It would be nice if we could all afford beach vacations on an island in the Caribbean or along the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of us. So where can those living or traveling through Upstate New York go to get that beach fix without breaking the bank? Here are 14 beaches throughout Upstate New York to choose from!
Please note this article is ONLY about beaches in Upstate New York. For our next round-up of the best beaches in ALL of New York State, including NYC and Long Island, subscribe to our newsletter!
About Beaches in Upstate New York
Did you know? A beach is defined as a narrow strip of land separated by a body of water. Usually, that land is sand and/or loose particles of rocks and minerals. That means that beaches are not just on ocean coastlines. They can be found on the shores of rivers or lakes in Upstate New York, too!
Such is the case with the beaches in Upstate New York, which are usually on lakeshores. Lake life in Upstate New York has a unique vibe that is perfect for lazy weekends drinking beer on a beach chair after a walk along a nature trail. And visiting lakes is one of our favorite things to do in Upstate New York!
These beaches are usually not crowded, and many are in some of the best New York State Parks, so there are also tons of amenities, camping sites, and lifeguards on duty.
Interesting Beaches in Upstate New York You Can Visit
Minnewaska State Park Preserve ★
Minnewaska State Park Preserve has two lakes with lakes that you can swim in: Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting. Both beaches are small, and you must walk along a trail to get to them from the Minnewaska State Park parking lots. It’s $10 per vehicle.
The beach around Lake Awosting is a flat rock slab beach with a swimming area and lifeguards during the summer season. The beach at Lake Minnewaska is surrounded by cliffs and has a dock that extends into the lake. It’s also staffed by lifeguards. Minnewaska can get crowded on the weekends, especially during spring to fall. But it’s always worth the visit thanks to the gorgeous Shawangunk Ridge vistas, the hikes, the beautiful woods. Plus, New Paltz, one of the best towns in New York state to visit, is at the foot of the mountain.
Mirror Lake ★
Mirror Lake is in Lake Placid. That might not sound right, but it’s because Lake Placid is a village and a lake. The village is south of the lake and Mirror Lake is in the middle of the village. Hopefully, that clears things up. Mirror Lake is the perfect beach to visit in Upstate New York because you can swim, rent paddleboards, kayaks, and more, or just sit in an Adirondack chair.
Mirror Lake also has a trail that wraps around the entire lake. It’s only a few miles and you can walk, run, or bike it. Visiting Lake Placid should be on everybody’s list of things to do in New York state. It’s surrounded by the stunning nature of the Adirondack Mountains and was the site of the Winter Olympics twice.
Wellesley Island State Park
Wellesley Island State Park is in the Thousand Islands region. This area on the Canadian-United States border has tons of islands with beautiful beaches. The St. Lawrence River might not have been at the top of your list of places to swim, but it will be after you visit Wellesley Island State Park. It’s $7 per car during the summer season.
In addition to swimming, the fishing at Wellesley Island State Park is fantastic. You can stay in the large campground that has several cabins and cottages for rent. The park has a golf course, a nature center, and you can even rent a boat. It’s the perfect thing to do in Upstate New York.
Southwick Beach State Park
Southwick Beach State Park is on the eastern side of Lake Ontario. As it’s also a New York State Park, it’s $8 per vehicle to visit. It’s a good place to visit in Upstate New York because the park is adjacent to the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area. The Lakeview Wildlife Management Area is a part of the freshwater barrier beach system and has great views of the environmentally sensitive sand dunes and wildlife.
Visit Southwick Beach State Park for the sandy beach, have a swim if it’s warm out, but make sure you take a walk along the trails in the wildlife management area. The park also has lifeguards during the summer season and a campground with cabins available to rent.
Million Dollar Beach
No list of best beaches in Upstate New York is complete without Million Dollar Beach. Million Dollar Beach is the most popular beach along Lake George’s shores for a reason. It’s located in one of the most popular Adirondack towns: Lake George, NY. And it has every amenity you want at a beach: lifeguards, restrooms, showers, a huge parking lot, etc.
Million Dollar Beach isn’t where you go for seclusion. You come here if you’re visiting Lake George or hiking in the Adirondacks and need a few days of relaxing downtime in a cute Upstate New York town. Parking costs $10 but you can always walk onto the beach for free and leave your car at whatever hotel you’re staying at in Lake George.
Belleayre Beach ★
If you’re a New Yorker who skies, then you’ve probably heard of Belleayre Mountain. Belleayre Mountain is a mountain in the Catskills Mountains range known for its ski resort. What most people don’t know is that Belleayre is also worth a visit in the summer season. Belleayre Beach is the perfect respite after a hike on Belleayre Mountain in the humid New York summer heat.
Belleayre Beach is located along the tiny Pine Hill Lake at the bottom of the mountain. It’s small, but a great place to wind down with picnic areas and a swim. Maybe your hike in the Catskills was more of a walk and you have a lot of energy left. If that’s the case, then you can also rent kayaks and paddleboats at Belleayre Beach too. Since the beach is a part of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort, you must pay $15 per vehicle, which covers up to 6 passengers, or $5 per person to walk in.
