By Christine Smyczynski
It’s summer and time to hit the beach! With an abundance of lakes and rivers in the area, there are numerous beaches to choose from for sun and fun along lakes Erie and Ontario.
My hands-down favorite beach is Ontario Beach Park, (585-256- 4950 Lake and Beach Avenues, Rochester), located on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Genesee River in Rochester, about a two-hour drive from Buffalo. Why travel so far to this beach, when there are many much closer?
To begin with, this park is reputed to have one of the best natural sand beaches along the Great Lakes. The beach has been drawing people since the mid 1800s, when they would travel here by train and later by trolley. In the early 1900s the area was dubbed the “Coney Island of the West,” drawing about 50,000 people per day during the summer months.
Today, the 39-acre park, which has free admission, has a beautiful sand beach, playground equipment, picnic areas and food concessions at Pat’s Coffee Shop. Adults and youngsters alike will enjoy riding the historic Dentzel menagerie carousel, one of only six carousels like it remaining in the country. Free concerts are held in the park on Wednesday evenings during the summer. (Call 585- 865-3320).
My daughter likes to take a walk along the long cement pier or jetty the runs along the Genesee River. It’s nearly a half-mile long, so it is quite a hike to walk back and forth. Another walk, the “secret sidewalk,” found about a half-mile or so from the beach, has a great view of the lake. My daughter loves to walk along this path and imagine that she lives in one of the homes that line the sidewalk. This public walkway, which can be accessed between the driveways of 490 and 510 Beach Ave., cuts through the backyards and gardens of these lovely lakeside homes.
Several restaurants are across the street from the park, including Abbott’s Custard, which is always busy. Stop by LDR Char Pit if you’re craving some typical summer fare, like hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. Nola’s BBQ specializes in New Orleans style BBQ.
>More Lake Ontario
Here are some Lake Ontario beaches that are closer to home.
*Krull Park/Olcott Beach, NY18, Olcott; (716) 778-7711. Open dawn to dusk. Free admission.
This 323-acre park, located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, offers a variety of family activities. The beach is really small, but it is perfect if you have small kids that like to play in the sand, as it’s easy to keep an eye on them.
Nearby, Lakeview Village Fair offers a collection of small shops and restaurants. There is also a carousel park with rides for small children, along with a vintage 1928 Herschel carousel.
*Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, 3371 Lake Road, Wilson (716-751- 6361). Open dawn to dusk. Admission: $7 a car.
The swimming beach, which is accessed by stairs, has areas of sun and shade, which makes it nice if you don’t like sitting out in the hot sun. The park also has a boat launch located on a narrow strip of land referred to as “the island.”
*Port Dalhousie Beach, located along Lake Ontario in St. Catharines, Ont. This park has playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as a 1905 antique carousel, which offers rides for only five cents. It has a nice sand beach, which is always a busy place during the summer.
>Lake Erie beaches
These beaches are popular with folks who live south of Buffalo.
*Angola on the Lake, 8934 Lake Shore Road, Angola.
This long, sandy beach is popular with the twentysomething crowd. It boasts two popular beach bars, Mickey Rats Beach Club and Captain Kidds.
*Bennett Beach, Bennett Road, off NY 5, Derby.
This sand dune-lined beach is popular with swimmers, fishermen and birdwatchers. It is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Erie County.
*Wendt Beach, 7676 Old Lake Shore Road, Derby; (716) 947-5660. Park open year-round; beach open 11 a.m. to dusk Memorial Day through Labor Day. Free admission.
Located on Lake Erie at the mouth of Big Sister Creek, this beach has a bathhouse and snack bar. The 178-acre park has picnic areas, bike and nature trails, and sports fields.
*Woodlawn Beach State Park, S-3585 Lake Shore Road, Blasdell; (716) 826-1930. Park open dawn to dusk year-round. Beach open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission: $7 parking fee.
This park is known for its mile-long natural sand beach and its panoramic view of Lake Erie. Visitors can swim, windsurf, play volleyball and sunbathe. It is also a good place to bird-watch.
