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Lake Erie Circle Tour

Cleveland to Cleveland

Duration:             13-15 Days

Total Distance:   900 mi / 1440 km

Day 1:  Cleveland to Lake Erie State Park – 130 mi / 208 km

Pick up your RV from our local AmeriDream vacation centre before continuing along the Great Lakes Circle Trail to your overnight stop at Lake Erie State Park.  Your journey today will take you from Ohio, across the northern tip of Pennsylvania and into New York State.  Along the way, there’s ample time to explore.  There are more pretty towns you may like to visit along the route including Geneva on the Lake, a resort community developed over 130 years ago.  This village is nestled on the shores of Lake Erie in wine country in the county of Ashtabula.   Photographers may be interested in doing a tour of Ashtabula’s covered bridges – 18 in all of which 12 are driveable.  Of these 18 bridges, most are historic.

Shortly after passing through the township of Conneaut, a  large blue sign announces that you have crossed the border with a Welcome to Pennsylvania.  This 50km stretch of land along Lake Erie was unclaimed land until the late 1700s when the States of Pennsylvania, New York Connecticut and Massachusetts all laid claim to it.  Pennsylvania was eventually successful in gaining the land as, of the

four competing claimants, it was the only land locked state and the acquisition of the “Erie Triangle” gave them access to the Great Lakes and its ports.

Continue along Highway 5 to Erie Bluffs State Park.  This is the largest undeveloped stretch of Lake Erie shoreline remaining in Pennsylvania.  The park has one mile of shoreline, 90 foot bluffs overlooking Lake Erie, fishing, picnicking, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.  The only developed area of the park is Elk Creek.

15 km further east, take time out to visit Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania’s only seashore.  It is one of the top birding spots in the USA.  Fishing is popular in the park with species such as perch, bass, walleye, trout and steelhead the most common.  Presque Isle provides a sheltered harbour for the city of Erie which is home to the first lighthouse to shine on the Great Lakes.  Now located in Lighthouse Park, the current sandstone power was built in 1867.

The coastal route continues on for another 20 miles to the New York border.  Vineyards and wineries are abundant here and a green Welcome to New York leaves you in no doubt that you’ve left Pennsylvania behind you.  From here it’s only a short hop to Lake Erie State Park, your overnight destination.

Day 2:  Lake Erie State Park – Niagara Falls USA – 133 mi / 210 km

Niagara Falls is less than 2 hours away as you continue along the coast trail towards the city of Buffalo.  The coastal route will eventually bring you onto highway I90, across Grand Island and into Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885,  is America’s Oldest.  Parking for RVs is free at the Aquarium of Niagara at 701 Whirlpool Street or, for parking on Goat Island, please call the visitors center for more information at 716-278-1796. The best way to see the park is by boarding the Niagara Scenic Trolley.  The trolley will take you to several locations throughout the park where you can get on and off as you please. 

The prime viewing area for the American Falls and Rapids is Prospect Point, which is also home to the Visitor Center, Niagara Adventure Theatre and the Observation Tower.  Other ‘must-dos’ whilst on the American side are:

  • Terrapin Point – Get a birds eye view of the thundering Horseshoe Falls from across the river.
  • Observation Tower – this is the only place in the Park where you can view both the American and Canadian Falls at the same time.
  • Luna Island – this small island between the American and Bridal Veil Falls has a great view of both Falls.
  • Cave of the Winds – Get face to face with the pounding waters of the Bridal Veil Falls from the Hurricane Deck.
  • Niagara Adventure Theatre
  • Three Sisters Islands – get a unique view of the upper rapids as the water races for the Falls

After experiencing the Falls from the American side we recommend  you head north on the Robert Moses Parkway then join 18F at Lewiston to follow the Niagara Gorge to Youngstown and Fort Niagara State Park.

