New York Scenic Drives: Seaway Trail


Highlights of Seaway Trail
byways.org Niagra Falls is one of the awe-inspiring sights on Seaway Trail.
byways.org Niagra Falls is one of the awe-inspiring sights on Seaway Trail.

The Seaway Trail is a roadway covered in country charm with a twist of the city. Around every corner, visitors are sure to find museums, historic sites, parks, and cemeteries. Among cities, apple orchards, wildflowers, and shoreline are all part of the view. There are so many things to see along this byway that a well-planned itinerary is a must for travelers to see everything that suits their fancy. The Seaway Trail is the perfect way to see the best of New York.

As the trail travels the northern edge of New York, drivers and passengers alike will enjoy a view that reveals the waters of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. State parks, often with campgrounds, dot the shores of these lakes and rivers, providing scenery and relaxation for visitors. There is nothing quite like a gentle breeze from the lake. And the sight of Niagara Falls may be one of the high points of the drive. The falls lie on the channel between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and they are a scenic wonder unto themselves. All along the St. Lawrence River, visitors will have the opportunity to experience nature at a closer distance.

Take the time to stop at a few historic homes and cities to walk along harbors or through gardens. This area was the beginning of prosperity for the nation from the earliest times. Between the larger cities such as Buffalo and Rochester, travelers will also find villages of a slower pace. Full of personality, these places will point visitors in the direction of the most unique points of interest. Visitors will also find 28 lighthouses along the way. Be sure to bring a camera for that perfect moment when the setting sun hits a historic lighthouse at just the right angle. Enjoy the scenery of the Seaway Trail and take the time to tour the scenes that intrigue you on this National Scenic Byway.

Covering both urban and rural, inland and waterfront areas, the Seaway Trail has a plethora of pleasurable places awaiting travelers. This listing of highlights captures just a bit of the flavor of this unique byway.

Frederic Remington Art Museum: On the northeast end of the byway in the town of Ogdensburg is the Frederic Remington Art Museum, commemorating the life and work of the famed bronze sculptor and painter of western art. A majority of the museum's vast holdings came as a bequest from Remington's widow upon her death in 1918, and includes not only paintings and bronzes but also sketchbooks, notes, photos, and even the cigars that were in his pocket before he died, giving a personal as well as professional view of the great artist.

Heart Island and Boldt Castle: Just off Alexandria Bay, Heart Island and Boldt Castle is an intriguing monument to love, loss, and luxury. Built in the early 1900s as a symbol of love for his wife by the proprietor of New York City's famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, George Boldt never returned to the island or the extravagant Rhineland-style castle after his wife died suddenly in 1904. Acquired and rehabilitated by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, the island and its various buildings are now open to the public.

Seaway Trail Discovery Center: For an overview of the Seaway Trail and complete information to take with you along your journey, a stop at the Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor is a great idea. Located in the old Union Hotel in historic downtown along the waterfront, the Discovery Center has nine exhibit rooms featuring a lighthouse video display, animatronic and interactive exhibits, and abundant information about the history of the Seaway Trail.

Fort Ontario: On Fourth Street in Oswego is the star-shaped Fort Ontario, restored to its mid-1800s appearance. An orientation exhibit tells the history of the fort from its beginnings in 1755, including its use as an emergency refugee center for victims of the World War II Holocaust. Costumed historians re-create the lives of military men, their families, and civilians from the mid-1800s.

Thirtymile Point, Selkirk, and Tibbetts Point Lighthouses: Following along the waters of the Great Lakes, the Seaway Trail has several historic lighthouses, some of which are open to the pubic. And although lighthouses rarely offer overnight accommodations, the Seaway Trail is fortunate to have three lighthouses available for overnight stays: Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park; Selkirk Lighthouse at the mouth of the Salmon River on Lake Ontario, Port Ontario; and Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Hostel at the mouth of the confluence of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, Cape Vincent.

Sodus Bay Lighthouse and Museum: Those lighthouses that do not provide overnight accommodations but do have tours provide wonderful experiences for visitors. One is Sodus Bay Lighthouse and Museum. Multimedia exhibits present the early history of the area, early railroading history at Sodus Point, and fishing here. And of course, a major attraction is the climb to the top of the lighthouse tower, 70 feet above the waters of the lake for a spectacular view.

Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse and Museum: In Rochester is the Charlotte–Genesee Lighthouse and Museum. The keeper's house has exhibits about lighthouse lore, local history, and navigation, while the adjacent building has exhibits focused on the early history of the site. And visitors are welcome to climb the tower.

Old Fort Niagara: Old Fort Niagara is a National Historic Landmark belonging to the United States now, but it wasn't always so. With history reaching back into the 1700s, the fort has been in the hands of both the French and the British as well eventually the Americans. Visitors can explore 16 points of interest on the self-guided tour, including several buildings, monuments, earthen fortifications, and the lighthouse. Living historians as well as multimedia displays tell the exciting history of the fort and the people who occupied it.

Niagara Falls: The finale to this itinerary is the sublime Niagara Falls, accessible in Niagara Falls State Park. Though the falls straddle the border of America and Canada, the American side has retained much of its natural environment while still having plenty for visitors to do. You'll want to begin your journey at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, showcasing the natural history of Niagara Falls and the Gorge with interactive displays and a 180-degree multi-screen theater presentation. The geology of the Niagara Gorge is detailed, including information about the ancient rock layers, minerals, fossils, and more.

Observation Tower: Also at the Niagara Falls State Park, the Observation Tower at Prospect Point gives a commanding view of the American Falls and the churning waters in the gorge below. An elevator ride to the bottom of the Observation Tower takes you to the dock where you can board the Maid of the Mist for a boat ride to the swirling basin of the Horseshoe Falls. The Cave of the Winds trek takes you down 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge and within 20 feet of Bridal Veil Falls.

The Seaway Trail is a well-marked, scenic alternative to interstate highways and toll roads that offers a celebration of historic and recreational exploration for all.

Find more useful information related to New York's Seaway Trail:

  • New York Scenic Drives: Seaway Trail is just one of the scenic byways in New York. Check out the others.
  • Buffalo, Rochester, Niagra Falls, Cape Vincent: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Seaway Trail.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond New York? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.