Roadtrip! / Presque Isle, PA
A scenic beach resort with something for everyone
Outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, families with kids
107 minutes • 107 miles
I-90 W -> US 20 W -> 179 N
Presque Isle is an island-like land formation jutting out into in Lake Erie, attached to the mainland at Erie, Pennsylvania, by a three-mile long causeway (which technically makes it a peninsula). Just an hour and forty-five minutes west of Buffalo down the I-90, the entire 3,200-acre island is home to Presque Isle State Park—and a staggering array of outdoor activities.
The park is dotted with ponds and lagoons and surrounded by the lake and a protected bay, making it a favorite fishing destination for perch, walleye, bass, northern pike, and more. Explore the maze of winding, calm waterways by kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard (rentals, lessons, and tours are available) for hours of calm, quiet encounters with nature. A ninety-minute guided tour aboard the sixty-five-foot lake vessel Lady Kate departs from the Perry Monument and explores the island’s lighthouses, history, ecology, and more.
A series of short, scenic, interconnected hiking trails wind past ponds, fishing spots, forests, and historic points (like a WWII firing range). Six distinct ecological zones within the park feature a diverse array of wildflowers, butterflies, amphibians, and animals, and BirdWatching Magazine named the park one of the top birding spots in the country. Some trails, fishing piers, and beaches are ADA accessible.
Cyclists can circumnavigate the island via the 13.5-mile Karl Boyes Recreational Trail, a scenic paved loop that’s part of 518-mile Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Bring your own bike or rent a bicycle, tricycle, peddle surrey, rollerblades, or kid trailer when you arrive.
Nine clean, sandy beaches offer swimming, volleyball, food and beverage concessions, changing rooms, and plenty of shelters outfitted with picnic tables and charcoal grills (BYO charcoal) for picnics. During the summer, Beach 1 rocks with the UPMC Sunset Music Series and Food Truck Wednesday June 5 through July 17 from 5:30 p.m. until sunset.
If rain catches you by surprise, head back to the mainland and step inside the massive LEED-certified Tom Ridge Environmental Center to learn about the island’s wildlife and ecology. Free admission lets you experience hands-on exhibits, climb the seventy-five-foot glass observation tower with panoramic views of the island and bay, or grab a bite to eat at the café.
Sara’s Restaurant is a quirky ’50s-style diner known for its ice cream, simple burger joint menu, and carnival-tented outdoor seating, located at the entrance to the causeway.
Ugly Tuna Tavern, located about a mile before the causeway, has happy hour drink specials and notable wings, and dogs are welcome; there’s even a pup menu.
Beach Zero is a mom-and-pop shop just before the entrance to the park that’s stocked with last-minute beach essentials and souvenirs.
Lake Erie Bait & Tackle on Peninsula Drive carries a huge selection of live bait, equipment, and gear for all types of fishing with knowledgeable staff to help.