Fort Niagara is the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America. In 1934, Old Fort Niagara opened as a historic site and public museum. The Fort includes the six oldest buildings in the entire Great Lakes region and serves as Western New York’s only tangible link to the Revolutionary War period. Old Fort Niagara has earned distinction as a National Historic Landmark and a New York State Historical Civil Engineering Landmark. The Fort is recognized as Western New York’s most popular State Historic Site.  Camping is available at nearby Fourmile Creek State Park.  Advance reservations are recommended.

Day 3:  Niagara Falls USA to Niagara Falls Canada – 16 mi / 25 km

Cross the border today into Canada on one of the three bridges spanning the Niagara River.  If you are planning a trip back into Niagara Falls, NY before crossing the border, the most convenient crossing will be via the Rainbow Bridge which connects the tourist areas of Niagara Falls NY with Niagara Falls Canada.  If you are planning to come from Four Mile Creek State Park and go straight to Niagara Falls Canada, consider taking the Lewiston Queenston Bridge which brings you into Canada 5km north of the Falls.

What you decide to do during your stay in Niagara Falls will most likely depend on your personal interests.  Tickets to some of the most well known attractions in Niagara Falls can be purchased with a Niagara Falls Adventure Pass.  The pass covers admission to Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury, White Water Walk and Maid of the Mist plus 2 days of transportation aboard the WEGO and

valuable money saving coupons with your purchase.

High above the racing Niagara River, the Whirlpool Aero Car will transport you through the air in an antique cable car.  The cable car is suspended from six sturdy cables and offers a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool which is formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turns abruptly counterclockwise and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.  The Whirlpool Aero Car is located on the Niagara Parkway between the White Water Walk and the Butterfly Conservatory.  While at the Whirlpool Aero Car, visit Souvenir City Headquarters to view their extensive range of Canadiana items and First Nations crafts, watch glassblowers in action and indulge yourself with some delicious fudge made on site at Chocolate World.

If you prefer experiencing rapids from below, we recommend you take a trip on the Whirlpool Jet.  With departures from both Niagara on the Lake and Queenston, choose to “soak it up” on the Wet Jet tour or stay dry on aboard the Jet Dome.  The choice of which to do depends on the age of any children travelling with you and whether you have a change of clothing close by.  On the Wet Jet, you will get a real adrenalin rush but you’ll also get soaked, so make sure your RV is parked nearby to escape into at the end of the trip to warm up.  You’ll also get a good adrenalin rush on the Jet Dome but remain dry.

To see the Falls from a greater height, consider a helicopter sightseeing tour with either Niagara Helicopters or National Helicopters.  National Helicopters also offer a range of romantic tours for couples, including winery visits.

If a helicopter tour isn’t in your budget, you could take a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel,

affording you breathtaking views of the Falls and beyond.  Towering 175 feet (53 metres) over the Niagara Falls horizon, the SkyWheel is the newest, most exciting way to see Niagara Falls.  From this vantage point you will be treated to memorable view of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River, Niagara Parks and other landmarks.  You can ride day or night, in any season.

Have you ever wondered about the daredevils who have gone over the falls and their ultimate fates?  The Daredevil Gallery at the Imax Theatre, Niagara Falls, contains actual barrels and artefacts along with the fascinating stories of the history of Niagara and of the daredevils themselves.  Hear the stories, touch the vessels and then imagine the courage (or the insanity) that it must have taken to climb into a barrel and throw yourself over the edge!

Kids may enjoy spending a day at Marineland which includes a number of fun filled rides as well as entertainment featuring amazing dolphins, walruses, sea lions, killer and beluga whales.

When night falls, Niagara comes alive in a different way.  Lighting illuminates both the Canadian and American Falls, and on selected days from mid May until mid October, you can view fireworks over the Falls.  To see which days feature fireworks, visit http://www.niagarafallstourism.com/fireworks.html.   Options for dining out abound – some of our recommendations are the Oh Canada Eh Dinner Show, Canada’s “must-see” musical.  Meet a singing Mountie, hockey player, Anne of Green Gables and more.  Full of laughs, this musical celebration of Canada will delight audiences of all ages.  While you’re enjoying the show, the performers serve you their famous all-Canadian five course, family-style meal.

