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Cayuga Lake

New York

The longest of New York’s Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake is a watersports playground surrounded by food and drink attractions, wildlife, and natural reserves. With the university town of Ithaca at the southern end and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge 39 miles (63 kilometers) away at the northern end, there are many ways to enjoy the lake.

Whether you’re into kayaking, wine, birding, cycling, or something else, Cayuga Lake offers visitors a range of natural and cultural attractions. The 87-mile (140-kilometer) Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway encircles the lake, which self-driving travelers can drive in one trip or spread over several days. The Blueway Trail is a recreation trail for non-motorized watercraft, or visitors can take a cruise on the lake in summer or fall from Ithaca and elsewhere. Travelers typically visit the lake independently, but there’s also the option to tour wineries around Cayuga Lake on a guided tour.

  • Travelers seeking a physical challenge can choose to cycle the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway or part of it. Most of the route has wide shoulders suitable for cycling.

  • Most of the lake's shoreline is privately owned, so travelers touring the lake by watercraft should check where the public landing sites are before heading out.

  • The lake is patrolled in summer for extra safety.

Self-driving is the easiest way of reaching Cayuga Lake. It’s southwest of Syracuse and southeast of Rochester. The drive from Syracuse and Rochester to Seneca Falls, on the north-western side of the lake, takes around 50 minutes. Ithaca, home to Cornell University, is on the lake’s southern end. Ithaca is about an hour’s drive from Binghamton or a three-hour drive from the state capital, Albany.

Summer and fall are the best times to visit Cayuga Lake. The climate is ideal for getting outdoors, whether on the water or around it, and the colors are stunning in fall. Although the lake doesn’t usually freeze in winter, temperatures can be freezing in this area. Winter visitors might want to stick to Ithaca town.

Cayuga Lake may be the longest of the Finger Lakes, but nearby Seneca Lake is the deepest. This contributes to a microclimate that makes it ideal for wine production. The Finger Lakes area is a top destination for wine lovers, but Seneca Lake should be a priority, with more wineries than the other lakes. A collection of 35 wineries make up the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.


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