Great lakes yield the greatest beaches.
There’s a Lake Erie beach for every beachgoer. Touching the Canadian province of Ontario in the north and the U.S. states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in the west, south, and east, Lake Erie is the shallowest, and warmest — and so most swimmable — of all five great lakes.
The cities of Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, all enjoy lakeside proximity to Erie. (Detroit, Michigan, is not much farther away.)
With a shoreline of over 2,700 miles, and dozens of public parks around the perimeter, it’s an easy, lovely, and fun way to catch some quality beach time — even if there are no palm trees. And come winter, it’s easy to trade in sunscreen for cross-country skis or an ice fishing pole at many of these parks.
Bennett Beach, Erie County, New York
With grassy dunes and a sandy shore, Bennett Beach is a great place to lay out your towel. This lifeguarded beach has free parking and strict rules prohibiting cooking, drinking, and music.
Crystal Beach, Fort Erie, Ontario
Right across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York, Crystal Beach was named for its crystal clear waters. A wide sandy beach with warm shallow water, this lakefront town has attracted tourists since the late 19th century.
Evangola State Park, Irving, New York
The natural, arcing, sandy shoreline here is perfect for swimming, but that’s not all Evangola offers. Share a meal at the picnic area or play a game at a baseball, soccer, tennis, or basketball facilities. Spend the night at one of the park’s 80 campsites or even rent a yurt.
East Harbor State Park, Lakeside-Marblehead, Ohio
You can drive or take the ferry to this peninsular Ohio state park. East Harbor offers a 1,500-foot sand beach amid its vibrant wetlands, home to painted turtles, red foxes, and great blue herons. Plus, there’s disc golf.
Headlands Beach State Park, Geneva, Ohio
With the largest natural sand beach in the state, Ohio’s Headlands Beach State Park offers a mile of sandy shore to swimmers and sunbathers. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer.
Kelleys Island State Park, Kelleys Island, Ohio
All 677 acres of this rocky, wooded island off the coast of Ohio is state park, accessible by frequent private ferry from Sandusky and Marblehead. Kelleys Island State Park has a 100-foot public swimming beach in addition to facilities for hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.
Long Point, Port Rowan, Ontario
Founded in 1921, Long Point is Ontario’s fourth oldest provincial park, with a nearly 25-mile-long spit of sandy beach and woodlands that juts out (like the name) into Lake Erie. It’s also one of the best places to bird watch in North America, with more than 300 migratory and over 80 nesting birds throughout the year.
Port Burwell, Ontario
A perfect perch for birdwatching as well as sunbathing, Port Burwell has about 1.5 miles of sandy shore, and both public washrooms and change facilities (but no lifeguards).
Presque Isle, Erie, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s only “shore,” the sandy Lake Erie outpost of Presque Isle is open throughout the year. Swimmers can only jump into the water at one of the isle’s nine beaches when they are manned by lifeguards, between Memorial and Labor Day.
William C. Sterling State Park, Monroe, Michigan
Michigan’s only state park on Lake Erie, Sterling State Park has over one mile of beachfront, along with another 1,300 acres of parkland and facilities, including camping sites and miles of hiking trails.