Camping Local Style

State Parks, Local Campgrounds, Retailers and Markets Make Camping Easy

Tent Camping. Image by

No one would peg our corner of the Great Lakes as a “resort” area. With so many great stops a few hours drive away, including the Upper Peninsula, Lake Michigan all along M22, heading south and east into West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and of course heading into Appalachia, the western shores of humble Lake Erie is not a first thought for camping.

It should be. We have beautiful camping sites and parks that grace our neck of the woods. Part of their beauty is convenience. A camping excursion doesn’t have to feel like an Apollo mission. A quick weekend getaway is as close as 30 minutes yet sacrifices none of the splendor.

No matter if you are an experienced camper complete with military survival training or just looking to spend one night in a tent complete with electric and WiFi, our neighborhood serves up beautiful and memorable outdoor summer adventures.

The Campsites

Maumee Bay State Park

Probably the premier state park in our area, Maumee Bay offers 1336 acres of recreational facilities, including cottages, a links golf course, amazing hiking, and 252 electric fitted camp sites. They have lots of rentals and five miles of paved bike/walking trails. Heated shower houses, some pet camping, playground equipment, and of course, all of Lake Erie is available in this expansive park. Besides the usual camping and outdoor things to do, Maumee Bay is close to several restaurants, clubs, and even an old school drive in movie theater (Sundance Drive In).

Sterling State Park

Let’s call this the Pure Michigan sibling of Maumee Bay. With almost the same amount of acreage, Sterling has a ton of amenities including camping, over a mile of beach with plenty of parking, hiking and biking trails, fishing and boating. If you are from Ohio you will want to check into Michigan licencing requirements and non residency requirements. You can find more information at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Eco Camp

Located right in between Oak Openings and Maumee State Forest, The Eco Camp is a full service campground that provides everything you need to go camping. By “full service” and “everything” we mean:  tents, bedding, grill, plates, cups, dinnerware, solar lights and a battery pack to power your phone or tablet. We know of hotels that have less amenities. Unlike a hotel, The Eco Camp is located in the heart of some of the most amazing outdoor recreation areas in the region. Check their website for full details about the area, what they rent, and other activities just minutes away from the campsite.

Mary Jane Thurston State Park

A small yet charming state park located right on the Maumee. This is a convenient and manageable state park for quick overnights, well luted for beginning campers and those with younger adventurers. It is just enough “out of town” to feel like a vacation yet close enough to not be much trouble. Around 40 camp sites are situated on 105 acres, with both walk in “rough” camping and electric sites. There is a small amphitheater that shows movies on Saturday night and pet camping is allowed.

Van Buren State Park

This is a smaller state park located toward Findlay. Yes, it is surrounded by active farm fields. However, this 296 acre woodland oasis has some charming characteristics, including around 30 campsites, equestrian camping, and the whole menu of state park activities including disc golf. 

East Harbor State Park

Many of us from this area think of Maumee Bay when we think of Lake Erie camping. East Harbor might be the less thought of but it isn’t the lesser park by any means. All the usual state park recreation is available with a large amount of electric and full hook up sites available. Plus group camps, a day shelter and non electric sites if you feel like roughing it.

Sauder Village Campground

Sauder Village Campground has 87 sites spread across both RV and tent camping. They have on site activities and are located in a picturesque location that is still relatively close. Plus, they are at the heart of the historic Sauder Village which is a destination unto itself whether camping or not. The Village itself has a wide variety of activities and entertainment. Be prepared, however, as during key weekends the campsite will fill up quickly.

Stony Ridge KOA

Close to the whole confluence of the Turnpike, I-280, and I-75, Stony Ridge KOA is typical of these types of commercial camp grounds. It has the usual amenities, including hook ups, WiFi, cable (for RV’s) along with kid play areas, horseshoes, a pool and a mini golf course. More importantly, it is close to other things to do and affords a quick get away without too much fuss. There is some tent camping along with a group camping area. An excellent way for the newer camper along with little campers to hone their outdoor skills.

The Island State Parks

When you have so many beautiful islands situated right down the road it is understandable that you also have a lot of state parks. These parks are, understandably, smaller than shore side parks. Three of the four we listed entail a ferry ride, which adds expense and places certain constraints on time and even cell phone service. Don’t let that deter you. There is something “get away from it all” involved in traveling to an island no matter if that island is in the Caribbean or 60 minutes away on Lake Erie. Our picks include:

  • South Bass Island State Park: Includes 128 campsites split evenly between electric, full hook up and tent. Located on the Southeast portion of the island.
  • Middle Bass Island State Park: Fourteen “primitive” walk in sites at this small state park. Truly a “get away” destination but well worth it for the more experienced camper.
  • Kelley’s Island State Park: Includes 126 campsites split evenly between electric, full hook up and tent. Kelley’s Island is less “tourist” like of the Put in Bay area and has an amazing downtown and shoreside strip area.
  • Crystal Rock Campground: A commercial campground and resort area that includes hookups, electric, and non electric camping. It is located on the south shore of the bay, which is a bit out of the “action” for Put in Bay and the islands. However, that in of itself may be an attraction. Readily accessible to all of the island action and ferries but an easy retreat when you just want to relax. Also close to Cedar Point.

