Summer is here and it’s time for flip-flops, fishing poles, straw hats and patio hopping.
To make your hunt for that perfect summer outing a little easier, we’ve put together a list of 12 fantastic things to do along the waterfront in Chautauqua County. From lakeside concerts on Lake Erie to picnic spots and local fishing holes on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, let’s make this summer one to remember.
1. Go Fish
It’s no secret that Chautauqua Lake is a haven for fishing, but you might not be aware of the diversity it boasts. The ever-popular muskellunge only tells a part of the story: the lake hosts 81 species of fish, including walleye and largemouth bass. Best spots for dropping a line? Try these hotspots: Prendergast Point, Tom’s Point, Cheney Farm and Stow Farm. Also, the Dunkirk Pier on Lake Erie and the boat launch on the lake in Cassadaga (Visit the DEC fishing hotline on the web at www.dec.ny.gov or www.tourchautauqua.com/Fishing)
2. Go Picnic
Leafy and green, Long Point State Park is by far one of the sweetest spots on Chautauqua Lake for a picnic. It’s got all the right stuff: picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, shelters, docks for boating and a bathhouse and beach. Claim your own shady corner and spend the day alone with a book or with a frisbee and your favorite people. ($7.00 per car. Bemus Point, Route 430. www.tourchautauqua.com/Where-To-Play/Trails-And-Parks/Long-Point-State-Park)
3. Go Eat Well
Waterfront dining is a rite of summer. Here’s the scoop on the county’s iconic lakeside dining establishments:
With its boathouse-inspired interior and the perfect patio, Ellicottville Brewing Company in Bemus Point is a popular spot for a meal or just a cold brew with a view. (57 Lakeside Dr., Bemus Point; 716- 386-1189)
You can’t get any closer to the water than the deck at the Village Casino in Bemus Point. This iconic eating and entertainment venue has its storied history on display and is a great spot for families. Flip-flops welcome. (1 Lakeside Dr., Bemus Point; 716-386-1247)
The Fish has a floating bar and a waterside deck and a newly renovated interior. This place shouts “summer!” Bring your boat. (61 Lakeside Dr., Bemus Point. 716-386-1942)
The Watermark in Mayville was built with the view in mind and because the summer breeze likes to dance here. It’s a great place to gather with friends for sunshine, salads and seafood dishes. (188 S. Erie St., Mayville 716-753-2900)
The Deck at Webb’s Captain’s Table recently underwent a large renovation, including a new bar and custom built tables, all locally made. Local is a theme here; look for fresh menu options from the Webb family farm, like pork sausage and grass-fed beef. (115 West Lake Rd., Mayville 716-753-3960)
For more places to dine around Chautauqua Lake, click HERE.
Chautauqua County’s slice of Lake Erie makes for an abundance of dining and recreational activities.
Catch the sunset with a frozen margarita at Cabana Sams Beach Bar and Grill, located on five acres of Lake Erie beachfront with an array of recreational activities including beach volleyball. It’s the kind of place where you spend the whole long summer day. (1028 South Shore Dr.; Irving;716-934-9953)
Spike Dailey’s Pub at the Dunkirk Boardwalk Market offers up interesting frozen slush drinks and a warm-weather menu (think burgers!), while Rookies On The Lake along the Erie waterfront has the kind of patio you’ll want to linger after a day at the beach. Check out Rookies’ live music schedule, too. (Spikes: 18 Central Ave., Dunkirk; 716- 672-9667. Rookies: 19 Lakeshore Drive East, Dunkirk; 716-366-9797)
It’s not summer until you’ve inhaled the smoke from a rack of ribs cooking low and slow on the grill. When Pigs Fly on the waterfront in Barcelona will satisfy your BBQ dreams and then quench your thirst at their beachside tiki bar. (8254 1st St., Barcelona; 716-632-2017)
Also on Lake Erie, eat where the locals eat when you stop in at Jack’s Barcelona Drive-in. The food is a favorite of the regulars and it’s just steps away from the beach. (8249 1st St., Westfield; 716-326-2277)
For more places to dine near Lake Erie, click HERE.
A short drive from Peek and Peak Resort, Alexander’s on pretty Findley Lake is a sweet spot for bar treats like pizza and wings, but you’ll also find a strip steak or mac and cheese topped with bourbon glazed bacon on the menu. (10417 Main St., Findley; 716-433-2000)
For more places to dine near Findley Lake, click HERE.
4. Go Find Stuff
You might be surprised to learn that Lake Erie is a great place to find beach glass. The best spots to find the time-weathered treasures are at beaches that host a good mix of sand and pebbles. Serious collectors recommend Barcelona Harbor Beach in Westfield and Point Gratiot Park in Dunkirk. Now, go forth and seek! (Barcelona: Where Route 5 crosses Route 394 near Westfield; Pt. Gratiot: NY-5 & Point Dr. West, Dunkirk)
5. Go Be Entertained
Kick off your shoes and show your best moves at an outdoor concert. Here’s a list of lakeside summer concerts for 2018:
Once a week, the gazebo at Lakeside Park in Mayville offers something special on their outdoor stage, from bluegrass brands to Shakespeare Performances start at 6:30 on Thursdays beginning July 5th. Bring a lawn chair and and grab some down home barbecue prepared by the Maple Springs Fire Department. (www.mayvillechautauqua.org.)
