Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
Western Ohio has no shortage of lakes and beaches to visit in the summer. Places like Grand Lake St. Marys and Indian Lake invite tourists to enjoy “Lake Life,” which includes boating, restaurant and bar hopping, renting a cottage on the water and attending a host of festivals, concerts and special events. Other lakes are for seclusion, recreation and camping. This includes Kiser Lake, Lake Loramie and Stillwater Beach Campground in Bradford. Some of the best family beaches are at Buck Creek State Park, Wayne Lakes and Caesar Creek State Park. And, of course, there is a lifetime of experiences to be had along the shores of Lake Erie.
When the summer heat has you beat, here are 10+ places (in alphabetical order) to cool off, or just have fun.
Buck Creek State Park
Springfield | WEBSITE
At nearly a half-mile long, the beach at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield is one of the longest in the state. This means visitors can find their own private part of the beach and spend the day basking in the sun, building sand castles and swimming in the reservoir. The beach has plenty of parking and modern bathroom facilities with showers and drinking water.
Clarence J. Brown Reservoir has more than 14 acres of shoreline and encompasses 1,970 acres. Boating, fishing (walleye and bass mostly) and hiking are all popular at the park, as is camping and disc golf.
Tip: If you need a cold drink or light snack, Howard’s Lakeside General Store is located just up the road from the beach. If you bring a picnic, there are plenty of places in and around the beach area to sit and enjoy.
Caesar Creek State Park Beach
Waynesville | WEBSITE
The compact yet long beach at Caesar Creek State Park is mostly used by families. The beach is nestled in a cove in the woods and has a modern bathhouse and restroom, plus close parking. There are several great ways to work up a sweat before jumping in the water at the beach. For starters, the park has over 15 miles of mountain biking trails. In fact, there are four separate trails, with three of them considered to be fairly challenging wilderness routes. Or, take on the 14.2-mile Perimeter Loop (hiking) Trail, which hugs the entire shoreline of the 2,830-acre lake. The hiking trails at nearby Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve are worth a visit, too.
Tip: The Caesar Creek Lake Visitor Center is top-notch, with exhibits and information about all of the things to do in the park, including fossil hunting, camping and boating.
Grand Lake St. Marys
Celina | WEBSITE
There are four designated swimming areas at Grand Lake St. Marys—known as Ohio’s largest inland lake and the largest hand-dug lake in the world. However, for the most part, the lake is known for its boating opportunities rather than its beaches. Instead, guests choose to rent cottages and villas next to the water, where they sunbathe on their own private deck overlooking the lake, possibly next to a pool.
One such establishment is the fairly new Boardwalk Village. This miniature resort with its own pool and colorful villas, looks like a scene from southern Florida. It overlooks the lake and is close to some of Celina’s most popular attractions, including the lighthouse and marina. The villas are only a few blocks from the heart of downtown Celina, where dining, nightlife and sightseeing await.
Tip: Come hungry! Celina and St. Marys have a number of good restaurants to try. People rave about The Fountain Restaurant, 116 W. Market St.; Willow, 1011 N. Main St.; and The Anchor, 109 S. Main St. in Celina and La Carreta II, 1140 Celina Rd. and Tap House at the Square, 1258 Indiana Ave. in St. Marys.
Hueston Woods State Park
COLLEGE CORNER | WEBSITE
There are a number of places to swim at Hueston Woods State Park, including a small, but well-kept beach, and next to the state park lodge, where families enjoy tubing and floating next to a small boat dock.
If you stay at the lodge, the outdoor pool and an indoor pool are available. If not, head over to the covered bridge and use a rope swing to jump in the water at Four Mile Creek.
Tip: The Smokehouse is a restaurant located inside of the state park lodge, but it’s open to the public. They serve dinner and occasional breakfast buffets, as well as special events, including murder mystery dinners.
Indian Lake State Park
LAKEVIEW | WEBSITE
At close to 1,700 feet in length, Old Field Beach at Indian Lake State Park has plenty of room for everyone. Or, if you’re staying at the state park campground, there’s a designated beach for campers to use.
Like Grand Lake St. Marys, Indian Lake is known more for its boating and nightlife, rather than swimming and sunbathing. However, each of these activities can be enjoyed at the same time by visiting Froggy’s at the Lake, a restaurant/bar that features an outdoor swim-up pool bar, live entertainment, food and more.
