Wilson on the Lake - WilsonOnTheLake.com - by Sandy Estabrook - Updated August, 2023.
Sunset Island, Wilson Harbor, Village of Wilson, in the Town of Wilson, Niagara Co., N.Y.

Coronavirus / COVID-19

Fall of 2019 we sold our Wilson home. Our plan was to visit at my wife’s mother’s home on the harbor the following summer for a couple weeks. However, by spring 2020 the Coronavirus was well entrenched, pretty much shutting down Wilson - mainly its restaurants. A couple opened for take out only. There was no bar life, and we posponed 2020 all together in Wilson.

By summer of '21, the yacht clubs and area restaurants were back to normal. The newly expanded Daisy Barn Campground was full especially on weekends.

In August '23, my most recent visit, the areas long social hub an newly renovated Wilson Inn and Restaurant sadly remained shut and is for sale. The village's two pubs are supposedly opening under new names, and the luncheonette on the corner has upgraded to a lunch & dinner restaurant and now called Verns Pub & Grill. The noisy inside in the evening makes conversation difficult at best and breakfast is no longer served. For that matter, at time of writing, no breakfast is served anywhere in Wilson!


Methodist Church (Info)

Baptist Church  (Info)   (Amazing Race)

Catholic Church (Info)
Above are just three of numerous churches in Wilson. They were chosen for their architecture

Old Bank. - Bonnie & Clyde once stopped here?

Wilson House Inn & Restaurant

New Bar at Wilson House

Woodcock Brothers Brewery

Woodcock Brothers Brewery Kitchen

Wilson Brew Company (Cafe)

Have a Picnic here.

Ed Goodnight, is a long time Wilson resident and retired public school administrator. He is the regions lensman par excellence. His collection of regional photos say it all.

(Flickr) | (YouTube) | (Facebook).

Sunset Island Home

Sunset Island Homes

Sunset Island Home



Wilson Harbor (west)

Pointing the way to...

Boat House Inside Bar

Sunset Grill - Dinning on the Deck

Sunset Grill, Inside Bartender "Chad"

Tuscarora State Park Marina

Bridge to Wilson Y.C.

Tuscarora Yacht Club

Nearby Twelve Mile Creek

Wilson Boat Yard Marina

"Live Edge" Bar and Restaurant

Leisure time at Harbor Entrance

Leisure time at Harbor Entrance

Old School House (circa 1861)

Ira Pettit: This Historical Plaque stands in front of cobblestone house #2 and was the home of the father of Private Ira Pettit of Company B, 11th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, United States Army during the War Between the States. Ira died at age 23 in Andersonville prison Sumter County, Georgia, of scurvy after capture. His personal diary was given to his Father and later published as "Diary of a Dead Man” Note: There are numerous commemorative plaques of this type scattered through the community.

Daisy Barn RV Park

Detailed Village Map                      Detailed County Map                      Harbor & Sunset Is. Aerial View

Wilson Harbor Entrance facing Sunset Island

Sunset Island - western end shot from Tuscarora State Park

View of Harbor Entrance from Lakeview Park, Ontario St.

The Niagara County Village of Wilson is a sleepy one stop-light village and farming community of little change over the last couple decades. Wilson lies on Lake Ontario 20 miles east of Niagara , 62 miles west of Rochester and 37 miles across the lake from Toronto. It's just blocks off Route 18 know as The Seaway Trail. It's surrounded by corn fields, apple & cherry orchards, and all punctuated by an occasional vineyard. Wilson is also the name of the township (pop 6,000 of which 1,200 are in the village). In 2008 the Village saw its Sesquicentennial and in 2018 the Town saw its Bicentennial. In 2014, the existence of the "Village of Wilson" as a political unit hung on a precipice. It seems enough of its citizens signed a petition to hold a referendum asking voters to consider dissolving the village since much of the Village services are duplicated by the Town at half the cost. The date for the referendum was set. The Results were 222 against dissolution to 209 for dissolution.

NOTE: During the summers of 2017 and and again 2019, Lake Ontario's waters rose considerably and flooded many homes and harbours along its shore. Wilson as well as Sunset Island and the neighboring town of Olcott were hit pretty hard. The primary reason is the outward flow to the ocean down the St. Lawrence Seaway. The story is here.

