What to do in East Harbor State Park

East Harbor State Park is situated on a peninsula of land stretching into the waters of Lake Erie, one of the largest freshwater bodies in the world. The history of Lake Erie began with the glacial period when massive sheets of ice gouged and scoured the bedrock of Ohio. Evidence of the force of the ice is found throughout the lake area. Small scratches in the rock surface known as glacial striations are common while major grooves are rare but awesome. The deep depressions left by the glaciers were filled with meltwater forming the series of lakes we know as the Great Lakes.

East Harbor lies on the fringe of Ohio's prairie marsh zone. These wetlands are remnants of the Great Black Swamp, which once covered an area 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. After a period of intense lumbering and draining in the late 1800s, the swamp was nearly destroyed. Only ten percent of Ohio's original wetlands now remain. These wetlands produce more wildlife than any other type of habitat in Ohio. Reptiles and amphibians are numerous including the green frog, American toad, water snake, fox snake and painted turtle. Large numbers of ducks, geese, gulls, terns and other migratory waterfowl delight bird watchers. Middle Harbor is a game sanctuary where black-crowned night herons, egrets, great blue herons and other shorebirds find refuge. Furbearers in the park include muskrat and red fox. Hundreds of migrating songbirds rest here before winging north across the lake.

The region has long been valued as a recreation area. The unique plant and animal life, sandy beaches, marshland and the lake itself led to the development of East Harbor State Park. The park was opened in 1947 and today is one of northern Ohio's most popular vacation spots.

The campground at East Harbor is the largest in the Ohio State Park system with 365 electric sites and 205 non-electric sites. It is equipped with showers, flush toilets, dump station, launch ramp and camp store. Pet camping is permitted on designated sites. A group camp can accommodate 120 units. Two Rent-A-Camp units consisting of a tent, sheltered picnic table, cots, cooler, cook stove and other equipment can be rented during the summer months. Two Rent-A-RV units are also available on full-service sites for weekly rental.

Lake Erie offers unlimited horsepower boating opportunities. The park's marina provides seasonal and day use dock rentals, fuel, launch ramp, supplies and restaurant. Boats and campers can be stored year-round at the marina in a fenced enclosure. Lake Erie, the walleye capital of the world, provides anglers great catches of yellow perch, channel catfish, smallmouth and white bass in addition to walleye. Both East Harbor and West Harbor are excellent for bluegill, crappie and carp.

Thousands of visitors come to East Harbor's 1,500-foot sand beach. A beach concession is available. Picnic areas with fantastic views of the lake and marshlands are equipped with tables and grills. One picnic area is conveniently located next to the beach. Two spacious shelters are reservable; contact the park office for details.

East Harbor's 7-mile trail system leads through the many different habitats within the park. The Middle Harbor Trail skirts the southern edge of the Middle Harbor game sanctuary and includes a stop at a bird observation blind. The short Blackberry Trail near the camp check-in station invites campers to enjoy a pleasant evening stroll. Other foot trails near the swimming beach offer the opportunity to observe the flora and fauna of a beach community.

Hunting for waterfowl is permitted on the eastern side of the offshore islands. Five duck blinds in the park are awarded through a lottery drawing held in August. Contact the park office for details. A valid Ohio fishing and / or hunting license is required.

East Harbor's recreation opportunities are extensive. Visitors will find a variety of picnic sites and facilities, lake swimming, boating opportunities, full-service marina, fishing, hiking, nature study, a seasonal restaurant, hunting, and camping. In winter, the park is available for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, sledding, ice fishing, and ice boating.

See Marblehead Lighthouse State Park for bike route traveling between the two parks.

Located in northern Ohio on Lake Erie, accessible off State Routes 163 and 269.

This state has four distinct seasons and a brilliant fall foliage display in it southern woods during mid October. Winter lasts from December through February with average temperatures near 25 degrees F. Low temperatures dip to single digits, but do not often drop below zero. Northern regions of the state receive average snowfall amounts of 55 inches, while the central and southern regions of the state receive lesser amounts with averages near 30 inches. This difference is caused by lake-affect moisture patterns.

Spring temperatures begin to warm the landscapes of Ohio by mid March and are in full swing by April. Temperatures range from 40 through 70 degrees F through the spring months. This season often brings the most rainfall, before the drying heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot and humid in the interior of Ohio. Temperatures reach above 90 degrees F frequently through July and August. Cooler fall temperatures don't reach the region until mid to late September. This is a pleasant time to visit as the air is crisp with low humidity levels. Ohio's annual precipitation usually reaches slightly above 50 inches.

c/o 1169 N. Buck Road
Lakeside-Marblehead, OH 43440-9610

Phone: 419-734-4424

  • East Harbor State Park Travel Q&A