10 New Escapes

We all know about — and love — Lake Erie icons like Cedar Point, Niagara Falls and Put-in-Bay, but our shore also is lined with lesser-known treasures just waiting for you to explore.

10 New Escapes

Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway 
Urban Arts and Culture 

Located 2 miles from downtown and a short walk from the city’s only beach, the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood has become one of the most desirable spots for urban living in Cleveland. “It’s a young and vibrant up-and-coming community,” says George Kantzios, co-owner of the Astoria Café and Market, “and we have so much in the way of arts and culture.” In a 40-block stretch between West 45th and 85th streets, you’ll find buildings adorned with giant murals and public art in unconventional places, performing arts spaces like the Near West Theater and Cleveland Public Theatre, plus a movie theater, bars and restaurants that are packed with patrons. 

Eat. The lively Astoria Café and Market serves up a taste of Greece, Italy, Spain and France with small plates, cheese and charcuterie boards paired with wine, beer or cocktails. Pick up other gourmet foods from its market on the way out. astoriacafemarket.com

Stay. Booking a stay with AirBnB is a great way to get to know the neighborhood’s creative residents, such as Ji Kim, an industrial designer who rents a room in her impeccably designed modern apartment in Battery Park. The rooftop offers great views of Lake Erie and the city skyline. Fun fact: She designed the Moen faucet she has installed in her kitchen. airbnb.com/rooms/8050179

Play. From morning runs to sunset beach walks, Edgewater Park is the most happening place in the neighborhood on a summer day. To reach it on foot, take the pedestrian path and tunnel that stretches from West 76th Street in Battery Park to the Edgewater Beach House. Grab a selfie with the Cleveland sign on the upper level or dance on the sand during Edgewater LIVE, the Thursday night concert series that runs through Aug. 1. clevelandmetroparks.com

Locals Love: The diverse neighborhood knows how to put on a good party. “Some of my favorite days include Dyngus Day in April and Dia de los Muertos in November,” says Adam Rosen, the economic development and marketing director for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. “Both involve elaborate parades and are a celebration of diverse cultures. They are can’t-miss festivals along Detroit Avenue.”

Erieau, Ontario
Beach Beauty

It may be located on a stretch of shoreline that is sometimes called Canada’s forgotten coast, but Erieau is only a half-hour south of Chatham-Kent, Ontario. The beach town is best known for its long stretch of idyllic sand and sport fishing in both the shallow water of Rondeau Bay and the depths of Lake Erie.

Eat. The BrewPub at the Bayside Brewing Co. offers an extensive menu, which includes wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches and burgers made with local ingredients when possible. On a beautiful day, sit out on the large patio overlooking Rondeau Bay and wash your meal down with one of the home brews. Long Pond Lager’s name is inspired by the bay, but the golden color looks like a Lake Erie sunset. baysidebrewing.com

Stay. The Erie-O Motel & Marina (formerly the Erieau Motel) has long been known for its friendly hospitality, plus chill waterfront accommodations with a private marina. New owners Paul Renaud and Bridget Chippett want to preserve that vibe, but have focused on sprucing up the property, bringing it a boutique-syle flair, adding a common area for guests to mingle and an attention-grabbing sculpture of a big red hand. Guests can choose from seven motel suites, three cottages and two trailer lots. erieomotel.com

Play. Sport fishing is a popular pastime in Erieau. The fish are plentiful in Rondeau Bay, where you’ll find largemouth and smallmouth bass feeding in the weedy shallows. In the heart of summer, fishing charters, such as Nature Buoy Charters (naturebuoycharters.com), head out into Lake Erie to go after walleye and rainbow trout. When you get back, Molly and OJ’s Restaurant will prepare a shore lunch from the fresh catch, including all the accompaniments (facebook.com/mollyandojs).

Locals Love: 
Captain Chuck Irwin from Nature Buoy Charters knows how to reel in the fish, but, after he’s tucked his boat away for the night, you’ll find him at The Sandbar on the lookout for the Lake Erie Monster — a generous portion of walleye enveloped in a tortilla wrap stuffed also with bacon, Parmesan cheese, tomato, greens and roast garlic aioli. “The sauce always makes me want more,” says Irwin. 

Marblehead, Ohio
Gateway to the Islands

Marblehead, Ohio, is home to the Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line and only about 10 miles from ferries that run to Put-in-Bay, so it’s a great base for exploring the islands. But it’s also a worthy trip in its own right. Must-see sites include the Marblehead Lighthouse (marbleheadlighthouseohio.org), where tours are offered daily from noon to 4 p.m. through Labor Day, and Lakeside Chautauqua (lakesideohio.com), which boasts a beach, shuffleboard, a new pickleball complex, a wide variety of arts-and-crafts classes, near-nightly entertainment and a quaint village vibe.  

