Cool Stops Along the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail

Northeast Road Trip Day 3 on the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail

As the shoreline gets smaller and smaller, we say a tearful goodbye from the ferry off South Bass Island, one of the popular Lake Erie islands. Today, we decide to take the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail to our next overnight in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The 293-mile route runs from Toledo to Conneaut, we are driving roughly three-quarters of its entirety.

Although Lake Erie is the second smallest of the Great Lakes, it’s 210 miles long, 57 miles wide with a shoreline of approximately 871 miles.

Because of its location, it has played an integral part in the early exploration of North America and now plays a vital role in commercial shipping on the Great Lakes.

So there’s definitely some exploring to do around here. Time to take the Lake Erie scenic route!

Interested in Visiting One of the Coolest Island’s in the Midwest, read our Put-in-Bay Travel Guide here. 

HOW TO USE THIS LAKE ERIE SHORELINE MAP: To view the layers and see the names of the places on this map, click the tab in the top left corner. You can select the check marks to show or hide certain layers. If you select the icons on the map, you will get more information about the point of interest.

HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP: If you select the star icon, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. To view it, open Google Maps in desktop or on your phone, select the menu button, go to “Your Places,” scroll to the right to Maps, and you will see this map.

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

Shortly after hopping off the ferry, we find ourselves at the Marblehead Lighthouse.

Built in 1821, the blinking beacon is still used as a navigational guide today for recreational boaters and commercial vessels. I love the exposed brick that borders the few green windows and door planted on the base.

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
One of the best things to do at Lake Erie, the Marblehead Lighthouse.

The small museum in the old keeper’s house is unfortunately closed, only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So instead we take a short walk around the lighthouse and shoreline.

We notice from the rocky shore you can see Kelleys Island, South Bass Island, and Cedar Point Amusement Park known as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, across the bay.

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, a fun stop on the Lake Erie scenic route.
Marblehead Lighthouse, built in 1821

Cedar Point Amusement Park

After Labor Day the park is only open on the weekends so we didn’t plan for a visit this time around, but we decide to pass right by so we can take a cruise on the peninsula that it is situated on.

We’ve been to Cedar Point twice before and had some memorable hair-raising moments there. As the high coasters make an appearance, we try to find the ones we’ve been on.

“Now that the nephews are getting older, we’ll have to plan a trip out here,” I say, as we take the curve exiting the parking lot toward the residential area. Cedar Point is definitely one of the best things to do at Lake Erie. 

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Lake Erie Coastal Byway is right on the water in sections!

As we coast down Cedar Point Road, it cuts right through the properties that have waterfront locations.

To the right of us are a mix of luxurious homes and down to earth cottages and on the left are small private beaches, sprawling lake views, and awesome outdoor patios.

Small Town on a Great Lake

Continuing on Route 6, the next stop is the small town of Vermilion, once known as the “Village of Lake Captains.” We park the car by a Czechoslovakian restaurant called the Old Prague and take a look around.

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Czechoslovakian Restaurant in Vermilion, Ohio

I ask a woman standing outside the doors how the food is and she says, “Very good!” We contemplate taking a lunch break but we have many more miles to go and don’t want to sit for a long meal. Maybe next time. We tell ourselves to make us feel better about missing out on schnitzel and spaetzle.

A common topic of discussion on these long road trips is the fact that there are so many things to see and places to eat that we could take a week – at least – in every location.

Great stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Trail..
Cheers! Old Prague Restaurant on the Lake Erie Coastal Drive

We continue our stroll on Main Street. It reminds me of simpler times: a soda fountain, a handful of stores, and a town square.

Cool stops on the Lake Erie coast.

Across the river, we see a neighborhood surrounded by water and a ton of boats. This is our kind of town!

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Boaters paradise in Vermilion, Ohio

At the north end of Main Street is a small beach with an observation platform, benches, and a changing room. And right next door is the now-closed Inland Seas Maritime Museum with a replica of an old lighthouse.

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Main Street Beach in Vermilion, Ohio
The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Maritime Museum, one of the fun Lake Erie things to do.