The Retailers

Truth be told, camping equipment has become the domain of mega retailers and online distributors. Most local retailers deal with specific activities, like running/hiking, biking, boating, and fishing. Below is a list of some specific shops that can help you with activities when you get on the road.

Dave’s Running Shop

Obviously shoes and running supplies. If you plan on doing some running or even aggressive walking on your next camping trip, you might want to check in with Dave’s for trail shoes and other supplies. 

Spoke Life

Thinking about bikes for your next trip? These guys have you covered. Wanting to get into cycling, casually or as a new type of exercise? These guys have you covered as well. With 4 locations across the area this is a great place to start. Check out their web site as well. They have some excellent “starter” info.

Wersells Bike and Ski Shop

The area’s oldest bike shop with the same services as Spoke Life. Whether tuning up an old

Biking, fishing, paddling, and even skating is a great addition to any camping trip.

bike for a trip or getting a new one, Wersells will help put cycling into your camping trip.

Fin, Feather and Fur

Not strictly a local outlet but at least regional, Fin, Feather and Fur can get you set up for camping and hiking. They are a huge store and have excellent online backup as well. With the exception of some of the finer things, like food, shoes, and bicycles, they are close to a one stop shop for camping. 

Play It Again Sports

Like any used shop, you never know what you will find at Play it Again. However, they do carry used hiking, camping, fishing, disc golf, and climbing gear. PLUS you can look into other gear, including in line skates. Of course, if you have moved on to another summer activity, they are worth checking out to move your extra gear out of the garage.

Maumee Tackle Fishing Outfitters

One of the oldest and most trusted places to get ready to do some fishing. Although we think of them for the Walleye Run, it is good to remember that they can get your ready for a trip camping as well. Tell them where you are going and your level of experience and then let their experts guide you.

The Food

No one place offers “camping” food per se. However, if you are checking out where to get trail mix, nuts, fruit (regular or dried) and some cool things to eat on the trail, several local markets offer a good variety of fuel to keep you hiking, fishing, camping, biking and any other outdoor activity that takes energy. Many of these markets also offer decent staples to get you in the zone for cooking outside, whether along the trail or in a fully equipped camper.

Walt Churchill’s Markets

There are several things we think about when it comes to WCM and camping isn’t’ the first. Don’t let that keep you from using them as your outdoor food hook up. WCM has a decent bulk section for things like nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, etc. Plus their smokehouse has an extensive variety of both regular and chicken sausages, summer sausages, even in house made braunschweiger for the more adventurous picnic. Their deli is stocked with quick salads for coolers. Both locations now have popcorn and trust us, it is good for snacking both on the way camping and during a late night fire.  Finally, if your camp ground allows, WCM has an excellent selection of more adult beverages.

Bassett’s Health Foods

Dried fruit, nuts, trail mixes, power bars. Bassett’s is often overlooked because of the health food moniker. It shouldn’t be. If you are wanting to eat on the healthy side during a hike or camp out, they can get you up and running with healthy snacks. Two locations to serve you.

Claudia’s Natural Food Market

There is no need on a camping trip to compromise our healthy habits. Like Bassetts, Claudia’s can get you ready to go on a camping trip as well. And like Bassetts, don’t forget to check out some of their drinking options as well, including drink add ins, vitamin mixes and teas. They also have a respectable bulk and produce section.

Fresh Thyme

Campfire cook outs and eating on the trail is one of the best things about camping.

Like Fin, Feather, and Fur this is a regional, not necessarily local, market. Still, they can get you up and running for a camping trip. They have the best bulk section in town and it is stocked full of a wide variety of trail mixes, snack mixes, dried fruits, and other tasty consumables that will hold up to camping. Their bulk section also includes oils and vinegars, making it easy to get a small amount for camping (rather than buy expensive larger bottles that often get thrown away). This is true for other camp cooking staples, like flour and cereals.  It is an excellent resource for summer outdoor cooking.

Monnette’s Secor, Monnette’s Reynolds, and Monnette’s Glendale

These produce markets are great stops on the way out of town. First and foremost, your fresh fruit options are an easy grab and make for quick snacks on the road or a hike. All three locations have clam shell packed items like nuts, dried fruits, and trail mixes. And as long as you have a cooler, their delis are ready to stock sandwich staples and deli salads. However, we have to go back to the fruit and snacks. A plum or nectarine on the trail always tastes better than at home.