11+ Incredibly Romantic Things To Do In Chautauqua Lake

If you’re searching for a romantic backdrop to ignite that spark with your loved one, Chautauqua Lake in Chautauqua County offers the perfect setting. Nestled between the larger Lake Erie and Chadakoin River, this stunning body of water offers an ideal getaway in serene Western New York.

At eighteen miles long, surrounded by pristine forests with access granted by several parks, Chautauqua Lake is a Nature Lover’s dream. But this gorgeous retreat is also home to the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution, and within a short drive from the National Comedy Center in Jamestown NY, or some of the most unique wineries in the country.

Here are all the most romantic things to do in Chautauqua Lake.

View of Chautauqua Lake from the Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

Where Is Lake Chautauqua?

Chautauqua Lake is situated in Chautauqua County in the southwestern part of New York State. This freshwater lake lies about 70 miles southwest of Buffalo and is easily accessible from various parts of the state as well as neighboring Pennsylvania. The lake’s proximity to Lake Erie and the Chadakoin River adds to its geographical significance, making it a focal point for various natural and recreational activities in the region.

How Long Does It Take to Drive Around Lake Chautauqua?

The time it takes to drive around Chautauqua Lake can vary depending on traffic and the specific route taken, but generally, you can expect to spend around 1 to 1.5 hours for the full loop. The lake’s perimeter is approximately 42 miles, and the roads surrounding it offer a mixture of scenic views and small-town charm.

Couple at Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

Where To Stay On Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

The Harbor Hotel isn’t just a place to rest your head; it’s a gateway to all that Chautauqua Lake has to offer. Once the site of Celoran Amusement Park, which rivaled Coney Island when it opened with its 4,800-foot-long lakefront boardwalk and zoo, the area has a long and storied history. Among other notable events, it’s where Babe Ruth defied barnstorming rules when he hit a homer into the lake in 1921.

Located on the southeast shore of Chautauqua Lake, just minutes from Jamestown NY, the hotel is an ideal base for exploring the region. Best of all, after a day of adventures, guests return to indulge in the hotel’s first-class amenities.

Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel lobby

First Impressions of Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

The Harbor Hotel offers guests a blend of luxury and lakeside living that is hard to resist. This upscale hotel is designed to make the most of its picturesque setting, From the moment you step into the elegant lobby, with its tasteful nautical-themed decor, you’re embraced by an atmosphere of tranquility and sophistication.

Chautauqua Lake harbor hotel balcony

Guest Rooms at Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

There are 135 rooms at the Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel, many with balconies and panoramic views of the lake, and a couple of suites with whirlpool spa tubs.

Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel room

A good night’s rest is assured on Serta Perfect Sleeper beds; the Concierge Suite II mattresses are so outstanding, that guests have been known to call asking how to acquire them (but they’re not available to the public!)

Floor-to-ceiling windows, hypoallergenic wood-plank floors, granite counters, and walk-in showers complete the picture of ultimate comfort.

Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel pool

Amenities at Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

Going the extra mile starts with guest arrivals. Juice and dessert bars are served in the lobby, and a floor-level refreshment bar provides Starbucks coffee and Teavana teas. Special touches in rooms include plush hooded robes and nightly turn-down service.

All that is in addition to indoor and outdoor heated pools, fire pits, a putting green, and a state-of-the-art fitness room.

Carousel Bar

Dining at Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel

All-night room service may well be the supreme comfort at the Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying the onsite restaurants.

The Carousel Bar, inspired by the resort’s theme park past, is a wonderfully intimate spot for sipping cocktails while admiring a shoreline sunset. Next door, the Lakehouse Tap & Grille offers an upscale setting, with indoor and outdoor seating, for enjoying classic fare from perfectly prepared Filet Mignon to Shrimp Scampi, accompanied by local wines.

Best Things To Do At Lake Chautauqua

In the summer, Chautauqua Lake comes alive with a plethora of outdoor activities. Boating and water sports take center stage as visitors cruise along the pristine waters, indulge in fishing adventures, or try their hand at paddleboarding and kayaking. The lake’s inviting shores are perfect for swimming and sunbathing, creating an idyllic setting for picnics and relaxation. As the weather warms up, the lake becomes a hub for community events, including fireworks displays and lakeside festivals that capture the essence of summer fun.

In the fall, Chautauqua Lake transforms into a stunning autumnal wonderland. The surrounding forests burst into a riot of red, orange, and gold hues, creating a breathtaking backdrop for hiking and nature walks along the scenic trails. It’s also an excellent time for birdwatching and wildlife spotting as migratory birds make their way through the area. For those who appreciate the quieter side of the lake, fall offers a serene escape with fewer crowds, making it an ideal season for peaceful reflection and enjoying the natural beauty of Chautauqua Lake.

