Skip to Content

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

Here are all of our favorite things to do and see around Lake Ontario…

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 7,340 sq. miles…but its waters run deep.

So much so that it holds about 4 times the water volume of Lake Erie, even though the two lakes are similar in length and width (Erie being just slightly bigger).

Back in 2017, Lake Ontario’s waters reached the highest in 100 years, leading to massive flooding and erosion.

As the easternmost of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is positioned at the base of Niagara Falls. It straddles the U.S. and Canadian border, with the province of Ontario to the southwest and north, and New York to the south.

lake ontario us side map
Lake Ontario US side map

12 Best Things to See and Do at Lake Ontario

These highlights around Lake Ontario barely scratch the surface of everything there is to experience the shoreline on the U.S. side.

But they're some of the best of the best that we've experienced. Oh, and as a perk, they're in driving order from East to West!

Wellesley Island State Park

This large state park in New York is located in the Thousand Islands area just off of Interstate 81 northwest of Watertown. It is full of wildlife and has a nature center along with a beautiful swimming beach.

To reach it, you’ll need to cross the Thousand Islands International Bridge (a toll bridge).

Antique Boat Museum

Back on the mainland, follow Highway 12 south to the town of St. Lawrence. This museum holds some gorgeous examples of boat-making craft on display at this waterside museum, where you can view the still-working boats and try your hand at traditional wooden skiffs.

Tour the glam houseboat La Duchesse, once owned by George Boldt, proprietor of Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Selkirk Shores State Park

Follow the shoreline on Highway 3 heading south from Watertown to this glorious State Park overlooking the bluff on Lake Ontario. Here you can swim, fish, and best of all, enjoy spectacular sunsets.

It is located near Pulaski, NY. Bring your binoculars – the park is directly in the migration route for a wide variety of bird species.

Lakeside Beach Park

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario 1
Disc Golf anyone?

Near Waterport, NY on Lake Ontario State Pkwy, this park offers a stunning panoramic view of Lake Ontario and is surrounded by fruit orchards and farms.

There are miles of hiking/biking trails, fishing along the lakefront, picnic grounds, and the well-designed Shore Winds Disc Golf Course, an 18-hole course that is both challenging and scenic.

Derby Hill Bird Observatory

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario 2
Who's watching who?

Located 17 miles NE of Oswego towards the eastern end of the lake at the junction of Hwy 3 and Hwy 104. This is one of the premier hawk-watching sites in the eastern U.S.

It sees an average of 40,000 birds of prey, who use the thermals around the edge of Lake Ontario while migrating further north every Spring. April is the best month to see them, but summer means bald eagles, butterflies, and a plethora of other breeding birds.

Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse

Located just off Highway 104.

There have been lighthouses at the mouth of the Oswego River as it flows into Lake Ontario since 1822. Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse is the 4th iteration of its kind.

In season, boats run here from the H Lee White Marine Museum. The rest of the year, it is best to admire it from afar.

The Rochester Public Market

In the town of Rochester at 30 Church St., this is a great place to load up on RV supplies in the way of fresh food and food-to-go. Plus, plenty of retail shops, and other shopping experiences.

During your shopping, sit down and stay awhile with a coffee, beer (or other favorite beverage) and people watch.

Golden Hill State Park

Located on the scenic shores of Lake Ontario on Highway 18 just east of Olcott.

This park is home to the Thirty Mile Lighthouse. Get a glimpse of maritime history, while enjoying boating, fishing, hiking, and walking tours of the Thirty Mile Point lighthouse.

Jell-O Museum

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario 3
The Jello Museum and Gallery in Le Roy, NY

Located right in Le Roy about 45 minutes south of the shoreline, south of Waterport on Highway 237.

This fascinating place chronicles and celebrates America’s most famous dessert. In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, NY, experimented and invented a fruit-flavored dessert that his wife, May, named Jell-O.

He then tried to market his product but lacking the capital to do so, he eventually sold his formula in 1899 for the whopping sum of $450. Not bad money back then!

Niagara Falls

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario 4
Niagara Falls as viewed from the US side.

The oldest state park in the U.S. that offers numerous islands, the famous Prospect Point area, and many unique views of the world-famous falls.

It lies not far from the southwest side of Lake Ontario, smack dab between it and Lake Erie on the Niagara Fall Scenic Parkway. There is an entrance on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of this world-famous falls, which straddles the U.S. and Canadian border.

If Niagara Falls gives you the waterfall bug, check out these 13 Stunning Waterfalls in the U.S.

Niagara Falls State Park

The nation’s oldest state park should be on every American’s bucket list and campers don’t have an excuse to miss it.

The region offers plenty of campgrounds (about a dozen) amounting to hundreds of campsites within close proximity to the powerful natural wonder of Niagara Falls.

That includes an ideal basecamp in the Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA just a few miles away. Follow the Niagara River south on the Niagara Scenic Pkwy.

Old Fort Niagara

Located at the mouth of the Niagara River just off of Highway 18 near the Canadian border, this is the oldest continually running military site in North America.

Along with the great view of the water, they offer a variety of presentations on Native American history, blacksmithing, 18th-century cooking, and soldier life.

How many of these have you visited?

How many are on your Bucket List? Let us know in the comments!

