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How to Plan a Scuba Vacation in Lake George

If you’re diving for shipwrecks, a landlocked lake hundreds of miles from the ocean isn’t the first place you’d go looking. But Lake George, in the southern Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York, is the resting place of more than 200 historic wrecks, including the oldest intact war vessel in North America as well as the remains of centuries-old steamers and excursion boats. “The final frontier isn’t space, it’s our larger lakes and oceans,” says scuba diver Joseph Zarzynski of the non-profit organization Bateaux Below, Inc., which works to preserve shipwreck sites in Lake George while making them accessible to scuba divers.

Whether you’re an experienced diver or are making your first foray into the depths, Lake George offers a fascinating underwater world to explore. Here, we’ll help you plan each step of your scuba getaway — from finding the best spots to dive and the know-how you need to do so safely, to fueling up in the morning and fine dining at night. We’ve also sussed out great activities for when you’re above the waterline, and options for where to stay in Lake George. If you want to be right on the water, The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing makes the perfect launching pad for your Lake George scuba vacation, with a 10,000-square-foot rec center for the whole family and its own cruise boat, The Morgan, a replica of a 19th-century touring vessel. 


LEARNING TO SCUBA DIVE IN LAKE GEORGE

While scuba diving can seem a little intimidating, becoming trained and certified is totally within the scope of an average vacation. There are several dive shops near Lake George that offer classes, training, and certification in open-water diving, including WaterHorse Adventures and Adirondack Scuba. For advanced scuba divers who want to venture beyond basic depths, both shops offer courses in expanding your skillset.

Certification requirements can usually be completed in three to five days, often with an online component that can be done ahead of time. You’ll practice with confined water dives in a swimming pool before heading out for the final training in open water. Children over 10 can get junior diving certification. It’s a good idea to plan ahead — see what classes are available and when, and complete as much of the coursework as possible before your vacation.

BEST LAKE GEORGE SCUBA ADVENTURES

Lake George offers both new and experienced scuba divers a chance to partake of the area’s colonial history. The best access to the shipwreck sites is by boat; WaterHorse Adventures and Diamond Divers are two options for boat rentals and charters.

The Sunken 1758 Fleet

On the bottom of the east side of the lake, about one mile from Lake George Beach, sit the seven British boats known as The Sunken Fleet of 1758, or the Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster. These small, flat-bottomed boats were common in colonial times for hauling troops and supplies, but sometimes were scuttled (purposely sunk) to prevent them falling into the wrong hands. Such was the fate of these boats during the French and Indian War. They were discovered in the early 1960s, and now intermediate-level divers can swim among the relics in 25 to 50 feet of water, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Land Tortoise Radeau

The oddly named “Land Tortoise Radeau” sits another mile further north in 105 feet of water, with water temperatures ranging from 35-45 degrees, and is considered an advanced dive. This underwater beast is the only surviving specimen of a type of warship that was unique to this area. Recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as the oldest intact warship in North America, it too was purposely sunk in the fall of 1758, in the hopes that it would be recovered the following spring; alas, it settled in too-deep water. The Land Tortoise Underwater Preserve Site is open from mid-June through Labor Day, and divers need to register in advance at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) office at Lake George Beach.

The Forward Underwater Classroom

One of the earliest gasoline-powered boats to ply Lake George, the Forward, lies off Diamond Island, in the south basin of Lake George. It’s unknown why this former tour boat sank, but it now sits in about 40 feet of water, and is considered an intermediate dive. The preserve is known as The Forward Underwater Classroom, and is essentially an underwater trail system, with a zebra mussel monitoring station, a fish observation zone, and signs pointing out local vegetation and geology.

Explore More!

Shipwrecks aren’t the only underwater attractions in Lake George. You don’t need a boat to enter the lake at Hearthstone Point, Million Dollar Beach, or Roger’s Rock, where you’ll find dramatic underwater drop-offs and geological formations to explore.

SUSTENANCE FOR YOUR SCUBA VACATION

Along with its sunken treasures, Lake George offers a wealth of culinary riches to be discovered. Here’s how to stay fueled up, from morning to night.

Breakfast

Gear up for a day of diving with the Rustic Breakfast Panini at La Bella Vita, which packs farm fresh eggs, griddled tomato, prosciutto, braised spinach, and fontina cheese onto two thick slices of Italian bread. Or, if you prefer sweet to savory in the morning, go for the Parfait del Giorno — ambrosial layers of house-made granola, berries, vanilla yogurt, and orange blossom honey.

Lunch

Either one (or another option from La Bella Vita’s Italian-inspired menu) should keep you going till lunchtime, when you can rise to the surface for the best burgers and fries at local favorite ​​Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen, or a lobster roll and beer battered onion rings at the Log Jam Restaurant. (Both offer extensive vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.)

Dinner

In the evening, consider a pub crawl — pub swim? — along the lakeside. Start with a handcrafted cocktail on the wrap-around deck of The LakeHouse, perched directly on the water. Then head over to the Chateau on the Lake, featured on the Food Network’s “Summer Rush,” for inventive French fusion dishes like New Zealand Lamb Lollipops and Graham Cracker Encrusted Calamari. Or go back in time at Mr. Brown’s Pub, modeled after the historic Adirondack camps (check out the antler chandeliers!), with specialties such as 24-hour slow-cooked short ribs, classic fish and chips, and Marinated Steak Salad, with blue cheese, red peppers, roasted tomatoes and beets, cucumbers, avocado, and crispy onions.

Nightcap

Make the Lake George Beach Club your last stop, for live music and their signature Middle Bay Mule, made with Grey Goose Essences Vodka (choose from strawberry and lemongrass, watermelon and basil, or white peach and rosemary) mixed with lime juice and ginger beer. With two stories of decks and bars overlooking the Southern Basin, the newly renovated Beach House showcases the area’s best singer-songwriters and classic rock bands.

BEYOND SCUBA: WHAT TO DO IN LAKE GEORGE

If you’re looking for a fully immersive Lake George experience, you can’t go wrong at The Sagamore Resort. When you’re not underwater, you can explore a wealth of fresh-air activities on and off the lake: Hop on the Morgan for a 1.5-hour tour of the lake and narrows; golf on the resort’s 18-hole championship course, designed by the renowned golf course architect Donald Ross in 1928; or ask the concierge to arrange a local fishing charter, water-skiing expedition, horseback ride, or hiking tour.

After a day of outdoor activities, relax with a massage at the Sagamore Spa, or stretch out in a personalized late-afternoon yoga class. On a rainy day, you can play Wiffle ball, ping pong, video games, and home run derby in the Rec Center, or jump in the heated indoor pool and hot tub (the resort also has a zero-edge outdoor pool overlooking the lake). Accommodations include rooms and suites with sweeping lake views, family suites with a kitchenette and two connecting bedrooms, and the romantic multi-level Hermitage Suite, with a patio and balcony.

Ready to start packing? Bring lots of layers (summer nights in the mountains can get cool), throw in a copy of Zarzynski’s ​​Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, and don’t forget to pack your wetsuit!

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