Road Trip Guide: Presque Isle State Park

Erie’s Bicentennial Tower at sunset provides a beautiful view.
Erie’s Bicentennial Tower at sunset provides a beautiful view. Photo provided

You don’t have to leave Pennsylvania to take your family to a top quality beach this summer.

Presque Isle State Park in Erie County boasts 11 miles of beautiful beach along Lake Erie.

Thousands flock to the park every season, and it’s easy to see why. They soak up the sun on its beaches, or take advantage of its outdoor recreational activities and its abundance of wildlife.

The 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie is known by locals as the state’s only seashore. Its sandy beaches, which are free to use and watched by lifeguards, make it easy to forget you didn’t pay more on a trip to the Atlantic Ocean.

And to get a breathtaking view of Presque Isle, climb the Bicentennial Tower at Bayfront.

This 187-foot tower at Dobbins Landing was built to commemorate the 1995 celebration of the city’s 200th birthday.

The peninsula is about three-and-a-half hours from State College on interstates 80 and 79.

Tourism officials in Erie say Presque Isle is the most visited park in Pennsylvania, with roughly 4 million guests annually.

If not everyone in the family likes a beach, that’s OK, too. The park also includes a 13-mile trail that runs along the entire length of the peninsula.

Canoes and kayaks can be rented and used to explore lagoons, which are otherwise isolated and are teeming with wildlife. More than 420 species of birds have been recorded there.

The park’s gateway is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. Billing itself as an educational center, the environmentally friendly facility aims to teach visitors about the unique habitats on the peninsula. The center also features a 75-foot observation tower, and on a clear day, it’s said you can see all the way across the lake to Canada.

While you’re there ...

•  A shorter trip than to the great north is about a 10 minute drive to Erie’s Bayfront. The area has seen a resurgence in recent years, and is home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants.

•  The spot is also home to the

Erie Maritime Museum

and the Flagship Niagara, one of the ships commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry in his naval victory over British forces in the War of 1812, www.flagshipniagara.org.

•  Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort is a large indoor water park a short drive from waterfront. A 30,000-square-foot wave pool added in 2011 made it the third-largest indoor water park in the nation, according to its owner,



•  Waldameer and Water World is an amusement park and water park just outside Presque Isle. The amusement park features 75 rides, including several roller coasters and attractions for children, www.waldameer.com.

•  At Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens, a stroll through the zoo, home to nearly 400 animals and 11 gardens, takes about two hours. The zoo features a polar bear, white rhinoceroses, jaguars and other animals,



•  Erie Art Museum, boasts a collection of more than 7,000 objects, from Pueblo pottery to local works, and shares collections with other national and international partners, erieartmuseum.org/index.html.