In contrast to its rural farming character, by summer Wilson turns into the home of vacationers and yachtsmen. Asside from the lake homes and the residences of Sunset Island, most of the activity is centered around Wilson Harbor and its numerous yacht clubs, commercial marinas, and restaurants. Once maritime interests of a different variety prevailed here including boat building, fishing, farm produce distribution. In 1848 Wilson Harbor became a Port of Entry and during prohibition Wilson and its neighbor to the east, Olcott, were favorite drop off spots for the rum runners from Canada.

This writer started visiting Wilson in 2003 and has been vacationing every summer since. My wife grew up in Wilson and introduced me to the area with periodic visits to her folks who live on the harbor. We now have our own home but remember fondly our camper at the Daisy Barn Camp Ground where we stayed and where I launched both this web page and Daisy Barn's website in 2006.

As an ex-NY'er (Stony Brook), having retired to Sarasota during the reign of Cuomo the 1st, I never thought I'd return. But being a boater and lover of the sea I've always gravitated to water where ever it be. Wilson is my first encounter with fresh water - a lake. And with the companionship of my "Wilson Woman", I found myself in NY again every summer and fall.

The Main Street (Young St.) looking west.

The Village of Wilson lies just a couple blocks south of route 18. The harbor is a couple blocks north. Both can be missed traveling Route 18. The only clue is a small sign pointing to Wilson's business district and the new wooden marina sign opposite Brownies Drive-In that points one to the harbor marinas and Sunset Grill.

This writer believes that this gap, a twenty minute walk, between Village & Harbor is what has prevented the Village from “catching on”, especially during summer when it's Harbor is the big draw, and in full swing. Add to that the steady decline its shops in recent times. Since I’ve been spending my summers here, the village has lost a pet and garden store, liquor store, and two hardware stores and two bars during covid. A Dollar General did setup outside of town impacting the town’s only market. Where today, there is one gas station, there was once four, one food market, there were three and even a movie theater! The bank reminiscent of the Bonny & Clyde era, departed in ’14. But and however, the big plus was the completely renovated Wilson House.

In addition to the villages many victorian homes lining the village side streets, you'll find what one might expect namely, an independent market, a pizzeria, one gas station / convenience store, a funeral parlor plus an assorted other half dozen businesses. The Village also has a surprisingly active library for a village its size. Visitors with a laptop might want to stop by to use their WiFi connection the library's computer access, fax, scan and copy services. The Village's two bars, the Firemens Pub and Jeans Bar & Grill both closed during Covid. Rumor has them opening in '23. Just up the street is a typical small town luncheonette open for breakfast and lunch. That too closed and has reopened.

On the corner of Petite & Cathrine St. and open through lunch time, is the Wilson Brew Company. This side street cafe is a brewer of coffee. Uniquely out of place in Wilson, this is a great cozy little coffee shop started by Anne & Pat Daul who contract a local roaster for their own coffees. Additional offering are freshly made bagels, scones and pastries baked on the premises. I almost overdosed on her Biscotti. Want to get together with friends over a cup of coffee, this is the place. It's worth a stop and going strong as of summer of '23.

Lastly, surely not least, while in town, we come to the ever popular and historic Wilson House Inn and Restaurant. It recently changed hands and was completely renovated. It's been Wilson's focal point and principal gathering spot for decades. The cobblestone structure was built in 1844 for Luther Wilson, the town's namesake, and was once a men's club with a bowling alley in the basement. It is one of the few places one can stay in Wilson with six newly renovated rooms, and unlike the harbor side restaurants, it's dining room is open all year. Yes it did shut during covid but reopened.

FLASH: It is so sad to say The Wilson House has closed once again as of 1/1/23. The Wilson House had been the icing on the cake as far as the Village of Wilson goes - as its multigenerational social center. Since this writer has been visiting Wilson, the village has been in steady decline with periodic resbits in its downward slide. Still always the Wilson house was there. This time it is a fait accompli. Seems families are leaving for warmer climes. I know of six.

I was introduced to one of the partners, Jon Pashong, who gave me a tour during construction. In a word Impressive - very impressive. [some picts] The new owners even installed a kiln temporarily in the old bar room for shaping of the wood for their rounded surfaces of which there are plenty throughout their do-it-yourself project. Wall covering has been torn away exposing the cobble stone walls. The way it has been redesigned is pretty much unrecognizable to the original and will greatly improve this old establishment. The new owners have really done it justice. See a great article in the Buffalo News

When we visited just after its opening, it was really jumping. The old dining area now contains the new full length bar. Be sure to stop by. Where the old bar was is now the quietest, most intimate dining room in Wilson. On that first visit, I ordered the strip steak special. I received a fillet mignon. Seems that they had run out of NY strips. No complaints here. Chalk it up to growing pains.

