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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.
Ohio's best kept secret: Beaches! Make a visit to Lake Erie on your next family road trip!
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.
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.
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.
Where to Stay
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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