Eat. Some of the best water views around can be found at Cleats (cleatswings.com), which offers live music on weekends and bar food like wings, burgers and pizza. Avery’s Café is the place to go for breakfast, while the Hibachi Pizza from Sloopy’s Sports Café (sloopyspizza.com) has a cult following that extends well beyond Marblehead and even Ohio. In the mood for Lake Erie Perch? Hit the Galley (marbleheadgalley.com).

Stay. The Red Fern Inn (redferninn.com) is in the historic limestone Marblehead Schoolhouse. Four suites feature hardwood floors, upscale kitchens and a bit of room to spread out, plus a complimentary bottle of wine from the onsite Rocky Point Winery.

Play. Your options are nearly endless, including heading to Cedar Point amusement park or to the islands. But if you want to stay on land, head to Lakeside Chautauqua for a game of mini golf right at the water’s edge, an afternoon of shuffleboard at the 26-court complex, a day at the pool, or even a pickleball or tennis match. Make sure to grab a copy of the Lakesider newspaper on your way through the gates for a full schedule of events. 

Locals Love: Dennis and Nancy Whelan have been spending summers in Marblehead for decades, but they still enjoy the simple pleasures. One of their favorites is picking up a peach sundae (made with local peaches) at Brown’s Dairy Dock and then heading to Lake Point Park, where you can see across the water to Cedar Point Amusement Park. Nancy also strongly advises checking out not just the famous Marblehead Lighthouse, but also the Keeper’s House. “A lot of people don’t go around to the back,” she says, “but there’s so much to see there.”

Erie, Pennsylvania
Play by the Bay

Erie is best known for nearby Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula and, quite frankly, one of the most unique and beautiful spots anywhere along Lake Erie. Yet, it’s only been in recent years that Erie has taken advantage of its own sparkling shoreline across the bay. “Growing up in Erie, we didn’t have a lot of the waterfront options we have now,” says Kelly Karns, founder of Erie Food Tours (eriefoodtours.com). “It was all factories and industrial activity.” Change has taken some time, but now masts from sailboats and tall ships have replaced spewing smoke stacks. Plus, Dobbins Landing’s recreational and dining opportunities at the sparkling water’s edge have given Erie the opportunity to live up to its nickname, “The Gem City.”

Eat. The Cove is one of the more casual options for waterside dining on Presque Isle Bay. The restaurant serves seafood, sandwiches and burgers with a side of live music, tropical décor. thecoveerie.com

Stay. The Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel is the highest-ranking property in the Sheraton brand, but it’s the million-dollar views of Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie, Bicentennial Tower and the Erie skyline that really captivates guests. Rates at the recently renovated hotel start at $215 per night, midweek. sheratoneriehotel.com

Play. Presque Isle State Park has 11 beaches from which to choose, plus a whole slew of activities to enjoy, from biking and kayaking to birdwatching and fishing. Park staff members lead guided pontoon boat tours through the lagoon every day on a first-come, first-serve basis until Sept. 2. To snag one of the 16 coveted seats, sign up a half-hour before the departure times of 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Pontoon Station next to the Presque Isle Canoe & Boat Livery on Graveyard Pond. dcnr.pa.gov

Locals Love: 
Kelly Karns always has beach toys and a blanket in the trunk of the car for impromptu visits to Presque Isle State Park with her family. “We especially like to go to Beach 1 on Wednesday nights for the Sunset Music Series,” she says. “With little kids, we like to pick up pizza from Crazy Oven (crazyoven.com) and take it with us. It’s right outside the park.” The summer concert series starts at 5:30 p.m. and runs through the end of July. 

Lorain, Ohio
Downtown on the Rebound

In the last decade, Lorain has taken great strides toward reinvention. Nowhere is that more evident than on Broadway Avenue, which is on the mend with a makeover under way and a new generation of retailers and cafes moving into once-empty buildings. “There’s so much potential here,” says Mary Fields, who, along with Mindy Kay, owns Brew & Stew, which serves up coffee, house-made soup and other craveables. “I know in my heart things are going to happen. I have a feeling that the city is going to become a foodie destination.” Brew & Stew is doing its part by offering decadent liquid-nitrogen frappuccinos made with Rising Star cold brew, vanilla bean simple syrup and a hazelnut cold foam on top. 

