Where is Presque Isle State Park
301 Peninsula Dr., Ste. 1 Erie, PA 16505
Presque Isle State Park is located in Millcreek Township, Erie County Pennsylvania. It contains thousands of acres that jet out on an arching peninsula into Lake Erie. The neck of the peninsula is attached to the mainland, four miles west of downtown Erie. This surrounds Presque Isle Bay, a wide and deep harbor for the city of Erie, along the park’s southern coast. As Pennsylvania’s only “seashore”, Presque Isle offers its visitors a beautiful coastline, along with many recreational activities.
How Big is Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle US State Park is 3,200 acres with the peninsula arching into Lake Erie. It occupies 13 miles of road, 21 miles of recreational hiking trails, 13 beaches for swimming, and a marina with over 500 slips available. The peninsula itself is relatively small compared to the vast acreage within the mainland. With diverse natural resources and much historical importance, Presque Isle offers visitors of all interests something to experience. The park is recognized as a National Natural Landmark and is known as a must-see by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Parks.
Presque Isle State Park Weather
With the park’s close proximity to Erie, its weather and climate is very similar to the city. Both Erie and the park are located in a snow-belt that stretches from Cleveland to Syracuse. Winters are very cold with heavy snow. The temperature lies around 20°F. Usually temperatures will raise for a period of time, allowing the snow to melt. Ice dunes typically form along the beaches in the winter and can even reach over 6 feet. These dunes protect the beach from erosion during a storm. As far as the warmer months, the Erie region lies in a humid continental zone. Summers are usually warm and partly cloudy, with temperatures ranging in the mid-high 70s. It rarely gets above 90°F.
When did Presque Isle become a State Park
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Native Americans inhabited the peninsula prior to the arrival of European settlers. During the War of 1812, the land served as a base for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet. This base played a key role in the victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. Later in the 19th century, Lake Erie became an important shipping port. Many lighthouses were built on Presque Isle, with it eventually becoming a United States Coast Guard Station. Then in 1921, it was established as a state park. Today, it hosts over 4 million visitors per year.
Things to do in Presque Isle State Park
Whether you come to enjoy the sandy beaches, ecological diversity, or to learn about the historical significance of the park, there is something for everyone. To help plan your next visit, our State Park Visitors Guide lists the main sites and best things to do.
Due to the park’s location along the Atlantic flyway and its ecological diversity, Presque Isle is ideal for bird life. The park is home to over 320 bird species and contains a greater number of the state’s endangered or threatened species than any other area in Pennsylvania. Gull Point is a prime location for bird watching within the park.
Tom Ridge Environmental Center
This 65,000 square-foot facility helps visitors enjoy the unique history and diverse ecosystems of the park. It was built to symbolize the peninsula in its design. As a multi-functional building, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is home to an educational space for visitors and research centers aimed to promote environmental awareness and help preserve the biodiversity within the park.
Presque Isle Beaches
There are 13 beaches located on the lake side, as opposed to the bay or city side of the park. They are great for swimming, with medium-sized waves along the shoreline. The Presque Isle State Park beaches are open year-round. Beaches 1,3,6,8,9,10 and 11 all have lifeguards for seasonal swimming from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.
You can take a scenic boat tour around Lake Erie. Tickets are offered at the concession stand at Perry Monument. Tours are usually offered several times a day during the high season. The boat will head to Misery Bay, Presque Isle Bay, and out to Lake Erie. This will give you a deeper look into the history of the area from the water.
Recreational scuba diving is available in designated waters along the park. Divers must be certified and register at the Public Safety building ahead of time. They will provide important information regarding diving in the lake. Unfortunately, visitors cannot go snorkeling at the park.
Presque Isle Lighthouse
The lighthouse is one of the most historic spots in the park. It dates back to the 1870s when Lake Erie was a major Great Lake shipping port. It is still used a navigational aid for passing ships. Visitors can explore the lighthouse keeper’s home and climb the steps to the top of the tower, providing panoramic views of Lake Erie.
Visiting the lake is by far the most popular attraction of the park. There are, however, 11 miles of hiking trails worth exploring. Presque Isle State Park is relatively flat, so the hikes are not overwhelmingly difficult. The trailheads offer wildlife sightings and an opportunity to see the park’s scenic landscape.
Commodore Perry Monument
Located along Misery Bay, The Commodore Perry Monument pays tribute to the Battle of Lake Erie during the Wat of 1812. The battle itself took place off the shores of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, but the fleet took refuge in Presque Isle Bay. The fleet was led by Commodore Oliver Hazzard Perry.
