(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

I know, I know. When you first hear the word “Ohio,”  you imme­di­ate­ly think the word “beach­es,” right? No? Well, you should and I’ll tell you why. In my home­town of Cleve­land, there are at least 5 beach­es with­in an hour’s dri­ve of my house. And if you’ve nev­er vis­it­ed a Great Lakes beach on a fam­i­ly trip, you don’t know what you’re miss­ing. But, I can tell you. You are miss­ing the jel­ly­fish and sharks to start with. The waves are more gen­tle, which is great if you have a lit­tle one or a non-swim­mer in your fam­i­ly. And, if you’re on a bud­get, Ohio is an afford­able fam­i­ly vaca­tion spot. 

Also, with COVID 19, I’m find­ing that many of my trav­el agency clients are only want­i­ng to trav­el domes­ti­cal­ly this year. So, let me intro­duce you to our best-kept secret and your next fam­i­ly road trip: Ohio’s beaches. 




Nickel Plate Beach — Huron Ohio


Nick­el Plate Beach is a small beach near San­dusky, home of The Roller Coast­er Cap­i­tal of the World, Cedar Point. It’s small­er than most of the oth­er beach­es, but that’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly a bad thing. Nick­el Plate Beach is tucked into a neigh­bor­hood in Huron and can be a lit­tle tough to find at first. Nick­el Plate Beach fea­tures a play­ground, pic­nic tables, and beach gear rental. We recent­ly rent­ed a small house near the beach, it was a per­fect week­end getaway!


Pros: Nick­el Plate Beach has lots of activ­i­ties for the whole fam­i­ly to enjoy, includ­ing ping pong, corn­hole, and beach vol­ley­ball. Nick­el Plate Beach is also less rocky than many oth­er Lake Erie beaches. 

Con: No life­guards on duty. 


 Pro Tip: Cedar Point has been vot­ed the best amuse­ment park in the world a few times, so it’s a must for any seri­ous theme park fan! San­dusky is also home to a Mer­ry Go Round Muse­um. There are a few indoor water parks near­by, with Kala­hari being my fam­i­ly’s favorite. 


Where to Stay


For Nick­le Plate Beach, I high­ly rec­om­mend look­ing for a house on Air Bnb or VRBO near the beach so you can walk to the beach. If you can’t find one, there are plen­ty of hotels for all bud­gets in near­by Sandusky.




Sand, Playground

TJ is a man on a mission



Huntington Beach — Bay Village Ohio


Hunt­ing­ton Beach is locat­ed on the West Side of Cleve­land. It’s got a unique set up because the beach is locat­ed on the oth­er side of a lit­er­al cliff. You park up top and then take stairs down to the beach. (There is a boat ramp/handicap acces­si­ble entrance to the beach, but it’s drop off only, no park­ing). Hunt­ing­ton Beach has life­guards on duty through­out the sum­mer, pic­nic areas “up top” and con­ces­sion stands. 


Pro: The “Hut” Con­ces­sion Stand sells Hon­ey Hut Ice Cream, which is made just up the road in Cleve­land. Hon­ey Hut ice cream is an absolute sta­ple of a Cleve­land sum­mer. You haven’t lived until you have tried the Fresh Banana ice cream. 

Con: You have to haul your tod­dler down a lot of stairs. I con­sid­er a trip to Hunt­ing­ton Beach to be leg day. 


Pro Tip: Hunt­ing­ton Beach is only about 20–30 min­utes from Down­town Cleve­land, which makes it easy to take in any of the sites in Cleve­land. Bay Vil­lage is also near the city of Lake­wood, which fea­tures many great bars and restau­rants. My fam­i­ly are huge fans of Melt Bar and Grilled, they serve up gourmet grilled cheese and so much more!


Where to Stay


There’s a Court­yard and a Towne­place Suites pret­ty close to Hunt­ing­ton Beach, or you could stay clos­er to Down­town Cleve­land and take in the city!



Sand, Beach

TJ con­sid­ers him­self an ama­teur food crit­ic, he rates the sand at Hunt­ing­ton Beach a 4 out of 10.


Edgewater — Cleveland Ohio


Edge­wa­ter is locat­ed just out­side of Down­town Cleve­land. Edge­wa­ter fre­quent­ly has spe­cial events, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Edge­wa­ter Live con­cert series on Thurs­day nights all sum­mer long. Edge­wa­ter has life­guards post­ed dur­ing the sum­mer. It’s a real­ly beau­ti­ful beach, with a great view of the Cleve­land skyline.


Pro: The beach is dog friend­ly in some areas.

Con: Edge­wa­ter has a lot of “red flag” days when swim­ming or even just putting your feet in the water, is not allowed. If your kids love to swim, I would rec­om­mend you check the sta­tus of the water before you go. 


Pro Tip: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and The Cleve­land Art Muse­um is about a 5‑minute dri­ve from Edge­wa­ter in Down­town Cleve­land. East 4th street has a lot of great nightlife and food.


Where to Stay


There is a Days Inn close to Edge­wa­ter if you are trav­el­ing on a bud­get. If mon­ey is no object, check out The 9 in down­town Cleve­land. The 9 has an indoor dog park, and there’s chance you’ll spot a trav­el­ing pro­fes­sion­al sports play­ers, that’s one of the hotels trav­el­ing teams usu­al­ly stay in when they are town.