Another year round and relatively new restauran, just blocks out of town, is the Woodcock Brothers Brewery, at the old Cold Storage Building located across from the flea market grounds on Lake St. (Rt. 425). If beer is your thing this is the place. They must offer a dozen brews all made on premises with the most popular being Niagara Lagger. You'll find there beer elsewhere through western NY. Their restaurant menu offers simple fare basics - burgers , wings & pizza. All is prepared in their wood burning stoves. Daily specials are also offered with my favorite being Friday's NY Strip (best steak in town) and Cedar plank salmon. They pride themselves in offering their burgers 2 ways, either "Med-Rare or Burnt".

Outside, you'll find other attached retail space including their latest addition - "Savage Woodcock" - closed Mondays. Essentially it's the bottle shop of the Savage Farm Winery & Distillery that highlights wine, spirits, and beer from all across New York State. On a recent Saturday evening they had a performing guitarist that drew fair numbers to their front porch where table are set up. Their big attraction is their tasting bar. assorted whiskey shots are $2.00 - 3/4oz. Of course you can buy a bottle too. Their farm is located in the rolling hills of WNY. The Distillery situated on a working alpaca farm in Chaffee NY, 65 miles south of Wilson. There are also a some sheep and miniature goats! They are open Fri, Sat & Sun. Check website for details. WKBW May 2020 Virtual Tour

Another home grown business in Wilson is Naturally Nuts. It is nestled in an old church just out side of town. Michele Cerrone is its founder and proprietor. It all started in 2005 with her outstanding Pecan Pralines. Friends couldn’t get enough so she started making them for distribution. Then she added almonds, cashews and walnuts to the mix. An internet business soon followed that has turned out to be quite successful. Local delivery arrangements can be made. Stop by her website or visit her on Facebook.

"Cruising Day" - Old Auto Gathereing (montage enlarge)

Niagara Motorcycle Club's Wilson Rendezvous. (montage enlarge)

Throughout summer there are many annual events scheduled by the Town of Wilson not generally associated with a town its size. Every summer starts with the Wilson Harbor Invitational Fishing Tournament. Next on the calender on Memorial Day is the Grand Scale Flee Market at the fair grounds by the Historic Railroad station. Vendors and visitors show up from all over Western NY & Canada. In addition to the market, about one in five homes also turn their front lawns into a yard sale.

Then there is the 5K Salmon Run, and later in the summer a triathlon. Old car & hot rod enthusiasts "Cruise In" in late June. The Niagara County Motorcycle Club congregates for their annual Wilson rendezvous too. There is a Wine Tasting & Fair, usually the first weekend of August. featuring numerous Niagara County Vineyards. The premiere event, late August is "Field Day". Music, rides, games of chance attract visitors from far and wide. Be sure to check the Calendar of events on both the Village's Website and the Towns Website.

Field Day Parade

As mentioned the Town's biggest event is "Field Day" held the last weekend in August to raise money for the Volunteer Fire Dept. It's the event to rub shoulders with the locals. Field Day is duplicated by many of the regions neighboring villages, who when not participating in their own Feild Day Parade, "contribute" bands, floats, Classic Fire Trucks etc. for their neighbors parade. Essentially Wilsons Field Day is a small town carnival with Wilson's being one of the largest with mini rides for the kids, games of chance, food stands featuring local fare. Every year early on during the event, I head down to the fire station for a gallon of their homemade chowder (chicken, corn and other local produce). It's fantastic, but they run out early. And yes, it can be frozen. The fire station doubles as a beer hall often accompanied by the music of a live band after the parade.

Regarding Field Days, sadly we've learned than some of Niagara Counties villages no longer engage in the Field Day event, and with others on the cutting block. It has been a way of life for generations, now going into the history books, with Wilson's still surviving.

Honorable mention must be given to he prime organizer for many of Wilson's events which is the WCEC - Wilson Community Enhancement Charity. In addition to events mentioned here, plus others for the kids, they sponsor the on again off again Harbor Webcam.

Just a couple miles west of the village on Route 18 you find Wilson-Tuscarora State Park. It's right on the lake and has many offerings, not the least of which is a regionally favorite sport called Disc Golf. I have to admit, I never knew there was such a sport until first seeing it played here back in '06. As the name implies, it's a cross between Frisbee and Golf. It's played in wide open areas like a golf course and very popular in this region. Want to know more?

