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Touring Lake George by water without your own boat

Summer on Lake George

Touring Lake George by water without your own boat

No watercraft? No problem
Touring Lake George by water without your own boat
View of Lake George boats from the second story of Fort William Henry in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.
Photographer: Erica Miller

You haven’t really seen Lake George until you tour it by boat.

Once on the water, the crowded village becomes a distant memory, replaced by the slap of waves against the hull, the breeze in your hair, and the majesty of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. Craggy, forested islands reveal themselves, places those who keep to shore never get to see. In some spots, secluded coves beckon; in others, magnificent shoreside houses offer allure. Over it all is so much sky, and the occasional bald eagle, swooping waterward in search of prey. 

If you don’t have a boat of your own, and a rental is out of the question, there are still opportunities to explore the waters of Lake George. A number of companies offer excursions, on boats large and small, with offerings ranging from sightseeing tours to tubing adventures.

Lake George Steamboat Company

Lake George Steamboat Company’s three large, historic boats cruise the lake from May to October. In business for more than 200 years, the company operates from docks on Beach Road and offers sightseeing cruises suitable for all ages. The boats have enclosed seating areas as well as decks where passengers can take in the sights in the open air. They’re equipped with amenities including bathrooms and bars, dining areas and entertainment. 

Luke Dow, the company’s vice president, said the boats are enjoyed by about a quarter of a million passengers during a typical season.  

“From our cruises, [passengers] get a different view. They get up close,” he said. “You see the gorgeous private homes and mansions, you get up close to these islands. Every now and then you’ll see eagles in one of the trees.” 

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
View of Lake George boats from the second story of Fort William Henry in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
View of Lake George boats from the second story of Fort William Henry in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Part of the appeal of Lake George Steamboat Company cruises is the boats themselves.

“Each of our boats is unique in the whole entire country,” Dow noted.

The Minne-Ha-Ha is one of the last steam paddlewheel vessels in the United States. Its cheery steam calliope concert, played between each cruise, can be heard floating across the water throughout the day. The boat offers an hour-long cruise seven times daily -- the company’s most popular offering, Dow said. The Friday night Pirate Adventure Cruise is a hit with the younger set. 

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

The Mohican, which turns 111 this year, is the oldest continuously operating tour boat in the country. It offers a six-hour full lake cruise and weeknight family dinner cruises with fun themes like Taco Tuesday and Mac ‘n Cheese Wednesday. Passengers aboard the Mohican can also tour Paradise Bay or take a 14-mile trip through Lake George’s Islands. 

The Lac du Saint Sacrement, the largest in Lake George Steamboat Company’s fleet, is also the largest cruise ship on New York State’s inland waters. The 190-foot-long boat offers sightseeing, lunch, brunch and dinner cruises that include narration about the lake’s features and history, as well as onboard entertainment. 

Highliner Charter Fishing

Not everyone takes to Lake George’s waters simply to see the sights. Highliner Charter Fishing caters to those more interested in what’s going on below the lake’s surface. The company operates a fleet that specializes in light tackle fishing excursions for lake trout, salmon and large- and small-mouth bass. 

“Lake George is a trophy fishery. People don’t realize the fish that are in Lake George. We get lake trout up to 20 pounds,” said owner Justin Mahoney, a United States Coast Guard certified Master Captain. “I just got off the lake with three ladies from Germany. They caught six fish and all but two were over two feet long.” 

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Justin Mahoney, owner of Lake George Island Adventures (pontoon excursions) and Highline Charter Fishing, where he docks at Lake George Suites in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Justin Mahoney, owner of Lake George Island Adventures and Highline Charter Fishing, in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Chartered fishing expeditions range in length from four to eight hours and can accommodate four to eight people. All fishing equipment is included and staff will even fillet and bag your catch.

“You just bring whatever you like to eat and drink and get ready to catch some beautiful fish,” Mahoney said. 

Mahoney’s company welcomes fishing enthusiasts of all ages. He said some of Highliner’s best trips are evening bass charters done on a pontoon boat. 

“It’s a lot of kids, and the kids have a lot of fun. That’s hands-on fishing and they tend to catch a lot of bass,” he said.

Lake George Island Adventures

Mahoney owns a second boating company, Lake George Island Adventures, which takes visitors on pontoon boat adventures including eco tours, island picnics, bird watching excursions and fireworks cruises. 