Dogs, Beach, Birthday

Edge­wa­ter is a great spot for a birth­day par­ty! Pho­to cour­tesy of Sarah of Sarah Jean Strong



Cleveland, Dogs

The Cleve­land script sign at Edge­wa­ter is a pop­u­lar spot for both 2 and 4 legged fam­i­lies to get a pic­ture! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Sarah of Sarah Jean Strong



Headlands Beach State Park — Mentor Ohio


Head­lands was my first beach grow­ing up, and I know a lot of Ohioians can say the same. It’s the largest beach in Ohio, with a mile of sand along the water. It has ample park­ing and pic­nic shel­ters. It’s a bit of a walk from the park­ing lot to the water, so be pre­pared. Head­lands has a gor­geous his­toric light­house. It’s not open to the pub­lic but you can walk around the grounds. There are also many trails in the park if you need a break from the beach, or from your kids. 



Pro: Because Head­lands is so large it’s less crowd­ed. There are many dif­fer­ent park­ing lots, don’t be afraid to dri­ve around until you find one that isn’t crowd­ed. Good to know: There is a bath­room in front of every oth­er park­ing area.

Con: This beach is pret­ty rocky, espe­cial­ly down by the water. Water shoes would be a sol­id investment. 


Pro Tip: If you get hun­gry, I’ve got two words: Pick­le Bills. It’s a seafood place, and it’s right up the road from Head­lands. I’m drool­ing think­ing about their fried dough and lob­ster bisque right now. The dec­o­ra­tions at Pick­le Bills are real­ly dif­fer­ent. As a kid, I was fas­ci­nat­ed by all the cool stuff on the walls, and my son, TJ is equal­ly fas­ci­nat­ed now. If seafood isn’t your thing, the near­by town of Gene­va-On-The-Lake is home to Eddie’s Grill, which serves up ham­burg­ers, hot­dogs and the best lemon­ade in Ohio. (Note: as of my last vis­it Eddie’s was cash only). Allison’s Mini Golf is also near­by and has oper­at­ed since 1924, mak­ing it the old­est minia­ture golf course in con­tin­u­ous play. It’s a real­ly cute and fun course! 


Where to Stay


Your best bet to find a hotel near­by will be to look in Painesville Ohio. There are sev­er­al bed and break­fasts you can choose from, as well as a Res­i­dence Inn.



Headlands Lighthouse

There’s noth­ing bet­ter than Head­lands in the morn­ing and mini-golf in the evening. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Erik Drost via cre­ative com­mons.



Bonus Beach: Presque Isle State Park- Erie Pennsylvania


I con­sid­er Presque Isle a bonus because it’s not in Ohio, it’s right over the bor­der in Penn­syl­va­nia.  But it’s a real­ly nice beach and a real­ly great area so I’m sneak­ing it in. First thing you need to know is that Presque Isle is not actu­al­ly an island, it’s a penin­su­la. The sec­ond thing you need to know is that it’s huge. There are many beach­es to choose from and they offer dif­fer­ent ameni­ties. My fam­i­ly is a fan of beach 11 because it has a play­ground near­by and chang­ing areas. Beach 7 is wheel­chair friend­ly. Even though we live less than 15 min­utes from Edge­wa­ter, we still find our­selves com­ing to Presque Isle for a week­end getaway. 


Pro: Lots of ameni­ties to choose from and a lot of space to spread out, so not a lot of crowds. 

Con: Not locat­ed in my favorite state, Ohio. Just kid­ding! Because Presque Isle is so big, you can find your­self dri­ving around in cir­cles if you don’t go in with a game plan. 


Pro Tip: A small amuse­ment park called Wal­dameer is very close to Presque Isle. Wal­dameer lets you choose to pay per ride or buy an all-day pass. The pay per ride option is nice if you have lit­tle ones or if some­one in your fam­i­ly just does­n’t real­ly like amuse­ment parks. If amuse­ment parks aren’t your thing, there is a large casi­no near­by as well.


Where to Stay


I’m a big fan of the Court­yard locat­ed near Presque Isle, because it has 2 pools, both an indoor and an out­door pool. Look­ing to add a lit­tle fun to your week­end? Then check out Splash Lagoon, an indoor water­park with a hotel attached.



Beach, Lighthouse

If you aren’t afraid of heights or stairs, you can get a great view of Presque Isle from the near­by light­hous­es. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Diane Homza-Dacek



If you’re look­ing for a unique road trip this year, con­sid­er vis­it­ing the less crowd­ed beach­es of Lake Erie. Ohio and Penn­syl­va­nia are a lot of fun to vis­it and you can take in all of the unique sites that both states have to offer as add-on day trips.



Getting There


If you are com­ing to the Ohio beach­es, your best bet will be to fly into Cleve­land Hop­kins Air­port and pick up a rental car. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion is unavail­able to any of the beach­es except Edge­wa­ter, which is ser­viced by Cleve­land’s RTA sys­tem.  If you would like to vis­it Presque Isle State Park, Erie PA does have an air­port, or it’s about 90 miles from Cleveland.