Spend a day in Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Ohio is one of those lucky states that gets a cool lake. Lake Erie, that is! I wish Indiana had more access to the Great Lakes, but at least we bump up close enough to Ohio that we can visit frequently. And that’s just what we did this past weekend. My first time in Sandusky, Ohio happened when I was attending a BloggyCon conference, the day before we spent exploring the island of Put-in-Bay. It was such a fun experience! Since then I’ve had the opportunity to come back and explore even more of what the island has to offer.
Miller Ferry so graciously provided us with ferry transportation and hosted our trip to Put-in-Bay. But, as always, opinions are purely my own.
I recommend checking out Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores and Islands ahead of time to plan your itinerary for the day. While day trips are very doable, extended trips are possible with the many things there are to do on the island and the shores of Ohio. This article highlights the fun things that we’ve done on our visits to Put-in-Bay, but it certainly doesn’t cover everything!
Put-in-Bay is a small island just north of Port Clinton, Ohio, you’ll have to take a ferry to access the island. Miller Ferry provides passenger and vehicle services to Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island from their Port Clinton location every day (hours vary per season, so always check their schedule in advance). Visitors have the option of ferrying over in their vehicles or purchasing individual fare tickets.
The ferry ride is under 20 minutes to Put-in-Bay and runs daily in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. A winter schedule is weather permitting and determined by Miller Ferry (check their website for schedule announcements).
Put-in-Bay is a smaller island, I recommend purchasing individual ferry tickets and renting a golf cart when you get to the island. Check out the Miller Ferry & E’s Golf Cart Combo for a discounted ferry and golf cart rate (reservations should be made at least a day in advance). Bike rentals and ferrying your vehicle to the island are also an option (for an additional fee). There is also a bus and taxi option as well (available seasonally).
Our first stop on the island was Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial National Park. This memorial serves as a symbol of the peace enjoyed by the United States, Great Britain, and Canada and to honor those who served in the Ware of 1812. At over 350 feet in height, the Memorial Column isn’t hard to miss – you can spot it from the ferry. The Memorial Column and Park are open annually, however, the observation deck at the top of the column, and the Visitors Center is only open seasonally (May-October).
Inside the Visitors Center, you can chat with Park Rangers about the Battle of Lake Erie & the War of 1812, watch a short 15-minute video, and get a glimpse of the amazing view overlooking the memorial. The Memorial and Visitors Center are free to visit, there is a fee to visit the observation deck.
Ohio State Parks
Put-in-Bay has two Ohio State Parks on its island, South Bass Island State Park and Oak Point State Park. We stopped by both while golf-carting through the island. Oak Point is a very small park with public dockage for boats, picnic areas, a shelter, fishing, and scenic views.
South Bass Island State Park was my favorite, it had stunning views, a playground and picnic area, restrooms, and a season rental station for watercraft. It’s a 33-acre park with camping available. Some campers had tents set up on the small cliffs overlooking Lake Erie (a few cabins are also available).
Natural Preserves & Trails
In addition to the state parks, there are several nature preserves and beautiful viewing areas on the island. We visited Scheeff East Point Natural Preserve and Massie Cliffside Preserve, each just a short hiking distance to the views. Scheeff East Point is on the very tip of the island and, in fact, our cell phone service welcomed us into Canada (ha!). The teens got some enjoyment out of that, claiming they’ve “kinda” been to Canada now (via cell phone tower signal only). There are signs that warn of the Lake Erie water snakes, to be on the lookout for them, and not harm them. They are non-venomous and we did indeed spot one swimming in the water (don’t be alarmed)!
The shorelines of both preserves offer great fishing spots and bird watching. At Massie Cliffside, there is a small butterfly garden and benches overlooking the cliffside for a relaxing view. A staircase leads down to an older dock and small shoreline where you can see Middle Bass Island. Just be careful on the dock, it’s a bit slippery!
The Dodge Woods Preserve is a 3.59- acre preserve with an 852-foot trail. The StoryWalk trail features seventeen laminated storyboard posts along the trail encouraging children and adults to read as they stroll along the trail. It’s a fun and interactive way to enjoy the nature preserve!
Take the Put-in-Bay Trail Challenge
The Trail Challenge is a passport guide encouraging you to visit all five preserves on the island. If you visit all the preserves to collect your passport stamps, you can turn your passport into Freshwater Remedies (a local shop) for a free item! Print your passport here.
The island’s nature and wildlife center is a family-fun place to visit, they have a wildlife viewing window, live animal display, and a geology display. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day and admission is $3 for Adults, $2 for Children 6 – 11 and Seniors, and children 5 and under are free (the Family Rate is $8).
The most amazing views on the island can be found here! The grounds are open year-round, however, tours of the lighthouse are only available once a month, June through October. The lighthouse was build in 1852 and is now owned by the Ohio State University for research and educational programs. It is even rumored that the lighthouse is haunted!
The Boardwalk & Downtown Put-in-Bay
Downtown offers several dining options including wineries and several breweries, an ice cream shop, the park, and the marina. It’s a cute little area to wander through and where all of the hustle and bustle takes place. Public restrooms are also available in Derivera Park, and many of the resorts and inns can be found here!
The Forge is a great stop for crepes and coffee. Plus, it has a really cool story and is a Put-in-Bay historical landmark! The 120-year old building was the original blacksmith shop, you’ll see many of the original building materials and blacksmith tools incorporated into the restaurant.
No trip to Put-in-Bay is complete without a stop at Perry’s Cave & Family Fun Center! There is an actual cave here and it is registered as an Ohio Natural Landmark. Perry’s Cave lies 52 feet underground and you can take a short tour of the cave to see stalactites, stalagmites, cave pearls, and a rare underground lake.
You can stay for a while and visit The Butterfly House, War of 18 Holes Mini-golf, The Rock Wall, & Fort aMAZE’n while you are at Perry’s Cave. There is also an Antique Car Museum that is free to visit! Please note that many of these things are only open seasonally, so check hours prior to visiting. The Combo Ticket is one of the best deals, you can purchase one ticket that will allow you to choose three out of five activities.
Visit nearby Kelleys Island!
More photos from Put-in-Bay:
A day in Put-in-Bay! Have you been to the Ohio islands? @shoresandislandsoh #putinbay #lakeerie #lakeerielove #thisiscoasting #millerferry #mwtravel #midwest #millerboatline #putinbayohio #ohio #ohioislands #travel
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