A Local’s Guide to Lake Erie Beaches

by | Jul 1, 2020 | Destinations, Family Adventures, Midwest, North East, USA

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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. 




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. 








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