Summer is almost here, which means you really should have started cozying up to that friend with the lake house months ago. But if you haven’t — and don’t have the means to purchase your own waterfront property — well, better luck next summer.
Or better yet, why not rent a lakeside getaway? New online marketplaces like Airbnb have made short-term rentals more accessible (and affordable) than ever. It’s also a great way to get a real feel for an area if you are interested in eventually buying.
After all, we only get so many summers. And here in Western New York, we’re blessed with pristine lakes, long beachfronts and gorgeous scenery; it would be a shame not to enjoy them. Here’s a short hit list of some destinations, with some promising sample rentals we scouted out.
Angola / Sunset Bay Beach
Those who prefer to vacation close to home — or want water as far as the eye can see — should look no further than Angola and Sunset Beach. These communities, just south of Hamburg on Route 5, offer beautiful views of Lake Erie and the Buffalo skyline, and absolutely breathtaking sunsets.
They also offer a wide breadth of rental properties — something for the penny pincher and big spender alike.
Those who have the money couldn’t do much worse than the William-Pratt Estate, just north of Angola. This 6,000 square foot mansion includes two full suites plus two additional bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a saltwater pool and stunning views from atop a fenced bluff. It sits right along the water, and is conveniently located one mile from the Sturgeon Point marina and other amenities, such as restaurants, grocers and beach bars.
It’s not cheap, averaging $750 a night in summer. But with sleeping for 12, you could comfortably share with some paying friends. If funds are more limited, you could find a nice cottage on Center Street in Silver Creek for around $200 per night during summer. One listing in that area includes three bedrooms (sleeping eight) and is only a short walk from the beach — more specifically, 175 steps, by the owner’s calculation.
Much like Angola, the area is home to dozens of restaurants, beachfront bars, ice cream stands and more. Head out to Cabana Sam’s and enjoy a cocktail as the sun dips into the horizon.
If silence and peace-of-mind are high on your vacation priority list, check out Rushford Lake. This small reservoir in Allegany County, formed between Rush Creek and the Genesee River, sits miles away from thruways or any large towns or cities, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.
The lake is surrounded by dozens of state forests and wildlife preserves including the nearby Allen Lake State Forest, where you can walk the Hidden Falls Trails. Or head 30 minutes north to Letchworth State Park — the “Grand Canyon of the East.”
What’s more, the rentals are very affordable. One 1,600 square foot cottage — with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and accommodations for up to 12 guests — averages $200 a night from late spring to early fall.
Rentals on the lake are limited, however, so better to look (and book) sooner than later.
Anyone who wants a middle ground between the country seclusion of Rushford Lake and the lively atmosphere of more populated beaches may want to give Lime Lake a look. This reservoir along Elton Creek is less than an hour’s commute from downtown Buffalo, roughly 20 minutes north of Ellicottville.
There are plenty of rentals on this small, oddly-shaped lake — nearly all between $200 and $250 per night.
One large, luxury-rustic cottage on the lake averages $233 a night. On top of a lake view, the place offers a boat dock, large deck, fireplace and outdoor fire pit, flat screen TV, Internet and sleeping/bathroom accommodations for five to six.
If you grow restless, head south on Route 16 to Ellicottville. The quaint village offers plenty of fine dining and bars, shopping, and a well-regarded brewery, Ellicottville Brewing Company, for craft-beer aficionados. Adventure-seekers will find plenty to do at Holiday Valley; the resort offers miles of mountain biking trails and the Sky High Aerial Adventure Park. The resort also offers golf (including golf lessons) and a spa, in case others in your group aren’t feeling quite so daring.
Just south of Route 20A and west of Letchworth State Park you’ll find Silver Lake — one of the smaller and lesser-known gems of Western New York. The lake boasts only a handful of rentals on Vrbo.com and Airbnb, but those you can find are affordable without sacrificing lake access, space or quality.
One listed property called the Barnaby Lakehouse costs only $170 per night and includes accommodations for eight (three bedrooms; one bath), a private dock and everything else you could ask for in a summer cottage: a hammock, a deck over the water, a fire pit, Wi-Fi, and more.
From Silver Lake you can reach Letchworth State Park in mere minutes, depending on which side of the lake you’re on and which entrance you take. The gorge’s rock walls rise to nearly 600 feet high in places throughout the park, and the lower end features three waterfalls - the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.
The park also hosts a number of popular annual events, such as Balloons over Letchworth and the Letchworth Arts & Crafts Show.
One of the most popular and renowned summer vacation spots in the region actually isn’t in Western New York at all; it’s in southern Canada. Crystal Beach — an unincorporated community in Fort Erie, Ontario — offers dozens of properties on sites like VRBO.com, Airbnb and CottagesinCanada.com. What’s more, the wide range of available properties on or near the water means there is something to suit groups (and budgets) of all sizes.
One 2,000 square foot property, about a 5-minute walk from Crystal Beach, can be rented for about $250-500 per night. With four bedrooms and one bathroom, it sleeps 13 and features updated décor and a large yard.
Or, for $300-400 per night, you could rent a house located a block north of Erie Road. The house sleeps 14, has five bedrooms and two bathrooms, and boasts updated décor and access to a communal pool.
Many homes are a short walk from the Crystal Beach Water Park and Boat Launch, which is where you’ll find the pier that once served the Americana and Canadiana — two passenger vessels that shuffled Buffalonians to Crystal Beach’s now closed amusement park during its heyday in the mid-20th century. Fun fact: our beloved local beverage, Loganberry drink, originated at the Crystal Beach Amusement Park.
Though the amusement park is gone, Crystal Beach still offers plenty of dining and drinking establishments — several along the water — as well as shopping.
The community is also only about a 25-minute drive to Niagara Falls, Ontario, which puts vacationers within comfortable driving distance of numerous attractions such as the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, Marineland, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Movieland Wax Museum, to name a few. The drive to downtown Buffalo is even shorter, in case you want to live on the lake but still commute to the office. Who knows, you may end up staying the whole summer…