In the Algonquin language, Ashtabula means "river of many fish." The Port of Ashtabula is home to a wide variety of fishing charter companies and marinas, underscoring its proximity to Lake Erie's rich fishing grounds. Downtown, the Port of Ashtabula boasts stylish shops, restaurants, and parks. During the summer, North Park hosts live concerts. Along the Lake Erie shoreline in the Port of Ashtabula, there are more parks, fine dining, shopping, and wineries.
The Port of Ashtabula has a humid continental climate that is modified by the influence of Lake Erie. There are large differences in temperatures between seasons. Summers are warm and can be hot and humid. Winters are cold, sometimes very cold. Temperatures range from an average high of about 21°C (almost 70°F) in July and early August to an average low of about -5.5°C (22°F) in January. Precipitation in the Port of Ashtabula ranges from its peak in June of about 11.6 centimeters (4.6 inches) to a low of 5.7 centimeters (about 2.25 inches) in February. Humidity levels are relatively constant throughout the year, peaking at about 84% in August and September and falling to around 75% in April. Snow comes to the Port of Ashtabula from mid-October until early May, peaking in December and January at about 56 centimeters (22 inches).
The Historic Harbor District is a popular place to gather for shopping and dining in turn-of-the-century buildings along Bridge Street near the functioning harbor for the Port of Ashtabula. The original Port of Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1836 and then rebuilt in 1905 and 1916. Automated since 1973, the lighthouse is still active. The original keeper's house is now the Great Lakes Marine and US Coast Guard Museum. Located at the end of the breakwall, the lighthouse can best be seen by boat or from Point Park or Walnut Beach. Point Park overlooks the Port of Ashtabula. Walnut Beach Park has a concession stand that opens at 8am every day with a variety of snacks and beverages. Walnut Beach has covered pavillions, and lifeguards are on duty until 6pm.
The Great Lakes Marine & Coast Guard Memorial Museum (also known as the Ashtabula Maritime Musuem) houses thousands of photographs that tell the story of the Port of Ashtabula and the Great Lakes. Located in the old lightkeeper's home, the museum features seven rooms of displays, artifacts, and models. It also has an authentic pilot house from the Steamer Thomas Walters, a ship display of the USS Ashtabula, the Ashtabula Car Ferry, and the original fourth-order Fresnel lens used in the Port of Ashtabula lighthouse. From the grounds, visitors can watch ships being loaded and unloaded or the Bascule lift bridge open and close for power boats and sailboats. The gift shop offers a variety of nautical items. The museum is open in June, July, and August from Friday through Sunday and in September on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children from six to 16.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Port of Ashtabula's Hubbard House was a last stop on the Underground Railroad before escaped slaves entered Canada. The 1841 home illustrates life as it was in the latter 19th Century. On the first floor is the home of William and Catharine Hubbard. The second floor houses the Underground Railroad exhibit, and the basement is home to the Civil War and Americana exhibit. The Port of Ashtabula was home to more than 30 Underground Railroad stations (or safehouses), and almost 66% of them still stand. However, the Hubbard House is the only station open to the public. A map in the exhibit shows the location of the sites that are known today. Artifacts in the basement include pieces from the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War. There is also a special exhibit covering the 1876 Great Ashtabula Train Bridge Disaster. The Port of Ashtabula's Hubbard House is open from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1pm until 5pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children from six to 16.