Budget Travel: Presque Isle State Park with Kids and dogs. The Park is an amazing outdoor resource with plenty to do for a long weekend. The park is very impressive especially compared to the many State Parks in NYS that we have visited.
Presque Isle State Park with Kids offers lake side beaches, hiking trails, inner streams and ponds to kayak and paddle board in and fishing as well. Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie.
An Outdoor Wonderland
Presque Isle State Park is an outdoor wonderland for families including pets. It’s easy to find parking at one of the many beaches, hiking trails and fishing spots. Because there’s so many options it displaces the crowds throughout the park. In one place you have so many options for recreational activities. The water at some beaches is actually fairly calm perfect for swimming. The inland streams and ponds are great for kayaking and paddleboarding because there aren’t strong currents.
Before you head into Presque Isle stop at the new Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC). It’s an educational center teaching visitors about Presque Isle. As well the many different forms of life that inhabit this unique peninsula as well as a center for research, contributing to conservation efforts and promoting environmental awareness, helping to preserve the unparalleled beauty of Presque Isle. There is free admission to the interactive exhibits and the 75-foot observation tower.
Where to Stay
There are several nice hotels along the Erie, bayfront. We chose the Courtyard Marriott Erie Bayfront for 2 reasons. One being that we had 2 Marriot 35k certificates that were expiring. We specifically were looking for a good destination to use them. There is another Bayfront Marriott, but the Courtyard has a really nice heated outdoor infinity pool as well as an indoor pool that overlooks the water. It’s also pet friendly, and we were taking our dog along with us. I highly recommend this hotel. We really enjoyed our stay and spent each evening swimming.
Courtyard Marriott Erie Bayfront
The Courtyard Erie Bayfront is a really great hotel to stay at with kids and dogs. The pool is open until 10pm every day but the last hour 9-10pm is adult only. Its actually a great service because there tends to be a lot of kids and the pools aren’t huge. There is still plenty of space in the pools. There’s an exterior stair case connecting the 2 pools which are 1 floor apart and it’s easy to move between the 2.
Camping at Presque Isle State Park
While camping is not allowed inside Presque Isle State Park, Sarah’s Campground is located just outside of the park. It’s the ideal place to camp when visiting the park. Known more for it’s location this campground does not have secluded large campsites so if you are looking for privacy look further out. Beach camping is popular and fills up fast. Tent camping is first come, first serve, for both the beach and/ or the bayside (pet friendly) areas of the campground and is always non-reservable. They recommend that you call the night before to inquire about conditions and availability and they start a waiting list as early as 7:30 am.
Sara’s Campgroun offers open & wooded campsites for RV’s & tents with Picnic tables & fire rings. Some with Full hookups, Tenting on the beach as well as Seasonal sites. The Campgrounds has a General store as well as clean, modern restrooms and showers and a Laundry facility, Game room, Playground and Basketball hoop. Firewood & Ice is available for sale. Crazy Oven Restaurant and Beach Zero Souvenir Shop are located onsite as well.
Where to Eat
Sara’s Restaurant is located next to Sara’s Campground right outside the State Park. The prices are reasonable for casual fair and you should visit their website to print coupons in advance to save more money. While sara’s is very close to the State Park I recommend packing lunch so that you save time.
I recommend planning to pack your lunch so you can spend as much time inside the park.
Federal Hill BBQ is another great option in the city of Erie, PA. just make sure you check their hours because they are not open Saturday evening or Sundays.
What to Do
If you can’t make it to the ocean a beach on the great lakes is the next best thing. The water at the beach we stopped at was fairly calm and definitely refreshing (read cold) but it was Memorial Day and we expected it to be. It didn’t stop the kids from having a blast.
Beaches are open daily from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, unless otherwise posted. The regular hours are 12:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M. Inside designated guarded zones, leashed dogs are permitted in the tree line area only. Outside of designated guarded zones, leashed dogs are permitted on the sand and in the water. We headed to lighthouse beach and enjoyed wading in the water with our pup.
Presque Isle Beaches
- Beach #1: This long stretch of sand is located near the park entrance and has restrooms and a reservable pavilion.
- Beach #3 (Barracks Beach): Near Beach #1, this beach has restrooms and three first-come, first-served picnic pavilions. This is a smoke-free beach.
- Beach #6 (Lyons Beach): This large beach has sand volleyball courts, a beach house with changing areas, restrooms, and a food and beverage concession.
- Beach #7 (Waterworks Beach) This activity or structure is ADA accessible. In addition to restrooms, this beach features a ramp that provides ADA access to the water’s edge. Beach wheelchairs are available at the Public Safety Building. This beach is adjacent to picnic areas, including playground equipment, the Rotary Pavilion, and other reservable picnic shelters.
- Beach #8 (Pettinato Beach) This activity or structure is ADA accessible. In addition to changing areas, restrooms, food and beverage concession, this beach features a ramp that provides ADA access to the water’s edge. Beach wheelchairs are available at the Public Safety Building.
