An unexpected road trip gem: Presque Isle beach

A couple of years ago, during one of our biennial road trips to Buffalo, we made a remarkable discovery while looking for a place to stretch our legs and take a break.

Before E and I had kids, we used to power through road trips without stopping. It was like a game to see how few stops we could make for bathroom breaks or snacks. But secretly, I always wished we could stop at some of the cool shops, scenic overlooks or state parks that were rushing by.

Now that we have a kiddo, my wish has come true. With kids, taking breaks during long drives is not optional – it’s a necessity. Typically on long road trips, we like to find a good place to stop and take a short nature walk about 3 to 4 hours into the drive.

Taking road trip breaks is not just good for the driver, but for the passengers too – it gets the blood flowing, helps your muscles to not feel so stiff upon arrival and just makes the journey more enjoyable.

During Buffalo/Niagara road trips, we usually take our break at the halfway point, about 3.5 hours from home. That always feels like a good place to stop with restless little ones.

We were near the Lake Erie coast and just past the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. A colleague had recommended that we check out Presque Isle State Park, so we left the highway. We were ready for a walk and an up-close look at Lake Erie!

The road meandered through a little town and through many twists and turns. The driver may have become a little restless and impatient at this point, but I was able to convince him to keep going – my colleague had said it would be worth our time.

Sure enough, soon we parked at a sandy pull-off and followed signs for the beach. There, we found a beautiful, empty beach with some of the best rocks imaginable for painting and crafting… and, just beyond the rocky shore, real waves as if we were at the ocean!

I’ve always been a bit of a beach snob, preferring ocean beaches and considering them the only true beaches. I have to tell you, Presque Isle beach (and, more recently, Kelley’s Island) convinced me otherwise. Lake beaches can be awesome, too.

We skipped rocks, took off our shoes to let the waves cool our toes, and walked along the beach enjoying the scenery until we forgot we were even on a road trip. I had a blast taking photos of the waves and my favorite people. Before leaving, we collected a few of those perfect rocks and tucked them into the cupholders in the back of the car.

Would you believe that after a stop that fun and energizing, we felt like we were only just starting out on our drive? We were all utterly refreshed and excited to finish out the second half of the road trip. When we arrived in Buffalo, we felt relaxed and ready to go, instead of being exhausted from a long, boring drive.

If you haven’t tried taking longer stops during a road trip, definitely give it a try. I know it sounds counterintuitive because it actually makes the trip longer, but if you are able to make the trip FEEL shorter, then it’s well worth your time. At least, that has been our experience.

And we highly recommend this gem of a beach if you’re ever cruising up along the north coast of Ohio into Pennsylvania. Stop at the lovely Presque Isle state park for lake views and ocean vibes – not to mention perfect rocks for collecting.

How do you like to take road trips – get ‘er done quick, or stop and enjoy the journey? As always I’d love to hear your tales from the road in the comments below or over on Facebook.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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