Marine News from the Great Lakes

Erie, Pennsylvania

Published: Monday, May 17, 2010
By: Visit Erie

Erie, Pennsylvania's fourth largest city, is on beautiful Presque Isle Bay, one the world's best-protected harbors, surrounded by a seven-mile peninsula. As Pennsylvania's only Great Lakes Port City, Erie has an extensive maritime history. Central to the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo triangle, Erie is within 500 miles of more than half of the U.S. population and is accessible by automobile, boat, plane, train, or bus.

Presque Isle State Park

The sandy surf beaches at Presque Isle State Park along Lake Erie help to make tourism Erie's second largest industry, next to manufacturing. Sailing, swimming, hiking, biking, kite flying and fishing are popular on Lake Erie as are ice fishing, ice sailing and cross country skiing. Presque Isle, French for "almost an island," has been designated a National Natural Landmark due to its unique ecological composition and diversity with rare and endangered species of wildflowers and over 428 species of birds.

With its seven miles of sandy beaches and world-class sunsets, Presque Isle State Park is regarded as one of Pennsylvania's top vacation destinations. More than 4 million visitors a year travel here to enjoy its unique blend of natural beauty and recreation, year-round. Cool off on a hot summer day at one of 13 designated swimming areas. Conde Nast Traveler magazine names Presque Isle as one of the nation's "Top 100 Swimming Holes." Explore the lagoons, Gull Point and Presque Isle Bay on pontoons, kayaks or narrated boat tours. Walk, jog, bike or skate along the 13-mile paved multi-purpose trail. Spend a leisurely day fishing, birding, boating, windsurfing, water skiing or picnicking. Birder's World magazine lists Presque Isle as a birding "hot spot" due to its unique diversity of habitats, topography and geological location, home to over 325 bird species. Even in the fall and winter there's so much to do such as nature hikes among the dazzling fall foliage, ice-skating and ice fishing, ice kite surfing, ice sailing or cross-country skiing.

The Erie area is also home to three lighthouses with two located at Presque Isle State Park: the North Pier Light and the Presque Isle Lighthouse. The picturesque Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1872. Its neighboring kiosk exhibit traces the lighthouse's history. Re-built in 1858 after the original wooden beacon was destroyed a year earlier, the cast-iron North Pier Light greets travelers by sea at the east end of the north pier channel connecting Presque Isle Bay to the waters of Lake Erie. Erie's third lighthouse, the Land Lighthouse, rests high on the bluff at the foot of Lighthouse Street in the city of Erie. Originally built in 1867, the Land Lighthouse tower was restored by the Erie-Western PA Port Authority in 2004, bringing back its historic beauty.

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC)

Named after one of Erie's famous natives, former head of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is a grand gateway to Presque Isle and Lake Erie. Affectionately referred to as "TREC," the 65,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art, "green" facility is an educational center, dedicated to teaching visitors about the unique 3,200 acres that is Presque Isle State Park. TREC houses interactive educational exhibits, a Presque Isle orientation film, 75-foot glass enclosed observation tower, visitor information area, nature shop/gallery, the Sunset Café, a 4-story high, 45 feet wide "Big Green Screen" theater, educational programs, workshops and lectures. Free to the public and open year-round, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is the perfect way for families, individuals and groups to have fun AND learn a thing or two about Presque Isle!

Erie's Bayfront District

Located on the southeast shore of Lake Erie in a natural bay formed and protected by Presque Isle, Erie's Bayfront District has evolved from shipyards and railroad tracks to a bustling recreational playground. Erie's Bayfront District is a popular stop for both visitors and the local community. The Bayfront Parkway connects Interstates 79 to 90, providing easy accessibility to Liberty Park, the Bicentennial Tower, Erie Maritime Museum/U.S. Brig Niagara, waterfront restaurants, family-friendly attractions and the Bayfront Convention Center. The Bayfront District and Bayfront Parkway are part of the Seaway Trail, a nationally designated America's BywayTM and features a multipurpose trail stretching from Frontier Park to Interstate 90. Stroll the Bayfront Promenade (Parade Street to Poplar Street) or travel to the top of the 187' Bicentennial Tower for spectacular views of Erie's downtown and Presque Isle. Other Bayfront attractions include waterfront mini golf, fishing charters, the Victorian Princess stern-wheel paddleboat, outdoor concerts, festivals and car shows.

The Bayfront Parkway offers easy access to the ever-evolving Bayfront District. Visit Pennsylvania's Official Flagship, the U.S. Brig Niagara at the Erie Maritime Museum to learn about Erie's extensive maritime history including the Battle of Lake Erie. The impressive Bayfront Convention Center, with expansive views of Presque Isle and Presque Isle Bay, opened its doors in August 2007. The Bicentennial Observation Tower on Dobbins Landing offers beautiful vistas of the city and Presque Isle Bay. Have a romantic dinner on the Victorian Princess stern-wheeler, take the Water Taxi to Presque Isle, or play 18 holes at Harborview Miniature Golf. Make sure to visit Liberty Park/Amphitheater, Cruise Ship Terminal and the Intermodal Transportation Center all located bayside.

Erie Arts/Culture/Entertainment/Outdoor Recreation

Travel south on State Street to visit the Erie Art Museum in the Greek Revival-style Old Customs House, the Erie History Center, and the ExpERIEnce Children's Museum. Downtown's impressive Jerry Uht Baseball Field is home to the Erie Seawolves, Division AA farm team of the Detroit Tigers. Adjacent to Uht Field is the Tullio Arena, home to the Ontario Hockey League Erie Otters and the Erie Bayhawks NBA D-League basketball team. Just up the street is the historic Warner Theater, built by the famous Warner Bros. and currently being restored to its original splendor. Home to the Erie Philharmonic, it is the only active Warner Theatre left in the nation still in its original form. Theater lovers can take advantage of Erie's many venues including: the Erie Playhouse; Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park & Resort; Presque Isle Downs Casino & Racetrack; Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens; JR's Last Laugh Comedy Club; Asbury Woods Nature Center; Lake Erie Speedway with NASCAR sanctioned races; Erie Historical Museum and Planetarium; and the Station Dinner Theatre. Golf lovers can enjoy the 25+ beautifully landscaped golf courses in the area offering challenging holes and scenic views.

Erie and its Countryside

Erie is known for its lovely residential areas and churches of vintage period architecture. Historic mansions are prevalent along Millionaire's Row, West Sixth Street. For shoppers, the Millcreek Mall and neighboring plazas of the adjacent suburbs make Erie a haven for shopping. Annually, thousands of shoppers from New York and Canada are enticed by Pennsylvania's tax-free clothing. After a full day of shopping, enjoy Erie's fantastic culinary scene with over 250 establishments to choose from. From fine dining to sidewalk cafes, there is something for even the most finicky of appetites. The surrounding countryside boasts charming towns, covered bridges, and other historical sites, including the only known statue of George Washington in British uniform. Follow Scenic Pennsylvania Historic Route 6 or the America's BywayTM Seaway Trail to experience miles of serene countryside, vineyards, orchards and wineries.

Visit us at! Erie... Feel the Lake Effect!

tags: Lake Erie, Destination

Go back | Show other stories

Check the Map!

Boat shows, destinations, magazine locations

Check it out!