*Sunset Bay Beach, Iola and Shady Drive, Irving; (716) 934-9953, www.sunsetbayusa.com. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Sunset Bay is one of the most popular beaches on Lake Erie’s shores. This beautiful, clean, sandy beach has lifeguards every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. There is also a restaurant and beach bar.
*Evangola State Park, 110191 Old Lake Shore Road, Irving; (716) 549-1802. Open dawn to dusk. Admission: $7 Memorial Day through Labor Day; free the rest of year.
This 733-acre park on the shores of Lake Erie has a natural sand beach as well as picnic areas, a concession stand and 80 campsites.
*Lake Erie State Park, NY 5, Brocton; (716) 792-9214. Open dawn to dusk. Admission: $7 parking fee late June through Labor Day, $6 for weekend parking during May-late June and Labor Day-October; free other times.
Lake Erie State Park, a few miles south of Dunkirk, features almost a mile of shoreline. High bluffs overlooking Lake Erie offer a great view. In addition to the beach, the park has 97 campsites and 10 cabins for overnight camping.
*Point Gratiot Park, NY 5, near Point Drive, Dunkirk; (716) 366- 3262. Open dawn to dusk.
A 60-acre park with a playground, picnic facilities, and a 1,500- foot beach on Lake Erie.
Wright Park, NY 5 (north of the harbor), Dunkirk; (716) 366- 3262. Open dawn to dusk.
A 70-acre park located along Lake Erie. Facilities include a 1,500-foot beach, picnic tables, and a playground.
You still don’t need a passport to cross the border into Canada, just your birth certificate and photo ID, so why not enjoy some of the Canadian beaches along Lake Erie for a change of scenery.
*Crystal Beach, 4155 Erie Road, Crystal Beach; (905) 871-7825. Open dawn to dusk. Free admission.
Located next to where the amusement park of the same name once stood, this beach has more than 1,000 feet of well-maintained sand beach, which can get quite crowded on the weekends. It has a snack bar and washrooms.
*Crescent Beach at the end of Crescent Road, Fort Erie Open dawn to dusk. Free admission.
A small beach with 65 feet of beachfront. A popular spot for families, it is right on the Friendship Trail Bike Path.
*Nickel Beach, located on the east side of the Welland Canal along Lake Erie, Port Colborne.
This locale features a mile of white sand beach, rest rooms and a food concession.
*Sherkston Shores, (877) 482-3224, www.sherkston.com.
This popular destination, billed as the “ultimate beach resort” has 2 1/2 miles of beachfront, along with a Funworks area with two heated pools, waterslides, mini-putt golf, a skate park, scuba diving, fishing and even special live entertainment events. However, it will cost you. Day passes for the beach are $20 adults and $10 children. A day pass that also includes the Funworks area is $30 for adults and $15 for children. Summer homes are available for rental and purchase.
*Thunder Bay Beach, end of Bernard Avenue, Fort Erie Open dawn to dusk. Free admission. Sixty-five feet of beachfront.
*Waverly Beach, end of Helena Street at Edgemenore Road along the Friendship Trail, Fort Erie. Open dawn to dusk. Free admission.
A groomed white-sand beach next to the site of the old Erie Amusement Park, which was a popular destination at the turn of the 20th century. It has washroom facilities and a newly renovated boardwalk.
>Really close to home
With the rising price of gas, many of us want to stick close to home. Here are a couple of beaches that are just minutes away.
Beaver Island State Park, 2136 West Oakfield Road, Grand Island; (716) 773-3271. Open dawn to dusk. Car parking is $7 Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The park’s half-mile long sandy beach on the Niagara River is a popular spot on summer weekends. The 950-acre park, which is on the south end of Grand Island, also has playgrounds, picnic facilities, an 80-slip marina, fishing access, and an 18-hole golf course.
Erie Basin Marina Beach, located at the Erie Basin Marina, in downtown Buffalo. Open dawn to dusk.
Recently opened, this is the only beach in downtown Buffalo. It’s not a swimming beach, however, because of deadly currents. You can sunbathe and play in the sand. It has only about 120 feet of shoreline.
Originally published by SPECIAL TO THE NEWS.
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