Master Magician Greg Frewin will enthral you at a buffet dinner and show in his Las Vegas Style

Showroom, located in the heart of Niagara Falls.  Experience the mystery and art of illusion as your imagination is captivated and you are amazed “Beyond Belief” by the show.  After the show you will have the opportunity to have your photo taken with a tiger.

Other recommendations for things to do in Niagara Falls Canada are:

  • Wine Trails (own transport required)
  • Lock 3 – Welland Canal (own transport required)

Niagara on the Lake

(We recommend you take own transport here)

  • Explore the 19th Century well-preserved village
  • Fort George National Historic Site

Niagara Parks Garden Trail

  • Butterfly Conservatory
  • Floral Showhouse
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Floral Showhouse
  • Queen Victoria Park
  • Floral Clock
  • Oakes Garden Theatre
  • Centennial Lilac Garden
  • Queenston Heights
  • Horse and Carriage Rides

Niagara Parks Nature Trail

  • Butterfly Conservatory
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Hiking in the Niagara Glen
  • Bird Watching
  • Cycling
  • Geocaching
  • Fishing (permits required)
  • Photography

Niagara Parks Heritage Trail

  • The Laura Secord Homestead
  • Mackenzie Printery
  • McFarland House
  • Old Fort Erie
  • The Battle of Chippawa
  • Brock’s Monument
  • Historic Plaques and Markers

If you do wish to drive, parking for RVs is limited.  From mid June to early September, we suggest you park at the Rapidsview Parking Lot which has parking for RVs.  All day parking is $10.00 which includes a shuttle ride to Table Rock at the Falls.  Between early September and mid June, parking is available for RVs at the Falls Parking Lot.  Alternatively you can leave your

RV at your campsite and take the WEGO into the Falls.

Overnight at Campark Resorts or Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Niagara

Days 4 & 5 – In and around Niagara Falls Canada

With so much to do in Niagara Falls, we doubt you’ll be ready to leave quite yet.  Spend another day doing some of the things you didn’t get done yesterday then tonight maybe view the Falls illuminated by night.  If you are lucky, you might even strike a night where there are fireworks.

Wander through Clifton Hill by night – this place has all the elements of a mini Las Vegas with attractions such as the Canadian Midway, the Movieland Wax Museum, Ghost Blasters Dark Ride, Ripleys Museum, Galaxy Golf and, of course, the Fallsview Casino.

Day 6 – Niagara Falls Canada to Long Point Provincial Park, Ontario – 127 mi / 204 km

A full day of heritage and nature awaits as you wind your way down the Niagara Parkway, hugging the shore and skirting the Niagara River until you arrive at Old Fort Erie and your first glimpse of Lake Erie iself  By now, you will have established that the USA is on the other side of the river and, at Fort Erie, you’re overlooking the New York city of Buffalo.  A word of caution – if you are planning to follow the Niagara Parkway and Lakeshore Road to Fort Erie, you will need to divert around the rail bridge as it’s too low for RVs to pass under (3.3M clearance) then rejoin Niagara Boulevard past the bridge.

Open from mid-May to late October, Old Fort Erie was the first Fort to be constructed along the Niagara River by the British after the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.  For most of its life, the original fort served as a supply depot and port for ships transporting merchandise, troops and passengers to the Upper Great Lakes.  The current Fort was destroyed by the American troops in the War of 1812-1814 and was reconstructed and restored to the 1812-1814 period in the late 1930s as a joint initiative between the Niagara Parks Commission and the Provincial and Federal governments.  Today at Fort Erie, you can experience the sights and sounds of the fort under siege during the War of 1812.  Join British or American soldiers on a tour of the grounds and authentic buildings, and be sure to check our the musket demonstrations.

