A Little Town with a Big Personality

Photo Courtesy of Wayne County Tourism

A fun town with a big boating presence, Sodus Point is a boater’s paradise situated on a beautiful bay on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. Though the town may be small, it is vibrant. As Yoda would say: “Size matters not.”

Sodus Point, New York, is bordered by Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay — one of the largest bays on Lake Ontario. As a natural harbor it was an ideal place for both shipping and defense; even pirates sheltered here. There are two possible sources for the town’s name: Either a native word meaning “gleam on the water,” or an Iroquois word meaning “land of silver waters.” Whichever origin you like best, they are both accurate.

A town of stories

There is plenty of history to learn about in this small town. During the War of 1812, when it appeared that Sodus Point was not going to be attacked, the militia — most of whom were not well trained — were dismissed. Only for a small force to assemble the next day as the British came in orderly procession in the night, lighting their way with lanterns, which the Americans shot out, effectively leaving the British in the dark. The British retreated, returning in the daylight to destroy stores, plunder and set buildings ablaze.

During the time of abolition, Sodus Point was a major stop on the underground railroad. One captain, George Carlock, would pick up escaped slaves from a rowboat and transport them to Canada in his schooner Freedom Trader, along with his official cargo of lumber and coal.

As early as the 1850s, Sodus Point became a commercial port as Sodus Point and Southern Railroad company began construction on a rail line that would bring coal from Pennsylvania to Sodus Point. A heavy dock and trestle were built and later reinforced over the years. By the mid 1960s however, boats were being built that were more efficient, and in 1967 the facility was closed.

In 1971 work was started on dismantling the trestle but a fire ended up completing the job. The site is now home to the Sodus Marina, which offers transient slips, a lounge, fitness room and an outdoor swimming pool for members and visitors. If you are hungry, it is just a short walk up the street to the Franklin House Tavern. This friendly local establishment is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the visit. Popular with locals, it is friendly and the food is excellent. About a half mile away, another place with a reputation for excellent food is The Bay Street Restaurant.

One of the best ways to learn about the history of the area is to visit the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum. Housed in the former lighthouse keeper’s residence, it is run by the local historical society. Displays tell the history of the area as well as the lighthouse itself, and there are many marine artifacts. You can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, but be warned, it can be challenging.

The first lighthouse was built in 1825 and replaced in 1871. Over the years sand and silt deposits pushed back the shoreline for nearly a mile, rendering the lighthouse no longer effective. A new lighthouse was needed, and the current lighthouse was built in 1938 at the end of an 800-foot pier. For years the lighthouse keepers had to trudge, at night, almost a mile from their home to the new lighthouse in all types of weather. This lasted to the mid 1940s, when the lighthouse was automated. The last keeper retired in 1953.

After you tour the museum, check out the grounds. There are some beautiful floral displays, maintained by the local horticultural society, who also maintain other spots around town. The view from the park of the beach, the new lighthouse and Chimney Bluffs is spectacular. If you are in town on a summer Sunday, the museum has concerts with varying types of music.

Photo Courtesy of Wayne County Tourism

Resources

Katlynn Marine
katlynnmarine.com

Krenzer Marine
krenzermarine.com

Martin’s Tidesides Marine
martinstidesidesmarine.com

Sodus Marina
315-483-6947

Sodus Point Visitor’s Center
soduspoint.info

Wayne County Tourism
waynecountytourism.com

Above Photo Courtesy of Wayne County Tourism/Ken Pamatat

Photo Courtesy of Sodus Bay Outfitters

A summer playground

For many years, Sodus Point has been a summer playground. In the early part of the 20th century visitors would arrive by trolley, train and steamship to enjoy a dance hall, bowling alley, theater and Sodus Point itself. The trolley and steamships are long gone as are many of the businesses and buildings of the time, but swimming, boating, fishing and relaxing are still favorite pastimes and people flock to Sodus Point for summer fun, mostly centered on the water.