“We’ll go up into The Narrows, into the wilderness area among the islands; we’ll swim in the pristine bays up there in the wilderness area; we’ll hike into a waterfall; we’ll take them swimming in Paradise Bay and Log Bay; we’ll take them where they can jump from some rocks into the water. Everybody gets a chance to go tubing,” he said, noting that all activities are included in the price of the excursion. Passengers are only responsible for bringing their own food and drinks.

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Justin Mahoney (not shown), owner of Lake George Island Adventures (pontoon excursions) and Highline Charter Fishing, where he docks at Lake George Suites in Lake George on Thursday, May 30, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Lake George Island Adventures pontoon excursion on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Chartering a captained boat is a wise move for visitors who aren’t familiar with the lake, said Mahoney. He recalled customers who rented uncaptained boats in the past and had lackluster experiences.

“They get out on Lake George and they don’t realize how big Lake George is, and they see very little. They don’t know where to go, what to do, and they ride around in circles,” he said.

Having a captain onboard makes the trip more relaxing, he noted. 

“They can have their cocktails, they can eat their food, have a fun swim and they don’t have to worry about it. They have a designated driver that’s fully certified in first aid, CPR, and a licensed guide,” he explained. 

Mahoney said his pontoon boats are comfortable and accessible for people of all ages. 

“Some great trips are when you see a family and all the kids are just laughing throughout the whole day,” he recalled. “And on the way back, usually we’re far up the lake, and when you see the kids all falling asleep and the parents all have a glass of wine in their hand, you know everybody had a great day.” 

Boating with Bob

Bob Martin owns Boating with Bob, one of the smaller outfits on the lake. He said visitors who come aboard his 28-foot Chaparral Bowrider get to see the real Lake George. 

“You’re not seeing the tourist trap,” explained Martin, who has been boating Lake George for 30 years. “Sometimes you see bald eagles, and just the natural beauty -- the cliffs and the islands. … We can get into places that the big boats can’t get into.”

Martin takes up to eight passengers on private outings from two to four hours long. Trips are customizable, with activity options including island picnics, birdwatching, swimming, tubing, fireworks viewing, bass fishing and more. 

Other options

Those who want to experience Lake George by water have a multitude of other options as well, including: 

  • Indian Pipes Captained Charter Cruises, in its 35th year of operation on Lake George. The 36-foot luxury trawler yacht is docked at the Sagamore Resort. It can be booked from May to October for private outings for up to 18 passengers. 
  • Lake George Boat Tours, LLC at Diamond Point, which operates a 25-foot luxury pontoon boat that seats up to 12. Captain Dave Whalen will customize each tour to the group’s desires. 
  • Lake George Island Boat Tours, which takes passengers out on a 25-foot and a 26-foot open bow Chaparral for private sightseeing tours from one to six hours long. Tours can be customized to include swimming, cliff jumping, snorkeling and tubing. Boats can accommodate up to 11 passengers. The company offers a variety of pickup spots around the lake. 

More options can be found on visitlakegeorge.com and lakegeorge.com

Reach freelance writer Kelly de la Rocha at [email protected] 

Book a Boat Tour:

Boating with Bob
Tours depart from Lake George Camping Equipment and Marina, TowBoat Lake George, 5024 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing
518-903-2921
Boatingwithbob.com

Highliner Charter Fishing
Tours depart from 3678 Lake Shore Drive, Diamond Point
518-885-3838
Highlinerfishing.com

Indian Pipes Captained Charter Cruises
Tours depart from the Sagamore Resort, 110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing
845-772-1177
Lakegeorgenewyork.com/indianpipes/

Lake George Boat Tours, LLC at Diamond Point
Tours depart from Brodie’s Lakeside, 3686 Lake Shore Drive, Diamond Point
518-668-5106
Lakegeorgeboattours.com

Lake George Island Adventures
Tours depart from 3678 Lake Shore Drive, Diamond Point
518-885-3838
lakegeorgeislandadventures.com

Lake George Island Boat Tours
Tours depart from 1215 Pilot Knob Road in Catskill Bay or various other locations, upon request
518-469-8745
Lgislandboattours.com

Lake George Steamboat Company
Tours depart from 57 Beach Road, Lake George
518-668-5777
Lakegeorgesteamboat.com

More options can be found on visitlakegeorge.com and lakegeorge.com

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

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