Step inside the world’s largest geode when you visit Crystal Cave on South Bass Island which is located on Lake Erie north of Sandusky.
Ohio holds many surprises. I’ve shared a food item that has put one Ohio town on the map. Today, I’ll introduce you to a natural wonder that my family experienced a couple of years ago. You can go too, but I’ll warn you, it requires you to sail upon Lake Erie by ferry, ride in a golf cart or fun train, and sample wine. That doesn’t sound like fun at all, does it? *wink*
Our adventure begins at the Miller Ferry Dock in Port Clinton where you can purchase tickets to board the ferry to South Bass Island, home of Put-in-Bay. Once you arrive on the island, you have two options. You can:
- catch a bus heading downtown and board the Put-in-Bay Tour Train.
- rent a golf cart and explore at your leisure.
If you choose option one, you’ll jump off the train at the Heineman Winery. If you choose the latter, you’ll drive yourself to the winery. The Heineman Winery is about a mile from downtown Put-in-Bay.
Both are great options and will get you to the same place, but for my family, one of the perks of visiting the island is riding and driving the golf cart.
Founded in 1888 by Gustav Heineman, a German immigrant, the winery has been producing wine and grape juice for five generations. The family produces more than 20 wines and two kinds of grape juice from wines grown on the island and in the surrounding Lake Erie Island region.
Once you arrive at the Heineman Winery, you may purchase tickets for a winery and cave tour. You can browse the gift shop or sample wine while you wait for your tour to start.
We visited early in the season, so the winery was not bottling wine, but we were able to see the facility and hear about the wine-making process. After we had toured the winery, it was time to see Crystal Cave.
Visitors to the cave descend 40-feet down into the cave via a steep set of stairs. You’ll marvel as you walk straight through the geode and observe crystals that range in size from 8 inches to a foot and a half long.
Touring Crystal Cave, the World’s Largest Geode
You’ll learn about the history of the cave, how workers discovered the cave in 1887 while digging a well beneath the winery and how tours of Crystal Cave single-handedly saved the winery during Prohibition.
The original cave was much smaller than what you see today. The walls are covered with strontium sulfate, a blueish mineral called celestite that is used to make fireworks. In the early days, the celestite was mined for this purpose but Mr. Heineman put a stop to the mining when he realized that the cave could be more beneficial as a tourist attraction.
Crystals from the cave are on display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C.
This attraction is what would be considered a tourist trap by some but it satisfied my family’s curiosity while fueling our love of all things roadside attractions.
You’ll find Heineman’s Winery, Home of the Crystal Cave, at 978 Catawba Avenue, Put-in-Bay. If you have questions, you may reach them at 419-285-2811. Visit their website for hours and admission costs.