The winter months offer their own unique charm and set of adventures. The area transforms into a winter wonderland, with opportunities for ice fishing, snowmobiling, and even ice sailing. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails abound, offering an invigorating way to explore the natural surroundings.

GO: Ready About Sailing

For those seeking to explore Chautauqua Lake from the water, Ready About Sailing is a go-to offering a variety of aquatic experiences. Beyond its sailing excursions guided by private captains, the company also provides sailboat and kayak rentals for those who prefer to venture out on their own terms.

Whether you’re interested in captaining your own boat, paddling a kayak through the lake’s nooks and crannies, or simply enjoying a serene sunset cruise, Ready About Sailing has you covered. With options for both novice and experienced sailors and paddlers, this offering adds an exciting, hands-on dimension to your Chautauqua Lake visit.

National Comedy Center

VISIT: National Comedy Center in Jamestown NY

The National Comedy Center celebrates the art of humor with interactive exhibits, showcasing the legacies of comedic legends. Additionally, downtown Jamestown NY features the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz museum (this was Lucy’s hometown after all!) as well as other cultural and natural attractions.

Discover all the fun things to do in Jamestown NY in our travel guide.

Celeron Light House

VISIT: Lucille Ball Memorial Park

A good place to start a circumlocution of Chautauqua Lake is at the Lucille Ball Memorial Park; located in Celeron NY, it’s located just a few minutes from downtown Jamestown NY (and next door to the Chautauqua Lake Harbor Hotel.

It’s a good spot to launch a kayak but what I Love Lucy fans will adore are the photo opps with Lucille Ball statues.

Bemus Point Stow Ferry

VISIT: Bemus Point and Stow

Situated on the eastern shore of the lake, along the North Basin, Bemus Point is a charming village that offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. One of the highlights is the two-hundred-year-old Bemus Point – Stow Ferry, which takes you on a scenic ride across the lake, offering stunning views and a reminder of when Lake Chautauqua was known as the “Paradise of the West.”

At the Stow ferry terminus, find the red-white-and-blue Liberty Lighthouse and the Stow Scoop & Swirl Station serving Perry’s Ice Cream.

In Bemus Point, the Boat Museum provides fascinating insights into the rich nautical heritage of the region, featuring a collection of historic vessels and exhibits. The surrounding water offers opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding, courtesy of rentals from Bemus Point Water Toys. And Midway State Park provides a heavy dose of nostalgia with its arcade, rides, and events.

Shop at local gift shops such as Skillmans or The Ugly Peacock Gift Shop, and indulge your sweet tooth at Bemus Point Ice Cream Shop or Sweet Lolita’s Cupcakes & Sweet Treats.

If you’re in the mood for seafood, The Fish is a local favorite, offering fresh catches of the day and waterfront seating. Down a pint at the Ellicottville Brewing Co. or opt for the Bemus Point Golf Club & Tap House where golfers tee off amidst breathtaking lake views.

Richard O. Hartley Memorial Park

VISIT: Lakewood Village

Take a walk between the lakeside Richard O. Hartley Memorial Park and the charming Village of Lakewood past Gilded Age homes, including the Packard Mansion, home of the inventor of the Packard Motor Car.

Hartley Park is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, birdwatching, or lakeside picnic. Meanwhile, Lakewood Village features cool shops such as the Cotton Thistle Boutique and Good Neighbor Bookstore, as well as delightful eateries such as the Ryder’s Cup Coffee Shop or the Group Ther-Happy Pizza Bar and Tavern.

Mayville Lighthouse

VISIT: The Village of Mayville

Start your exploration of Mayville Village at the Mayville Depot Museum, a treasure trove of local history that showcases the region’s rich heritage through fascinating exhibits and artifacts. Learn about the region’s role on the “Portage Trail” used by Native Americans and French explorers.

Rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP at Evergreen Outfitters, they provide all the equipment and expertise you need for an adventure on the water. You can also explore the scenic beauty of the region by walking or biking along the Chautauqua Rails to Trails, offering miles of picturesque pathways through lush landscapes.

Follow up a day of adventuring with a stop at Webb’s Candy Shop. This delightful confectionery shop has been crafting sweet treats such as their signature Pecan Frogs for generations.

Chautauqua Belle

Board the Chautauqua Belle steps from the Mayville Depot Museum. This paddle-wheel steamboat cruises through both the North and South Basins, providing a different perspective of the lake and its surrounding areas. Step back in time while soaking in stunning lake views.

