A GREAT Lake Place

Huron’s Lighthouse and Beaches: A Perfect Combination

Huron’s romantic side is revealed in its beautiful lighthouse and serene beaches.

The Huron Lighthouse beckons at the mouth of the Huron River, one of the first ports settled in Ohio. However, the French trading post did not survive the Revolutionary War. Over the years, the area along the river was settled and commerce grew. As the area developed and ships became prevalent, a lighthouse was necessary to protect crew and cargo from the dangerous natural rock formations and shallow shoreline. The first Huron Lighthouse was built in 1835. The first keeper was Morris Jackson, who served from 1835 to 1837. The waters of Lake Erie can be unforgiving, though, and storms washed away the first lighthouse keeper’s home. Eventually, even the lighthouse, made only of wood, wasn’t durable enough to stand the sometimes-savage wind and weather of Lake Erie — it was swept into the waters during a violent storm in May 1854.

The white, angular lighthouse that stands today at the end of the pier was constructed in 1939 and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The mile-long pier is open to the public and is a popular fishing spot. During the bird migration, the pier is also a hot location for birdwatchers.

Beachcombers have lovely views of the Huron Lighthouse as they walk up and down Nickel Plate Beach. This beach is Huron’s largest sandy beach and is named after the Nickel Plate Railroad Company, whose land it’s on. White capped waves crash onto natural sand. Small shells and stones add to the texture and beauty of the sand without hurting feet — not to mention, they’re perfect to skip on the water. Nickel Plate Beach offers scenic views of Lake Erie’s glorious sunrises and golden sunsets. Families often use this beach for larger gatherings — and it makes sense with all it offers, including a picnic shelter, charcoal grills, playground equipment and beach volleyball courts. Be warned, however: the waters can have strong currents in certain conditions.

Lake Front Park is at the end of Park and Center streets — a beautiful charming neighborhood with old tree-lined streets and Victorian homes. The beach at Lake Front Park is smaller, more secluded and quieter than Nickel Plate beach, and the waters are shallow and calm. Boaters often ride in, anchor and swim off the back of their boat. Kayakers are often seen in the waters here, too.

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A GREAT Lake Place

by Melissa Topey
01-Apr-2016
The small town waterfront alive with history, marinas, beaches, shops and nightlife makes Huron, Ohio, a Great Lake Place.
“Huron is a community filled with pride; a small town with a rich heritage and an eye on the future,” says Huron mayor Brad Hartung.
Pride in the city is evident, and celebrating the water is a not-to-be-missed event in Huron, especially the Huron River Fest the second week in July, which is one of the region’s most popular family events. In August, The Lyman Boat Owner’s Association will host the 17th annual All Classics Show to celebrate vintage boats and cars.

“Huron is a quaint hometown where you can raise a family while enjoying the many activities the city provides, like Fabens Park, Nickel Plate Beach or the Boat Basin,” Hartung says. “With so much to do in Huron and the surrounding area, it is like being on vacation year-round.”

The Huron Boat Basin, located in the heart of the city, is a great place to start a day of fun on Lake Erie. There are several local marinas and a four-lane public boat launch.

“If a day on the water is what you need, Huron is the place to start,” Hartung says.

Huron’s maritime history is one of shipbuilding and commercial fishing. Its shipbuilding industry can be traced back to the first decades of the 19th century, when shipyards were located along the west bank of the Huron River. Some innovative shipbuilding occurred in Huron, including the first ship with above-deck cabins.

As shipbuilding died in the late 1800s, Huron saw the emergence of commercial fishing, which served as the city’s economic driver for 50 years. The fish are still in the waters surrounding Huron and make the area a recreational fisherman’s dream.

But don’t be fooled — while Huron knows where it comes from, it’s reimagining itself for a bright future. The city’s master strategic plan to revitalize Huron is called “2020 Vision.” Huron is poised for a big comeback story. 2020 Vision is a blueprint for infrastructure investments designed to bring new development to the city’s waterfront in the form of new amenities and mixed-use commercial and retail services. The city has used this plan as a guide for the investment of $2 million since 2013 in land acquisition, shoreline protection, pedestrian access to the waterfront and new roadways, says Andy White, Huron city manager.

Administrators have applied for and received numerous grants to reclaim the land of the former ConAgra plant, now a vacant industrial site, to construct a public boat launch and prepare the site for redevelopment. The city has purchased several waterfront parcels on the west side of the river and constructed a new roadway connecting Ohio 2 directly to North Main Street. The changes have a great impact on area boaters and residents.

All these changes have not gone unnoticed; in 2015, Budget Travel magazine voted Huron one of America’s Coolest Small Towns and the same year Ohio Magazine named Huron one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns. 