Many locals and visitors go fishing at Presque Isle State Park. There is a variety of fish species within the lake and many prime spots to catch them. Common fish inhabiting the waters include bass, walleye, perch, and steelhead. Visitors can also go ice fishing when the ice is thick enough in the winter.
North Peri Light
The North Peri Light is located on the North Pier of the park. The pier is along a narrow channel that starts in Presque Isle Bay and flows out to Lake Erie. This is a popular pier fishing spot and a nice area to watch sailboats in the harbor. The light itself is used as a navigational beacon for passing ships.
When to go to Presque Isle State Park
The park is open year-round, from 5 AM to sunset. Day-use areas close at dusk. After sunset, only those with visitor passes are permitted in the park. There is no overnight camping allowed. Presque Isle State Park is most popular in the summer but offers recreational activities all year long. Popular summer activities include, swimming, hunting, fishing, biking, boating, hiking, and picnicking. Additionally, the Presque Isle Partnership sponsors various educational events throughout the summer. Since 1994, this non-profit organization has worked to protect, preserve, and enhance Presque Isle State Park. During the winter, the lake is usually covered by ice and snow, making for a unique experience. Many visitors will go ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating.
Must-Have things to bring to Presque Isle
There are a few must-have items List of Parks advises you to bring on your visit to Presque Isle State Park. We’ll cover everything from supplies to necessary equipment to required permits.
Good hydration will help with energy and nourishing your body. This is especially important when performing outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or swimming. Pack water bottles to your visit to Presque State Park. There is water available to purchase at a concession stand as well.
You can buy food at these concession stands as well, or you can pack a lunch and head to the picnic area. Regardless, make sure to prepare ahead to bring or buy food for your stay at Presque Isle State Park.
As mentioned earlier, there are 13 beaches in the park, as well as opportunities for recreational boating. Chances are you’ll need a bathing suit at some point, especially in the heat of summer. There are areas to change in the restrooms.
Fishing Gear and Permit
Presque Isle State Park provides fantastic fishing opportunities in the inlet, pier, or even the greater Lake Erie. In the winter, once the lake has completely frozen over, visitors can ice fish as well. No matter how you plan to fish, you’ll need a permit. They are available to purchase through the park office.
The weather in Presque Isle State Park fluctuates substantially throughout the year. Summers can get very hot, while winters are freezing. It’s important to dress according to the season. In the summer, shorts, a t-shirt, and bathing suit will suffice. In the winter however, plan to wear many layers and thick, warm coat.
Sunglasses, and Sunscreen
Sunglasses and sunscreen are essential regardless of the season and cloudiness. The sun’s UV rays are present in the winter and even in cloudy weather. When spending the day outside, be sure to apply to reapply sunscreen. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. The effects of the sun are heightened when near water. Prepare accordingly.
The park is filled with rare and unique birds. There have even been bald eagles spotted within the park. You won’t want to miss the beauty of these birds. Bring along a pair of binoculars to aid your vision and get a better look.
In the summers especially, the mosquitos can be brutal. Bring a can of bug spray or two to protect your skin against the bites. You can also buy a citronella bracelet from your local drug store that will work as well.
You don’t want to get lost in the park. Maps and guides can help with this. There are some available online or in the park office. It’s a good idea to print them out and plan your visit ahead of time.
Whether swimming, boating, biking or hiking, you’ll want to be comfortable. Wear the proper footwear for whichever activity you’re taking part in. Water shoes are great for swimming, hiking boots are good for hitting the trails, and boating shoes will help avoid a slip on a wet surface.
Where to stay Presque Isle State Park
There are no campgrounds in Presque Isle State Park. There is a campground at Presque Isle, adjacent to the park. Sarah’s Campground offers campsites for tent campers along the beach and spots for recreational vehicles. Additionally, there are many chain and boutique hotels in Erie just outside of the park. The Sheraton Erie Bayfront, Cobblestone Inn and Suites, Red Carpet Inn, and Comfort Inn are all popular options.
Food Nearby Presque Isle State Park
There are no restaurants within the park, however there are many delicious eateries nearby. A quick 15-minute drive will lead you to Erie, home to many popular restaurants. Shoreline Bar & Grill, Smugglers’ Wharf, Sloppy Duck Saloon, and Pineapple Eddie Southern Bistro are all great options. Otherwise, there are concessions stands in the park where visitors can buy food or snacks.
Airports near Presque Isle State Park
Luckily, Erie International Airport is located just 3 miles from the park. Other major airports are located in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, a short drive to Erie. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is 109 miles west of the park, or about a 2-hour drive. Pittsburgh International Airport is 140 South of the Park. The drive would take around 2 hours as well.