Lake Erie is of the Five Great Lakes of the United States.
It sits on the International Boundary between the US and Canada, with its northern shore located in Ontario and bordered by the states of New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
It’s the shallowest and smallest of the Five Great lakes, making it the warmest and quickest to freeze.
Lake Erie formed almost two million years ago when glaciers carved the side of a lowland basin.
The Erie tribe first settled on the lake’s eastern shore, hence the name, while the Neutrals occupied the northern coast.
“Erie” came from the Iroquoian word “erielhonan,” which means “long tail.”
In 1669, Europeans arrived in the area after French explorer Louis Jolliet documented the sighting of the lake.
Here are the best things to do in Lake Erie.
Explore the Beaches at Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park is on Peninsula Drive, a 3,112-acre peninsula on the western side of Erie, Pennsylvania.
Its arched shape forms Presque Isle Bay, a broad and deep harbor for boats and freighters.
The park also draws migratory birds, including several of the state’s endangered and rare species.
However, visitors look forward to the 13 beaches within the park.
All the beaches are on the park's lakeside, not facing the bay or the city.
Beach 11 is the furthest from the entrance but is still the most popular with families because of its location.
Whether you like sunbathing, playing in the sand, or walking along the beach, you’ll surely enjoy Presque Isle State Park’s beaches.
Go Boating at Geneva State Park
Located on Padanarum Road, Geneva, Ohio, Geneva State Park is a 698-acre park on the eastern shoreline of Lake Erie.
It features a 600-foot natural beach with a swimming area and freshwater marshes like Wheeler Creek and No Name Creek.
There’s a six-mile multi-use trail for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and hunting.
The Geneva Marina has almost 400 boat slips and a six-lane ramp where you can launch your boat and cruise to the lake's central basin.
Boating equipment, fishing gear, and fish cleaning services are available if you want to catch some trout or yellow perch.
For adrenaline junkies, try the zipline and obstacle course at the Lake Erie Canopy Tours Aerial Adventure Park.
Geneva State Park is the go-to boat launch to explore the lake.
Immerse Yourself in Finnish Culture at the Finnish Heritage Museum
Located on High Street in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, the Finnish Heritage Museum aims to preserve and present the Finnish and Finnish-North American culture for future generations.
The museum is inside a red brick building that’s served as a town hall, a fire station, and a police station, complete with a jail cell.
Learn about the Finnish culture through books, documents, and records such as letters, postcards, plane tickets, and photos.
You can also see everyday household items like rugs, cooking utensils, cookbooks, and all textiles on display.
FHM has also established a Genealogy Committee that traces the roots of Finnish Americans whose ancestors immigrated to the US to start a new life.
Learn more about Finnish culture at the Finnish Heritage Museum.
Ride a Roller Coaster at Cedar Point
Cedar Point is an amusement park on Cedar Point Drive in Sandusky, Ohio.
It opened in 1870 and is the second oldest amusement park in the US.
Here you can enjoy rides and attractions with different thrill levels.
Kids can try “driving” the mini 4x4s or the bumper cars at Dodgem.
For families, there are picnic lounges and beach bungalows where you can spend the afternoon.
However, the main attractions at Cedar Point are the roller coasters that will pump up every adrenaline junkie.
Millenium Force is the park’s centerpiece coaster; the Blue Streak is its oldest operating roller coaster.
Spot the Birds at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve
Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve is a 462-acre coastal wetland known for its wildflowers and migratory birds.
Located on Cleveland Road in Huron, Ohio, the park attracts more than 300 bird species annually.
Its swamp forests, marshlands, and thick hardwood jungle provide the ideal habitat for birds and wildflowers during spring.
Some rare bird sightings in the area include the American woodcock, snowy owl, black tern, and Harris's sparrow.
There are observation platforms overlooking the marsh where you can set up your gear for bird spotting.
Beautiful wildflowers line the boardwalk's sides leading to the barrier beach.
Take out your binoculars and go birdwatching at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve.
Enjoy a Waterfront Dinner at Shoreline Bar and Grille
Shoreline Bar and Grille is a cocktail bar and eatery in Erie serving localized dishes made with local ingredients.
It offers excellent bay views and patio seating that’s great during sunset.
Start your meal with French onion soup, garlic croutons, and aged Swiss cheese.
The blackened walleye is one of the bestsellers, but the walnut-crusted walleye is also a must-try.
To cap off your dinner, get the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.
Shoreline Bar and Grille has a great selection of curated beers, wines, and handcrafted cocktails.
See the Benson Ford Ship House in Put-in-Bay
Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.
The village is a popular summer destination, thanks to its excellent location and beautiful beaches.
It played an essential role in the War of 1812 when it became the base of the US Navy fleet under Oliver Hazard Perry.
One of its unique attractions is the Benson Ford Ship House, located on the shores of the lake.
It’s a four-story vacation home previously part of a vast cargo ship built for Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company.
The house is surrounded by trees that turn into a beautiful palette of red, orange, and brown during fall.
Visit Put-in-Bay and see the Benson Ford Ship House.
Spot Warblers at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area
The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is a 2,202-acre controlled hunting area in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
The park is a favorite stopover of North American warblers during migration season.
