lake with campgrounds, public boat launches and plenty of boat slips. Boaters can access the lake through the Old Barge Canal.
The shallow, warm waters of Keuka Lake are very popular with water sports enthusiasts. Marinas in Hammondsport and Penn Yan offer boat rentals, and some even offer canoe and kayak delivery to your cottage. A few operators offer cruises on Keuka Lake as well.
Canandaigua Lake is a great spot for boaters. The Canandaigua Lake State Marina, at the north end of the lake, is a popular place to put in, with a small launch fee. Also in the town of Canandaigua, the German Brothers Marina and Sutter's Marina both offer recreational boat rentals and other facilities. A few operators offer cruises on Canandaigua Lake, including one on the Canandaigua Lady, a double-decker, paddle wheel steamboat that evokes images of a bygone era as it floats across the lake.