Fishing is excellent whether you fish in the bay or on the lake. Some of the species encountered are northern pike, walleye, yellow and white perch, rock bass as well as several types of trout and salmon. You can fish from the shore, your personal boat or take one of the fishing charters offered.

All sorts of boating is popular on the bay. At Sodus Bay Outfitters you can rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, stand up paddleboards and bicycles. The store also offers groceries, clothing and gifts.

If you have something larger and with power in mind, check out Krenzer Marine where you can rent pontoon boats. They are located on both sides of Greig Street, which is the main business street. They also sell both new and used boats as well servicing and transporting boats, and have a marine shop for supplies. The shop also carries a few gift items, mostly with a nautical theme. The owner’s wife buys them on her travels and sells them in the shop — at excellent prices.

For more gift or souvenir purchases The Points Mercantile is right across the street. If you don’t mind going farther afield there is Pop’s House of Country Collectables, and for unique pottery check out Lukacs Studios.

Throughout Sodus Point and Sodus Bay there are quite a few marinas, many that offer boat rentals as well as transient docking. The pleasant Sodus Bay Yacht Club is just a short walk off the main street. Right next to it is the Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association, which attracts more than just locals. A lady staying at my accommodations was in town from several hours away for the two weeks her son was part of the sailing camp. Speaking of accommodations, you will not find any big chain hotels nearby. There are, however, plenty of B&Bs and cottages if you’re not staying aboard your own boat.

For those who love to swim there is Sodus Point Beach Park — a beautiful sandy beach right beside the pier that leads to the lighthouse. There is a pavilion for picnics, a concession stand and washrooms for changing before your walk through town.

But boating and lakeside fun aren’t the only activities. There are some beautiful natural scenery and trails to wander, including well-known Chimney Bluffs State Park. The Bluffs were formed from eroded drumlins shaped by glaciers, and some of the sharp pinnacles rise 150 feet above the shore. The 597-acre park is a year-round destination for hiking, picnicking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Ruggedly imposing, the bluffs are a true landmark — during prohibition smugglers would even land on the shore of the bluffs with liquor from Canada.

Closer to town is the Macyville Woods Nature Preserve. It includes both wooded areas and wetlands. The trail is about a mile long and includes old trees and the Malt Marsh, named after the Sodus Point Malt House which was once owned by the Genesee Brewing company. One of the trees you will see is the Macy Tree, a massive old oak believed to be at least 250 years old.

Small, but inviting

All that hiking and boating can work up an appetite. Try out Six50 on the Bay with a view of the water from both an upper and lower deck. For more picnic style dining, there is Hots Point, particularly known for its unque but delicious ice cream flavors.

A favorite and lively spot is Captain Jack’s Goodtime Tavern. A large establishment with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the water, it is particularly lively and busy on weekends when the upper bar’s band draws a good crowd.

On the 4th of July weekend the bartenders work especially hard with no time off. Because of this, “Blow Off Day” was started in 1990, when locals take the Wednesday after the fourth off to give their bartenders a party. This event is entirely on water — so you’ll need a boat or to be a guest on one. Boats tie up in tandem at one of the many sandbars on the bay. It has grown over the years and is quite the local party.

One of the things that strikes you most about this little town — apart from its waterfront fun and local lore — is how friendly the people are. You walk down the street and people say good morning or evening, or just a friendly “hello.” Sodus Point is not only beautiful and fun, it is a true natural gem and well worth the visit.

Photo Courtesy of Wayne County Tourism

More Information

Ice Ice Baby


In the early 1800s, a thriving industry in Sodus Point was ice harvesting. The ice needed to be between 10-16 inches thick, and would then be stored in either commercial or private ice houses for use in the summer months, to be used in railcars to keep produce and perishables fresh as they were being shipped as well as in the dining cars. Ice was also needed for hotels, restaurants and private residences in Sodus Point. You can still see a remaining ice house structure on Charles Point, which is now used as a community center.

Photos Public Domain

Source: https://lakelandboating.com/a-little-town-with-a-big-personality/