Planning a visit to the Ohio shores of Lake Erie? Then you need to check out our East Harbor state park campground review. We share the good, the bad, and everything you need to know to plan your visit!
Every year, we go on a Mother’s Day camping trip. It’s my husband’s gift to me. I get to plan the location, all the activities, the menu – well everything! This year, I wanted to take the ferry to South Bass Island to explore Put-In-Bay. Well it didn’t quite work out how I had planned (thanks to some ferry restrictions that weren’t publicized on the ferry line’s website), but we had a nice Lake Erie getaway regardless.
The Lake Erie shores are about a 3 hour drive from our home. We were able to hit the road right after our daughters got home from school, making a brief pit stop at a rest area for a picnic dinner. We arrived at the East Harbor State Park campground around 7 pm, with plenty of light left to set up camp and explore a bit before it was time for bed.
Now that we are back home and I am in the process of putting my travel journal scrapbook together, I thought I would share my thoughts about our stay in this East Harbor state park campground review.
Not a lot of time to read this East Harbor campground review? Jump down to our pros/cons list to see if this is the right Lake Erie campground for you.
Visiting the Lake Erie Islands? Why you might want to consider a campground on the Ohio mainland…
Three words… ferries are expensive! As we learned on our 2016 vacation to Kelley’s Island, it is ridiculously expensive to take a camper on the ferry. You have to pay a fee per person, per car, and per foot of your camper. Then multiply that by 2 for the round trip. 3 years ago, it cost almost $200 to get 4 people, a van, and our teardrop trailer on the ferry for the 20 minute trip to Kelley’s Island.
So for this trip, we opted to stay at a campground on the shore of Lake Erie and just take the ferry to Put-In-Bay for the day – eliminating the need to pay the extra expense of transporting the camper. For our home base this year, we stayed at East Harbor State Park campground.
East Harbor State Park is located on Catawba Island and is a convenient 15 minute drive to the ferry launch for South Bass Island (where Put-In-Bay is located).
East Harbor State Park campground review – our campsite.
When researching a campground online, it is really difficult to know just how big the sites will be. Since we were traveling with all four of our kids, we needed a campsite big enough for our van, our teardrop trailer, an EZ-UP for covering our galley in case of rain, and a family-sized tent for the kids. There have been some camping trips where it was a tight fit setting up all of our equipment (especially when we stay at a KOA).
One thing I really love about Ohio state park’s campground reservation system is that you pick the exact campsite you want. Obviously the further out you reserve your site, the better choices you have in terms of sites still available. Since it was fairly early in the camping season, we were able to pretty much have our pick of sites.
Our site of choice was on a loop. From the campsite reservation map, it appeared that the sites located on loops were larger. This would give us more room to spread out. It turns out this was correct and we had a lot more room than we anticipated. So if you are planning a stay at East Harbor State Park campground, try to get a spot on a loop if you want/need more room.
The campsite was level, well-maintained, and free of debris. Despite recent rain, the ground was fairly firm. Although from the map it looked like our campsite was on the lake, in actuality there was a tree line separating the sites from the water.
We had a small shallow drainage ditch running at the back of our site, but we had plenty of room to set up well away from it. Although we didn’t explore to see where the drainage ditch led, we presumed it emptied into the lake. The water drainage ditch was filled with algae, but fortunately we didn’t notice any smell from it.
Amenities at the East Harbor State Park Campground
The East Harbor campground has everything you will need for your next Lake Erie vacation…
- primitive, back-in, and pull through campsites
- electric-only or full hookup sites
- multiple spots to obtain potable water
- central dump station and trash dumpsters
- fire rings and picnic tables at each site
- numerous shower houses and restrooms
- large, well-stocked camp store
- game room
- easy access to hiking trails
- boat launch
- basketball and volleyball courts
- laundry facilities
A bit about the bathrooms at East Harbor campground…
Like most tiny campers, our teardrop trailer doesn’t have a bathroom, so a review of the East Harbor State Park campground wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the bathrooms.
First of all, the bathrooms all have flush toilets. That isn’t the case in a lot of Ohio State Parks campgrounds , so I thought it was important to mention. My kids really hate using latrines and I hate the fact that latrines typically don’t have sinks for washing your hands – just hand sanitizer. So we loved the fact that this campground has restroom facilities with flushing toilets and running water.
East Harbor’s campground has numerous restrooms scattered throughout, so each campsite is just a short walk away from the facilities. Our campsites was close to a shower house. It was clean and well-lit.
Our shower house had 4 shower stalls, 3 toilets, and 3 sinks. During the peak of the summer, you might want to plan to take your shower during off times to avoid a wait.
My only complaint was that the water pressure was a bit low on two of the sinks. But as I mentioned before, I was happy to have running water nearby, so I couldn’t complain too much.
Exploring the East Harbor State Park Campground
We had been to East Harbor State Park before for a picnic, but had no idea how large their campground really was. With over 500 campsites to choose from, this campground is a great home base for your Lake Erie adventures!
Upon entering the campground, you need to check in at the camp store. The camp store is large, bright, and well-stocked with camping essentials, toiletries, groceries, and souvenirs. Be aware though that the prices are a bit higher than normal, so you might want to hit the nearby grocery store or Walmart if you forgot to pack something. It’s a great place to get firewood, ice, or souvenirs from your stay though.
