Monday, July 23, 2012

Adirondacks with Kids: Lake George Wows with Spectacular Summer Fun

"Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to his daughter in 1791. More than 200 years later, this Adirondack lake remains so clean that many locals still use it for drinking water. It is still beyond beautiful.

I've always thought it a shame that so many visitors never get beyond the village of Lake George. Located at the south end of the lake, it's what you'd expect from a summer tourist trap. While chain eateries, mini golf outlets and waterslide parks can be a lot of fun, they don't give any clue to just how impossibly gorgeous the lake is. For that, you really need to get out on the water and picnic or camp on an island.

Thirty-two miles long and three miles at its widest, Lake George is dotted with 170 islands, most of which are state owned and 44 of which are available for overnight camping. You can also picnic on eight of the islands.

Last week, when my brother and niece were visiting from Nashville, my family rented a boat and spent a perfect day on Lake George. We really ought to do it more often.

We picnicked on Hazel Island, a little gem located at the opening to Paradise Bay. The kids had a great time jumping off the dock, feeding the ducks, and exploring. The photo on the upper right shows the Mohican, an historic steamboat that's offered cruises on Lake George for 104 years.

My 9 year old must have jumped off the dock 100 times. Pure joy!

Later on, we went tubing and stopped by Glen Island to buy ice cream and candy in its little store. This is the view from the storefront.

Price tag: We rented a 20-foot bowrider speedboat from Dunham's Bay Sea Ray ($350 for a full day, plus $30 for an oversized tube). The price includes eight hours of usage, from 8:30am-4:30pm. After gas and taxes, we spent about $420 in total. The per-day price goes down if you rent for several days or a week. Note that this outfitter accepts payment by cash or NY state check only.

See also: My review in Cigar Aficionado magazine of The Sagamore Resort, an iconic, grand hotel with a killer location on the east shore of the lake.

Photos: I'm @suzannekelleher on Instagram.