After leaving Fort Erie, continue west through a number of quaint beach suburbs to Port Colborne.  Originally established in 1832 and known as Gravelly Bay, the current city traces its roots back to settlements that grew up in the area following the American Revolution.  Port Colborne became the southern terminus of the Welland Canal after it was extended to reach Lake Erie in 1833.  As a result of this, the population rose and maritime commerce increased.  The importance of the canal to the city is celebrated each year in early August with the Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival.   If you fancy spending some time watching large ships slip through the Welland Canal, there’s no better place to go than to Lock 8 Gateway Park.  Here you’ll find a landscaped viewing stand and fountain along with picnic facilities and rest rooms.  The lock is open for shipping for approx 9 months of the year – ice preventing passage over the winter.

If it’s a sunny day, take a trip down to Nickel Beach, one of Port Colborne’s hidden treasures and perhaps take time out for a picnic, a swim or a stroll along the beach before continuing around the north shore to Rock Point Provincial Park.  Here you can view fossils embedded in limestone shelves along the beach, indicating that this peninsula was a coral reef millions of years ago.  There is a provincial park campground here if you decide to stay longer to hike, boat, fish, swim, canoe or watch the wildlife.

If you’re a golfer, take a break at Turkey Point

provincial park – the only provincial park with a golf course.  Turkey Point is also a naturalist’s paradise, its diverse ecosystem including marshes, bluffs and oak savanna.  Here, hiking trails lead to a fish culture station, a hatchery pond and panoramic view of Lake Erie.  As with Rock Point provincial park, this park offers swimming, hiking, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing.

Our choice for your overnight stay tonight however is at Long Point Provincial Park.  This part is part of a 40 kilometre long sandspit which is recognized as a biosphere reserve by the United Nations.  It is a world-renowned refuge and stopver for migrating birds in fall and spring.  Its dunes and marshes team with songbirds, spawning fish, turtles and frogs.  The campground has 256 campsites, all within a five minute walk of the beach.  The park has a store, children’s playground, laundromat, showers and flush toilets.  If you require a site with electricity, we recommend you book in advance.

Day 7 – Long Point Provincial Park to Point Pelee National Park – 149 mi / 239 km

The fastest way to reach Point Pelee National Park is to head inland and join the 401.  This route will, however take you away from many of the quaint towns and villages which are the essence of the North shore of Lake Erie.  While the Coastal Trail doesn’t exactly follow the coast for much of it’s length, following it is a relaxing way to wind your way towards your next destination.  If you have the time and inclination, stop in at John E Pearce Provincial Park.  From bluffs high above Lake Erie, you can see lake freighters, fishing tugs, maybe a bald eagle and migrating hawks.  In the springtime, the woodland trails are blooming with flowers.  The Backus Page museum nearly, celebrates the history of the Talbot settlement.  There is no campground here.

Follow Talbot Trail to Kent Bridgte Road then turn off to Rondeau Provincial Park.  The landscape here is mainly agricultural with wind farms all around.  Rondeau Provincial Park is a haven for birdwatchers as is evidenced in the camp store where guests are invited to share information about the species they have spotted during the day.  The park itself juts out from the shores of Lake Erie in a crescent shaped sandspit.  Marshlands here are home to herons, bitterns and rails, along with rare animal species including the endangered prothonotary warbler and the eastern spiny

softshell turtle. 

Continue along Talbot Trail towards Leamington and follow the signs to Point Pelee National Park.  Point Pelee is the southernmost point of mainland Canada, located on a glacial spit that bites into Lake Erie.

Again this park is a haven for birdwatchers, being part of a bird and butterly migration corridor over Lake Erie and the Lake Erie islands.  Over 360 species have been recorded in the park.  Peak time for bird watching here is spring, especially May, when tired migrants make first landfall after their journey north across the lake.  In addition to bird watching, the park is popular for biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and photography.

