One of the most scenic routes in the Finger Lakes is a 35-mile stretch of highway that runs along the west side of Cayuga Lake, from Ithaca in the south to Routes 5 and 20 in the north. Along the way is spectacular scenery, thundering falls, peaceful camping, world-class bird watching, lovely bed and breakfasts, beautiful beaches, unique restaurants and bustling wineries.
Starting in Ithaca, Route 89 begins as Taughannock Boulevard and follows the Cayuga Lake Inlet. Enjoy fine dining with a nautical theme at the BoatYard Grill or other restaurants. Go for a jog on the Cayuga Waterfront Trail and pass the Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, one of the largest inland marinas in New York State. From here, boats can find their way to the ocean!
Follow Route 89 north for a tour of the Cayuga Nature Center. Adults and children alike enjoy the many programs and exhibits designed to cultivate awareness, responsibility and appreciation for the natural world.
After that, be sure to stop at Taughannock Falls State Park. It features a beautiful beach for swimming, huge lawns for picnics and games, playgrounds, a boat launch, and of course, the falls. Leave your vehicle at the entrance to the park and hike less than a mile along a gentle grade to witness the inspiring falls from below. Or, drive up to the scenic overlook to catch the view from the top. Either way, it’s one of the most spectacular sites in the Finger Lakes. With 215 feet of drop, it is one of the tallest continuous drop waterfalls east of the Rockies. If hungry, there are snack bars at the park or try the fine dining at the Taughannock Falls Inn, adjacent to the park.
Continue along Route 89 and soon you’ll be winding your way through the luscious vineyards of 15 wineries, one cidery, one meadery, and four distilleries belonging to the Cayuga Wine Trail. Wine tasting here is casual and fun, and you might even be served by the winemaker or owner. Each winery is unique in both architecture and taste. Check out the wood-fired pizza at Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery. Stop for lunch at the cafes at Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Sheldrake Point Vineyard or Knapp Winery. Or, take a quick side trip to Kidders on the lake where you’ll find several bars and restaurants. Most wineries have gift shops featuring local artists, cheese and more.
As you head north, follow the signs to Knapp Winery, which is a left turn onto Ernsberger Road. Knapp not only has great wine and a fine restaurant, but they have one of the best scenic vistas of the lake as you drive down the hill to return to Route 89.
Next up: Cayuga Lake State Park. It’s perfect for swimming, hiking and camping in in both cabins and campsites. Continue north to Routes 5 and 20 and one more winery called Montezuma. A quick right onto Route 5 and 20 East will take you to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. End your day in the quiet and beauty of the wetlands, as 242 species of birds, 43 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, and 16 species of amphibians mingle for at least part of the year.
From Ithaca to Montezuma, the wine, the birds, the falls, the beach, the food and the fun make a day on Route 89 a Finger Lakes’ best bet.
• Taughannock Falls State Park: www.nysparks.com/parks/62
• Cayuga Lake State Park: www.nysparks.com/parks/123
• Montezuma Refuge: www.fws.gov/refuge/Montezuma
by Kristian S. Reynolds