Family walking onto the beach at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park (photo courtesy of Lake Metroparks)

8 Ways to Enjoy Lake County this Summer

From beautiful beaches to boutique lodging, summer is a perfect time to explore what this part of northeast Ohio has to offer.


Known colloquially as Mentor Headlands, Headlands Beach State Park is the largest beach in Ohio. With over 3,500 parking spots and 35 acres of sand, weekends and holidays at this beach don’t feel overcrowded. Visitors can experience everything from local food trucks to an arts festival this summer. On an overcast or windy afternoon, watch kitesurfers on the lake riding giant wind-powered kites that pull them across the water.

“It’s poetry in motion,” says Gary S. Gerrone, Headlands Beach State Park manager. “It’s just amazing to watch them flying across the surface and doing various jumps and acrobatics.”

In addition to swimming and sunbathing, Headlands is an ideal site for bird-watching because of its diverse animal habitats. In the evening, summer sunsets are breathtaking, too.

“Any summer day is a vacation here,” says Gerrone. “It’s a great place to just be on the beach, next to a big, beautiful body of water. That’s a huge attraction.”

Not far away, travelers will find Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park. Compared to Headlands, this beach is smaller and nice for families with young kids.

“We’re protected by a harbor, so when other beaches are experiencing big waves, we have a better chance to have a little bit calmer water,” says Seth Begeman, chief of outdoor education for Lake Metroparks.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there’s a small fee for parking and the beach is open for swimmers. (Swimming is at your own risk when lifeguards aren’t on duty.) Because of the calm waters, popular activities include kayaking and paddleboarding. Bring your own or purchase an hourly rental at the park. Plan ahead by checking out the harbor webcam online.

“It will tell you exactly what’s going on,” says Begeman. “You can tell if it’s busy, windy or wavy.”

Want to avoid crowds? Try visiting on a weekday or evening when you can still enjoy ice cream at the concession stand or walk in the water as the sun sets over the lake.

Exterior of His Majesty’s Bed & Breakfast in Madison (photo courtesy of His Majesty’s Bed & Breakfast)
Boutique Lodging

In 2010, Carol Shamakian’s husband went to the grocery store. On the way home, he bought a decaying mansion, months away from demolition. After five years of construction, their family opened Steele Mansion Inn & Gathering Hub in Painesville.

Today, the fully renovated 1867 home is a 16-room luxury hotel and event center. Guests enjoy a morning hot breakfast featuring scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and more seven days a week. Most Wednesdays and Fridays, there is a cocktail hour. Visitors can walk the mansion halls while sipping draft beers or local wine.

“It’s romantic. It’s lovely,” says Shamakian. “The world goes away when you’re here.”

Built in 1884, Homestead House Bed & Breakfast is in the heart of historic downtown Willoughby. Drive 20 minutes west, and you’re in downtown Cleveland. Travel 20 minutes east to spend the day visiting wineries.

“We’re a hub,” says Deanna Rowe, owner of Homestead House. “We’re so centrally located.”

The Italianate-style home has five guest rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. Rowe was born in the South and attended culinary school in Paris, so her meals are a unique Southern-French fusion. A multi-course breakfast is served every morning — complete with a dessert like molten chocolate cake or peach cobbler.

“We want people to think of this as their home away from home,” says Rowe.

Interested in visiting Ohio’s wine country? His Majesty’s Bed & Breakfast in Madison is a Victorian-style home in the  Grand River Valley.

“The reason everybody comes to our B&B is for the wineries,” offers Laura Shimko, co-owner of His Majesty’s Bed & Breakfast. Shimko and her husband offer personalized tours of three to four locations. “We can walk into a winery, and we know the owners and the winemakers, but we also know their wine.”

Even if you choose not to take a tour, they’ll help direct you to wineries, distilleries and restaurants to suit your tastes. Folks enjoy the experience so much, Shimko says that roughly 60% of her guests visit again.

Couple with dogs drinking beer at Debonne Vineyards (photo courtesy of Debonne Vineyards)
Food & Drink

Lake County is home to nearly two dozen authentic Mexican restaurants, which can all be explored on the Lake County Taco Trail. One highlight of the journey is Hola Tacos. Located in Willoughby, the flavors of this restaurant are inspired by the street tacos and salsas of Mexico City. A popular menu item is the birria taco, made with slow-braised beef, cilantro and onions.

“We also have margaritas with probably around 10 different flavors,” says Paola Valbuena, co-owner of Hola Tacos. “We incorporated elements like gummy bears. Crazy stuff like that.”

Hola Tacos is also home to Pulpo Beer Co., which serves Latin-inspired beers that are made on-site. For a refreshing summertime choice, try Pulpo Libre, a Mexican-style lager.

On the east side of Lake County, Double Wing Brewing Co. in Madison serves 12 beers on tap. One of the bestselling summer brews is the blueberry kolsch, a crisp, refreshing beer with just a hint of blueberry.

“Some people are so afraid of craft beers,” says Loretta Todd, manager at Double Wing Brewing Co. and Debonne Vineyards. “So, we’ve introduced a few that are very light.”

Lake County is best known for the Grand River Valley, which includes 10 miles of boutique and estate wineries. Founded in 1972, Debonne Vineyards, where Double Wing Brewing Co. is located, is one of the originals. Visitors can enjoy live music and snacks at the outdoor grill, while sitting on the sprawling patio area. Head to the gazebo at the top of the hill for a semi-private getaway.

“It’s really a choose-your-own adventure,” says Todd. “There are people looking for the buzz and excitement of the crowd. But we have so many private nooks and crannies, too.”

In addition to Debonne, there are over 30 other wineries in the Grand River Valley, region to explore.  

When You Go 
To learn more about these and other destinations in Lake County, visit 

Debonne Vineyards

Double Wing Brewing Co.

Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park

Headlands Beach State Park

His Majesty’s Bed & Breakfast

Homestead House Bed & Breakfast

Lake County Taco Trail

Steele Mansion Inn & Gathering Hub