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A Delightfully Lazy Day at Put-in-Bay

Tonya Prater, Owner

I grew up spending lazy summer days along the Lake Erie shore in Marblehead and Port Clinton. There were even a few occasions when I would accompany my dad on a fishing excursion- though those trips were few and far between. While my dad preferred and still prefers to experience Lake Erie while being in the midst of it, I like my feet planted firmly on solid ground. The exception is when I hitch a ride on one of the ferries that Miller Boat Line operates, en route to South Bass Island and the summer hot spot of Put-in-Bay.

Knowing that my parents’ would enjoy a day on the lake, with me and my daughter, I planned a day to stow away to explore the island with the intent of making some great memories.

Our day began with a relaxing ride to South Bass island, thanks to Miller Boat Line. It’s important to remember that on busy days, it may take you a bit to find a parking spot when arriving at Miller Boat Line and you may not find a spot in one of their five free lots in Catawba. There are also nearby lots that charge a fee for parking. During the summer, plan to arrive up to 30 minutes before your ferry departs, but don’t stress if you miss your ferry to the island. Ferries run every half hour during the busy season.

on board the miller boat line ferry

You’ll also want to keep in mind that Miller Boat Line has a convenient customer drop-off with picnic tables and some handy benches so you can drop off anyone in your party that may not appreciate or be able to walk several blocks from the parking area to the ferry ticket office, while you seek out a parking spot.

While we could have chosen to take our vehicle to South Bass Island, this time around we were picking up a golf cart from Island Transportation before beginning the short drive into town.

I thought I’d amaze my mom and dad and share some of the tidbits I’d learned last year on the Put-in-Bay tour train. I drove past the original schoolhouse, the smallest state park in Ohio and some of the wineries before stopping at the Butterfly House.

the butterfly house

The Butterfly House is a great stop for all ages and one that my family really enjoyed on our last trip to the island. My mom, daughter and I had fun looking through the impressive gift shop where my daughter tried to convince me that she needed a pair of butterfly wings.

butterfly wings


Inside the exhibit, my daughter enjoyed photographing the many butterflies while my parents’ enjoyed a few minutes sitting on one of the benches simply relaxing and marveling at the beautiful varieties of butterflies as they flitted by, as the butterflies occasionally landed on them.

outside the butterfly house

We continued our tour of the island after leaving the Butterfly House and were thrilled to find the famed Benson Ford Shiphouse.

Built in 1924 by Ford Motor Company, the Benson Ford once transported iron ore and other supplies across the Great Lakes. In 1986, after 50 years of service, the boat was scheduled to be scrapped. The quarters were purchased by an Ohio couple and situated on South Bass Island. The best view of the home is actually from the water but I was excited to get any glimpse of it.

the benson boat house

The sky had darkened so we decided to head indoors for a few minutes at the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center. I know I mentioned that my dad is not a fan of museums, but this one is small, not overwhelming and allowed him to get out of the rain. A win-win for all.

Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center

The museum holds the private collection of two school teachers and displays animals from Alaska to creatures you’ll find on South Bass Island today.

inside the Lake Erie Nature and Wildlife Center

By this time, my daughter was hungry, so we headed back in town for a stop at the Candy Bar, her favorite shop in Put-in-Bay.

Candy Bar

I didn’t expect my parents’ to enjoy this small shop as much as they did but they had fun reminiscing when they saw sweet treats from their past. My mom almost bought a giant Sugar Daddy, before settling on a Sky Bar.

Giant Sugar Daddy

We enjoyed our treats across the street in the DeRivera Park which honors Joseph De Rivera, a Spanish entrepreneur and philanthropist who purchased South Bass Island in 1854 and was instrumental to its development.

DiRivera Park

The park offers historical markers, a play area for kids and a large comfort station with lockers, restrooms and showers.

Comfort Station at DiRivera Park

We hopped back on the golf cart and headed towards to the Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve. Open sunrise to sunset, this Put-in-Bay park was once home to one of the largest Purple Martin roosts in the state of Ohio.

Purple Martins

South Bass Island is a popular place for bird viewers to visit throughout the year, but particularly in the spring.

By now my daughter was pretty tuckered out.

Tuckered Out

We enjoyed our drive along the island and slowly made our way back to town, and headed towards the dock to catch the ferry to the mainland.

But I had one quick stop in mind before we boarded that ferry, the South Bass Island Lighthouse.