- Mill Road Beaches: Stone Jetty, Short Jetty, Sawmill, Ainsworth, Goddard. These beaches allow visitors to enjoy unspoiled, relatively quiet shoreline. Restrooms are at Sawmill. Swimming is prohibited at the Mill Road Beaches. Visitors may walk the shoreline and use the shaded picnic areas. This is a smoke-free beach.
- Beach #9 (Pine Tree) This beach has picnic facilities, a reservable picnic pavilion, and a restroom.
- The Beach #10 (Budny Beach): Equipped with a beach house with changing areas, restrooms, and food and beverage concession, this beach lies between the Sunset Point area (popular with kite flyers and wind surfers) and Gull Point.
- Beach #11 (Kohler Beach): This is the most sheltered beach and features shallow water, a large sandy beach, and a beach house with changing areas, restrooms, and a food and beverage concession. Beach #11 is adjacent to picnic areas, playground equipment, and a picnic pavilion.
Hiking at Presque Isle State Park
The Park offers 11 miles of trails. Due to fluctuating lake levels, portions of trails may be seasonally flooded and impassable without appropriate footwear. Check out the Presque Isle State Park Trail Map (PDF) to help plan your day and which trails to hike.
Presque Isle Hikes
- A-Trail: This trail is only 0.2-mile, easy hike, Out-and-back trail This short trail connects Pine Tree Picnic Area to Dead Pond Trail. The trail passes through natural sand ridges. Some low areas of the trail are consistently covered in water due to flooding.
- B-Trail: this 0.25 mile easy Connector trail connects Pine Tree Road to Dead Pond Trail and passes through a stand of pines.
- Canoe Portage Trail: this 0.25 mile easy Out-and-back trail is a short walk between sand dunes and forest connects Pettinato Beach (Beach 8) to Marina Lake.
- Dead Pond Trail is a 2.0 miles easy Out-and-back trail that leads over several former dunes and through several distinct ecological zones. Hikers will pass through oak-maple forest, pines, and sand plains.
- Duck Pond Trail: This 0.5 mile easy Out-and-back trail begins at Duck Pond and intersects the Canoe Portage Trail and connects with the Old Gas Well Trail. The northern section of the trail may be muddy.
- Fox Trail: This 0.5 mile easy Connector trail winds through wooded swamps and oak-maple forests proving a forested byway between Sidewalk Trail and a portion of the Multi-purpose Trail. It is maintained as a cross-country ski trail in the winter.
- Graveyard Pond Trail: This 0.75 mile easy Out-and-back trail with modern restrooms at the Trailhead as well as potable water, picnic tables, benches. The trail follows the shoreline along Graveyard Pond, which legend says was the final resting place for many of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s men during the winter of 1812-1814. There are Two boat landings along the trail that offer scenic views of the lagoons and Big Pond.
- Gull Point Trai: This 1.5 miles difficult Out-and-back trail winds itself through Gull Point natural area. Hikers usually see all phases of succession in this constantly evolving area. From April 1st to November 30th access is only permitted on the trail surface due to nesting birds. Much of the trail is sandy, but portions are consistently becoming more wet or water covered due to changing lake elevations. Before hiking Gull Point Trail, visitors are encouraged to stop at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center to find out about trail conditions.
- Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose National Recreation Trail is a 13.5 miles easy Loop Multi-Purpose Trail and extension makes a 13.5-mile circuit in the park. This paved trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail. This ADA accessible trail is popular with bicyclists, in-line skaters, and joggers.
- Long Pond Trail: This 1.0 mile easy Connector trail follows the shoreline of Long Pond, one of the ponds within the lagoon. About halfway along this trail is a boat landing, which is a popular fishing spot and offers a scenic view of the lagoon. The trail is usually wet and has active beaver activity including a channel the beavers have cut through the trail near the eastern trailhead.
- Marsh Trail: This 0.25 mile easy Connector trail bisects Cranberry Pond, one of the many ponds on Presque Isle and connects to several other trails. Songbirds move throughout the brush bordering both sides of the path.
- North Pier Trail: This 0.7 mile easy Out-and-back trail follows the shoreline between North Pier and Beach 11, along one of the sand ridges. An old firing range used for training during World War II may be seen along this trail.
- Old Gas Well Trail : This 0.5 mile easy Out-and-back trail follows a ridge between Beach 7 and the Marina. The trail passes a gas well that produces gas used at Presque Isle State Park.
- Pine Tree Trail: This 0.7 mile easy Out-and-back trail follows the edge of a sand plain community and a stand of pines. Along this trail are the remains of the biology field lab that was used by Dr. O.E. Jennings to study plant succession on Presque Isle.
- Ridge Trail: This 0.5 mile easy Out-and-back trail follows the edge of Cranberry Pond along a portion of ridge that was a beach dune 300 years ago. Hike out-and-back or connect into several other trailheads for a longer hike.