Greenwood Veterans Memorial Park

Greenwood Veterans Memorial Park is not a place a passing tourist would consider visiting. But please do, it is well worth it. It's a short walk between the harbor's yacht clubs and marinas and the Village. It is truly an uplifting and spiritual spot commemorating the Wilson men and women who contributed the ultimate to their nation. For a town the size of Wilson, you wont find a lovelier memorial park. It's worth a visit. More info & picts are here.

A few years ago, art students from the Wilson School District, teamed up with local businesses and community organizations to create the Schooling Fish Public Art Installment . The benefactors, business or individuals would in essence contract an artist to create a fish to their liking and to be placed a point of interest or prominence. The whole story is here and for a printable walking map locating the first eight of these beautiful sculputres, click here.

- - W i l s o n    H a r b o r - -

The Harbor is where the action is. Here you'll find four (private) Yacht Clubs, namely the exclusive Tuscarora Yacht Club (Aerial), the Island Yacht Club, the Wilson Yacht Club, and the Bootleggers Cove Marina (Previously Sunset Bay Marina). Many have reciprocity with other Lake Ontario clubs.

Adjacent to the latter you'll find the popular SUNSET GRILL, the harbors west side action spot, which recently underwent major renovation including the addition of a catering hall. It's open seasonally. During summer it has live music on Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. Old timers will remember the Grill as Ebinezer's. There are three dining areas. We like the outside deck shaded by large oak trees. Inside its a bit dusky. It has two bars - outside overlooking the harbor facing the bandshell and harbor (shown below). At the inside bar you'll find bartender Chad who is the longest continually working bartender in Wilson. He got his start at the Boat House where and after 16 years moved to the Grill in 2018. By winter, he hosts his very popular website The View From Centercourt on Western New York Boys High School Basketball.

The Grill is known for their steamer pots and Buffalo wings, beef on weck, with Tuesday being Taco night. The Buffalo wings USED tO BE free for anyone having a birthday. If you’re twenty and with a friend you get 20 wings. If you are sixty and with 5 friends, you get 60 wings which you can spread about your table. ID required of course. Oh, during summer 2018, they gave away over 75,000 wings! Understandably this friendly gesture is no longer available.

Lastly, Friday nights can get a bit hectic as it is Fish Fry night at just about every restaurant in Wilson and at a reduced rate.

Sunset Grill (on the 12 Mile Creek)

View of Wilson Harbour from Sunset Grill at Normal Lake Level

The focal point of the Bar & Grill and many of the establishments that surround the harbor is the exclusive enclave of SUNSET ISLAND on the Harbors north side which is primarily accessible only by boat. (There is a service road through the state park that opens periodically). There are no winter residents here as the homes are second homes for folks who also come from around the state and Canada.

The harbor's other action spot on the east side, is THE WILSON BOAT HOUSE RESTAURANT. It too a fun spot with live music on the outside porch on Thursday through Sunday during summer and where you'll find a bar and dining area. On the inside you'll find a small bar servicing, and adjacent to, the large, bright dining room inside facing the marina. It can be noisy during busy nights. A third bar, The Five Coconuts Bar at harbor level is sometime closed due to lakeside flooding. The restaurant changed hands in 2018 and is now owned & run by the family that owns the surrounding marina and shops. As for cuisine, it's menu is more upscale with many recognizable items on the menu from lobster to chicken marsalla & steaks plus the usual fun food, wings, burgers, beef on weck and of course fish fry. Their menu is posted on their website.

Wilson Boat House (on the harbor)

Five Coconuts Bar- Wilson Boat House Dockside view. Sadly Now Closed due to Flooding.

Adjacent to the Boat House, is the Wilson Boatyard Marina with each side of the marina lined with a half a dozen or so, sometimes open gift shops. Also offered four guest rooms for rent in the marina tower. Not to be overlooked are the sailing and fishing charters available here. (Did you know the prized lake fish Salmon, that everybody wants to catch is stocked. None are indigenous to the lake anymore and they cant breed without their trek to the sea and back, but that's another story. The Marina also provides a complementary boat ride around the harbor (usually on weekends). The young captains work for tips only.

Canoe, Kayaking and Paddle Boarding make for lots of fun out on the lake (weather permitting) and up the creeks that feed into Wilson Harbor. If fishing is your thing another alternate site you might want to check out is the Western Lake Ontario fishing guide. You might also check for information on the website of the neighboring town of Olcott. It's been chosen as Ultimate Fishing Town by the World Fishing Network. A couple guides hang their hats at the Daisy Barn Campground during summer and many more at the Boat House Marina.

