Being on or near the water brings most people joy, often in the form of crisp breezes, soothing sounds and sparkling waves. The Empire State offers water and waterfront opportunities in many forms, with more than 7,500 lakes, ponds and reservoirs; more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams; and an Atlantic coastline that stretches for 2,265 miles.
Here are five destinations across the state where your group can soak up fun and make waterfront memories.
Onondaga County — named for one five original nations of the Iroquois Confederacy — is a gem in central New York. In addition to being home to Syracuse, the state’s fifth-largest city, it also boasts the village and lake of Skaneateles (locals pronounce it “Skinny Atlas”), the eastern gateway to the famed Finger Lakes region. One of the cleanest lakes in the country, Skaneateles — which means “long lake” in one of the Iroquois languages — stretches 16 miles and provides drinking water for almost a quarter of a million people.
Groups can explore the clear, blue lake by a variety of watercraft. For a great overview, Visit Syracuse media and content strategist Lindsay Raychel recommends a tour on The Judge Ben Wiles, a double-decker steamboat-style vessel that can accommodate up to 100 passengers.
“It’s a scenic cruise that takes you three miles up and back,” Raychel said. “The narration provides background on Skaneateles, the lake, the town, the people, both past and present, and some celebrity information about owners of the beautiful mansions lining the shore.”
Raychel also recommends a trip to Green Lakes State Park, with two glacial meromictic lake, an 18-hole Green Lakes State Park Golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones and pavilions where up to 100 people can enjoy a picnic. Groups can enjoy a meal at the gracious and historic Sherwood Inn, established as a tavern in 1807. Other popular activities include picking apples (or just hard apple cider) and catching a performance by nationally known artists at Beak and Skiff, a 1911 orchard that also offers a collection of elegant farmhouses where visitors can enjoy a relaxing stay in the heart of the county.
Montauk, Long Island
The geography of New York’s Long Island can be confusing: New York City is not part of Long Island, but two of the city’s boroughs, Brookly and Queens, are situated on it. Montauk, lying at the eastern end of the island’s south shore, is part of a collection of chic villages and hamlets collectively known as “the Hamptons,” that’s a popular playground for Manhattanites wishing to escape crowds and embrace sun, sand and chic.
“Montauk stands as an unparalleled destination for those seeking an exhilarating blend of waterfront adventures and on-the-water experiences,” said Discover Long Island’s director of sales and sports, Doris Martinez-Oronoz. “With its pristine beaches, captivating coastal downtown charm, beautiful golf course, spas and much more, Montauk offers group travelers a unique retreat into nature’s beauty, away from the office. Whether it’s surfing the Atlantic waves, chartering a boat for a fishing expedition, having a cocktail at a restaurant/hotel with ocean views, or simply basking in the sun along the picturesque shores, Montauk promises an ideal setting to create a backdrop for memorable team-building experiences.”
Montauk is easily reached by car, buses or the Long Island Railroad. Groups shouldn’t miss the iconic Montauk Point Lighthouse, a beer at Montauk Brewing Company and a lobster roll from the aptly named Lobster Roll Restaurant.
Mohonk Mountain House
Just 90 minutes north of New York City, surrounded by acres of forests and overlooking a glacial lake lies a Victorian castle. Nestled in the Hudson Valley amidst the Shawangunk mountains, today’s castle began when Arthur Smiley and his brother purchased a rustic 10-room guesthouse and some acreage in 1869, intent on creating a peaceful nature retreat. Today, the Smiley family still owns the Mohonk Mountain House. It’s one of the best-rated historic resorts in the country and has played host to four presidents, as well as countless celebrities and luminaries.
The luxurious spa and award-winning food and beverage program are top-notch, but the activities are what truly set Mohonk Mountain House apart. Groups — whether staying at the resort or coming in for a day — can choose from a multitude of activities, from hiking to skating and human ice bowling in a grand pavilion that features a 39-foot-tall stone fireplace.
“We have tons of recreational offerings,” said Joey O’Reilly, group recreation sales manager. “All in an amazing natural setting. You can compete in a cardboard boat regatta on the lake. And ice bowling is one of our fun winter activities, but there’s also snowshoeing, carriage rides and cross-country skiing.”
Regardless of season, make the 1.5-mile trek along Sky Top Trail to the Alfred K. Smiley Memorial Tower. Built in 1923, the tower offers spectacular views of six states. In the summer, groups shouldn’t miss a stop at the Storm King Art Center, which has one of the world’s best collections of outdoor contemporary sculpture.
A thriving village in the foothills of the Catskills, Cooperstown is famous for being the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But it’s also a stunning spot for watersports and outdoor recreation. Cooperstown is built on the shores of Otsego Lake. Cold, clear and exceptionally clean, the lake is the source of the Susquehanna River. Council Rock, the large outcropping at the southern end of the lake, was the meeting place of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations more commonly known as the Iroquois.
“Groups really must take a ride on the Glimmerglass Queen,” said Cassandra Harrington, president and CEO of Cooperstown/Otsego County Tourism. “That’s the only way that you can get close up to the Kingfisher Tower, which is a landmark here in Cooperstown.”
“Glimmerglass” was the nickname American novelist and hometown son James Fenimore Cooper gave to Otsego Lake in his Leatherstocking Tales. Kingfisher Tower is a purely decorative 60-foot-tall Gothic Revival stone tower built in 1876 by millionaire philanthropist Edward Clark.
Harrington also recommends dining at the grand Otesaga Resort Hotel.
“One of the restaurants extends out onto the lakefront and has also a fire bar, which is a 20-seat circular bar with a fire in the middle,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite places to watch the sunset. Also, the Leatherstocking Golf Course is one of the most scenic and challenging resort golf courses on the East Coast. And groups won’t want to miss a stop at Brooks Barbecue, which has the largest indoor barbecue pit east of the Mississippi and chicken that’s to die for.”
The crown jewel of the Adirondacks, Lake George offers 32 sparkling miles of lake to enjoy in all its watery, beachy glory. With beaches, large and small, and boats ranging from kayaks to cruise ships, the “Queen of American Lakes” is superior in every season.
Groups can take sightseeing cruises that gives a general overview of the attractions; choose a specialty cruise that focuses on the lake’s islands or history; enjoy a delicious meal on a lunch or dinner cruise; or get an “oooh, ahhh” view on one of the fireworks cruises that leave the dock every Thursday night in July and August.
Adrenaline junkies may want whitewater rafting on one of the Adirondacks’ wild rivers or zipping about Lake George on jet skis, while the more laid-back will enjoy a sunset sailing. Dozens of waterfront restaurants offer cuisines from casual to continental to accompany spectacular views. And history lovers won’t want to miss the Fort William Henry Museum. Built by the English in the 1750s, it was the third largest North American settlement (behind Philadelphia and New York) when garrisoned and played a pivotal role in the French and Indian War.