“The boat launch and nearby existence of dockage is bringing in new patrons to the city’s center,” White says. “The access to new retail shopping and restaurants are expected to draw in even more visitors. It is not uncommon to see dozens of fishing boats descend upon the former ConAgra site, even on a mild December day, to take advantage of the close proximity to Lake Erie and its abundant game.”

Boats on the water

The Huron River boat access at the former ConAgra plant offers free boat launching.

Across the river, you’ll find the Huron Boat Basin and Amphitheatre, a hub for summer entertainment. This 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater hosts events all summer long, including Boppin’ on the Basin, Movies by the River, First Federal Farmers Market and K96/WLKR Summer Jam. Other not-to-be-missed events  at the Boat Basin are the Rotary Fine Art and Food Truck Festival, held August 12-14, and the Huron Pumpkin Festival/Huron River Arts Festival on October 8.

One of the best places in town for boat service is South Shore Marine. Tom Mack started his business as a 23-year-old in 1989 with boat cleaning and detailing services. Mack knows boats and he knows the area’s waters.

“The boating and fishing in the Huron area is unique in that it’s a short 15-20 mile run to the Lake Erie Islands, but Huron isn’t as crowded as the boating in the island area. The fishing, beaches and clean water are exceptional,” Mack raves.

According to Ray Treudler, the new owner of North Coast Prop Tech, located just down the street from South Shore Marine, “Huron is a great place to do business. It is strategically located, easily accessible, there are many marinas and the highway is located nearby.”

Huron Lagoons Marina — a 350-slip marina owned by the Solberg family — is located on the protected waters of the Huron River, a mile inland from Lake Erie. The largest full-service marina in Huron offers dockage, fuel, boat sales, service, waterfront dining and dockside parking with a grassy picnic area. A boater can spend hours cruising more than 8 miles of the scenic river, and local beaches are just a few minutes away. Huron Lagoons Marina has guest dockage with transient slips that are handicap accessible for boats up to 45 feet. It has seasonal ramp passes with indoor and outdoor storage available, along with drive-on Jet Ski and jet boat docks. The marina’s game room, sand pit volleyball, basketball court and swimming pool are fun for all ages. Thunderbird Hills 36-hole golf course and driving range are within walking distance and make this a go-to spot for a well-rounded vacation.

Huron Lagoons Marina’s sister facility, Holiday Harbor Marina, is just up the river. The facility offers drive-up docks, Jet Ski docks, and 20- to 42-foot fixed and floating docks. The heated pool overlooking the marina is the perfect backdrop for some family fun. They offer new and pre-owned boats at the sales office, and marine accessories and equipment at the marine store.

A land of nature

As shorelines and wetlands disappear, it’s a luxury to experience undeveloped stretches of the Sandusky Bay shoreline at Sheldon’s Marsh State Nature Preserve. Majestic eagles soar with herons and hawks here. This protected place offers excellent bird watching, as hundreds of species of birds stop to rest and eat. Guests at Sheldon’s Marsh during migration may hear the beautiful melodies of songbirds fill the air. The wildlife variety of unusual plants and a barrier beach create a special place of lake, marsh and forest that few outside the region get to experience.

On the outskirts of Huron is one of the few naturally functioning estuaries left in the western basin of Lake Erie; this is a unique ecosystem of diverse habitats. Old Woman Creek became a state nature preserve in 1980 and offers marshlands, beautiful plants and animals, and forests that support nearly 300 bird species and 40 fish species. Estuaries are critical to the health of Lake Erie. Walk the land or canoe or kayak the waters — it makes for a magical day.

Located behind the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Firelands College campus, the 50-acre James H. McBride Arboretum offers walking, hiking, photography and bird watching opportunities. Named after the first BGSU Firelands College dean, the arboretum was created in 1984 and is famous for its 40 varieties of crabapple trees and the William J. Parker 2-acre lake in the center of the park.

Work up a sweat on the Lake Shore Rail Trail, part of the former Lake Shore Electric Railway route. The once industrial railway was converted into a 1.2-mile paved bike path, where joggers, bikers and hikers are now welcome.

For foodies, both the Mulberry Creek herb farm and The Chef’s Garden offer fresh and fragrant ingredients for your next meal. The family-owned Mulberry Creek provides a wide variety of organic herbs, flowers, plants and seeds. Need some basil? Great, because they have more than 15 different kinds, including sweet thai basil, lemon basil and cinnamon basil. At The Chef’s Garden, three generations of the Jones family have worked hard to develop this 300-acre specialty farm. They grow more than a dozen kinds of lettuce and 80 varieties of tomatoes, have an on-site Culinary Vegetable Institute for budding chefs (where you can also host events), offer on-site tours of the farm and also provide home deliveries.

