Life's a Beach
Have fun in the sun on the shores of Lake Erie
By Denise Koeth
Cleveland may not be top of mind when it comes to glamorous beaches, but the shores of Lake Erie offer plenty of local spots for sun, sand and surf. Whether you're seeking water sports, swimming, festivals or family-friendly options, pack your swimsuit and flip flops, because there's a beach for you near Cleveland.
Cleveland Metroparks' Lakefront Reservation, comprised of East 55th Street Marina, Edgewater Park, Euclid Beach Park, Gordon Park and Whiskey Island, offers the widest array of beaches and activities along Lake Erie's coast.
At East 55th Street Marina, bait your hook and spend a quiet afternoon on the 1,200-foot fishing platform or try your luck in deeper waters after launching a boat from one of six courtesy guest docks. For supplies and food, check out the fully stocked bait shop and marina store, as well as e55 on the Lake restaurant and bar.
Edgewater Park is the spot for summertime fun in Cleveland. Located just west of Downtown, the park boasts 6,000 feet of shoreline and two beaches, plus a playground, pavilions, and one of the best views of Cleveland's skyline. It's an ideal place to sunbathe, create a towering sand castle, start a game of beach volleyball or catch a wave -- because even though the Beach Boys lamented "There's No Surf in Cleveland," you can indeed hang 10 here.
Every Thursday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 9 through Aug. 11, bring a blanket or chair, along with your appetite, for Edgewater LIVE, a part-happy hour, part-beach party extravaganza. The free weekly event features live music, great eats from local food trucks, craft brews and unique cocktails, beach sports, kids' activities and more.
Euclid Beach Park, a short drive east from Downtown, is home to a 650-foot beach with shaded picnic areas and a scenic observation pier. It's also the home base of the Euclid Beach LIVE outdoor concert series, which takes place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each Friday from June 10 to Aug. 12. Bring a lawn chair and pack a picnic -- or bring some cash for the lineup of Cleveland food trucks.
Gordon Park, part of an Audubon Important Birding Area, is a birder's paradise, offering the best viewing for a large number of diverse and rare gulls and ducks. The park's 1.3 miles of armored coastline and onshore platforms are ideal for fishing.
Whiskey Island, named for the distillery that was built on the land in the 1800s, is actually a peninsula where the Cuyahoga River empties into Lake Erie. Geography lesson aside, this popular spot, home to Wendy Park, is perfect for taking in views of Cleveland's skyline, a walk along the beach, or a game of sand volleyball. While there is no swimming on the beach, it's the perfect place to launch a canoe or kayak.
It's also the perfect place to remember one of Cleveland's low points -- the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River -- by celebrating the city's renewed sense of eco-consciousness with live music, local food and plenty of Great Lakes Brewing Co. beer. Slated for Aug. 26 and 27 from 6-11 p.m., Burning River Fest takes place at Whiskey Island's historic Coast Guard Station and will feature more than 18 bands and musicians on two stages bringing funk, blues, rock, and more to the shore. Come for the suds, grub, and music, but stay for the ceremonial lighting of floating pyres to commemorate the efforts to clean up our waterways.
On the west side, Bay Village is home to Huntington Beach, an ideal swimming spot. The family-friendly park is a great place to spend the day, as it also houses Lake Erie Nature & Science Center and BAYarts. Nearby Columbia Park is a pooch utopia, home of Columbia Dog Beach, where your four-legged friend can go off-leash to enjoy the sand and surf.
Though not technically a beach, North Coast Harbor is a can't-miss lakefront attraction, encompassing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Great Lakes Science Center, FirstEnergy Stadium, Voinovich Bicentennial Park, and the Goodtime III. Cleveland's warmer months are the perfect time to visit the harbor, as the calendar is crammed with activities, including food truck events; Rock Hall concerts; Science Center exhibits; North Coast Namaste, a free yoga series; and Lakefront Leagues kickball and volleyball programs.