Sailboats at Long Point State Park

GO: Long Point State Park

Known for its expansive shoreline and scenic vistas on the eastern shore of Chautauqua Lake, Long Point State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The facility offers a variety of amenities including boat launches, fishing docks, and picnic areas equipped with tables and grills. The park is particularly well-suited for water activities like boating, fishing, and swimming, but it also offers hiking trails for those looking to explore the natural landscape on foot.

During the warmer months, the park becomes a bustling spot for barbecues, gatherings, and various events, while in the winter, it transforms into a serene landscape, often visited by those interested in ice fishing or peaceful walks.

VISIT: Chautauqua Institution

No trip to Chautauqua Lake would be complete without a visit to the Chautauqua Institution. This historic venue, anchored by the iconic bell tower, hosts a diverse array of lectures, concerts, and workshops year-round, delving into subjects ranging from arts and religion to science and politics. Serving as a center for intellectual and cultural engagement, Chautauqua Institution not only enriches the local community but also provides a timeless space for exploration and enlightenment.

Plan a visit with our Chautauqua Institution travel guide.

Panama Rocks

GO: Panama Rocks Scenic Park

Known for its towering rock formations and deep crevices, Panama Rocks is a geological wonder. The park features an intricate maze of sedimentary rocks shaped over hundreds of millions of years through natural processes like erosion. A main trail navigates around the park’s rock formations, allowing visitors to marvel at the towering cliffs and explore hidden caves and passageways.

Many of the rocks are covered in moss, ferns, and various types of foliage, adding a touch of green to the ancient stone and creating a mystical, forest-like atmosphere. The site is not only a paradise for geology enthusiasts but also attracts hikers, photographers, and couples looking for an adventurous outing.

Southern Tier Brewing Co beer and nachos

VISIT: Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Referencing its location in the Southern Tier of New York State, Southern Tier Brewing Co. began production of its handcrafted beers at Lakewood NY in 2002. Now with multiple locations, the original brewery boasts two taprooms, an indoor/outdoor seasonal patio with performance space for live music, and an outdoor stone-throwing course.

Grapes on the vine in Lake Erie Wine Trail

EXPLORE: The Lake Erie Wine Trail

Chautauqua Lake’s proximity to Lake Erie brings another exciting prospect: the Lake Erie Wine Trail. This wine trail runs along the coast of Lake Erie and features over twenty vineyards renowned for their high-quality wines. Whether you are an oenophile or just someone who appreciates a good glass of wine, the Lake Erie Wine Trail is worth a visit. Here you can spend the day sampling local varieties, and learn about the unique climate and soil conditions that make the wines from this area distinct.

Grape Discovery Center

The Grape Discovery Center, located along the picturesque shores of Lake Erie, invites you to explore the fascinating story of over 150 years of grape-growing in the Lake Erie Concord Grape region. This area is home to the oldest and largest Concord grape-growing region, as well as the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies.

Immerse yourself in engaging exhibits and displays that vividly narrate the remarkable history of grape cultivation in this region. Discover the techniques and traditions that have been passed down through generations, gain insights into the diverse grape varieties thriving in the Lake Erie terroir, and learn about the art and science of winemaking.

Beyond the informative exhibits, the Grape Discovery Center frequently hosts wine tastings and events, offering you the chance to savor the unique flavors of the local vineyards.

Johnson Estate Winery

Johnson Estate Winery

Just down the road from the Grape Discovery Center, find the Johnson Estate Winery, New York’s Oldest Estate Winery. The estate spans 300 acres and has a rich history dating back to 1822 when the original farmhouse was constructed. Wine production at the estate commenced in the farmhouse basement in 1921, right at the onset of Prohibition.

Today, the winery has expanded its offerings to include both an indoor tasting room that’s open year-round, as well as a seasonal outdoor tasting venue. Whether you opt for the cozy interior or the scenic outdoor setting, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy carefully selected wine flights and charcuterie boards. A visit to Johnson Estate Winery enriches any trip to Chautauqua Lake with a combination of history, exceptional wines, and stunning natural beauty.

Find even more things to do near Lake Erie in our Erie PA travel guide.


  • Sandra Foyt

    Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, road trip junkie, and award-winning travel photographer. A veteran of many cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Fossil Freeway, the Extraterrestrial Highway, and even “The Loneliest Road in America.” Sandra is based in Upstate New York, with family homes in California and the Caribbean. Her work is influenced by tropical colors and warm relationships. And she believes that the best travel photography connects us across time, place, and culture.