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If you don’t live near the Great Lakes, you may not be familiar with the wonder that is Lake Erie. The fourth largest of the Great Lakes, its northern shore is Canada’s Ontario Peninsula while its western, southern and eastern shores stretch from Michigan to New York, making up a big slice of Ohio’s northern border as well as Pennsylvania’s northwestern “chimney” region. Along its U.S. coastlines are tons of hidden, beachy gems. There’s no shortage of nature preserves, hiking trails, historical sites and good old-fashioned sandy beaches to keep you and your family entertained—whether you want to go away for a weekend or the entire summer. The best Lake Erie beaches in the U.S. offer up more than one attraction, though they all have natural beauty in common.

One thing to remember: Always check the water quality of the beach you are visiting beforehand! Lake Erie is unique in that it experiences huge algal blooms every summer thanks to rainfall in Indiana and Michigan. Sometimes, depending on weather patterns, the algae makes swimming impossible (or unsafe). It’s not always the case, but it’s wise to do your research before packing your bikini.

RELATED: 9 Little-Known Lake Michigan Beaches Where Crowds Are Few and Far Between

best lake erie beaches port clinton
Michelle/Flickr

1. Port Clinton City Beach (Port Clinton, Ohio)

Across the street from Lakeview Park is Port Clinton City Beach. This 2,180-foot-long beach is ideal for lengthy strolls, and anyone looking to sit back and relax with a good book for an afternoon. You’ll be able to snag gorgeous views of South Bass Island and hop over to several different marinas along the Portage River to check out crazy yachts or rent your own sailboat.

Check out Port Clinton City Beach

best lake erie beaches headlands
Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Facebook

2. Headlands Beach State Park (Mentor, Ohio)

Headlands Beach State Park is a 2021 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice location. Its beach along Lake Erie is 35 acres of sandy lakefront. Visit the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve just north of the beach, bike the 1.5-mile trail nearby or simply relax in the sunshine. Grills are also available for use if you feel like cooking midday. (Note: The dunes are not pet-friendly.)

Check out Headlands Beach State Park

best lake erie beaches edgewater
Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

3. Edgewater Park Beach (Cleveland, Ohio)

Edgewater Park is 147 acres of park with 2,400 feet of beach. The Edgewater Beach House and Centennial Plaza make changing, using the bathroom and grabbing a snack simple—and clean. Unlike many beaches on our list, you can get a huge city skyline view here, too. The beach even has a “K-9” section specifically for furry family members. Honestly, it’s a perfect location to experience both city and beach living.

Check out Edgewater Park Beach

best lake erie beaches main street
Anna Tymczak-Rzemieniuk/Getty Images

4. Main Street Beach (Vermillion, Ohio)

There’s nothing like the charm of a small town. Vermillion has it all—including an opportunity to take sunset strolls along Main Street Beach near the Vermillion Lighthouse. Swing on hammocks at nearby Wakefield Metro Park or watch the boats come in from Lake Erie from Harbor View Park. Rent a canoe or paddle boards together for a truly romantic excursion!

Check out Main Street Beach

best lake erie beaches kelleys
Marada/Flickr

5. Kelleys Island State Park (Erie County, Ohio)

A hop, skip and a jump away from the Kelleys Island State Park campground is a small swimming beach. Take a dip after a day of hiking, kayaking or fishing (though you need an Ohio fishing license to participate). We recommend a fall visit so you can witness the monarch butterfly migration!

Check out Kelleys Island State Park

best lake erie beaches maumee
Maumee Baby State Park/Facebook

6. Maumee Bay State Park Beach (Oregon, Ohio)

Maumee Bay State Park has two beaches to choose from: one on Lake Erie and one on an inland lake. Folks rave about the two-mile long, ADA accessible marshland boardwalk and the many biking trails in the area. The Maumee State Park Golf Course nearby could be a perk for anyone interested in playing a quick (or leisurely) 18 holes.

Check out Maumee Bay State Park Beach

best lake erie beaches nickel
K T/Flickr 

7. Nickel Plate Beach (Huron, Ohio)

As the largest public swimming beach in Ohio, Nickel Plate offers plenty of room for big groups (and small ones!). There are beach volleyball nets for active types and a playground for kids. If you don’t want to lug water gear to the lake, you can rent floaties, paddleboards and kayaks there. Reviewers rave about the soft sand and expansive, ocean-like views of Lake Erie.

Check out Nickel Plate Beach

best lake erie beaches bluffs
Kevin Vail

8. Lake Erie Bluffs (Perry, Ohio)

Less a beach and more a work of art, the Lake Erie Bluffs offer an exceptional nature experience. Climb up the 50-foot coastal observation tower for spectacular views or hike along the rocky lakefront. Chances are good you’ll spot rare birds, bugs and plants. Participate in the area’s geocaching community or toss a canoe into the water for a completely different experience. Note: This not a swimming beach.

Check out Lake Erie Bluffs

best lake erie beaches east harbor
East Harbor State Park/Facebook  

9. East Harbor State Park (Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio)

Set up shop along the 1,500-foot sandy beach in East Harbor State Park for a relaxing day of swimming and picnicking. Unlike some Lake Erie beaches, this one is known for being a bit calmer (aka, little-kid-friendly). There’s a legit disc golf course for anyone looking to show off their frisbee skills. Since East Harbor State Park is situated on a peninsula, there’s plenty of delightful views to take in on both sides.

Check out East Harbor State Park

best lake erie beaches cedar point
Marada/Flickr

10. Cedar Point Beach (Cedar Point, Ohio)

  • Getting There: 1 hour 30 minutes from Cleveland or Toledo
  • Where to Stay: The Glass House
  • Ideal for: Thrill-seekers, families
While Cedar Point is known for its incredible amusement park, its beach is worth a visit, too. Soft, clean sand and a wide expanse of lakefront makes for an ideal day. Admission is free with park passes, but you can also go parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking and paddleboarding through North Coast Parasail without buying park tickets.

Check out Cedar Point Beach

best lake erie beaches south bass
James St. John, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

11. South Bass Island State Park (Put-in-Bay, Ohio)

  • Getting There: 20-minute ferry from Catawba Island
  • Where to Stay: Island Club House
  • Ideal for: Party people, boat people
The attractions on this small island (it’s just 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide) pack a punch. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to rent a boat or has a boat, as the beaches are not easily accessible for swimmers. However, there is a wildlife center, a scenic lookout, an aquatic center, a nature preserve, a winery and lots of restaurants. Though the vibe is slightly more party animal than family friendly, there are tons of educational opportunities and several state parks ripe for exploring. Rent golf carts or bicycles on the island to visit historical sites and the state park.

Check out South Bass Island

best lake erie beaches Presque Isle
Anthony Burkholder/Getty Images

12. Presque Isle Beach (Erie County, Pennsylvania)

As a 2021 Traveler’s Choice on Tripadvisor, it’s hard to go wrong with Presque Isle Beach. There’s 3,200 acres of space and 13 unique beaches to explore. Make sure you know the lifeguard schedule, as swimming is only allowed when they are present (typically 12 to 7:30 p.m. in the summertime). If you can’t—or don’t want to—take a dip in the water, opt for a kayak cruise or a pontoon boat tour instead.

Check out Presque Isle Beach

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