For those looking to enjoy the abundance of Lake Wawasee without the abundant boat traffic, neighboring Syracuse Lake offers a quiet alternative. Connected by a channel, the latter is a fraction of Wawasee’s size, but has access to the same dining, festivals, and real-estate voyeurism. Since multimillion-dollar homes circle Syracuse, renting a pontoon at the Wawasee Boat Company (6521 E. Cornelius Rd., Syracuse, 574-457-4404) to tour the shoreline should be a priority. At stunning Lakeside Park, a beach volleyball court caters to adults while a playground keeps kids busy. The park also hosts the only public swimming beach on Syracuse.
When you’re ready to dry off, the 11-mile-long Syracuse-Wawasee Trail meanders around this lake. Along the paved path, you might see turtles, great blue heron, and other wildlife. The town of Syracuse itself boasts a few cute shops such as Absolutely Apparel & Gifts (509 S. Huntington St., 574-457-8887), but the Artisans & Farmers Market (1013 N. Long Dr.) each Saturday morning is the highlight. Dining options are more plentiful. The Channel Marker (5793 E. Pickwick Dr., 574-457-5900) on the passage between the lakes serves great seafood, and Kiyomi Japanese Cuisine (404 S. Huntington St., 574-529-5025) surprises visitors with big-city–quality sushi. For drinks, belly up to the bar at the historic Frog Tavern (1116 S. Harkless Dr., 574-457-4324), where sunkissed revelers end carefree days listening to live music.
July happens to be the best month to visit Syracuse Lake, thanks to a number of festivals. The north shore puts on a modest fireworks show on July 4, and Lake Wawasee follows up with a huge show launched from a sandbar on July 7. Even more impressive, the Tour des Lakes on July 14 attracts hundreds of cyclists for 25K, 50K, and 100K races that start here and explore all of Kosciusko County. Syracuse Lake may be smaller than its more famous neighbor to the south, but with scenic beauty and a full summer calendar, it’s more than just along for the ride.