About 45 miles north of Oswego, or 8 miles west of Watertown, lies picturesque Sackets Harbor. Built on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor is peppered with handsome limestone buildings that date back to the early 1800s. Though now primarily a resort village, Sackets Harbor remains for the most part undiscovered, which helps account for its charm.
During the War of 1812, Sackets Harbor dominated American naval and military activity. A large fleet was constructed in its shipyard and thousands of soldiers were housed in the barracks built on its shores. Heavy fighting between the British and American troops took place on the bluffs.
The former shipyard and adjoining battlefield is now Sackets Harbor’s foremost visitor attraction. It is located at the end of a short Main Street that’s lined with cheery shops, cafés, and historic buildings; more historic buildings flank quiet, tree-shaded Broad Street.
A mile or two east of the village center stand the former barracks, now known as Madison Barracks (85 Worth Rd., 315/646-3374), a converted complex holding apartments, restaurants, and a small inn. Visitors are welcome to explore barracks’ bucolic grounds, encompassing a parade ground, polo lawn, stone tower, officers’ row, and military burial ground. Pick up walking-tour brochures in the management office just inside the main gate.
Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site
Hard though it is to believe today, the silent and all-but-deserted Sackets Harbor Battlefield (foot of Main and Washington Sts., 315/646-3634, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 1–5 p.m. Sun. June–Aug., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sat. and 1–5 p.m. Sun. Sept.–Oct., adults $3, seniors $2, children 6–12 $1) was once the site of intense fighting between American and British troops. Monuments and plaques commemorating the events are strewn here and there, but for the most part, the battlefield remains an idyllic park, set atop a lush green bluff with glorious lake views. The Battle of Sackets Harbor is reenacted here every July.
Adjoining the battlefield is the partially restored Navy Yard, enclosed by a white picket fence. Built in the 1850s to replace the thriving shipyard once situated here, the yard contains a restored commandant’s house and a museum showcasing exhibits on the War of 1812.
Seaway Trail Discovery Center
One block away from the visitors center is the Seaway Trail Discovery Center (401 Main St., at Ray St., 315/646-1000, www.seawaytrail.com, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Oct., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat. Nov.–Apr., adults $4, military and seniors $3, children $2). Here you’ll find nine rooms of exhibits and lots of free literature on the historic trail.
The Seaway Trail is a 454-mile scenic highway that parallels New York’s northern coastline along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Marked by green-and-white route markers, as well as brown-and-white War of 1812 signs, it forms the longest national recreational trail in the United States.
In the Thousand Islands region, the Seaway Trail runs from Oswego in the south to Akwesasne in the north along Routes 104, 3, 180, 12 E, and 37. More parks and beaches are located along this section of the trail than anywhere else in New York State.
Seaway Trail, Inc. publishes a free annual magazine, available in most regional tourism offices, and helpful touring guides. Among them are Seaway Trail Bicycling, which outlines some of the region’s excellent bike routes, and Seaway Trail Lighthouses.
In the heart of the village, the three-story Ontario Place Hotel (103 General Smith Dr., 315/646-8000, www.ontarioplacehotel.com, $90–165 d) offers 28 spacious rooms and 10 suites with Jacuzzis.
Also in the center of town, Jacob Brewster House B&B (107 S. Broad, 315/646-4663, www.jacobbrewsterbandb.com, $100–125) is a renovated 1815 New England–style Georgian-pan house which offers four rooms with modern amenities.
In a refurbished railroad station in the heart of the village, find the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company (212 Main St., 315/646-2739, $11–23), maker of the War of 1812, Railroad Red, and Grant’s Golden ales. On the dining room menu, find everything from fresh fish to pot pies; a pub menu is also available.
In the Madison Barracks (85 Worth Rd.), Kathy’s Barracks Inn (42 Madison Barracks, 315/646-2376, $14) offers a wide-ranging lunch and dinner menu (gourmet sandwiches, pasta, steak) and patio dining with great views of the lake. The restaurant is open seasonally.
Recently moved from the Barracks to the downtown is Sackets Cantina (212 W. Main St., 315/646-3333), offering the only Mexican cuisine and tequila bar in the region.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition