Sunset at Ottawa National Wild Refuge

Road Trips: Northwest Ohio Nature Getaways

Explore northwest Ohio to find a wealth of biodiversity where the water meets the land.

Birds flock to Magee Marsh each spring, as do those who love to watch them. But the wildlife area is just the start of the natural beauty along northwest Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline. Oak Openings Preserve Metropark protects many of our state’s rare and endangered plant species and contains a variety of ecosystems, while Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve is home to our state’s only natural population of the bright yellow wildflower.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge: Next door to Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is known for incredible birding. On various weekends, the refuge’s wildlife drive is open free of charge for visitors to cruise the dikes through the marshes in search of birds and other animals. (Otters are one of the newer residents spotted here from time to time.) Ten miles of walking trails take hikers through woods and marshes and along Lake Erie. The temporarily closed visitor center shares the story of the refuge and its wildlife. Opportunities for fishing are also available. 1400 W. St. Rte. 2, Oak Harbor 43449, 419/898-0014,

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area: This is considered one of the world’s best birding spots, especially during migration season when you’ll find waterfowl, warblers and other birds passing through. Eagles actively nest here and are regularly spotted, too. Hiking trails include the visitor-favorite boardwalk, which winds through marshes and along Lake Erie. Beavers, endangered Blanding’s turtles and foxes are a few of the animals seen there. The beach also offers a picturesque place for a walk. Stop at the Sportsman’s Migratory Bird Center to learn more about the land and wildlife here. 13229 W. St. Rte. 2, Oak Harbor 43449,

Oak Openings Preserve Metropark (phot by Mike Balonek)
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark: With its diverse ecosystem, Oak Openings is home to a third of all the rare and endangered species in Ohio. Visitors can see sand dunes with prickly pear cacti just yards away from wetlands with blooming orchids. Covering 5,000 acres, Oak Openings is Toledo’s largest metropark. It includes a campground and nearly 100 miles of trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. Travelers with reservations can spend the night in Cannaley Treehouse Village. This spring, Heavy Beer Co. is opening a nanobrewery and coffee shop there. 4139 Girdham Rd., Swanton 43558, 419/407-9701,

Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve: This nature preserve is one of the only places in North America where the endangered Lakeside Daisy grows and the only natural population of the bright yellow wildflower in Ohio. The daisies pop up from the limestone bedrock by the thousands and give a sunny look that contrasts the rocky ground. (The preserve was once stone quarry land.) Visitors can walk among the daisies when they bloom from early to mid-May and hike the preserve’s unusual landscape throughout the rest of the year. Parking is along the road next to the park’s entrance. 309 Alexander Pike, Marblehead 43440,

Maumee Bay State Park (photo courtesy of ODNR)
Maumee Bay State Park: Located on the Lake Erie shore just east of Toledo, Maumee Bay State Park makes a for a great day trip, weekend or vacation with its sandy beach, campground, lodge, restaurant and golf course. The park includes trails that wind through the woods and along the lake, as well as a boardwalk through a marsh that is a favorite for birders. A large hill offers scenic views of Lake Erie, while the nature center is home to education animals, including snakes and owls, and has a wildlife observation window. 1400 State Park Rd., Oregon 43616, 419/836-7758,

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