We finish our stroll with a quick detour through the neighborhood where we gawk at the historical homes.

Onward to the point of interest!

TIP: If you like gardens, you can also take a 7-mile drive to Schoepfle Gardens.

Don’t Skip Cleveland

Next up is the city of Cleveland, we are passing right through, but if you have never been, make sure to plan a few days here.

The only reason we didn’t visit this trip is that we have a tight itinerary, but it really is an underrated city.

I’ll give you 10 reasons to add Cleveland to your itinerary:

      1. To Eat Around the world at the West Side Market
      2. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame
      3. To See the Only United States Presidential Casket on Full Display
      4. The Botanical Gardens
      5. A Visit to Great Lakes Brewery
      6. To catch a game, any game
      7. Visit a Grocery Store that’s in a National Register of Historic Places Building
      8. See the house from A Christmas Story
      9. To explore the riverfront
      10. To see a national park

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

An Ohio Historical Marker welcomes us as we walk up to the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse. It displays a little background on what we are seeing.

The lighthouse and keeper’s house were built in 1871, replacing the originals from the early 1800s, and both were decommissioned in 1925.

The tower stands 60 feet high and has 69 steps to the top. At the front of the building we discover a mast from Michigan, the first iron United States warship and the anchor is a real one used in the 1800s.

The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Fairport Harbor Lighthouse.

Geneva-on-the-Lake

As we drive through “the strip” at Geneva-on-the-Lake, I couldn’t help but compare it to a smaller scale Myrtle Beach. I spot an arcade, 1950s-themed grill, and a hot dog stand.

It would be a fun place to walk around, but we are losing daylight so we wheel straight through.

Sara’s Campground

It’s time to set up camp for the night, we land at Sara’s Campground in Erie, Pennsylvania. The location is perfect, at the opening of Presque Isle State Park, but the sites are close together with little privacy.

Things to do at Lake Erie include camping at Presque Isle State Park.
Campsite at Presque Isle State Park

INTERESTED IN HOW WE VAN CAMP? CHECK OUT A TOUR OF THE VAN HERE!

Presque Isle State Park

A trail from the campground leads us to the state park where they have a 13-mile paved trail in and around the park that mostly parallels the road.

Keeping with our Lake Erie theme today, this park juts right into the lake so there are beaches a go-go. 13 actually.

Presque Isle State Park on the Lake Erie Trail.
Lake Erie Beaches – Presque Isle State Park.
Presque Isle State Park Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse at Presque Isle State Park.
Sunset on the Lake Erie Coastal Drive.
Things to do in Erie, PA include seeing a sunset at Presque Isle State Park.

It’s our favorite hour of the day, the golden hour right before sunset. After spotting a houseboat neighborhood floating in an inlet, we couldn’t stop talking about what it would be like to live here!

Would you want to?

Lake Erie Scenic Route should include a stop at Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania.
The Presque Isle State Park is beautiful at dusk.

After the sun sets, we realize how ravenous we are. I heard about the hot dogs and ice cream at Sally’s Restaurant attached to our campground so we are ready to give it a try.

Sara's Restaurant in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Outside Sara’s Restaurant on the Lake Erie Trail.

With neon lights glowing and quirky signs everywhere, looks like it was airlifted off Route 66!

If you are looking for fun things to do at Lake Erie, make sure to eat at Sally's Diner in Erie, Pennsylvania.
It’s a retro throwback inside Sally’s Diner.
Things to do at Lake Erie, Eat at Sally's Diner.
Sally’s Diner in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The hot dogs are nothing to write home about – if you like the snap of a Vienna, you might like these – but the peanut butter milkshake is GLORIOUS.

Nothing like laying your head down with a belly full of fried food!

Now that we experienced driving the small section along the lake, it makes us want to add the Lake Erie Circle Tour to our future travels. 

Next on the road trip is some of the most beautiful state parks we’ve ever hiked through!

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The best stops along one of America's scenic byways, the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail from Put-in-Bay to Erie, Pennsylvania. Ohio road trip anyone?

 

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