It’s not a ‘real’ beach, but it’s pretty darn close.
I spent four years in Pennsylvania less than an hour down the road from Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa, but it wasn’t until I moved to western New York for this past summer that I finally made it to this gorgeous part of the region.
To be fair, this was my first full American summer, and while the Lake still has plenty to offer over the colder months, I’m a beach girl through and through, and unfortunately it’s not quite beach weather here in the middle of a Pennsylvania January.
I’ve never been a lake girl. Growing up in New Zealand — while as a country we do have some spectacular lakes — my family was always a beach go-er type of family. It’s not hard to do given that you’re never further than four or so hours from the coast in New Zealand, but regardless, given the option of ocean or lake the choice for me was always a simple one.
For me, a beach isn’t a real beach unless it comes with golden sand, waves, tides and that familiar sea-satly, ocean smell.
So when I finally travelled to Presque Isle over the summer I was skeptical to say the least. I know the Great Lakes are massive, people have told me time and time again — that they’re big enough to make you forget you’re at a lake altogether — but I didn’t trust them.
I was however, pleasantly surprised.
While still not being a real beach in my books, it was pretty gosh darn close. There was real sand, waves, what felt like tides, and, most importantly you could look out and see the water touch the sky.
There were kids running in and out of the waves trying to beat the water rushing to the shore, families picnicking in the sand or at the picnic tables by the trees, and swarms of seagulls hovering for any dropped scraps.
Everything you want at a beach really.
While I don’t think I’ll ever become a lake-girl, I can safely say that I am much less prejudiced to the idea than before. At the end of the day, if I can lie on my towel in the sand in the sun, get overly hot and sweaty and then go for a dip to cool down, anywhere is okay in my books — sea or otherwise — and the beach at Presque Isle exceeded my expectations.
So where is it?
Presque Isle State Park is located about four miles (6km) west of Erie, Pa. It can be reached by PA832 North. This is the one road that leads in and out of the park which forms a loop that allows you to drive the peninsular in its entirety.
What can you do there?
The park is a 3,200 square-acre sandy peninsular that arches out onto Lake Erie. It is a day-use park that offers a beautiful coastline and an array of recreational activities. These vary depending on the season but include activities such as swimming, boating, cycling, fishing, ice-skating and bird watching.
Presque Isle has 13 miles (21 km) of road, 21 miles (34 km) of recreational trails and 13 beaches for swimming. There is also a marina for boating as well as camping facilities near the entrance to the park, and others in the surrounding area.
When can you go?
The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, but the beaches are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The park office and other areas of the park are only open specific seasons and hours so check what time of the year you’re going and what will be open while you’re there.
I definitely wish I had checked out this neat part of the region earlier — even if ice-fishing isn’t really my thing.