When we are camping, Kevin and I set an alarm to wake earlier than the kids so we can take a long walk exploring the campground. We will often walk several miles before heading back to our campsite to wake the kids for the day. If you love to hike, the East Harbor campground offers easy access to several hiking trails, including the Red Bird Trail which follows the East Harbor shoreline and passes by the campground boat launch.
During one of our morning hikes, we discovered a small family cemetery at the edge of the campground. From the informational sign, we learned that the people buried in it were the original owners of the land that is currently East Harbor State Park. It is always interesting to learn about the history of the area you are visiting.
We also discovered that there are some glacial grooves to see in the campground.
Check out the East Harbor Campground Glacial Grooves
Although not as impressive or as large as the Kelley’s Island Glacial Grooves, it is still worth the short walk to check out the glacial grooves in the campground at East Harbor. The Glacial Grooves area is located near the group camping area and the area is clearly marked by a sign.
Unlike the ones on Kelley’s Island that are protected by a fence, these glacial grooves are right out in the open and you can walk on them to inspect them up close.
In fact, if you hadn’t stopped to read the sign, you would probably just think the East Harbor State Park Glacial Grooves were slabs of concrete. Only upon taking a closer look can you see the striations left behind by the glacier’s retreat.
Activities at East Harbor State Park:
There is plenty to do at East Harbor State Park, whether you are staying for few days or an entire week.
- wildlife viewing
- explore the glacial grooves
- archery range
- disc golf
A few things to know about camping at East Harbor
- Plan on bringing warm clothing even in the middle of summer. The winds off the lake make it seem much cooler so you will want to bring jeans and a jacket, especially for in the evening.
- Bring rain gear. Weather up on the lake can be unpredictable. We have never taken a trip to Lake Erie where it didn’t rain hard at least once.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes. The East Harbor State Park campground is large so you will be walking a lot.
- You will need to buy firewood locally. Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources is trying to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer and other invasive species so they ask that you buy your firewood when you get here.
- Pets are permitted at all campsites. Be aware though that they need to be controlled at all times and need to be kept on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet. There is a max of 2 pets per campsite.
Planning on camping at East Harbor in a teardrop? Be sure to check out my tips for camping in a teardrop trailer.
Pros/ Cons of East Harbor Campground
If you didn’t have time to read this entire East Harbor State Park campground review, here is a quick summary to help you make your decision…
- There are over 500 available campsites and you can choose the exact one you get.
- It is just a short walk to restrooms with flush toilets.
- The shower houses are well-lit and clean.
- If you love to hike, there are several trails to explore that are easily accessible from the campground.
- The campground was clean and well-maintained.
- They have a large well-stocked camp store.
- Pets are permitted.
- There are plenty of recreational activities for kids – a playground, game room, basketball courts, and more.
- There is no dedicated water at each site unless you get a full-service site. Full service sites are limited and fill up fast. So you have to walk a bit to fill up your jugs and tanks.
- There are geese everywhere. You definitely have to be careful to not track the droppings into the camper and tent. Also my youngest daughter was not amused to be woken up each morning by honking geese.
- The campground is large, which might be a problem if you have mobility issues.
- The campsite pads are small and you have to keep all trailers and vehicles on the concrete. We saw lots of trucks that had to park sideways to stay on the pad. If you are traveling with two vehicles, you will need to park the second one up at the overflow parking lot located at the camp store.
All in all though, we enjoyed our stay. I hope this East Harbor state park campground review convinces you that this is a great place to stay on your next Lake Erie vacation.
Directions to East Harbor State Park
GPS Latitude and Longitude:
East Harbor State Park Address:
1169 N. Buck Road
Lakeside-Marblehead, Ohio 43440
The park is located on Ohio State Route 269.
From Cleveland, Ohio: Take State Route 2 West to State Route 269 North.
From Columbus, Ohio: Take State Route 23 North to State Route 4. Go North on State Route 4 to State Route 2. Go West on State Route 2 to State Route 269 North.
From Cincinnati, Ohio:Take Route 75 North to S.R. 12 (at Findlay), go North/Northeast on S.R. 12 to S.R. 53 (at Fremont), North on S.R. 53 to S.R. 2, go east on S.R. 2 to S.R. 269 North.
From Toledo, Ohio:Take Rt. 2 east to Rt. 269 North. Park is located on State Route 269. From Port Clinton, Ohio:Go East on S.R. 163 to S.R. 269 North.
Quick Links to Info on This Page
- Visiting the Lake Erie Islands? Why you might want to consider a campground on the Ohio mainland…
- East Harbor State Park campground review – our campsite.
- Amenities at the East Harbor State Park Campground
- A bit about the bathrooms at East Harbor campground…
- Exploring the East Harbor State Park Campground
- Check out the East Harbor Campground Glacial Grooves
- Activities at East Harbor State Park:
- A few things to know about camping at East Harbor
- Pros/ Cons of East Harbor Campground
- Directions to East Harbor State Park
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While you are here, be sure to check out the rest of our US campground reviews
Disclosure: No compensation was received for this East Harbor State Park campground review. We paid for our stay entirely on our own and the campground owners had no idea we were writing this review. We wrote it to inform others about this option for camping near Lake Erie Ohio. All opinions are the author’s own.