The play is the thing

The Huron Playhouse is part of the poetry and soul of Huron. The acclaimed Playhouse has entertained generations of Huron residents and visitors. This is a great place to see young actors learn their craft and hone their skills before many move on to New York City to become working actors, says John Jones, director of marketing and communications for the Huron Playhouse.

BGSU professor Frederick Walsh founded The Playhouse in 1949 in the McCormick Middle School. The theater maintains a high standard of excellence while performing a grueling four to five productions in its 8-week season.

This year, the team will open its 2016 season with “A Chorus Line” on July 5-8. The following week, the crew will bring Hitchcock to the stage with “The Birds” from July 12-15. The new artistic director is especially excited to bring the 2013 Tony Award-winner “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” to the stage on July 19-22, and the season will end with the classic “Little Shop of Horrors” taking over the stage from July 26-29.

Go where the locals go

There are several favorite watering holes and family-owned  restaurants in Huron.

The Martello family has been behind the cooking at Marconi’s Restaurant for five decades. Patriarch Salvatore Martello came to the U.S. from Sicily, where he worked as a blacksmith. It turned out he was a fantastic cook. Today, his son Carlo Martello is head chef of Marconi’s. Classic Italian or Italian with a twist, you can get it all here. Everything is made from scratch and the family sauces are homemade. Some of the traditional Italian menu items, such as chicken Parmesan and lasagna, are popular sellers. The restaurant, however, is known for its adventurous menu items, including the Tuscan shepherds pie. They have a full bar of craft beers and exquisite wine. The outdoor patio is a perfect place to relax in the summer with a drink of choice. Marconi’s is just down from the Huron Boat Basin dock, and a walk over the bridge.

“We see a lot of boaters; they even have bicycles on the boats and bike on over,” Martello says.

One thing the locals will tell a visitor about Berardis Restaurant is that it’s all about the french fries. The Berardis family began the restaurant in 1942 with a hand peeler and Idaho potatoes in a green trailer on the Midway of Cedar Point. Its fresh breaded Lake Erie yellow perch sandwiches, complemented with its fries, have diners coming back the next day for more.

Main Street Tavern is comfortable and offers something for everyone — from a competitive game of trivia on Thursday to live entertainment on Saturday. Fun is the perfect complement to the craft beer (they have nine craft beers on draft and about 90 bottled varieties) and food at Main Street Tavern.

“Beer — that’s what we do. Our craft beer is always evolving,” says Jamie Brokaw, who along with Ron Gilbert and Joe Dirt opened the tavern in 2012.

Always a place to stay

The world’s coolest indoor water park is just a few miles from Huron. Kalahari Resorts is a premier water park offering everything you’d need under one roof. Covering a massive 173,000 square feet, this is the largest indoor water park in the United States. It’s designed with an African motif of exotic lands and savannas. They constructed a roof system that allows for year-round natural light, so visitors can get a tan even in the winter. The resort offers body boarding or stand-up surfing, and the water park is made up of 26 slides. There is a wave pool, the Swahili Swirl 60-foot diameter bowl raft ride, the Zip Coaster uphill water roller coaster waterslide, and the Rippling Rhino and Victoria Falls raft rides.

But if water parks are not your thing, Huron has a one-of-a-kind residence in the historic Captain Montague’s Bed & Breakfast, a quaint home away from home. Operated by Nancy and Bruce Brothernton, this Victorian home was built in the late 1870s by master ship builder John Wickham. The home spans an entire block of Huron’s lakefront community known as the Old Plat. The character is evident at the front door, with its original warm ruby glass, and continues into the foyer, with its handcrafted walnut staircase. The music room contains an 1880 carved walnut pump organ. Every corner of the home speaks of Huron’s history — it is its charm.

The best local secret is Sawmill Creek, where everything a boater may need is on one amazing property. Sawmill Creek Resorts is Ohio’s largest resort, featuring a 240-room lodge, 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course and a 50,000-square-foot meeting space that sits on 235 acres. There is something for everyone, with three restaurants, Sawmill Creek Shops, pools, guided winery tours, zip lining and a half-mile of beautiful lakefront sand.

Mariner Village Marina is Sawmill Creeks’ 176-slip marina, which offers fully-equipped boat slips from 30 to 60 feet, and includes power, water, pump-out and ice at its gas dock. One of the resorts three restaurants, Mariners Club Restaurant and Bar, sits conveniently dockside. Because the marina is on Lake Erie, if a guest wants to step out of Sawmill Creek and head to one of the many nearby islands, it’s an easy water getaway.

Huron truly is a friendly small town that is a Great Lake Place.

 

 

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