Eat. Located in an unassuming building on Oberlin Avenue, Diso’s Bistro keeps the menu small to focus on great taste in every bite. Customers rave about the potato skins and hand-cut filet mignon, topped with roasted garlic herb butter and served with Lyonnaise potatoes and grilled asparagus. facebook.com/disobistro

Stay. Book a night at the Beacon B&B and the entire four-bedroom century home becomes a private retreat for you and up to nine other guests. While you can see the lake from the house, head across the street to the 20-acre Lakeview Park for unforgettable sunsets. homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p979892

Play. Paddling is a relaxing and affordable way to get out on the water. Located at the Black River Wharf Boat Launch, Grumpy's Bait Bucket rents kayaks for $10 per hour; and canoes and tandem kayaks for $15. Because the bait shop opens early for fishermen, you can get out on the water as early as 6 a.m., before the heat of the day. Head upstream to pass through the heron rooker or downstream to Lake Erie. 440-244-5370

Locals Love: 
“Every morning you’ll find me walking the beach with a cup of coffee in my hand,” says Kelly Kucirek Kierpaul, who owns the Beacon B&B. “The sand shifts overnight so every day it looks different.” Lakeview Park is also known for its historical circular rose garden and a view of the Lorain Harbor Lighthouse. “It’s the jewel of the port,” she adds. “The only view better is from our sailboat as we sail past it.”

More on the Shore: 5 More Destinations to Love

Luna Pier, Michigan
Luna Pier got its start as a resort town, catering to families coming from Toledo, Detroit and beyond. More recently, many of the seasonal summer cottages have been upgraded for year-round laidback lakeside living. The pleasant sandy beach still draws visitors to the water's edge. So does the horseshoe-shaped pier that extends out into Lake Erie for shore fishing and lake gazing. If you can tear yourself away from the view, come hungry to Chateau Louise (facebook.com/chateaulouiselunapier), a longtime favorite steak-and-seafood joint that has recently changed management. The unfussy vibe and heaping portions that locals love are still intact, but there are a few welcome additions.
Photos: https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=99591310%40N00&sort=date-taken-desc&text=luna%20pier&view_all=1

Westfield, New York
The small town of Westfield is the buckle of the Grape Belt — the oldest and largest concord grape-growing region in the world that stretches from Pennsylvania to Silver Creek, New York. “During the harvest season, there’s a very sweet smell in the air all along Route 20,” says Christine McKane, the manager of the Grape Discovery Center (grapediscoverycenter.com), which highlights the area’s grape history. Stop in for year-round access to locally made products, including 100 percent pure concord juice, candles and pie filling. A short drive through the countryside will bring you to Nobel Winery (noblewinery.com), where you can sample wine and take in views of Lake Erie.

Windsor, Ontario
When you hear Windsor, you probably think “casino.” Whether or not you like to gamble, Caesars Windsor (caesars.com/caesars-windsor) does offer some of the best lodging, dining and entertainment around (both Ringo Starr and Martina McBride are performing in August). The area also is home to more than a dozen highly regarded wineries (visitwindsoressex.com), as well as Point Pelee National Park (pc.gc.ca). You can hike, cycle, paddle or just make your way to the southernmost point of mainland Canada, a spit of sand that shifts with the waves and winds. Stay for the day or rent one of 24 tentlike structures, which allow you to take in the stars in this designated Dark Sky Preserve. 

Dunkirk, New York
Dunkirk was first settled in the early 19th century, but its bay was known long before that for providing a safe haven from storms for Lake Erie’s earliest navigators. Now, as Dunkirk Harbor draws summer crowds for bird watching along the break wall, kayaking, sailing, fishing, plus shopping and eating at the Dunkirk Boardwalk Market. Visit on Thursday evening for Music on the Pier. Nearby, at Point Gratiot, take a guided tour of the Dunkirk Lighthouse (dunkirklighthouse.com) and climb to the observation tower. If you’d prefer to stay grounded, perfect your downward dog with Yoga Underground (yogaundergroundfredonia.com), which offers a sunset yoga class at the lighthouse.

Middle Bass Island, Ohio
There’s a reason Middle Bass has long been overshadowed by neighboring Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island. There’s not nearly as much to do here, nor is there as much lodging or dining. But the big trade-off is that this island is as peaceful as any place on earth. Take the Miller Ferry (millerferry.com) over from Catawba and then do your exploring in one of two ways — on a golf cart rented from J.F. Walleye’s (Jfwalleyes.net) or on a kayak rented from Middle Bass Island State Park (parks.ohiodnr.gov). Looking to spend the night? The Middle Bass Inn is a cozy bed-and-breakfast with amazing sunset-over-the-water views.