Taking a Skaneateles Lake Sightseeing Cruise with Mid-Lakes Navigation

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Without a doubt, the Finger Lakes region of New York is one of the most beautiful parts of the state. And, a large reason is because of the incredible lakes. However, what if you want to explore the area from the water but don’t have a boat?

Fortunately, there are many great sightseeing cruises you can take in the region, and recently I had a chance to hop aboard the Judge Ben Wiles for a boat tour of  Skaneateles Lake with Mid-Lakes Navigation.

Mid-Lakes Navigation is based in the very charming town of Skaneateles on the northern end of Skaneateles Lake in Onondaga County, New York, only 30 minutes west of downtown Syracuse.

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Skaneateles, New York as seen from the lake
Sightseeing cruises leave from the charming community of Skaneateles.

Mid-Lakes Navigation has been running sightseeing tours on Skaneateles Lake since 1969. The business started as an off-shoot of their mail boat but soon grew into one of the most popular boat tours in the Finger Lakes.

Today, there are multiple tours offered seven days a week from mid-May through mid-October. While they do still offer a longer tour each day on their mailboat, which still delivers the mail, five days a week, I opted for their one-house sightseeing tour on Skaneateles Lake.

This tour leaves several times each day from a dock on the northern edge of the lake and just steps from the many shops and restaurants of Skaneateles, NY. These tours are done on the Judge Ben Wiles.

The lower deck of the Judge Ben Wiles of Mid-Lakes Navigation .
The lower deck of the Judge Ben Wiles.

This boat is named for the father of the company’s founder (the mailboat his named for his mother, the Barbara S. Wiles). What I loved most about the boat was that while it was built in the 1960s, it had a design and charm that made it seem like it was even older.

Sightseeing tours last one hour and travel along both shores of the lake, going about two miles south before crossing the lake and returning. Given that this is one of the cleanest lakes in the entire United States, its an undoubtedly beautiful trip.

The upper deck of the Judge Ben Wiles on Skaneateles Lake in New York
Looking over the outside deck of the boat while cruising on Skaneateles Lake.

Along the way, the captain offers a variety of information about the geology and history of the lake. I definitely found these factoids really interesting, and they helped me appreciate the area to a much greater degree.

Most of the narration, however, was focused on the history of the homes along the lake and the people that owned them. While these homes are incredibly beautiful and some of the information was interesting, I think locals who were more familiar with the area’s companies and local celebrities would appreciate this part of the narration more.

Home along the shores of Skaneateles Lake near Syracuse New York
Most of the narration focuses on the many incredible homes along the northern part of the lake.

The boat itself is quite comfortable and offers a lot of seating and places to stand while enjoying the view.

It’s worth noting that there are only four outdoor benches (three on the front and one on the back). If sitting outdoors is important to you, make sure to get in line early to snag one of these spots as they tend to be the places that fill up first.

A church on the shores of Skaneateles Lake in Onondaga County NY
More beauty along Skaneateles Lake.

That being said, the rest of the seating is perfectly comfortable and you can certainly stand along the edge of the boat to enjoy the view. If you aren’t able to get a bench, I’d recommend sitting on the first deck if you don’t want to stand as those seats are along the edge of the boat.

Without a doubt, taking a sightseeing cruise on the Judge Ben Wiles with Mid-Lakes Navigation was an incredibly enjoyable way to spend an hour. It was great to be out on the water and not only experience the beauty of the lake, but see others enjoying it as well, be it from their docks, fishing boats, sailboats, or even stand-up paddleboards.

A sail boat on Skaneateles Lakes in the Finger Lakes
A sailboat on Skaneateles Lakes.

If you are looking for a great way to experience the beauty of the Finger Lakes, I definitely recommend booking a sightseeing cruise on Skaneateles Lake with Mid-Lakes Navigation.

Looking for more great things to do in the area? Check out the Harriet Tubman House, our favorite Finger Lakes waterfalls, and the best breweries in Syracuse.


Mid-Lakes Navigation

Hours: Cruise times vary
Open mid-May – mid-October

Cost: Adult: $20, Children: $15
Other tours cost more money

Website: MidLakesNavigation.com

Address: 11 Jordan Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152
Boats leave from a dock in Clift Park



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