Tip: A few hidden treasures at Indian Lake include Lapizzeria Restaurant, the nightlife at Fernie’s Place and The Big Bloody (mary) at Indian Head Roadhouse!
Kiser Lake State Park
CONOVER | WEBSITE
One of the most appealing things about the beach at Kiser Lake State Park is that no motors are allowed in the 396-acre lake. However, paddle boats, kayaks and canoes are welcome and are available to rent at the park’s marina, where food and snacks are also available.
The beach is not very big, but, because of the secluded location of the park, it doesn’t often fill up. The beach is great for families because there is a playground and basketball court next to the water.
Tip: Kiser Lake has its own sailing club, which welcomes new members. LEARN MORE
Northern Ohio | WEBSITE
The shores of Lake Erie cover 312 miles in Ohio and include some of the state’s most popular and renowned attractions and beaches, including the state park lodges (see HERE).
Some of the highlights of touring the shoreline include (from west to east):
Lamb Beach – This secluded beach is located in Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge
Benton Beach – Also located in a wildlife refuge, beach-goers enjoy seclusion on the water
Put-in-Bay – Visit Perry’s Lookout and Crystal Cave, rent jet skis and golf carts and cruise the island, stay in a bed and breakfast or hotel on the island, and much more
Kelleys Island State Park & Glacial Grooves – Not as popular as Put-in-Bay, but just as interesting. Make sure to see Inscription Rock and other places pictured on this page, as well as the newly renovated Glacial Grooves. (see more below)
Marblehead Lighthouse – A popular spot for photographs and lighthouse-lovers
Cedar Point Theme Park – Considered one of the best theme parks in the world
Lakeview Beach – A simple but elegant beach next to a rose garden that features an impressive fountain
Solstice Steps – A large stone seating area that overlooks the beautiful sunsets on Lake Erie from Lakewood, west of Cleveland
Edgewater Beach – This is where people from Cleveland go to sunbathe and swim in the summer
Euclid Beach – Located east of Cleveland, this beach is unique because of a series of little man-made islands that are located offshore
Headlands Beach – This is one of Ohio’s largest beaches and has the capacity to handle a lot of people. The main draw is that the beach is connected to Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve
Conneaut – Located in the very upper-right corner of Ohio and Lake Erie is Conneaut, which is known for its elaborate recreation of D-Day on the lake. This year’s event will take place Aug. 15-17, 2024. Visit ddayohio.us for tickets and more information.
Kelleys Island, located in Lake Erie, is a captivating destination that offers a multitude of attractions for visitors to explore. One of the island’s most intriguing sights is the Glacial Grooves State Memorial. These grooves, considered the largest and best-preserved in the world, were formed approximately 18,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age when the area was covered by glaciers. The immense pressure exerted by the advancing and retreating glaciers sculpted deep grooves into the limestone bedrock, which can still be admired today. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently unveiled more than $2 million in improvements at the site, including new bridges, signage and selfie spots. The memorial is free to visit.
Another interesting historical feature on the island is Inscription Rock Petroglyphs. These ancient petroglyphs (found on a large bolder next to the water) depict intricate symbols and images, offering a glimpse into the island’s ancient past. They were likely engraved about 1,000 years ago.
For a deeper understanding of the island’s history and heritage, visit the Kelleys Island Historical Association Museum. Here, visitors can explore exhibits showcasing various aspects of the island’s past, including the War of 1812, its quarrying industry, and the evolution of island life over the centuries. Additionally, art enthusiasts will appreciate a stop at the Charles Herndon Gallery and Sculpture Garden.
Nature lovers will want to explore Kelleys Island State Park, which spans over 677 acres. The park features sandy beaches, picturesque hiking trails and opportunities for kayaking. Highlights include the East Quarry Trail, offering scenic views, and the North Pond State Nature Preserve, renowned for its exceptional bird-watching opportunities.
For those with a taste for libations, Kelleys Island offers options such as the Kelleys Island Wine Company, where wines made from locally grown grapes can be enjoyed, and the Kelley’s Island Brewery. Food enthusiasts can indulge in local delicacies, including lake perch, at The Village Pump, The Island House Restaurant, Dockers Waterfront Restaurant & Bar, and other establishments.
To access the island, visitors need to take the Kelleys Island Ferry from Marblehead. Once on the island, bicycles and golf carts are available to rent, providing convenient transportation options to explore all that Kelleys Island has to offer. You can also ferry your car to the island.