A Socially Distanced Beach Escape to…Ohio?

Welcome to 2020: the year of backup plans. After six months of staying home and trying to isolate myself, I needed to take a trip somewhere. My wife and I both wanted something summer-y, maybe with a beach. So we reviewed the travel restrictions and advice, and we decided the safest thing to do was…to stay in our home state of Ohio. Can you go on a weekend beach escape in Ohio? During a pandemic? We were going to try it.

To plan this trip, I had essentially one objective: find a place with good beach access and a pool. A frontrunner emerged right away: the Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point. Now, I normally associate Cedar Point with the theme park and rollercoasters, but the beach is a seriously underrated feature. Cedar Point Beach is a mile of wide, sandy lakeshore, easily one of the best beaches on Lake Erie. In fact, the beach is the reason Cedar Point amusement park is there, the original vacation amenity of the area that has drawn tourists since 1870. It’s privately owned, so access is limited to park and property guests. The Hotel Breakers is right on the beach. And it has three pools—I figured the odds of social distancing while swimming were at least reasonable. The aforementioned amusement park was operating with safety measures and limited capacity. Despite my affinity for such things, we decided it was not worth the risk of being around lots of people.

Checking into a hotel during quarantine was pretty weird, but also reassuring in a way. Masks were required in the indoor areas, a policy that most people seemed to follow. The Hotel Breakers also had temperature scanners at the front desk. We got paper wrist bands to show that we passed. We found our room, which was brightly decorated in a way that constantly reminds you it’s a theme park. A few of the usual items were missing: no paper materials, no ice bucket. Housekeeping would only come if requested (this seems like a good policy to keep post-pandemic). It took me a few minutes to relax and take my mask off. We were successfully in our vacation bubble!

The main draw, again, was the beach. We got up early and went straight for it, hoping that an early start would mean less crowds. (“Get there early” is what I call the universal travel tip- it helps in most situations!) We found the huge beach mostly empty, the bright sun shimmering on the lake and just starting to warm the sand. We walked along the beach for a while, just enjoying the atmosphere and the feeling of not being stuck at home. 

After exploring the beach, we decided to try our luck with the pool. We headed over just after it opened, where we found a handful of people setting out towels and a few staff members cleaning. It’s weird to see so much cleaning—handrails, chairs, everything seemed to get sprayed and wiped down. We claimed a couple of chairs already spaced apart and found a corner of the mostly empty pool to go swimming. It was kinda cold, but I could hardly complain. Freedom! Fun! Almost like the before-times. Gradually more people filtered in, so we had to stay in a small area to stay distant from everyone else. Weird, but it worked.

The beach and pool objectives accomplished, we walked around the property in search of lunch options. I was not overly optimistic. We had walked by a restaurant the night before, a hibachi place that looked small and too crowded for safety. That was the story everywhere. Despite lots of outdoor areas to sit, there weren’t any outdoor options for lunch. We grabbed coffees from Starbucks and resolved to get carryout. 

The rest of the weekend was a mixed bag of successes, disappointments, and generally making things work. We ate in the hotel room a lot. Not ideal, but we felt safe and managed to find a great local pizza place. Things at the resort got really crowded in the afternoon—all the pools were at capacity and the beach filled with people and boats. Lots of people were heading in and out of the theme park. I felt really frustrated and anxious about trying to maintain distancing with all the unmasked people outside. We ended up taking a nap and heading out again in the evening. We spent more time relaxing at the pool and walking along the beach in the quieter hours. 

The next day we headed to Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve for a nature walk. Hiking or nature walking has turned out to be one of the safest activities during the pandemic, and it’s even better at a lesser known area like Sheldon Marsh. The park has wide trails and boardwalks that lead you through forest, wetland, and to the sandy lake shore. We saw lots of birds and enjoyed a look into the natural environment of Lake Erie’s coast.

So, was it a successful beach escape? By 2020 standards, I say yes. We got our time at the beach and the pool, soaked in some sunshine, and enjoyed our little adventure. At the same time, it was hard not to feel disappointed thinking about all the ways our trip would have been better in the before-times. We missed dining out and getting drinks. It was really isolating trying to avoid people as much as possible. But we were happy to have an escape, to enjoy something of a vacation, even if it was a backup plan.

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