- Sidewalk Trail: This 1.25 miles easy Out-and-back historic trail was constructed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service as a path from the Presque Isle Lighthouse to the U.S. Lighthouse Service boathouse in Misery Bay. The trail was once a wooden boardwalk and was resurfaced with concrete in 1925.
- PA Seaway Trail: The Seaway Trail, which follows the Lake Erie Shoreline through Erie County from New York to Ohio and includes the Karl Boyes Multi-purpose Trail, is designated as a Pennsylvania Scenic Byway. this passes by several hotels on the Lake Erie waterfront.
Lake Erie is a great place to fish whether from a boat or on the shore. There are many places to fish from shore and we found parking was available given the variety of locations. Here’ are some of the popular fishing sites.
- Waterworks and the Ferry Dock
- East and West piers
- Perry Monument
- North Pier
- All boat landings
If you are not sure where you want to fish you may want to decide based on the type of fish typically found in the Bay and Lake. Common species in Lake Erie are Perch, Bass, Walleye, Trout, and Steelhead. Common species in Presque Isle Bay are Panfish, Perch, Bass, Muskellunge, Walleye, Northern pike, Crappies, Smelt, and Steelhead.
Boating at Presque Isle State Park with Kids and Dogs
Presque Isle State Park is a wonderful place for boating. Non-powered craft and registered motorboats are permitted. Internal combustion engines are prohibited in the interior lagoons, which are defined as the continuous body of water between Misery Bay and Marina Lake, excluding Graveyard Pond.
The interior lagoons are wonderful for kayaking and paddleboarding as there isn’t a strong currently or waves. Rentals are available in the interior lagoons if you don’t have your own boat.
Beaching of boats along the Presque Isle shoreline is permitted 100 feet outside of designated guarded zone areas and at the Gull Point Natural Area between April 1 and November 30. A slow minimum height swell speed must be observed within all park waters, which includes all waters within 500 feet of the shoreline.
A total of four launching areas are available, which can accommodate various sizes of craft. Fluctuations in lake levels may impact launching procedures.
- Vista Launch is only recommended for small watercraft and personal watercraft (jet skis)
- Niagara Launch has two ramps and can accommodate small- to medium-sized craft
- West Pier Launch area is the largest facility with four launching lanes and is recommended for larger watercraft
- The Lagoon Launch area can accommodate small- to medium-sized craft
Open May 1 through October 31, the Marina has nearly 500 slips that can accommodate boats up to 42 feet in length. For additional information, call the Marina Office (seasonal) at 814-833-0176 or 814-833-7424.
A park concession in the marina has:
- Gasoline and diesel fuel
- Sewage pump-out station
- Variety of food and refreshment items
Presque Isle Canoe and Boat Livery
On Graveyard Pond across from Misery Bay, a boat rental offers Canoes, Kayaks, Small motorboats and Pontoon boats. The boat livery is open from 8:00 A.M. – 8:00 P.M., from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. on weekends during mid-April through mid-October. Contact the boat rental at 814-838-3938 for additional information.
This is also a good spot to launch your own kayak and or non-motorized boat. Water conditions can change dramatically in a very short period of time. Please heed all weather notices.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following, Boat registration, Launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania state parks — available at most state park offices. Launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations and laws apply.
When we were visiting, we were told our inflatable kayaks did not require a launching permit within the state park but would if launching in other parts of the State. If you stop at the marina, you can confirm if you need one before heading out on the water.
Presque Isle Scenic Boat Tours
Boat tours are offered seasonally mid may through end of September. They depart from Perry Monument on Presque Isle State Park. The 90-minute tour takes you through 14-mile on the open waters of Lake Erie.
Wildlife viewing at Presque Isle State Park with Kids and Dogs
Presque Isle State Park has been rated by Bird Watching magazine as one of the top birding spots in the country. Presque Isle’s location on the Atlantic Flyway makes it a favorite spot for birds to stop to feed and rest on their migration across Lake Erie. More than 339 species of birds have been identified on the peninsula. A bird checklist is available at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in the Nature Shop.
Pet Friendly: Presque Isle State Park with Kids and Dogs
Swimming Area Pet Guidelines
Inside designated guarded zones, leashed dogs are permitted in the tree line area only. Outside of designated guarded zones, leashed dogs are permitted on the sand and in the water. People may not swim outside designated guarded zones, however, they may wade up to the knees — no more than 10 feet from the shore. In addition, dogs must never be left unattended, and owners are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.
At Sara’s Campground, ABSOLUTELY NO PETS on our private beach tent camping. Pets are welcome on our Bayside campground. BAY SIDE CAMPING:
Budget Travel: Presque Isle State Park with Kids and Dogs Summary
Budget Travel: Presque Isle State Park with Kids and Dogs. The Park is an amazing outdoor resource with plenty to do for a long weekend. We loved the Marriott Courtyard pools especially the outdoor infinity pool and highly recommend it when staying in the area. Road Trips are a lot of fun and this one should be added to you Road Trip bucket list.
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