Live at the Lake is the name of the concert series in The Village of Lakewood, where music meets rolling hill with a view on Thursday evenings starting in July. There’s a playground for the kids and a food truck parked nearby for sustenance. (www.lakewoodny.com)
Enjoy great music on the Dunkirk Pier all summer long. From country bands to cover bands, there’s something for everyone at this award-winning venue. 50 different musical events are scheduled for this summer in what organizers are calling their best summer concert series yet. (Thursday evenings until August 30th; www.dunkirktoday.com)
Watching live music performed on a floating dock is the epitome of summer fun for many in these here parts, and thankfully the Village of Cassadaga has a floating venue that won’t disappoint. A variety of bands and musical genres are scheduled for summer 2018 all the way through Labor Day. (cassadagalakesassociation.com)
For more events and entertainment on the waterfront and inland, visit www.CHQcalendar.com.
6. Go Experience
The Great Lakes Off Shore Grand Prix, a popular speed boat racing event, will be held this year in Dunkirk on August 18th and 19th, with festivities beginning on the 17th—-all covered by NBC Sports. Join in on the excitement of watching 30 racing boats worth $2 million dollars each compete on Lake Erie with a crowd of 100,000 looking on. (www.dunkirktoday.com)
7. Go Find a Lighthouse
There’s nothing more American than a lighthouse, and a ride around the lake will reveal all three of Chautauqua Lake’s iconic beacons. Make a day of it and plan stops along the way. The lighthouses are located at Celeron Park and in the villages of Mayville and Stow. There are also two Seaway Trail lighthouses located on Lake Erie; Barcelona Lighthouse and Information Center and the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veterans Museum.
8. Go Discover
Speaking of lighthouses, the ever-popular tours at the historic 1800’s Dunkirk Lighthouse operate daily and include a walk up to the observation deck so visitors can appreciate the sweeping views of Lake Erie. Take a peek at the on-site nautical museum and the light keeper’s house, too. Keep an eye out for Ghost Hunt Tours at the Dunkirk Lighthouse. They happen multiple times each year and always sell out. (10-4 daily. $10 adults; families $25. Info & directions: www.dunkirklighthouse.com)
9. Go For A Bike Ride
Not everyone is ambitious enough to peddle 44 miles around the Chautauqua Lake, but there’s some beautiful areas for lakeshore biking in the county that can be shortened or lengthened to suit your needs. The mountain bike trails at Long Point State Park run for 8 miles and are perfectly suited for hiking too. While not waterfront, both the Westside and Eastside Overland Trails offer more trail lineage with multiple access points. Dogs are welcome on a leash. (Learn more at www.tourchautauqua.com/Trails-and-Parks.aspx)
10. Go See Lucy
Celeron’s waterfront park hosts the infamous statue of Lucille Ball, the area’s iconic comedic hero. The new statue replaces an older version that made international headlines for failing to present a more flattering version of the hometown star. You’ll find an unparalleled opportunity for a selfie here. (21 Boulevard Ave., Celeron)
Blog: “Finding Lucille Ball in Chautauqua County.” – READ MORE.
11. Go Eat Fish
Barcelona was once a thriving commercial fishing port, and while still active in the industry, visitors come looking for smoked whitefish—a local delicacy offered at Westfield Fisheries. Barcelona is the perfect day trip, with its rolling hills, lighthouse, beach, excellent dining options, and a snug little harbor. (Where Route 5 crosses Route 394. Westfield Fisheries: 716-326-3210. Open 7 days 10-5.)
12. Go Camping
Here’s the perfect plot for escape: go pitch a tent at Lake Erie State Park, located among the southern shores of the lake in the heart of Western New York’s grape belt. There’s 99 camp sites and ten cabins for rent and beautiful picnic areas nestled along the park’s rolling hills. Enjoy biking, volleyball, horseshoes, and basketball or just lounge at the beach. For camping on Chautauqua Lake, Camp Chautauqua offers tent and RV sites with hookups. There are multiple camping options all throughout the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region (www.tourchautauqua.com/Campgrounds.aspx)
Blog: “Camping in Chautauqua County.” – READ MORE
Margot Russell is an experienced, versatile writer whose career spans more than 30 years in print and broadcast journalism. Her weekly column in the Jamestown Post-Journal chronicles the triumphs and foibles of everyday life. Margot is a published author, a freelance feature writer and a script writer for The History Channel. She also coaches other writers to realize their potential.