7 Favorite Summer Activities at Presque Isle State Park
Tuesday May 9th, 2023
Presque Isle State Park is a National Natural Landmark and Erie’s top attraction, especially in the summertime. From pristine beaches to a rich history and natural beauty, a visit to Presque Isle promises endless fun and excitement, making it the perfect destination for a memorable summer getaway. As always, admission and parking is free. Here are a few ways for you to make the most out of your visit.
Main photo by @darlagraffphotography via Instagram
Bask in the Beaches
Presque Isle State Park features seven miles of sandy surf beaches, providing visitors with the only surf swimming within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Presque Isle boasts distinctive qualities that set it apart from other beach destinations, and its eleven beaches each possess unique attributes that make them truly special. Beach 11 is popular for families with younger children due to its shallow, calm waters, playground area, and concession stand. It’s also one of the largest beaches at the park, giving you lots of room to spread out and enjoy the sun and sand. Beach 8/Pettinato Beach features a ramp that provides ADA access to the water’s edge. Swimming is permitted on guarded beaches from Noon until 7:15 p.m. daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Expand Your Knowledge
Presque Isle has a rich maritime history due to its role in the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie. The Perry Monument, adjacent to Misery Bay, is dedicated to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a prominent naval leader during the War of 1812. Interpretive panels detailing the story of the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie line the sidewalks surrounding the monument.
Explore Presque Isle's Lighthouses
Presque Isle is home to two lighthouses. The Presque Isle Lighthouse is a still-functioning lighthouse, originally built in 1873. Tours of the grounds and the structure are offered from April to October. The lighthouse’s observation platform offers breathtaking views of Lake Erie. The North Pier Light is sometimes referred to as a lighthouse but technically it is a "light structure”. The light, which is located at the far eastern end of Presque Isle State Park, helps ships and boats navigate their way into the narrow channel to Presque Isle Bay. Its black and white, unique square-pyramidal design is the only surviving example of this type left in the United States and in 2021, the lighthouse was featured on a postage stamp as part of the Mid-Atlantic Lighthouse series done by the United States Postal Service.
Photo (above) by Patrick Grab, of North Pier Light
Take a Tranquil Tour
The lagoons are a quiet, peaceful oasis to become one with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They are best explored via kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or small boat. Spend time up close with turtles, ducks, birds, and other wildlife. When the waters are still, it’s clear enough to watch fish swim by. The park offers free pontoon lagoon tours on a first come, first served basis Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 26 through September 10 at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. Equipment rentals including canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and row boats are available at Presque Isle Canoe & Boat Livery, next to the pontoon boat launch.
Sightsee and Sail
Enjoy a leisurely 14-mile, 90-minute tour of Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie aboard the Lady Kate. This fully narrated sightseeing boat tour includes scenic views of the North Pier Light, Presque Isle Lighthouse, the Erie Land Lighthouse, Presque Isle’s shoreline and beaches, Gull Point Nature Preserve, and Erie’s skyline. Lady Kate tours, including sunset cruises, depart from Perry Monument at various times May through September.
Cycle and soak in the scenery
Pedal your way along the paved 13-mile Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose Trail and experience picturesque views of Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie, and its unique natural beauty. Look closely and you may spot some of the park’s animal inhabitants including waterfowl, beaver, and fox. Presque Isle Yellow Bike Rental at Waterworks Beach has a variety of bicycles including tandem, fat tire, youth-sized, and surreys (four-wheeled, covered quadricycles) so you can tour the park in style!
Chase the setting sun
The beaches of Presque Isle provide the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll to witness one of Erie’s world-class sunsets. The best sunsets views are at Sunset Point, near Barracks Beach as well as Lighthouse Beach, Waterworks Beach, and Pettinato Beach. From vibrant pinks and yellows to soft hues of red and purple, Presque Isle sunsets are truly remarkable and definitely photo-worthy.
Not sure where to watch? Read our suggestions here.