Enthusiasts flock to the area to see the migrating birds.
An annual birding festival happens every May.
Birders and photographers gather for ten days to see rare species, do guide bird walks, and have their books signed by noted birdwatchers.
Though warblers frequent the area, more than 30 bird species, including the vireo, congregate there every May.
Bring your cameras and take photos of the colorful birds at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.
Grab Brunch at Pier W
Located on Lake Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio, Pier W is an upscale seafood restaurant that boasts views of Lake Erie and live piano on weekends.
The bar and the eating areas are surrounded by glass, giving you unobstructed views of the lake and downtown Cleveland.
Pier W is a brunch favorite among locals with a buffet-style menu that features choices from eggs benedict to carved beef.
Savor the flavor of fresh seafood with the lobster bisque and the sustainable roasted salmon with lobster sauce.
There are also freshly made waffles, French toast, and made-to-order omelets.
Enjoy brunch with a view and live piano performances at Pier W.
See a Fresnel Lens at Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse
The Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse, also known as the Grand River Light, is a 60-foot lighthouse located in Fairport Harbor.
Built in 1871, the lighthouse had a detached keeper’s house.
It was decommissioned in 1925 and turned into a museum in 1945.
You can climb the tower to view the harbor or visit the keeper’s house, which houses exhibits about the lighthouse and the Great Lakes maritime history.
Exhibits are thematically arranged into three rooms.
The Founders Room showcases photos and equipment from USCG Station Fairport.
Second, the Fairport Room houses the lighthouse’s original 3rd order Fresnel Lens.
Then, the Great Lakes Room has models of lake freighters.
Visit the Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse and learn more about the region’s maritime history.
Ride a Boat to Lonz Winery
Located on Middle Bass Island, Ohio, the historic Lonz Winery dates back to the mid-1800s.
It features an iconic copper-topped tower that serves as an observation deck.
Five cellars below the main winery building were built in the 1860s by cutting through limestone.
The authorities have turned the building into a museum displaying winemaking equipment, including centuries-old 3,800-gallon wood barrels, sediment sifters, and bottle fillers.
To reach the island, hop on a 40-minute boat ride on the Miller Boat Line, cruising across the beautiful waters of Lake Erie.
The island also features a 190-slip marina where you can park your boats, bike rentals, and small camping grounds for a one-day visit.
Enjoy Brandy Alexander at the Village Pump
Located on West Lakeshore Drive in Kelleys Island, Ohio, The Village Pump is a local watering hole serving Lake Erie since 1983.
The building was originally a post office and a barbershop built in 1890, with the second floor serving as the townspeople’s social hall.
It’s home to the famous Brandy Alexander and Lake Erie perch, for which boaters and tourists keep coming back.
It’s hard to resist the lightly breaded and perfectly seasoned walleye bites.
The perch sandwich and the perch tacos are crowd favorites, along with the fried shrimp basket.
The glass or pitcher serves Brandy Alexander.
If you’d like to try something else, the Village Pump has a wide selection of local and imported beers, drafts, and wines.
Get a Different View of Lake Erie at the Bicentennial Tower
On State Street, Erie, the Bicentennial Tower stands 187 feet tall and features two observation decks.
Built in 1996, the tower celebrates Eries’ bicentennial.
The first viewing deck is 17 feet high, while the second is 138 feet.
On Dobbins Landing, the tower will give you panoramic views of Lake Erie, downtown Erie, and the Presque Isle State Park.
You can even see Long Point in Ontario, Canada, on a clear day if you're lucky.
At the base of the Bicentennial Tower is the Gift Shop & Concession Stand, where you can buy tickets and souvenirs to remind you of your visit.
Join Sail Training at the Flagship Niagara League
The Flagship Niagara League, also known as the USS Niagara or US Brig Niagara, is a snow brig that serves as a maritime sail training facility.
The ship was built in 1812 and played a significant role during the battle for the lake.
It was sunk on Presque Island in 1820 for preservation and was raised for reconstruction during its centennial in 1913.
Reconstruction was not completed until 1988, when it became a working ship as an ambassador of Pennsylvania.
Today, sailing enthusiasts as young as 14 can join its two-week-long Voyage Programs, where trainees live and eat with the crew onboard.
Live like an authentic mariner aboard the Flagship Niagara League.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Visit the First Presidential Library at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site
Located in Mentor, Ohio, just 12 minutes from Lake Erie, is the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.
James A. Garfield bought the house for his family in 1876.
It was where the first successful “Lawnfield,” or front porch campaign, happened during the 1880 presidential elections.
When Garfield was shot just four months into his term, his wife commissioned a Memorial Library Wing, the first of its kind.
The house was restored in 1990, styled with authentic furniture and fixtures curated by the Denver Service Center of the National Park Service.
Take pictures on the historic front porch and see the first presidential library at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.
Lake Erie’s strategic location played an essential role in the country’s history.
Today, it’s still a major maritime route for ships from Canada and the United States.
The maritime industry helped shape the culture in Lake Erie's coastal areas, with fishing and tourism as leading industries.
Discover the best things to do in Lake Erie!