HURON, Ohio – There’s one thing missing from Cedar Point’s newest overnight option – any obvious signs of the world-famous amusement park down the road.
Cedar Point reopened Sawmill Creek Resort this week after a multimillion-dollar renovation to the property, which has been closed for nearly three years.
The result: An upscale, nature-themed new option for an overnight on the Lake Erie coast, with easy access to the water and some of Northern Ohio’s top attractions.
Unlike Cedar Point’s other overnight options, there are no roller coasters within view of this property, no bright-colored artwork of popular rides on the walls.
Instead, the décor is understated and neutral, with natural woodwork and stone in the public spaces, and nature-themed artwork on the walls.
“This has more of a lodge feel,” said Dale Bajcer of Connecticut, who was traveling this week with his college-age daughter and her friend.
Bajcer, who grew up in Lorain County, said he has driven by the property dozens of times over the years, but had never stayed here. He was among the very first guests at the property now known as Sawmill Creek by Cedar Point Resorts.
And so was I, traveling with my two adult daughters early this week.
I wouldn’t typically advocate staying at a new hotel during its very first days of operation, preferring to give the staff time to work out any kinks. I made an exception this time because I wanted to experience Sawmill Creek before peak summer travel.
The property wasn’t 100% ready. The two pools – one indoors and one outside – hadn’t had their final inspection and weren’t open, although they opened the day I checked out. More significantly, the hotel’s main restaurant, Miller’s Table, also was closed, and isn’t expected to open until early August, due to staffing issues. (Indeed, the hotel was hosting a job fair on the day I departed.)
There was still some minor construction and landscaping work going on during my visit. And one guest I talked with reported problems with lights in her room, although she said the staff promptly took care of the issue.
Despite those minor glitches, everyone I talked to seemed to agree: This place is going to be terrific, once it gets fully up to speed.
Reopening delayed by pandemic
Cedar Point bought Sawmill Creek in 2019 and closed it for renovations, initially planning to reopen it in 2020. The renovation – and a parallel makeover at Castaway Bay, an indoor waterpark resort at the entrance to Cedar Point — was delayed by two years due to the pandemic.
Sawmill Creek first opened in 1972, on 235 acres near the border of Huron and Sandusky, about 7 miles east of the amusement park and 60 miles west of Cleveland.
It features an 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf course, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and 239 hotel rooms spread across five connected buildings.
For decades, it was a destination resort and popular convention location, although it had not been updated in recent years, according to Cedar Point officials and former employees.
Cedar Fair, the parent company of Cedar Point, spent a combined $40 million on renovations at both Sawmill Creek and Castaway Bay, according to the company.
Guestrooms were gutted and remodeled; the public spaces, including the rotunda lobby, were brightened and refurnished. There are two restaurants here (or will be, once Miller’s Table is open), plus Mulligan’s Pub on the golf course (currently with a limited menu), the Hideout bar and Creekside Market, serving coffee, ice cream and snacks. The popular Sawmill Creek Shops closed last year.
This new renovation takes the resort back to its glory days, a destination for golfers, meeting planners, nature lovers and – yes — amusement park fans.
It’s also a short drive from the Cedar Point Sports Center, new in 2017, which hosts youth sporting events year-round.
Sawmill Creek is the fifth overnight property operated by Cedar Point, which also owns Hotel Breakers, on the beach adjacent to the amusement park; Castaway Bay and Cedar Point Express, both near the entrance to the park; and Lighthouse Point, an RV and cabin resort on the lake at the far end of the Cedar Point Peninsula.
While guests at all of the properties enjoy similar perks including discounted admission and early access to the park, Sawmill Creek is designed to be different, according to Cedar Point spokesman Tony Clark.
“We wanted Sawmill Creek to be a standalone retreat, so while Sawmill Creek is connected as an official Cedar Point Resorts property, it serves a bigger purpose than just Cedar Point park access and benefits,” he said. “It’s a ‘home base’ for travel in the area, and we want (and expect) that guests will explore not only Cedar Point, but the greater Shores and Islands region.”
Clark said the resort plans to offer year-round programming at Sawmill Creek, with a special emphasis on the holidays and variable seasons. “We will be actively gathering guest feedback to shape those events,” he said.
Frequent Cedar Point visitor Lisa McCormack, from Columbus, said she enjoyed Sawmill Creek more than Hotel Breakers, the park’s landmark property. “It’s more resort-like, and quiet,” said McCormack, who spent the day at the park with her two daughters before retreating to the new hotel. “I wanted to get away from the lights and the noise.”
Season passholder Danielle Chavez from Lake County also enjoyed her stay. “It’s a cheaper alternative for families than Breakers,” she said, with overnight rates starting below $200, versus $300 to $400 at Breakers. And with easy access to Ohio 2, she believes it will be very popular for conventions and other group gatherings.
Indeed, Sawmill Creek was hosting its first group event, a gathering of judges, on the day of my departure.
Exploring the property
My kids and I arrived late Monday afternoon, after spending half a day at Cedar Point.
Standard guestrooms come with a single king bed or two queens, with larger rooms offering pullout sofas and bunkbeds. Rooms are equipped with a combined desk/dresser, microwave and mini fridge, but no coffee pot (a pet peeve). The bathroom features Bath & Body Works products.
We packed our bathing suits, but upon learning that the pools weren’t ready, set out to find the property’s other body of water (Lake Erie).
Unfortunately, the hotel isn’t right on the lake. It’s a good 10-minute walk to the water, along a winding path that leads through the golf course, past a 176-slip marina and privately owned condos on the property.
Much of the shoreline here is lined with giant rocks, presumably to prevent erosion, but which also prevent full access to the water. We were told that there was a small beach on the property, so we continued walking west and found a lovely stretch of sand that we had all to ourselves.
This part of the property is immediately adjacent to Sheldon Marsh, a 472-acre state nature preserve that is very popular among birders. We continued west along the path, followed a short boardwalk and came upon another terrific beach, this one owned by the state of Ohio and open to the public (although swimming is prohibited). A paved path took us back south toward U.S. 6 and a small parking lot for Sheldon Marsh, as well as a cut-through to Sawmill Creek.
Back at the resort, we enjoyed a cocktail at the Hideout Bar, “hidden” away on the hotel’s second floor, and then were ready for food.
With Miller’s Table not open, and the Harvest restaurant serving only breakfast, we headed into Huron for dinner, where we enjoyed French fries, perch and peanut butter pie at Berardi’s (home of the original Cedar Point fries, for those of you rusty on your park history).
The buffet breakfast the next morning at Harvest was very good (and pricey, at $19.95), with eggs, sausage and bacon, hashbrowns, pastries, cereal and fresh fruit.
With full stomachs, my kids headed back to their respective obligations, and I returned to Sheldon Marsh to explore a bit more.
Because, yes, while I’m an amusement park fan, I like nature parks too. And Sawmill Creek provides easy access to all of it.
If you go: Sawmill Creek by Cedar Point Resorts
Where: 400 Sawmill Creek Drive, Huron, an hour west of Cleveland
How much: Summer rates start at $169 per night, with packages including golf and amusement park tickets.
Cashless: Reminder – the resort, like the amusement park, doesn’t accept cash.
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