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Lake Ontario: 7 Best Cities, Towns & Campgrounds

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

Lake Ontario may be the smallest of the Great Lakes, but there are plenty of places to see and stay.

There are a good number of islands on Lake Ontario, including the eastern Thousand Islands region, which is an archipelago of nearly 2,000 islands that line the U.S. and Canadian border.

Many of these islands are very small and uninhabitable, with the largest being the 48-square-mile Wolfe Island at the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River.

Like all of the Great Lakes, Ontario results from many thousands of years of glacial shifting and melting at the end of the most recent Ice Age. Its name is aptly taken from an Iroquois word for “a beautiful lake.”

3 Notable U.S. Cities & Towns along Lake Ontario (Traveling East to West)

lake ontario 2
Travel to Watertown, Rochester, Grand Island.

The first European to see it was the French Explorer Étienne Brulé and his faithful companion and protégé, Samuel de Champlain. According to the Canadian Museum of History, it is believed they reached lakes Ontario and Huron around 1615.

Then, during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the French built forts along the edges of the lake. There is a rich history of trade and commerce here, especially after the War of 1812, when canals were built and traveled by bulky steamships.

This was a big hub of commerce until the railroads were built and eclipsed the steamers as a way to move goods. Today, however, fishing is king, and in Lake Ontario, you will find Walleye, Coho, and Chinook Salmon, and some trout varieties, including rainbow and steelhead.

Invasive mussels cover much of the lake’s bottom along the coastal areas. The climate is conducive to fruit trees along the shoreline, where you will find apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum trees.

Wildlife abounds due to its location, and bird watchers will have a literal field day. Lake Ontario hosts a number of migratory birds: loons, swans, ducks, geese, grebes, and other waterfowl are regularly seen, as well as hawks and Eagles. 

1. Watertown

Located at the eastern tip of Lake Ontario, this tiny town with a population of 18,000 has an excellent natural harbor, with water on one side and stunning highlands on the other. It also sits in the shadow of the much more formidable Adirondack Mountains. Interstate 81 is the main road that runs into/out of town.

When heading west out of town to follow the shoreline, hook onto Highway 3, then Highway 104 to make your way to…

2. Rochester, NY

An Erie Canal city in the Snowbelt, with roughly 100 inches of snow per year, on average. It is a middle-of-the-lake city, with Lake Ontario stretching far on either side of it.

As the largest city along Lake Ontario on the U.S. side, it has a population of about 210,000. There is much to do and see here, along with some fascinating history. From here, you’ll want to take Highway 390, then get on the Lake Ontario State Pkwy to continue west along the shoreline.

3. Grand Island

Located on a circularly shaped island and linked to the mainland by two bridges (to Buffalo in the south and Niagara Falls to the north).

It is a small town of about 20,000 residents. Located just south of the southwest side of Lake Ontario, you will be coming into it on Interstate 190 from the north. As far as island populations go, it’s in the top ten largest in the U.S. and is a lovely spot to stop for lunch or to take a breather from your travels.

4 Campgrounds Along Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario has hundreds of campgrounds all around her shores; here are just a few of the better ones along the southern U.S. shores. 

Since we don’t know how fast or slow or long you’ll travel, these give you some suggested spots to stay overnight.

You'll want to factor in all of the Best Things To Do and See Around Lake Ontario when planning your stays.

Campground 1: Lakeside Beach State Park

Lakeside State Park lake ontario
Lakeside Beach State Park

We stayed overnight here and couldn’t have been happier. Located along the shores of Lake Ontario near Waterport off of Lake Ontario State Pkwy, there is a great disc golf course nearby, along with hiking, biking, and fishing.

A nicely maintained campground, there are full electrical hookups, restrooms and showers, a dump station, and pets are allowed. From here, you can hook onto Highway 18 to continue west along the shoreline.

Campground 2: Ontario Shores RV Park

lake ontario  Ontario Shores RV Park
Ontario Shores RV Park

Near Pulaski, NY, this is a nice seasonal campground open May – October. Some sites are along the waterfront, offering amazing sunset views.

Amenities include electrical hookups and pull-through sites, WiFi, restrooms and showers, a pool, and pets are allowed.

Campground 3: Sunset RV Park

Sunset RV Park lake ontario
Sunset RV Park

Located near Oswego, NY, this is a smaller park, and not as spacious as others with regards to parking your RV, but is neatly kept, the owners are accommodating, and the water views are wonderful.

Great for sunsets. Amenities include electrical hookups and pull-through sites, WiFi, restrooms and showers, and a pool.

Campground 4: South Shore RV Park

South Shore RV Park lake ontario
South Shore RV Park

Located near Sodus Point, NY, this is a lovely seasonal campground with beautiful views of the waters. Campsites are closer together than most, but facilities are well maintained, with helpful staff.

Amenities include electrical hookups and pull-through sites, WiFi, restrooms and showers, and pets are allowed.

Mike and Jennifer's Great Lakes Bundle – 2 ebooks!

Lake Ontario: 7 Best Cities, Towns & Campgrounds 1

This bundle is our popular Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide PLUS our newest Adventure Guide – The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour! Both ebooks will give you plenty of ideas and resources to enjoy this part of the US.

Explore this Bundle and plan your next trip!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-12-28

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.

6 Responses to “Lake Ontario: 7 Best Cities, Towns & Campgrounds”

December 29, 2021at9:20 am, Joseph Julias said:

I do not know if the first reply went through but Grand Island in not on Lake Ontario. It located in the Niagara River well above lake Ontario. Water flows over Niagara Falls and into the lower Niagare River into Lake Ontario.


December 29, 2021at9:13 am, Joseph Juliad said:

Grand Island is in the Niagara River well above Lake Ontario and should not have been included in city’s along Lake Ontario.


December 29, 2021at9:10 am, M Stout said:

We stayed in the most lovely Harvest Host vineyard near Watertown. We also found a great fish snd chips place on Trip Advisor.


December 28, 2021at5:08 pm, Amy K said:

The population of Watertown is larger than 25,000 not 18,000 as your story suggests. That makes a difference if people are choosing places to stay for amenities such a medical or shopping and attractions. You didn’t include any campgrounds closer to Watertown that are decent. Sacket’s Harbor is where the Lake and the St, Lawrence River meet. The area has such an array of history and scenic options that were totally left out. This is a sad piece for folks who won’t visit the area because of this article.


December 29, 2021at9:11 am, M Stout said:

We lived Watertown! Lively Harvest Host vineyard nearby and nice eateries in town


June 07, 2023at4:12 pm, Roy Sleeper said:

Many of the parks and state parks are also on the lake as well !
Comes to mind Seabrease Amusement park Rochester area Sodus Bay, Fair Haven bay and State Park , Oswego bay and War of 1812 fort. Selkirk Shores , and National Military Park at Sackets Harbor. Also upstate NY St. Lawrence seaway power projects and Eisenhower locks. Seaway trail .


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