This Midwest State Park Is A Great Destination For A Lakeside Escape

With pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, the beautiful swimming lakes in the Midwest easily rival some of the most popular seaside getaways on both the East and West Coasts. If you're searching for a lakeside escape, make the short drive from Cleveland to Headlands Beach State Park.

Located in Northeastern Ohio, Headlands Beach State Park is a 35-acre beach that borders Lake Erie. It's the largest natural sand beach in Ohio, stretching for a mile. Over 2 million visitors visit this beach yearly to enjoy fun-filled and family-friendly activities. While most of Lake Erie's shoreline is developed, much of the area in Headlands Beach State Park has been left untouched to protect the sandy dunes, wetlands, and marshes. The state park is known for offering incredible views of lakeside wildlife and Lake Erie's famous sunset. In the distance lies the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light, a historic lighthouse that is an iconic staple of the shoreline. Before you pack your bags for a peaceful vacation at Headlands Beach State Park, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Adventures on the beach

For swimming and sunbathing, head to one of the designated swimming areas along Headlands Beach. The water is typically calm and ultra-refreshing on a hot summer day. However, before taking a dip in Lake Erie, be aware of the weather forecast: Windy days can usher in waves, creating currents that may make swimming unsafe. To rent a kayak, paddle boat, or paddle board, you'll have to make your way 15 minutes south of the state park to Mentor Lagoons Marina.

For people not fans of watersports, you can mosey down to the portion of Headlands Beach that's less manicured. The Buckeye State beach is a popular spot to comb for sea glass scattered among the driftwood and pebbles washed ashore. After a long day of beachy activities, you can sit at one of the beach's many picnic areas to grab a bite and take in the sunset.

Headlands Beach State Park also offers unique seasonal activities. In July, the park annually hosts the family-friendly celebration Headlands BeachFest. Attendees can check out local art vendors, enjoy live music, and participate in a family sandcastle-building contest. The Ohio Master Sand Sculpting Competition, featuring art from world-renowned sand sculptors, occurs during the event. In winter, when weather permits, the lakeside park is ideal for sledding and cross-country skiing.

Exploring wildlife at the park

Nature enthusiasts can enjoy a relaxing stroll or bike ride down the Headlands Beach Trail, a mile-long paved path that connects to the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve. You'll not only pass gorgeous views of the lake and lighthouse, but you'll likely catch a glimpse of foxes, white-tail deer, and species of endangered birds that pass through during the spring migration season. If you visit Headlands Beach State Park in late summer, this kid-friendly trail is an excellent place to admire the annual monarch butterfly migration. From Headlands Beach, cyclists can journey 6 miles south to visit Mentor Marsh for more wildlife viewing and birding opportunities.

Camping is prohibited within Headlands Beach State Park, but quaint and rustic accommodations are near the park. You can stay in downtown Mentor or Painesville at a historic hotel like Steele Mansion or a lakeside cabin to wake up to incredible views of Lake Erie. Whether you want to lounge in the sand, find solitude in nature, or have an activity-filled lakeside adventure, Headlands Beach State Park is a wonderful destination for the whole family.