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Lake Erie shore (including Toledo), Ohio

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Riders travel 176 feet per second (120 mph) on the Top Thrill Dragster, the fastest coaster in Cedar Point Amusement Park.
  • It is thought the phrase “Holy Toledo!” was inspired by the cluster of churches on Toledo’s Collingwood Boulevard.
  • Inventor Thomas Edison was born a few miles south of the lake in Milan (1847).
  • Prior to Prohibition, the Lake Erie Shores and Islands wine region was the country’s largest wine-producing area.
  • The Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ashtabula County is America’s longest covered bridge at 613 feet.

About beaches — and ice fishing

Much of northern Ohio borders Lake Erie, providing the state with a tourist playground that extends roughly 312 miles east to west. Boosters promote the area as a year-round destination — one can go ice fishing in winter — but most visitors prefer the warmer months, the better to take advantage of numerous sandy beaches and associated water-based recreation.

Two cities anchor the shoreline, Toledo in the westernmost county, and Cleveland well to the east, providing options to combine urban pastimes with small-town pleasures and outdoorsy pursuits of various kinds.

Ohio’s only islands sit in the lake, three of which — Kelleys, Middle Bass and South Bass — attract the tourists. There is ferry accessible from Marblehead, Port Clinton and Sandusky. The Cedar Point Amusement Park at Sandusky, described as the world’s largest such park, is another huge draw, supplemented by half a dozen waterparks. The same territory is a wine-growing area — the Lake Erie Shores and Islands wine region — where the lakeshore climate moderates extreme temperatures.

These attractions are between Toledo and Cleveland, but places like Mentor, Mentor-on-the-Lake and Geneva-on-the-Lake east of Cleveland make claims on tourists’ time, too, with their own combinations of beaches, camping, fishing and water-based sports, as well as land-based tourist attractions. In fact, Geneva-on-the-Lake, in Ohio’s northeastern county, Ashtabula, claims it was Ohio’s first summer resort (1869).

The homes of two presidents — Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield — can be seen on the Erie shore. In addition, Ohio saw action during the War of 1812. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island honors the world’s longest undefended border while remembering an important U.S. victory over the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. And Fort Meigs, outside of Toledo, was successfully defended against a British siege in 1813.

Returning to the cities, provides more about Cleveland. The smaller Toledo, up the Maumee River from Lake Erie, promotes itself as the water recreation capital of the Midwest because of its riverfront plus access to the lake. It’s known for its churches and Victorian houses and boasts of its museums including the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Ride the fastest roller coaster, the Top Thrill Dragster, at Cedar Point Amusement Park.
  • Arrange a sports fishing charter at Eastlake or Lorain, or from any of several other Lake Erie ports. In winter, fish from a shanty on the lake’s ice.
  • If it’s Saturday in summer, take a ferry to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island for the island’s party time.
  • Camp in one of the state parks that abut Lake Erie.
  • Take polka lessons or enter the pierogi eating contest at the autumn Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival in Port Clinton.
  • On Kelleys Island, rent a kayak and paddle the island’s waters. Or parasail at Sandusky or Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a journey following the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail, which extends from near the Indiana border almost to Cleveland and includes South Bass Island.
  • Bring the binoculars to Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve in Huron, a Lake Erie birding site that attracts nearly 300 bird species. Or make that the Blue Heron Reserve at Vickery.
  • From Sandusky, take a daytime island-hopping cruise, or consider a sunset wine-tasting cruise or a party cruise.
  • At Providence Metropark (part of the Toledo area metroparks), ride a mule-drawn canal boat through the Miami and Erie Canal.
  • Be amazed at what the ice left behind. The world’s largest glacial grooves (15 feet deep and 35 feet across) were carved into rock on Kelleys Island some 20,000 years ago. Embedded fossils are 350 million to 400 million years old.
  • Cycle or hike or cross-country ski on the Wabash Cannonball Trail, a 64-mile rails-to-trails project in northwest Ohio.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Celebrate the bridges at the Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival, held in October in Ashtabula County in far northeastern Ohio.
  • Explore South Bass Island on a tour train, with guide’s narration and hop-on, hop-off options.
  • If interested in the man who won the very controversial 1876 Hayes-Tilden election, visit the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont. The complex includes his home. Or visit the home of another president, James A. Garfield Historic Site, in Mentor. The Ohio-born chief executive was assassinated in 1881 soon after taking office.
  • Head to Ohio’s largest beach at Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor. Or choose any of the 37 public beaches on Ohio’s Erie shore. Alternatively, the area counts six waterparks, four indoors.
  • Drive the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, a 290-mile scenic route in seven Ohio counties that border the lake. Photograph the lighthouses — and just about everything else.
  • Make time for the Stranahan Arboretum at the University of Toledo and the Toledo Botanical Garden.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult TourismOhio at