A Visitor's Guide to East Harbor State Park in Northwest Ohio

Updated on April 27, 2017
Alyssa Nichol profile image

Alyssa loves exploring new places with her family and taking a lot of pictures! She is a wife, a mom, and a coffee enthusiast.

Welcome to East Harbor State Park - Entrance sign.
Welcome to East Harbor State Park - Entrance sign.

East Harbor State Park is one of the best state parks in Northwest Ohio. It is perfect for a family getaway or a quiet retreat. In addition, there are plenty of unique opportunities to observe wetland wildlife. East Harbor is located on Catawba Island, along the shores of Lake Erie, and on the fringe of Ohio's prairie marsh zone. It is a prime destination for people to enjoy unlimited outdoor activities, including:

  • Camping
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking and Wildlife Observation

A few Canadian Geese along the entrance to East Harbor State Park.
A few Canadian Geese along the entrance to East Harbor State Park.


Many people enjoy camping at East Harbor State Park. It has the largest campground of all of the Ohio State Parks. Gorgeous scenery, unique views of wildlife, and with over 500 camp sites to choose from, including full-service, electric hookups, and non-electric hookups, there is an option for everyone. There is a playground with a volleyball net, a playground for younger children, and a basketball course located in the camping area. The bathhouse is spacious, clean, and has plumbing and showers. There are also dump stations and a launch ramp in the area. The camp store has a variety of supplies, as well as bike and sporting equipment rentals. Pets are also permitted in designated areas. During the summer, the naturalists host educational programs for children and adults.

For more information or to reserve a camp site please visit: http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/eastharbor#reserve

A view of the spacious beach at East Harbor State Park.
A view of the spacious beach at East Harbor State Park.


East Harbor State Park is a popular swimming destination. It has a beautiful, sanded beach that spans 1,500 feet. There is plenty of room to lay out your towel and soak up the sun or take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the beautiful scenery. This section of Lake Erie is the cleanest and a pleasant place to swim. The slope of the sand floor is very gentle, which makes this a great place for youngsters and waders alike. Shade trees line the beach and offer plenty of spots to get out of the sun, too. The bathhouse is modern and kept clean. This is my favorite place in Ohio to swim!

A beautiful view of Lake Erie on the beach at East Harbor State Park.
A beautiful view of Lake Erie on the beach at East Harbor State Park.


When it comes to fishing, East Harbor State Park is a well-kept secret. Along the rocky shorelines, you can find pan-fish and largemouth bass. An abundance of bluegill can be found in the weed beds. Anglers also enjoy catching rock bass and perch.

East Harbor State Park has a few different fishing ponds, including a youth-only pond. Every year they host a family fishing day where children can catch trout.

Note: Ohio law requires a fishing license for anyone age 16 and older.

Canadian Geese enjoying Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park.
Canadian Geese enjoying Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park.


There is unlimited horsepower boating on Lake Erie. Many people enjoy a variety of water sports including jet skiing, tubing, and water skiing. The undeveloped north harbor is the best spot to kayak or paddle boat. The shoreline offers spectacular views of wildlife including muskrat, raccoon, and mink. Bald eagles, herons, and egrets may also be spotted. East Harbor Marina is located off of SR 269 and has docks available to rent, as well as fuel and boat supplies.

Hiking and Wildlife Observation

East Harbor has eleven hiking trails to choose from, ranging from easy to moderate. The trails lead through many different wildlife habitats in the park and around to the beach. East Harbor encompasses wetlands that are the remnants of the Great Black Swamp. These wetlands produce more wildlife than any other habitat in Ohio. There are opportunities to observe an abundance of waterfowl that will captivate any birdwatcher. Additionally in the spring and fall, migratory song birds rest in areas along the lake before heading north. Wildlife enthusiasts will delight in observing the numerous reptiles and amphibians, including the green frog and painted turtle.

Butterflies along a trail at East Harbor State Park.
Butterflies along a trail at East Harbor State Park.
A gorgeous view of the sky, walking along a trail at East Harbor State Park.
A gorgeous view of the sky, walking along a trail at East Harbor State Park.
Seagulls on the beach at East Harbor State Park.
Seagulls on the beach at East Harbor State Park.
A Heron and other birds resting on the Break Wall in Lake Erie.
A Heron and other birds resting on the Break Wall in Lake Erie.

Winter Activities

East Harbor State Park is a great destination for Winter time recreation. There is no better way to enjoy the snow, cold, and ice than being outdoors having fun! There are five trails for snowmobiling and a sledding hill. There are opportunities for cross country skiing or ice skating. When Lake Erie has frozen over and the ice is felt to be thick enough, ice fishing and ice boating are favored activities.

East Harbor State Park:
1169 N Buck Rd, Lakeside Marblehead, OH 43440, USA

get directions

A gorgeous view of Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park

Annual Events

East Harbor hosts many fun events throughout the year including:

  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Family Fishing Day
  • Independence Day Celebration with Fireworks Display
  • Conservation Day
  • Halloween Campout

Area Attractions

There are many places to visit and a lot of things to do in the area.

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is six miles down the road. Visit the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes.

Kelleys Island State Park is only a boat ride away. You can take the Miller Ferry across Lake Erie to visit the Glacial Grooves, hike around the island, or enjoy lunch at one of the delicious restaurants.

Cheesehaven is just around the corner on East Harbor Road. This is a world famous cheese shop and old fashioned candy store in Port Clinton, Ohio. They offer a variety of specialty handcrafted cheeses, smoked meats, taffies, and much more. When visiting the area, this is a must-see place.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is the place to be for wildlife and bird enthusiasts. People come from all over to witness the spring migration of song birds, including the North American Warbler. They hold an annual birding festival in May with many activities, such as demonstrations of bird banding and guided bird walks.

The Liberty Aviation Museum is also close by on East State Road in Port Clinton, Ohio. This is a fully working museum that features the WWII B-25 Mitchell bomber and other aircraft, vehicles, and artifacts. They also offer 15 minute and 30 minute plane rides.

Adjacent to the museum is the Tin Goose Diner. It is an authentically restored 1950's diner that overlooks the airport runway. You do not have to visit the museum to eat in. They have delicious sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, salads, and they serve breakfast all day.

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world, is just a half-hour drive in Sandusky, Ohio. It is the second oldest operational amusement park in the U.S. Many people like to camp at East Harbor State Park in lieu of staying at a hotel when visiting Cedar Point. It's a great way to save money.

East Harbor State Park is a great place for a picnic!
East Harbor State Park is a great place for a picnic!

East Harbor State Park offers something for everyone. It is a quiet park and has many places to relax, take peaceful walks, or enjoy a picnic. It is a great family destination and the perfect place to enjoy numerous outdoor activities during any season.

For more information about East Harbor State Park please visit http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/eastharbor#overview

Questions & Answers

  • Is there a fee for swimming at the East Harbor State Park in Northwest Ohio?

    No. In Ohio, you do not have to pay to enter a state park. At East Harbor, you can freely swim in the Lake. Be sure to read the park rules sign on the beach, be safe, and have fun!

  • How is the beach at East harbor? I read a post indicating not much beach area.

    Well, that would depend on which beach you are referring to. The main beach is 1,500 feet long and the sand is so soft! There's always plenty of room. The boater's beach, further back down a pathway, is not very big, but more private.

© 2016 Alyssa


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