Hit the beach, soak in the sun and feel the sand between your toes on your next visit to Buffalo this summer. Our miles of lakeshore and river access, easygoing beach bars, classic roadside hot dog stands near the water and incredible lakeside sunsets have made for the perfect day trip for generations of Western New Yorkers. Now it’s your turn to discover some of the best kept-secret beaches and sandy getaways that locals have treasured for years. Roll the windows down, feel those refreshing lake breezes and enjoy a day at the beach with this guide to the best spots to relax and unwind along our shores.
All of the following beaches feature public restrooms; pets are not allowed on any beaches and must be leashed in parklands away from the water.
Photo by Lee Ruk
Beaver Island State Park, 2136 Oakfield Road, Grand Island
It seems almost counterintuitive: the mighty Niagara River, world-renowned for its roaring waterfalls and raging rapids, calms to a crawl along the southern shore of Grand Island. Beaver Island State Park takes full advantage of this phenomenon; it features a beautiful beach and public swimming area with views of downtown Buffalo in the distance and Canada across the river. One of the region’s best boardwalks lines the Beaver Island Beach; grab an ice cream cone or a hot dog from the Sand Stand snack shack and stroll this riverfront promenade for a quintessential Western New York summer experience.
Free or fee? $7 parking fee per vehicle.
Bennett Beach, 8276 Old Lakeshore Road, Angola
Bennett Beach is a favorite sandy escape for those in the know. Reaching the county beach is its own adventure; visitors must walk over a pedestrian bridge spanning Big Sister Creek and past an enormous sand dune in order to arrive at the shore. The journey is worth it; Bennett Beach offers one of the best public swimming areas in the region, complete with views of nearby Grandview Bay and the limitless expanse of Lake Erie straight ahead.
Free or Fee? Free.
Evangola State Park, 10191 Old Lakeshore Road, Irving
Evangola may just be the crown jewel of Western New York beaches, featuring one of the largest stretches of public shoreline that straddles beautiful, rocky lakeside cliffs. On your next visit here, don’t let the perfect day at the beach end at sunset; stay overnight on the parklands above the shoreline. The state park rents 80 campsites as well as a cabin and several yurts complete with a host of amenities. A nature center filled with exhibits on the Lake Erie ecosystem, a snack shack, and plenty of playgrounds and picnic pavilions make this one of the best experiences in the region for a day – or a weekend – at the beach.
Free or Fee? $7 State park entrance fee per vehicle.
Lake Erie Beach Park, 9568 Lake Shore Road, Angola
There’s no entrance or parking fee, no lengthy driveway to reach the shore, nor a long walk from the parking lot to arrive at Lake Erie Beach Park. The entire beach and parking lot is just a quick turn off Old Lakeshore Road and offers a simple, hassle-free alternative for a day in the sand (town lifeguards are currently staffing the beach on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays due to a labor shortage). After a day on the water, wander over for a cold one at Stroh’s Tavern, or order a fish fry on the patio of Castaways, which each offer beachside views.
Free or Fee? Free.
Mickey Rats Beach Club, 8934 Lake Shore Road, Angola
This Angola-on-the Lake institution has been a magnet for beachgoers and partiers alike for decades. For $5, customers park out front, then receive a chip they can redeem for their first drink at the bar that faces the wide open vistas of Grandview Bay. Dozens of on-site beach chairs, volleyball nets and a stand-up paddleboard rental by SUP Erie Adventures give this club a friendly, laid-back vibe that all ages can enjoy, but families should avoid the rollicking weekend evenings that are for the 21and over crowd. Swimming is at your own risk, or customers can wander over to the Evans Town Park beach that has a lifeguard on-site. Chow down afterwards at Connors Hot Dog Stand, which prides itself on char-gilled Wardynski’s dogs, hand-cut pickles and French fries made from potatoes grown just a few miles away.
Free or Fee? $5 parking fee.
Sunset Bay, 1028 S Shore Drive, Irving
Strap on those sandals and spend the day wandering Sunset Bay, a lakefront community filled with cottagegoers, beach bums, and yes, incredible sunsets. There’s a reason why Sunset Bay has endured as one of the region’s most popular beaches: its broad expanses of groomed sand and amenities along the water like Cabana Sam’s Restaurant and the Sunset Bay Beach Club give this destination the vibe of a lakefront resort unlike anywhere else in the region. Take the drive down Route 5, make the turn at Sunset Bay and drive the narrow streets surrounded by cottages down to the water to discover this popular lakeside gem.
Free or Fee? $5 parking fee per vehicle, $5 admission fee at the beach.
Wendt Beach , Lake Shore Road, Derby
This hideaway beach is the ideal destination for those looking for some solace and quiet – the perfect place to drop a chair and read a book along the water. Wendt has no public swimming, which cuts down on the crowds but gives the beach a peaceful charm. The 164-acre park and beach was formerly an estate for one of the wealthiest families in Buffalo; the long-shuttered mansion facing the water is awaiting an upcoming rehabilitation and gives the beach historic character and atmosphere found nowhere else in Western New York.
Free or Fee? Free
Photo by KC Kratt
Woodlawn Beach State Park, 3580 Lake Shore Road, Blasdell
Generations of Buffalonians have enjoyed Woodlawn State Park’s beach, and for good reason. Woodlawn sits just a few miles from the city line and offers great views of the nearby downtown skyline, the massive wind turbines lining the lake and the Canadian shoreline. Yet this expansive public beach and park is a world apart from city living. Two different bars along the sand and behind the park shelter give this beach the feel of a faraway escape, while a 130-foot-long boardwalk transports visitors through a forest on the way to the water.
Woodlawn has a beach wheelchair for rent and a wheelchair charging station available, making this one of the most accessible options to see our shores. With volleyball nets and broad expanses of freshly combed sand, it’s no wonder Woodlawn remains one of the most popular beaches in Western New York.
Free or Fee? $7 parking fee per vehicle.