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Traveling The Finger Lakes: Lake Seneca, Watkins Glen, and the Harbor Hotel [Part One]

The last few days we spent popping from winery to winery in Upstate New York, namely the Finger Lakes. These lakes are a grouping of long, narrow bodies of water which run mainly from north to south that were carved out by glaciers years ago. Some of them are extremely large (Lake Seneca is the largest at 38 miles long, approximately 3 miles wide and a max depth of 618 feet). Others are smaller, such as Seneca's western neighbor - Lake Keuka. Keuka is 22 miles long, between .2 and .5 of a mile wide, with an average depth of 187 feet. Keuka is my personal favorite due to it's smaller size and the quaint, little towns that border the water. Keuka is also home to some pretty spectacular vineyards.

Today I'll start with where we stayed and a little bit about Watkins Glen. I'll get to the good stuff (the wineries, of course!) in a second post. There's just too much to cover, and I want to give the wineries a post all on their own!

Image Via Google Maps


As I said, Lake Seneca is the largest lake. Often times people refer to the wineries as being on either the east side or the west side of this lake since its so long and narrow. Some people say it looks like a giant finger that runs from north to south, hence the name "Finger Lakes." At the very bottom of the lake is the town of Watkins Glen, home of the raceway that many know and love. This is also the town we stayed in due to its central location to many of our stops.


As I said before, Watkins Glen is a tiny town at the bottom of Lake Seneca. It is filled with tree-lined streets, little shops and restaurants, and a hotel that is situated right on the water. From its docks, you have a view that's a straight shot looking north on the lake and its stunning. The above pictures are taken from there.

For lodging, we stayed at The Harbor Hotel. The hotel itself is so nice, and I have stayed there before. The one thing I particularly remember about this hotel are the beds and the sheets. I know that may sound a bit strange to say, but it's true. If you don't believe me, you can even look it up in their promotional material! :).

This hotel's location is perfect for exploring all of the wineries on both sides of Lake Seneca, but also centrally located for further excursions to Lakes Keuka and Cayuga if you wanted.

Here's a look at the beautiful grounds in front of the water...


There were a few spots in town that we tried and I would recommend. Although I didn't get pictures of what we ordered, each meal was pretty good. Plus, the first two are within walking distance of the the Harbor Hotel.

Tobey's Donut's - Good breakfast sandwiches - perfect to have in your belly before a long day exploring the wineries. And I love donuts, but don't often eat them. After seeing their diverse display of flavors, we had to go back the next day to give them a try. For the record, the Boston Creme did not disappoint.

Nickel's Pit BBQ - Delicious BBQ! We split the pulled pork nachos to start, and then split a rack of ribs with a few sides. It was the perfect amount of food to share.

Blue Pointe Grille | Harbor Hotel - This restaurant is inside the Harbor Hotel. We ate both breakfast and dinner here. They have a decent breakfast menu with a few healthier options. For dinner, J got the shrimp scampi and said it was fabulous! I ordered the Harvest Salad, which was also delightful.

Blue Pointe Grill | Harbor Hotel

Downtown Watkins Glen at Sunset

A racecar mural outside a cute cafe


About a half mile from the hotel lies the Watkins Glen State Park. Although we didn't get to truly explore its full beauty, we did get a chance to climb the steps and see the vast waterfalls and exquisite rock formations. Here's a peak...

Part Two of this post will be coming soon. I'll include all of the wineries we visited, how I planned the trip, some tips on navigating around, and even a PDF sheet to help you organize your visits to the vineyards. Enjoy! xo

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