It is possible to visit Pelee Island – a ferry service operates regularly – check http://www.ontarioferries.com/peleeferry/english/fares.html for details.

Day 8 – Point Pelee to Maumee Bay State Park (via Windsor-Detroit bridge) – 127 mi / 203 km

Today you begin your exploration of the US sections of Lake Erie.  If you’re not in a hurry to get there, continue following the Coastal Trail to Amherstburg before following the Detroit River into Windsor.

 

Amherstburg is a pretty city, sporting printine English and contemporary gardens, family fun parks and great hospitality.  Fort Malden, originally know as Fort Amhertburg, was constructed here in 1796 and was headquarters for the British forces there in the War of 1812.  The site is open to visitors from mid-May to mid-October.

If you’re in a hurry reach Maumee Bay, join Highway 3 which will take you right to the Ambassador Bridge – the crossing point from Windsor into Michigan.  This will save you around 30-60 minutes, depending on where you choose to stop.

The Ambassador Bridge will bring you into Michigan south of downtown Detroit.  After passing through US border control, keep left and take the Fisher Fwy (Hwy 75) south.  Look out for signs to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfields Village.  The museum is the USA’s greatest history attraction, the exhibits having begun as Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects.  His intention was to “collect the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used … When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…

After visiting the Ford Museum, take time to stroll around Greenfield Village comprising nearly 100 historical buildings on 90 acres of land.  Ride around the village by horse-drawn omnibus, steam locomotive, a 1931 Model AA bus or an authentic Model T Ford.   If you’re interested is touring a working automobile factory, you can arrange a tour of the Ford River Rouge Factory.  Buses leave from the Henry Ford Museum for the River Rouge Plant where Ford has built cars since the Model A.  The factory was once a city in itself, employing 100,000 people and boasting its own fire and security departments.  Plan to spend a good chunk of your day at the Henry Ford and its many attractions then head south on I75 bound for Maumee Bay State Park Campground.  The

trip from Dearborn to Maumee Bay should take you around 60-90 minutes.  The park is a great place to relax. A nature centre is equipped with interactive displays, a research laboratory and viewing

windows.

Day 9 – Maumee Bay State Park to Kelleys Island State Park – 45 mi / 72 km then take ferry

Take Hwy 2 south-east following the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail signs branching off onto Hwy 163 (W Lakeshore Dr / W Harbor Road to Port Clinton.  Highway 163 will take you to Marblehead Lighthouse State Park on 9 acres of land at the east end of the peninsula at the entrance to Sandusky Bay.  The lighthouse, built in 1821 is popular with photographers and is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the US side of the Great Lakes.  Lighthouse Tours are offered during summer months.  Picnic tables surround the shore, providing a pleasant place to enjoy the surrounding scenery.

From the Marblehead Lighthouse, return to Marblehead and look for signs to the ferry to Kelley’s Island. During the summer months, ferries depart at least every hour.  RVs can be carried on the ferry.  We suggest you pre-book your campsite at Kelleys Island State Park.  Once there, we suggest you tour the world famous Glacial Grooves.  If you’re energetic, rent a kayak and paddle around the island.  Hike the North Pond Trail or bike the East Quarry Trail.  There’s so much to do on the island that you might like to plan a two night stay here.

Overnight at Kelleys Island State Park Campground.

Day 10 – Kelleys Island State Park

Spend another day exploring the island. Kelleys Island, known as Lake Erie’s Emerald Isle,

is a fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts, and a relaxing retreat for vacationers • The island is renowned for its unique geological, ecological, and archaeological features, and popular for its recreational offerings and picturesque landscapes • The 677-acre state park is located on the northern shores of the island.  A variety of bird species can be seen throughout the year.  Here you can also find sandy beaches, caressed by the gentle waves of Lake Erie, enticing you in for a swim. 

For the more adventurous, enjoy summer diving among the many shipwrecks in the area or go sea kayaking and experience Lake Erie’s ever changing moods.  If you just want to kick back and relax, spend some time enjoying a sip at Kelleys Island Wine Co. or Kelleys Island Brewery.