Woodlawn Beach State Park
Lake Ontario isn’t the only Great Lake that borders New York state. Lake Erie borders western New York. Woodlawn Beach State Park is very small at only one mile, but it’s the perfect thing to do in Upstate New York for a sunset beach walk, beautiful views of Lake Erie and Buffalo, and bird watching. During the summer season, there’s usually a $7 per car fee.
If you’re visiting Buffalo to do some museum hopping or check out the microbrewery scene, Woodlawn Beach State Park is still within city limits and is the perfect way to end the day as you face west when the sun goes down. There’s even an interpretive nature boardwalk through wetlands on your way to the beach from the parking lot. If you need a little proper beach time, there are volleyball nets and lifeguards during the summer season.
Fair Haven Beach State Park
Fair Haven Beach State Park is dramatic. This portion of Lake Ontario shorefront is known for its towering bluffs. Fair Haven State Park has tall bluffs, a beautiful, wooded area with trails, and a sandy beach. If you want to spend the night at the beach, then Fair Haven State Park is the perfect beach in Upstate New York to do that. There are campgrounds with cabin rentals and cottages.
Fair Haven State Park is $9 per vehicle during the summer season. The park has two beaches separated by a little channel that has two diving boards on it. You can fish, rent paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, and rowboats so there are tons of ways to get out on the water and enjoy the time.
Olcott Beach is the perfect day trip in Upstate New York. You visit Olcott Beach for the charming quaint lakeside town of Olcott and for a walk along the pebbled beach shore. Olcott Beach has a picturesque white lighthouse that you can visit and colorful shops in the small town that deserve a visit.
Olcott Beach isn’t the type of beach I recommend you visit for a traditional sunbathing and swimming beach trip. Often, the water levels are too high to swim if you wanted. It’s the place to visit if you want that beachside town vibe. Get a homemade ice cream from Lakeside Ice Cream and sit in Adirondack chairs before you visit the Olcott Beach Carousel Park, a vintage amusement park.
Champlin Beach is on the southern edge of Lake Keuka, one of the Finger Lakes. It’s one of the best beaches in the Finger Lakes with lifeguards on duty in the summer, and water equipment like kayaks available to rent. You’re probably visiting the area for a Finger Lakes wine tour, but make sure you visit Champlin Beach for a chill afternoon.
Champlin Beach is a great place if you want views of Keuka Lake and to luxuriate in the sunshine for a few hours. It’s also close to the small village of Hammondsport, where you can grab an ice cream at Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company. I feel like it’s not a day at the beach unless there’s ice cream involved.
Cayuga Lake (at Taughannock Falls State Park) ★
Between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, we found this shoreline to be the best beach in this Finger Lakes area. The water looked clean, they offer well-maintained facilities and a great playground. This beach is perfect for families with kids. And it feels safe with the attentive and friendly lifeguards. Don’t forget to visit the prized gem of this park: Taughannock Falls (one of our favorite waterfalls in New York!)
Hamlin Beach State Park
Hamlin Beach State Park is another great beach in Upstate New York along Lake Ontario to visit. It’s a New York State Park so it costs $9 per car to visit. If you want to spend time camping along the beach, then the campgrounds at Hamlin Beach State Park are open from the spring to fall. There are also tons of picnic tables and pavilions for both the overnighters and day-trippers both.
In addition to sunbathing and swimming, Hamlin Beach State Park has six miles of trails for hiking and biking. There is a self-guided educational trail in the Yanty Creek Marsh area to occupy you if you’re looking for something engaging. Hamlin State Park is perfect if you want to relax or partake in some physical activity on the sand.
Seneca Lake State Park
Seneca Lake State Park is at the northern end of Lake Seneca, another one of the Finger Lakes. Seneca Lake State Park costs $8 per vehicle during the summer season. It’s the perfect beach for a dip in the water, then sit at one of the picnic tables and drink wine from a Finger Lakes winery.
The highlight of Seneca Lake State Park is the Sprayground, which has more than 100 water jets that spontaneously spray water. You might think only children like this. Not the case. Plus, there are two other playgrounds for kids, and thanks to the marinas, it’s also a great boat-watching beach.
Ontario Beach Park
Lake Ontario is so huge that it feels like you’re looking at an ocean when you stand on the shore. Ontario Beach Park, located along the southern shores of Lake Ontario, is the perfect place if you want the ocean feel, but can’t get to it for some reason. The swimming season at the park is from Father’s Day until Labor Day. There is a lifeguard from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during the season.
Ontario Beach Park is huge so spread out, use the volleyball and pickleball nets, and enjoy the water. There’s even a carousel that operates during the summer months. The 1905 Dentzel Menagerie Carousel is beautiful and can be fun for kids or used as the perfect Instagram backdrop for your Upstate New York Beach Day pic. Ontario Beach Park is also located near Rochester, one of the best cities in Upstate New York to visit.
Lakeside State Park
Lakeside State Park is technically a beach along the southern shores of Lake Ontario. However, there is no swimming allowed at all. There are several miles of hiking and biking trails, a huge campsite and picnic grounds, and even a golf course. It costs $6 per vehicle during the summer season to visit the park.
Lakeside State Park is the perfect Upstate New York beach because it’s surrounded by farms and orchards. It’s quintessential Upstate New York. It’s the perfect midway stop between Rochester and Niagara Falls if you’re taking a New York state road trip to see all the different towns, cities, and state parks in New York.