How much of Lake Ontario is in Canada, how much in the U.S.?

Lake Ontario is located on the border between the United States and Canada, with the majority of the lake situated in Ontario, Canada. Specifically, about 84% of the lake is located in Canada, while the remaining 16% is located in the United States.

The lake is bordered by the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec to the north and east, and the US states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont to the south and west. The city of Toronto, Ontario is located on the northern shore of the lake, while the city of Rochester, New York is located on the southern shore.

The lake has a surface area of about 7,340 square miles (19,000 square kilometers), with about 6,180 square miles (16,000 square kilometers) located in Canada and about 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers) located in the United States.

10 Facts about Lake Ontario

  1. Lake Ontario is the smallest of the five Great Lakes by volume and the second smallest by surface area.
  2. It is located on the border between the United States and Canada, with the majority of the lake situated in Ontario, Canada.
  3. The lake is named after the Iroquois word “Ontario,” which means “great lake.”
  4. Lake Ontario is the source of drinking water for millions of people living in the surrounding area.
  5. The lake is home to a diverse range of fish species, including lake trout, salmon, and bass.
  6. The lake is a popular destination for recreational activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming.
  7. Lake Ontario is connected to the other Great Lakes by the St. Lawrence River, which flows from the lake to the Atlantic Ocean.
  8. The lake has a surface area of about 7,340 square miles (19,000 square kilometers).
  9. The lake has an average depth of about 243 feet (74 meters) and a maximum depth of 802 feet (244 meters).
  10. The lake is known for its cold and sometimes unpredictable weather, with strong winds and heavy waves causing hazards for boaters.

Can You Camp on the Shore of Lake Ontario?

Yes, it is possible to camp on the shore of Lake Ontario. There are a variety of campsites located around the lake that offer a range of amenities, including tent sites, RV sites, and cabin rentals. Many of these campsites are located in state parks or national parks, and some are privately owned and operated.

When camping on the shore of Lake Ontario, it is important to follow the rules and regulations of the campsite, as well as practice Leave No Trace principles to protect the natural environment. This may include packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting the wildlife and natural habitats in the area.

It is also important to be prepared for the weather, as the lake can experience significant temperature fluctuations and sometimes unpredictable conditions. It is always a good idea to bring warm clothing and other necessary camping gear, as well as to be aware of any safety hazards, such as strong winds or lightning storms.

What is the historical significance of Lake Ontario?

Lake Ontario has a rich history that spans thousands of years. The lake and its surrounding region have been home to a variety of indigenous cultures, including the Iroquois, Huron, and Neutrals. These cultures relied on the lake for transportation, fishing, and other aspects of daily life.

The lake was also an important trade route for European explorers and settlers, who used the lake to access the interior of the continent. During the American Revolutionary War, the lake was a site of significant military conflict, with both British and American forces using it to transport troops and supplies.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the lake played a key role in the industrialization of the region, with a number of ports and industries located along its shores. The lake continues to be an important economic and recreational resource for the surrounding communities.

Today, Lake Ontario is a popular destination for tourism, recreational activities, environmental conservation efforts and, of course, campers and RVers. It is also an important source of drinking water for millions of people living in the region.

Mike and Jennifer's Great Lakes Shoreline Tour (U.S. Side)

12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario 6

Instead of the usual 7 Days that some of our other guides can be done in, with this one, we’re suggesting that you budget more time. This is why we are calling it a “Tour” instead of a 7-Day Guide! There are 86 pages in this new ebook.

In this new Great Lakes Shoreline Tour we cover in detail:

  • Notable U.S. Cities/Towns along each Great Lake (US side) like Watertown, Grand Island, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Vermillion, Mackinaw City, and so many more!
  • What to See/Do Around EACH Lake: Ocqueoc Falls Scenic Site, Les Cheneaux Islands, Antique Boat Museum, and many, many more places, including BONUS side trips!
  • And good Campgrounds for each Lake (US side) – at least 4 or 5 for EACH Lake! With all the info you need to set up reservations.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2022-12-17

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “12 Best Things to Do and See Around Lake Ontario”

December 28, 2021at8:04 am, Lake Ontario: 7 Best Cities, Towns & Campgrounds said:

[…] want to factor in all of the Best Things To Do and See Around Lake Ontario when planning your […]


December 28, 2021at6:15 am, Lake Ontario: 7 Best Cities, Towns & Campgrounds | RV Lifestyle said:

[…] want to factor in all of the Best Things To Do and See Around Lake Ontario when planning your […]


September 30, 2021at9:43 am, Bonnie said:

You missed Fair Haven Beach State Park. It has sooo much to do. Shallow water beach, deep water swimming in the channel. Picnic and playground areas. Hiking. Golf. Fishing. Marshy area. Swans. Camping for everything from tent to RV in a variety of setting. ( Try the Bluff). Water craft rental, pier to walk, pavilions ,,,,t he list goes on and on! TRY IT!


September 30, 2021at7:37 am, Donna_NH said:

Rochester is not a town. It is a city and the 3rd largest in the state. It is also home to Eastman Kodak and the George Eastman Museum. Between Oswego and Rochester is Chimney Bluffs State Park. Spectacular views of the Lake and interesting Rock/Sand Formations. . . . another not to miss.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top