Ohio is such a diverse state. From the metropolitan cityscapes of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus to small rural communities with a landscape that varies from gently rolling hills to flat plains and islands. Yes, I said islands. Are you surprised? It seems the Ohio islands in Lake Erie may be a Buckeye secret, one I’ve written about time and again.
Planning a visit to Put-in-Bay? Start here.
A Family Getaway to Put-in-Bay
A Delightfully Lazy Day at Put-in-Bay: a Multi-Generational Experience
A Put-in-Bay Getaway with Teens
Exploring Family Friendly Kelleys Island
Plan your Summer Escape to Put-in-Bay
During the summer and warm weather months, I spend as much time near Lake Erie as I can fit in, and that includes an annual visit (though I wish it were more) to Put-in-Bay. Recently I had an opportunity to visit with a friend that I don’t see that often.
Approaching Put-in-Bay via Miller Ferry
The forecast was iffy- it looked like rain was on the way, but I’ve been to the island before when bad weather threatened so we decided to take our chances. Armed with umbrellas and ponchos, we parked my minivan or mom-mobile in the free Miller Ferry Parking area at Catawba, picked up our tickets and waited to board the ferry. Miller Boat Line doesn’t keep you waiting long, during peak season the ferry runs every 20 minutes during operating hours.
We made our way to the covered waiting area and could see a ferry approaching the dock. Within minutes, we were excitedly crossing the water to the island. Miller Ferry arrives at South Bass Island at the Kiln Dock. To reach downtown Put-in-Bay you can walk the 2 miles to town, take a cab or short bus ride for about $3 a person, or rent a bike or golf cart. The latter option is always a favorite for my family. To my kids, zooming around in a golf cart is half of the appeal of the island.
My friend and I exited the boat, walked up the hill and about 50 yards down the road to E’s Golf Carts Rental to pick up our ride for the day. There were only two of us, but E’s can accommodate groups or large families with golf carts available to seat 4, 6 or 8 passengers. They are also the lowest priced golf cart rentals on the island. Since rates vary with the season, it’s best to call 419.285.5553 for the current rates and to reserve your rental.
My friend hadn’t been on the island for years, so we began our visit by making a quick drive around the island. If you’ve never been to Put-in-Bay, a great place to start your day is at the Put-in-Bay Tour Train. The tour provides an overview of the island with hop-on and off service at some of the island’s most popular attractions.
Attack of the Mayflies….and Snakes
Our first stop was at the Scheef East Point Nature Preserve. I’d enjoyed a quick walk along the path at the nature preserve the previous year (and picked up a few photography tips from Chloe from the Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy). It sounded like the perfect way to begin our day. Unfortunately, our visit corresponded with the mating season of the Mayflies. We’d only been on the path a short time when we noticed these insects catching a ride on our arms, legs, heads, backpacks- you name it- they were all over us. We would have been smart at that time to turn around, but we pressed on thinking it was a fluke. We made it to the water’s edge and the flies seemed to decrease a bit, so we hopped back on the path.
It wasn’t long before we seemed to be in the midst of a swarm once again. We couldn’t help but laugh but with so many flying insects, we were forced to cover our mouths, so none flew in. At this point, it was faster to continue than turn around, and we were just praying the flies would subside. We finally made it to another beach area where we heard the screams of a little girl. We were sure that she’d been attacked by the flying pests, but we were wrong. A water snake was emerging from the water with its lunch extending from its mouth. While she couldn’t scurry away fast enough, I was eager to get a closer look.
Feeding that Appetite with a Florida Flair
After our harrowing experience, we had worked up an appetite. We stopped at The Keys. A full-service restaurant and bar, The Keys, inspired by Key West, Florida, features a fun tropical theme, relaxed atmosphere, and great food.
We were seated on the wrap around deck of the restaurant which provides the perfect vantage point for viewing Perry’s International Peace Memorial.
My friend and I started our meal with an appetizer or Conch Fritters before enjoying our generously portioned main meals of Grouper Fingers and Burger and fries.
The Key Lime Pie was a delicious end to our lunch, and not to be missed even if you didn’t save much room for dessert.
Interesting Stops, Buildings and Attractions at Put-in-Bay
We decided to walk off some of our lunch by checking out some of the attractions located downtown. The Candy Bar is always a favorite haunt for my family, so I popped in for some treats for the kids and was surprised to find Red Velvet Salt Water Taffy!
The iconic Round House Bar intrigued us because of its shape. We popped in to see what the interior of this 140+-year-old building looked like and surprised ourselves when we lingered to enjoy the talented band in the comfortable air conditioning.
Perry’s Fun Center is fun even if you’re exploring without the kids. The Butterfly House is a great stop to marvel over the butterflies. The gift shop is one of my favorites on the island. From basic souvenirs to jewelry, hand bags, and collectibles, it’s nice to walk through, check out the inventory and see if you can find a treasure or two to take home from your trip.
There are also a couple wineries on the island that offer wine tasting and tours. Put-in-Bay Winery offers tastings at the historic Doller Estate. Once home to one of Put-in-Bays wealthiest citizens, the estate now offers wine tastings, tours of the home and tours of the Island Life Museum.
Heineman Winery, directly across from Perry’s Fun Center offers tours of the winery and the world’s largest geode. To pass time while waiting for your tour to begin, guests are given tokens to trade for a sample of wine.
We stopped many places, but my favorite attraction on this trip was a quick tour of Stonehenge Estate. The stone farmhouse and Wine Press Cottage feature period furnishings. Headphones provide narrative along the self-guided walking tour, and both my friend and I left with an appreciation of the islands wine-growing history.
Our day passed far too quickly, and we realized it was time to return our golf cart and board the next ferry back to the mainland. If you’d like to plan your island getaway, check out the Miller Ferry Put-in-Bay website with interactive maps, event listings, and discount page.
Have you visited Put-in-Bay? What did you enjoy most about the island?
Looking for more things to do in Ohio? Check out my Ohio Bucket List for ideas.
Thank you for Miller Boat Line for inviting me to spend the day at Put-in-Bay.