*REVIEW* Presque Isle State Park (July 2012)

Location:  Presque Isle State Park 
1 Peninsula Drive
Erie, PA

Review:  Presque Isle State Park is one of the gems of the Eastern United States. It’s more than 21 miles of hiking trails, 13 beaches, 16 miles of roadways, and numerous family friendly attractions make it a destination for summer fun for more than 4 million visitors each year.

The beaches at Presque Isle aren’t like the ones your used to at Lake Lanier or Destin. They’re larger, coarser, and cooler.  How cool?  Well, the temperature of the water doesn’t go above 80 degrees and rarely does the air temperature. This summer, which has been extraordinarily hot by local standards still made us Atlantans feel like fall was right around the corner.  Humidity?  Forget about it!  And, there’s almost always a breeze! 

Sounds too good to be true? Well, there are a few things to remember if you’re thinking about going:

  1. The amenities are, for lack of a better term, ‘state-parkey.’ It’s a few steps above the going to the bathroom in hole but nothing fancy.  There are bathhouses to change in that are dated and the concession stands sell minimal concessions. You can bring a cooler and grill (they also provide grilling areas with BYO charcoal) which helps.
  2. There are ticks, which carry Lyme disease, throughout the Park. You shouldn’t experience any problems unless you go hiking in the woods with minimal clothing on but to be safe you’ll need to check yourself and your children when you leave the Park.

Entrance to the Park is FREE, parking is FREE, and most other activities at the Park are FREE. There are a few bonus activities besides swimming, bird watching, hiking, watersports, fishing, hunting, and sunbathing that cost a little extra and may be worth the cost for a little fun.  One such family activity allows you to rent a traditional bicycle, tandem bicycle, or two-person or four-person surrey. We tried a four person surrey, which, in retrospect, we should have known wasn’t such a good idea when two of the kids couldn’t reach the pedals.  It was a lot of work for two out of the four of us and we decided that if we try it again (and that’s a big if), it will be when the kids are teenagers.

The beaches are great! The sand on the beach itself isn’t as soft as it is on the Florida panhandle but not as rough as it can be along the Atlantic coast.  Once you’re in the water and scoot a couple of steps beyond the shoreline, the sand is smooth beneath your feet.

We happened to have gone to Presque Isle to swim on multiple days during the Road Trip so we had the opportunity to see what the water is like on a wavy day versus a calm day.  On a calm day, the waves gently role in much like when a larger boat passes the beach at Lake Lanier.  On the wavy day we were there, we spent most of our time jumping and riding the waves and trying not to be pulled under.  Each day the weather forecasts in the area give the wave forecast so you’ll know what to expect before you head out.  We recommend watching this, especially for families with small children.

What else did we love about the beaches? Everyone kept to themselves!  Maybe we were just at the ‘right beach’ or maybe it was because we were there during the week but even the local high school students kept their party to themselves and weren’t running around shouting at each other.  The quiet was welcome as was the calm.  It made our visit very relaxing.

A favorite pastime of the locals and of tourists is watching the sunset over Lake Erie.  Voted as one of the top sites to see sunsets in the world, viewing it nightly during our stay from either the sands of Presque Isle or a local restaurant on the water was a treat.   There were purples, pinks, oranges, and blues that you just don’t get anywhere in Atlanta.

Another local and tourist tradition at Presque Isle is going to Sara’s for an orange and vanilla twist ice cream cone.  It’s delicious and the perfect way to cap off a day at the beach.  Your whole family will love the retro decor and Varsity-like feel to the restaurant.

Presque Isle State Park is a great place to spend a beach vacation.  Proper family accommodations are a distance away from the water though, making it inconvenient to tourists but that probably helps keep the crowds at a minimum.  If you’ll be in the Great Lakes area, make a going to Presque Isle State Park a priority.  All of us miss it already.


This family friendly attraction was reviewed as part of The Great American Family Road Trip.  Do you have an event you’d like reviewed by Occupy My Family? Send us an e-mail at occupymyfamily@gmail.com.  We invite you to look at #RoadTrip pictures on FacebookTwitter, Instagram (@occupymyfamily), and Tumblr

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