Ohio’s lakeside state parks perfect getaway

Two state parks have lodges on the Lake Erie shore.

Sand-covered children cheerfully construct a castle while a jet ski glides through the water just beyond the sunny beach.

Some relax and soak up the rays while others play in the waves. Families pile into paddleboats for a leisurely ride while others explore the terrain on bike.

These scenes might elicit thoughts of an Oceanside resort or an exotic tropical locale, but all of this and more is available right here in Ohio. Two Ohio state parks have lodges on the Lake Erie shore — Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio, near Toledo, and Geneva State Park in Ashtabula County along Ohio’s northeastern shoreline.

Both parks offer a variety of accommodations and activities that take full advantage of the shimmering expanse of the lake.

Maumee Bay State Park

It’s a tale of two parks at Maumee Bay as guests can pack their day with activities from sunrise till sunset or enjoy the serenity of the lake as well as the park’s wetlands. Maumee Bay is a birders haven, as more than 300 species of birds have been sited in the area. A wild turkey has even been spotted from time to time on the outskirts of the marsh to the delight and amazement of guests of all ages.

Accommodations: The lodge has 120 guest rooms, most with water views from the balcony, and a full-service restaurant. There are also 24 deluxe cottages, three rent-a-camps, a yurt and 252 campsites with electricity.

Boating: There is a 32-slip marina with dockage available by reservation. A 57-acre inland lake is suitable for sailing, canoeing and other nonmotorized boat use. Joe Taylor Recreation, which is onsite but not operated by the park, offers a variety of rentals, from jet skis and pontoon boats to ocean kayaks and sailboats.

Fishing: The “walleye capital of the world” also sports channel catfish, freshwater drum, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. The man-made inland lake near the lodge is stocked and has two wheelchair accessible piers.

Swimming: The lodge has an indoor and outdoor pool for guests as well as an indoor spray area. There is public swimming on two sand beaches, one directly on Lake Erie and the other on the inland lake.

Picnicking: Picnic areas with tables and grills are adjacent to the beach area and there are six shelters that can be reserved.

Trails: An easy-to-navigate boardwalk meanders through the swamp and marsh wetlands. There are informative interpretive signs throughout the trail as well as an observation blind and tower and a wheelchair-accessible loop. There are two additional trails onsite (6 and 3 miles) for walking, jogging or biking.

And more: There is an 18-hole “Scottish Links”- style golf course and a pro shop. The Trautman Nature Center is an interactive facility staffed by a year-round naturalist and is adjacent to the butterfly gazebo. Guests can rent bicycles to explore the grounds. There are also tennis, basketball and volleyball courts to keep the athletes in the family occupied. The lodge also has a pirate-themed indoor soft play area for young travelers.

Information: Go online to www.dnr.state.oh.us or, for lodge or cottage reservations, call (800) 282-7275.

Geneva State Park

Nestled in the heart of Ohio wine country, on the shores of Lake Erie, Geneva State Park offers a variety of activities for guests of all ages. From wine-tasting dinners for mom and dad to Grape Camp for the younger set, the lodge takes full advantage of its proximity to 15 award-winning wineries. The entire length of the park grounds overlooks the lake, with access points throughout the property.

Accommodations: The lodge has 109 guest rooms and a full-service restaurant. There are 12 deluxe lakefront cedar cabins, as well as 100 campsites (electric, full hook-up and nonelectric).

Boating: A six-lane boat ramp provides easy access to Lake Erie. The marina has a concession area and supplies boaters with gasoline, boating essentials and bait. There are 383 docks for seasonal rental and transient dock rental is also available.

Fishing: In addition to walleye, you might reel in yellow perch, channel catfish or steelhead trout.

Swimming: Lodge guests can enjoy an indoor and outdoor pool. There is also a 300-foot guarded swimming beach on the Lake Erie shore.

Picnicking: The Crabapple Picnic Area has two shelter houses with electric and water, restrooms, a volleyball court and horseshoe pit.

Trails: Six miles of multiuse trails are available for hikers, snowmobilers, cross country skiers and hunters. There are also two miles of paved trails for nonmotorized bikes.

And more: The lodge’s outdoor lakefront pool complex includes a children’s splash area. Bike rentals are available and adventure seekers can try out the new off-road trail. The Spa at Lakehouse is located just .25 miles from the lodge.

Information: Go online to www.dnr.state.oh.us or, for lodge or cottage reservations, visit www.thelodgeatgeneva.com.

Island hopping — state parks

Catawba Island State Park

A 10-acre park on the west side of Catawba Island offers access to Lake Erie.

Location: Port Clinton

Activities: Boating (one launch ramp), swimming, fishing (pier), picnicking (picnic areas and restrooms).

East Harbor State Park

At 1,831 acres, East Harbor sports the largest campground in the Ohio state park system.

Location: Marblehead

Activities: Camping (571 sites — electric, full hook-up and non-electric), boating (marina, boat ramps), fishing, 11 hiking trails, swimming, picnicking, disc golf and hunting.

Kelleys Island State Park

The 677-acre state park is located on the northern shores of the island, which is renowned for its unique geological, ecological and archeological features.

Location: Kelleys Island (ferry service available from Marblehead and Sandusky)

Activities: Camping (electric and nonelectric sites, yurts and rent-a-camp units), boating (double-lane launch ramp), kayak rentals, swimming, hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing and limited hunting.

Middle Bass Island State Park

A new harbormaster building offers a gift shop, snack bar, laundry and additional showers.

Location: Middle Bass Island (Ferry service from Catawba)

Activities: Camping (20 non-electric sites), marina (190 slips) and miniature golf.

South Bass Island State Park

A 33-acre park perched atop the cliffs of South Bass Island affords visitors great views and Lake Erie access.

Location: Put-In-Bay (Ferry service is available from Catawba, Port Clinton and Sandusky.)

Activities: Wooded campground and serene lakeside picnic area.

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