South Bass Island Lighthouse

The lighthouse wasn’t open for our visit, but the grounds offer wonderful views of the lake.

The View from the South Bass Island

More rain was moving in so we didn’t linger and decided it was time to end our South Bass Island getaway.

When planning a multigenerational vacation, getaway or outing, there are several things to keep in mind.

1. The abilities of each member in your party.

As my parent’s age, I need to remember that they may not be interested or able to keep up with the physical activities they enjoyed 10, 5 or even 2 years ago. I need to be mindful of this when planning activities.

2. The interests of each member in your party.

While my mom is up for anything, my dad doesn’t enjoy museums, getting photographed or visiting countless little shops. It’s important to strike a balance so everyone in the group, from my teenage daughter, to my parents; have an enjoyable day.

3. Decide in advance who pays for what.

While I had planned to treat my parents’ to a great meal, they wouldn’t hear of it.

Are you planning a trip to Put-in-Bay? Here are some other posts you may find helpful:

Traveling to Put-in-Bay via Miller Boat Line

A Family Friendly Getaway to Put-in-Bay

Bay Lodging Resort in Put-in-Bay

Educational Family Travel: Visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

Kayak the Bay for Active Family Fun

This post is linked to Inspire Me Wednesday with Mama Buzz and the Ohio Family Fun Link-up Party with Hall of Fame Moms.

A special thanks to Miller Boat Line for arranging my visit to Put-in-Bay and for Island Transportation for providing the golf cart and attraction tickets to the Butterfly House.


Mel Lockcuff

Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

I recently had another friend visit Put-In-Bay; it looks beautiful! Any place where you can drive a golf cart around is a-ok in my book.:) So fun. Think I may add this to places we need to visit. Thanks so much for sharing on Inspire Me Wednesday. Featuring you in this week's issue.


Thursday 4th of July 2013

You really should consider visiting Put-in-Bay, Mel. It is so relaxing. There's nothing better than some island time!


Thursday 27th of June 2013

I have an unnatural fascination with lighthouses. Maybe because they have the light and it pulls me in. Regardless, I'd love to make a visit here.


Friday 28th of June 2013

I love lighthouses too. If you ever get this way, the Marblehead State Park also boasts a lighthouse that you can climb. I don't go to the lake without stopping in Marblehead to see it.

Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

Tuesday 25th of June 2013

I've been enjoying your posts about Put-In-Bay. I think that traveling by ferry and golf cart sounds like a great mix. My kids and I would enjoy both the Butterfly House or the Candy Bar. We'll be spending tons of time with the granparents in the next few weeks. While the kids were young, I've gotten away with putting all the activity focus on what would entertain the kids. As the kids and their grandparents are getting older, I guess it will start shifting to satisfy the desires of the bigger group.


Thursday 27th of June 2013

I wish I'd had more time to spend on this recent trip to Put-in-Bay. It was really a great day -- so relaxing and wonderful to spend the time with my mom and dad. I really strive to select activities that everyone will enjoy, but that's not always possible. I think a great vacation or outing with a group really needs to have an element of give and take. Sure you want to do activities that are appealing to you, but sometimes you need to bend a bit and do something that doesn't really appeal to you as much. My family has actually discovered a few fun attractions that way that we never would have thought to visit on our own.


Friday 21st of June 2013

Wow, that's the biggest sugar daddy ever, a blast from the past....what a fun day excursion, thanks for sharing.


Thursday 27th of June 2013

According to my mom and dad, there were many blasts from the past in the Candy Bar. A fun stop- even if you aren't buying anything. Thanks for stopping by & commenting! :)

Lorie S

Friday 21st of June 2013

We moved to Western Pennsylvania 2 weeks ago. I've followed your blog for a long time and even used your tips to plan a trip to Niagara last October while we were visiting PA. Now, I'm going to have to search through your Ohio and East Coast trip info for ideas! Thanks for all the travel tips you include. We love to travel and love learning through field trips in our homeschool!


Thursday 27th of June 2013

My kids are actually in Western PA right now! Thanks so much for your comment, Lorie. It really makes my days when I know that I've been able to help someone plan a fun outing for their family, or given someone a reason to visit an attraction they never would have considered on their own. Traveling is a great way to supplement your homeschool studies. The entire reason my boys' love history has been from the many "field trips" we've taken over the years to historical attractions. Hope you're settling into your new home! You're going to have a great time exploring! Protection Status
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