Lake Erie changed my life.
For the first 30 years of my life, I gave little thought to this Great Lake 200 miles north of my home in Cincinnati. But when my future husband took me to the lakefront city of Port Clinton to meet his parents and the lake he cherished, my romance grew too. Just before our wedding we purchased a sailboat, christened her Carina and headed out on the lake to exchange vows.
That was 1986, the same year I joined a multi-day media tour promoting Lake Erie with Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste. I left with a T-shirt proclaiming “Lake Erie, A Great Lake Again” and a hunger to move closer to this beautiful body of water.
For almost 25 years now, Lake Erie has been my neighbor and so much more.
Let me tell you a little bit about her.
Visit the Islands
We spent our week-long honeymoon aboard Carina visiting the islands. But you don’t need to own a boat to access the islands – ferry service is plentiful.
- South Bass Island is home to the bustling village of Put-in-Bay, a destination for more than 750,000 tourists annually. Summer weekends are for partying, but weekdays and the spring and fall are perfect times to visit for sightseeing, biking, dining, shopping, either for a day trip or overnight (camping, hotels, B&B’s and cottages available). Long before you reach the island you will see the 352-foot Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a symbol of the long-lasting peace enjoyed by the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Also located on the National Park grounds is the Perry Memorial Visitor Center, which features a movie and displays about the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.
- Kelleys Island moves at a slower, quieter pace. Audubon Ohio designated the island as an Important Bird Area, and is “one of the stepping stones used by multitudes of migrating birds to cross Lake Erie. This 2800 acre island has 17 miles of shoreline and a 600-acre state park. Diverse habitats provide opportunities to see a large variety of birds, including herons, ducks, hawks, shorebirds, cuckoos, woodpeckers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and orioles. Another natural attraction is Glacial Grooves State Memorial, home to 400-foot x 35-foot prehistoric grooves.
- Pelee Island is Canada’s most southern point with miles of sandy beaches for swimming and quiet roads for biking. We spent several low-key summer vacations on Pelee when our son was young. Days were spent in the water and on bikes, then dinner at casual restaurants eating fresh walleye and perch. While many seasonal visitors own private cottages, lodging and camping are available. Getting there can be tricky, with limited ferry service from Sandusky and a required passport, but the effort is well worth it if you are in need of a peaceful getaway to “one of Canada’s best kept secrets.”
Visit Lakefront Parks
You can enjoy Lake Erie from several lakefront parks, starting with Lakeview Park in Lorain. The park has a beach (for swimming and volleyball), playground, picnic facilities and bathhouse. It is also home to the historic Rose Garden, which opened in 1932 and was restored in 2005. The garden has approximately 2,500 roses in 48 beds with connecting walkways.
Heading east to Bay Village is Cleveland Metropark’s Huntington Reservation, with its landmark water tower and swimming, picnicking and fishing. The reservation is also home to two Cleveland Metroparks affiliates – the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center and BAYarts.
Cleveland Metroparks now operates Edgewater Park, located just minutes from downtown Cleveland.
According to its website: “Edgewater Beach, located in lower Edgewater Park, has something for everyone. Make a day of it and rent a cabana along the shoreline or join a pickup game of beach volleyball. Stroll along the beach while enjoying a delicious scoop of Honey Hut ice cream from Eats and Treats concession stand. Experience panoramic views of downtown Cleveland from the shore and experience a breath-taking sunset,”
The largest natural sand beach is located east of Cleveland in Mentor. Headlands Beach State Park’s mile-long beach is a favorite for swimmers and sunbathers. At the east end of the park is the Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve, one of the last and finest remaining examples of Lake Erie beach and dune communities in Ohio. On the south border is Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve, a 644-acre, marsh-swamp forest home to diverse plants and animals, accessible by a 5-mile hiking trail.
Tour by Car
The Lake Erie Circle Tour is approximately 660 miles and includes the cities of Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Windsor, Detroit and Toledo. The Great Lakes Information Network provides maps and guides to get you on your way.
Of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie is the smallest by water volume, but it remains for me the greatest of them all.
In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.