Day 11 – Kelley’s Island to Cuyahoga Valley National Park – 90 mi / 144 km

Take the ferry back to Marblehead then continue east on 163 to E Bayshore Road then continue on to Sandusky.  Sandusky has a very prominent tourism industry fueled by the world-renowned attraction of Cedar Point, the Islands and numerous indoor and outdoor water parks.

If you’re travelling with kids, you might like to spend a day riding the roller coasters at Cedar Point. The Park has the most roller coasters in any park in the world and is ranked among the world’s best amusement parks. Parking will set you back around $20.00 then expect to pay $50 or more per person for admission.

Downtown Sandusky has some beautiful historic buildings and an historic waterfront. Spend some time here soaking in the atmosphere.

If you decide to spend the day at Cedar Point, you should allow approx 2 hours to reach Streetsboro from Sandusky or add an extra day to your itinerary and continue exploring the south Erie lakeshore before heading further east.

If you decide to skip Cedar Point, continue along the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail to Huron and Vermilion. Ship building was once a major industry in Vermilion. The Harbour Town Historic District features housing styles from the Victorian, Italianate, Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne eras. Just off Liberty Avenue, stop to stroll among the Vermilion Lagoons where scenic private residences overlook deep water dockage and million dollar yachts. Wander down Main Street to visit the Inland Seas Maritime Museum or wade in the cool waters of Lake Erie at Main Street Beach. The beach features an observation platform and the Vermilion Lighthouse.

Trainspotters won’t have to wait long to see trains racing through the town. A rail-viewing platform sits in Victory Park featuring a deck, benches, a railfan information station and a radio. Five trains an hour pass through the town coming or going to Cleveland.

Tonight’s destination is slightly inland from the Lake but worth the detour. Look out for interesting villages as you make your way south-east on back country roads towards Cuyahoga National Park. Stop in Olmsted Falls and take time to wander through David Fortier River Park and view the covered pedestrian bridge spanning the Rocky River.

The area around Cuyahoga Valley National Park is dotted with vineyards and you might like to call into one or two to sample some of the excellent wines produced here.

Cuyahoga National Park is Ohio’s only national park. Covering more than 20,000 acres, the park was established to preserve and reclaim the rural landscape along the Cuyahoga River. Cuyahoga means “crooked river” in Mohawk, which is part of the Iroquoian language family. There is no camping for RVs in the park but there are a number of good RV parks in close proximity. We suggest you try Woodside

Lake Park in Streetsboro, 13 miles east.

Day 12 – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Rent bikes and ride the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail – you can even bike it in one direct then hop on board the Cuhahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a relaxing ride back to your vehicle.  The train doesn’t run every day so please check schedule when planning your arrival here.

Day 13 – Cuyahoga National Park to Cleveland – 25 mi / 40 km

With a population of around 400,000 people, Cleveland ranks amongst the 100 largest cities in the USA. Established as a commercial and manufacturing centre, Cleveland has come through hard times and is now recognised as an emerging global city. 

Some suggestions for things to do here are:  

  • Get tickets for a Cleveland Browns football game or take a Behind the Scenes stadium tour  
  • Visit the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 
  • Buy fresh produce at the West Side Market 
  • Get educated at the Great Lakes Science Center (a must if you are travelling with kids)
  • Take in a Cleveland Indians baseball game 
  • Wander through the Cleveland Botanical Garden 
  • Check out one of the world-class museums in the city 

Overnight in Cleveland

Day 14 – Drop off your RV – 50 mi / 80 km

Today marks the end of your Lake Erie Circle Route.  We hope you enjoyed your RV vacation with us and look forward to having you as our guest again in the future.  Please drop your RV back at our Cleveland location at the agreed time.  Our friendly guest service agents will be happy to assist with any questions you may have.

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