A visitor might enjoy "a taste" of the ever growing and popular Niagary County Wine Country Trail which now includes wineries in Wilson. Heading east on Route 18, you'll first see the Victorianbourg Wine Estate, whose wines are offered at the Boat House Restaurant. Continuing east a mile or so on route 18, you next come to the Black Willow Winery whose gift shop offers in addition to vine, artisan oils and vinegars all made at their winery. This writer finds their dry red the closest to a ture cabernet sauvignon in Western NY. It's worth a visit.

Heading east from Wilson, turn south on Coomer Road from Route 18 and you'll shortly arrive at the Schulze Winery and the adjoining, recently opened (2019), very popular restaurant, "The LIVE EDGE". It is open Tues- Sun at 3PM. They are actually in the small hamlet of Burt.  Being adjacent to the winery I was surprised to see them featuring over 24 regional BEERS, four of which are of their own brew.

What started out as two vineyards fifteen years ago, the Wine Country Trail now has over twenty vineyards of which a half dozen are within 15 minutes of Wilson. (Listing) Every July they all participate in a festival in the nearby town of Lewistown. The details can be found at Niagary County Wine Country Trail website linked above.

Lakeview Park - At end of Route 425 (Lake St.).

Across the parking lot from the Boat House is Clark's Park and pool. It's a popular family spot for cooling off during summer days. Here, barbeques (IE: Christmas in July party) are scheduled through out the summer. And for movies, Check the WCEC for schedule. They are shown on selected evenings.

Oh, don't forget a stop at Brownies Drive-In. It's a classic establishment in it's own right, all-be-it without waitresses on roller-skates. It's right on Route 18 between at Park St. You cant miss it. Oh they have upped their number of flavors of ice cream from 24 to about 60!

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Fall is a beautiful time as one might expect with the leaves changing. Add to that the harbor hustle and bustle with all the boats being hauled out in preparation for the harbor freeze. A reminder, the restaurants surrounding the harbor close mid fall through mid spring.

For additional year around dining, your best bet would be to head west to the artsy towns of Youngstown and more so the town of Lewiston where you'll find numerous fine dining with some ethnic variety. For a listing of all Niagara County's lake region restaurants, click here. To Wilson's southeast is the Town of Newfane and the home of the highly regarded Brookside Restaurant which opened post Covid.

Finally on food: Everybody knows of Buffalo wings, the indigenous food favorite of the area , well it was here in western NY I was introduced to the regions favorite sandwich - Beef on Weck. It's sold everywhere in Wilson from the upscale to the Mom and Pop restaurants. And speaking of the latter, scattered about the county in neighboring villages are many small "Mom & Pop" restaurants / bars serving burgers, meat loaf and beef on weck, and of course Fish Fry on Fridays.

Western New York has much to offer within 20 miles of Wilson, not the least of which is Niagara Falls. Suggestion: Approach the Falls from the north and use Robert Moses Pkwy, This will help you avoid an eyesore of a city.

Aside from The Falls one should consider a visit to the historic Erie Canal city of Lockport. In Lockport "view ruins from an earlier industrial age, and walk safely through a water tunnel that was blasted out of solid rock a centry and a half ago." (Lockport Caves). And don't forget a stop at the charming and picturesque Niagara River towns of Lewiston noted for with their praiseworthy Jazz Fest, Art Fest, Outdoor Concerts and more. And also Youngstown with it's must see Old Fort Niagara. And finally, to Wilson's east, the next town you come to right on the lake, and already written about, the sport fishing harborage of Olcott.

- Wilson Homes -

- Historic Cobblestone Homes -

Prior to the Civil War through the 1800's, in Western NY, many homes were built of cobblestone (as is the Wilson House Inn). The rounded polished rock of Lake Ontario was quite plentiful along lake beaches, and a nuisance to farmers. Many of these homes have been well maintained over the years and quite a few are located here in Wilson. Most of those are on Maple Road and one that we know of, will be soon part of the US Registry of Historic Homes. Two of the homes shown here have historical residents of significance as noted on the left column. Click here for more info and a NYTimes Article A close-up of the masonry work on home #1 is here.

- Wilson Harbor Scene -

- Signs Along the Way -

Route 18 with Wilson Harbor Jetty in the distance

Photography © by Sandy Estabrook     E-mail - sandy     A few of Sandy's other websites below.
Abaco, Bahama Guide | Sarasota's Legacy Trail | South Pacific Island Impressions | A Wilson Girl Named Jaida | Stephen Andrus Remembered