With both major cities and lots of charming towns, there are lots of great places to visit along Lake Erie. Here are our favorites.
As with all of the Great Lakes, Erie is basically a divot formed from thousands of years of slow glacial molding of the landscape and subsequent melting. It is the warmest of the Great Lakes.
With respect to surface area, it is the 4th largest of the lakes (approx. 9,910 sq. miles), but the smallest by water volume (just 116 cubic miles).
Consequently, it is also the shallowest of the Great Lakes and is known to freeze over occasionally during winter, making for some great ice fishing.
Anglers who dare to brave the elements can expect to catch walleye, steelhead, yellow perch, salmon, and small-mouth bass through holes bored into the ice.
A Bit of History You'll See Along the Way
The lake played a crucial role in the War of 1812.
The Battle of Lake Erie saw U.S. Navy ships defeating the British Navy, gaining control of the lake and regaining Detroit.
Captain Oliver Hazard Perry hoisted his battle flag, emblazoned with the words, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” Out of 934 Americans who fought this battle, only 33 survived.
Lake Erie covers ground over four states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, as it straddles the U.S./Canadian border.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, it provided a quick means of transportation for those engaged in the fur trade as well as settlers hoping to improve their fortunes in the Ohio Country. Its importance grew slowly over the years.
It is the most southern of the Great Lakes, where the majority of its waters flow in through the Detroit River from the upper lakes – Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. Its main outlet is Niagara Falls.
The completion of the Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson River in NY with Lake Erie, provided the first navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the upper Midwest. This allowed untold numbers of farmers to transport their products to market.
Consequently, Cleveland grew as a major. shipping hub thanks to its location on the shoreline.
7 Best Cities and Towns Around Lake Erie
There are both major metropolitan cities and lots of charming small towns all along the U.S. shores of Lake Erie. Here are just the highlights.
We've listed these cities from East to West so you can travel to them in the order they're written! Or, of course, reverse order if you're starting from the West.
Our journey to Lake Erie begins in Buffalo. As New York’s second-largest city, Buffalo is full of surprises. It enjoys plenty of cultural attractions, great nightlife, and a distinctly urban feel, while also having tight-knit communities with a friendly spirit and a real sense of place.
With a population of over 250,000, it is the economic and cultural center of western New York State.
We already talked about Niagara Falls. This is your gateway city to it.
The U.S. side of the falls has lots of parking and lots to see. Your first stop should be the Observation Tower, at Prospect Point, which juts out over Niagara Gorge for a view of all three waterfalls. Trails from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center lead to other viewpoints.
The Aquarium of Niagara is worth a visit.
There are lots of shops and restaurants. Take your time. Check out the Visitor’s Center website ahead of time to plan your time at Niagara Falls.
It's no surprise Niagara Falls is at the top of our Amazing Bucket List from Our RV Lifestyle Community.
Heading west out of Erie on Hwy 5, hook onto Highway 531 to get to Erie, PA, the state’s fourth-largest town. It actually sits on Presque Isle Bay, which is formed by a long, narrow peninsula known as Presque Isle.
Presque Isle State Park is one of the area’s big draws, but the city itself is a great place to take in some art and history.
A truly charming small Ohio town, this is a 50s-era throwback to the way vacation used to be (and probably should be again!). Little has changed in this lovely resort town in the decades since its heyday.
The entire town is only about a mile long and easy to explore in an afternoon.
Browse through the antique stores, stop for a sweet treat at the donut or ice cream shops, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, and take in a game of miniature golf. Then grab lunch or dinner at Eddie’s Grill, which serves up the best burgers, dogs, fish sandwiches, and homemade root beer.
Located about 50 miles southwest of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Highway 20 takes you into this granddaddy of Ohio towns. Known as the rock n' roll capitol, it is home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
Cleveland is a culturally diverse city with world-class museums, professional sports, amusement parks, and the most golf courses per capita in the U.S.
Located just west of Cleveland on Highway 6 and reminiscent of a New England seaport, Vermillion is a quaint historical town that wholeheartedly embraces its nautical heritage. A public beach and lighthouse are within walking distance of unique shops and eateries.
Every June, the town has an annual Festival of Fish – a weekend event with boat parades, races, pageants, contests, food, entertainment, and markets.
From here, hook onto Highway 2, which takes you directly to Toledo.
With a quick jump onto Interstate 75 North, and 58 miles later we come to the last major city in Ohio on our tour. Toledo is a port city that sits on the Maumee River as it joins Lake Erie.
It has played a huge role in American history, and its glass manufacturing contributions have dubbed it “The Glass Capital of the World”.
The motor city is the largest city in Michigan. Known as the home of Motown Records, Detroit has also gained world-class status in the automobile industry, sports world, and great theatre.
After decades of decline and population loss, Detroit is seeing many of its historic buildings renovated, and the downtown core is being revitalized with new developments and attractions.
Your Favorite Cities and Towns Along Lake Erie
We'd love to hear about your travels around Lake Erie! Please share your experiences and recommendations in the comments.
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