We are taking a few days to circumnavigate Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes, and we are halfway through our journey. We started on the west end, near Buffalo and Niagara on the Lake, crossed the border into the US at Lewiston without incident, and started driving along hugging the lake shore, looking for nice places to stop. There’s a city park near Wilson where we ate lunch, but it’s one of those where the parking lot is back from the water and you walk down a path in order to get a good view. On we drove, looking for a park-on-the-beach setting.
No gas stations were on the coast road, and after checking with the locals we replenished our supplies of US currency, cheap US gasoline, and groceries in a little town called Newfane, maybe five miles inland. Newfane is a beautiful little town, currently struggling to keep its local hospital open, judging by all the signs in yards. Most of this area was settled in the early to mid-1800s, and there are beautiful stone and wood houses lining the roads.
With food and fuel to make it a few days, we noodled along the coastal highway with occasional detours along loops of smaller roads closer to the water – where they went through, that is. Many are just dead ends down to some summer cottages. We also wanted to check out some of the New York state parks, hoping they wouldn’t be too expensive. The first one we stopped in on was Golden Hill, where they had no-hookup sites open to RVs right on the water. It was Thursday, so we lucked out and beat the weekend rush with walk-up availability. Fiona welcomed the chance to get out and stretch her legs. Golden Hill is on the northernmost point of the lake’s south shore, and has a cute little lighthouse on the grounds. There’s a 1780 British warship shipwreck right offshore – sandbanks go out from this point and have bedeviled lake shipping for centuries.
We stayed at Golden Hill SP Thursday and Friday night, and then headed east along the shore, knowing that camping would be scarce on a summer weekend. Just east of the park was a great day spot at Shadigee, which is a few cottages at the site of the old Yates Pier, now long gone, where farm produce was shipped out and passengers disembarked.
The Welland and Erie Canals had opened by the 1830s, reducing shipping costs from the Great Lakes to the Eastern Seaboard by 95%, steamships were being built as fast as they could build them, and the Great Lakes were open for business. The Yates Pier site was a local hangout – people would drive down to sit in their cars and look at the lake, teenagers would hang out, and fishermen, jet skiiers, and kayakers were coming and going.
Saturday night we hit the nearest Wal-Mart in Batavia, about 25 miles inland, did some serious resupply shopping, and got some propane at Henrietta, just south of Rochester, NY as we swung east and around the metropolitan area. Back up on the coastal highway east of there, we drove by the impressive boatyards in Sodus Point, and worked our way along the shore to Oswego. On the west side of Oswego there’s not much in the way of public accommodations – mostly lake cottages and commercial RV parks. However, we did spot some public parking near an ice cream store with single parking spaces. We backed into a lakefront spot, bought an ice cream cone, and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting between the patrons of the Sunset RV Park and the lake, blocking their view At dusk we headed into town for another night chez Wal-Mart, and off east again on Monday, finding another nice state park at Selkirk Shores.
Just west of here is the Ninemile Point nuclear power plant, which I approached on the way over as close as I could without arousing the protective instincts of the security types. I did a U-turn right before the point of no return where the barricades started, funneling you into the checkpoint. Large vans you can’t see into get the extra special treatment, so I didn’t want to put all of us through that procedure.
Selkirk Shores State Park was a Civilian Conservation Corps site in the 1930s, and most of the park infrastructure was built then. They had their own sawmill, and the buildings are still standing, 80 years later.
We will continue on back into Canada and west around the top of the lake in the coming week – there’s a little rain forecast we’ll hunker down for on Wednesday, with a clear forecast after that. So far it’s been very enjoyable, and the summer crowds aren’t hard to dodge with a little planning.