When people think of Ohio, I can almost guarantee that they don’t think shoreline and islands. I guess that’s one of Ohio’s best kept secrets- though it’s not really a secret since we Buckeyes try to tell everyone how great Ohio really is. I know I try to do my part to convince people they need to come for a visit.
One of my favorite places in the state is South Bass Island and the small, bustling island town of Put-in-Bay. More than 700,000 visitors explore the island each year and for the past three years, I’ve made visiting a priority. I just can’t pass up a chance to visit Put-in-Bay. I’ve visited with my family, my parents’ and this year, with my teen daughter and two of her friends. We made a day of it and we girls had a great time.
To get to South Bass Island, we boarded the Miller Ferry in Port Clinton. I’ve ridden the Miller Ferry since I was a child so it only seems natural that I would return with my own family. It doesn’t hurt that they also offer the lowest fares to the island and free parking for the vehicles you leave on the mainland. If you choose, you can take your vehicle to the island as well. Miller Ferry will transport cars, trucks, bikes and motorcycles. While we were waiting to board, we watched a delivery truck drive off the ferry.
From May until mid-September, ferries depart from Catawba every half hour beginning at 6:30 a.m. and head back at 7:00 p.m. with additional hours offered on the weekend. The girls were excited to board the ferry and sail off across the lake but, we made one mistake- we forgot that it is cooler on the lake with the breeze and we’d failed to pack sweatshirts or light jackets. We won’t forget next time.
When we got off the ferry, we walked up the hill towards the Island Bike and Cart Rental building to pick up our island transportation. I’m sure there are times when you may find a full-size vehicle helpful on the island, but for most visitors, a golf cart or bikes are more convenient. Parking is limited and it’s a lot easier to get around with a golf cart. If you’re headed to the island with plans to stick to downtown Put-in-Bay, you may opt to ride the bus or take a taxi, as everything is easily walkable for most people. You’ll find both the bus and taxi at the top of the hill as you exit the ferry.
We didn’t arrive until early afternoon and the girls and I were starving. Our first stop was to a fairly new restaurant, The Old Forge Cafe and Creperie. The restaurant opened last year and offers a unique dining experience. The building that was once a blacksmith shop, has undergone extensive renovations and the transformation is impressive. The space is amazing and the food…oh my goodness….just take my word for it and order the Crazy Sam savory crepe. My mouth waters just thinking about it. If you spend the night on the island, you may want to pop in to try the breakfast menu which I’ve heard is pretty incredible. I just can’t imagine anything better than what I ate for lunch.
After we stuffed ourselves at The Old Forge, we decided we should try to work off some of that food, so we headed towards Perry’s Cave Fun Center. We could have played mini-golf, toured an antique car museum, climbed a rock wall, panned for gems, played laser tag, made our way through Fort Amazin’ or toured the cave, but the girls choose to head to The Butterfly House to browse in the gift shop and walk through the 4,000 square foot butterfly aviary. Visitors aren’t allowed to catch the butterflies but the girls really wanted one or more of the 800 butterflies in the room to land on them. They tried to coax the butterflies to land on them, but it just didn’t happen.
When we’d had our fill of butterfly watching, we headed to The Chocolate Museum and to the cafe for some ice cream. We were surprised by the huge scoops! Even with the cooler temperatures, our ice cream was melting and dripping on us before we could finish our one scoop cone!
The girls spent quite a bit of time shopping downtown in Put-in-Bay for sweatshirts since they were cold but the island has so much to offer; great restaurants, homes to tour, museums, monuments, a lighthouse, a stone beach, the state’s smallest state park, kayaking, the list goes on and on. We certainly didn’t have time to see and do everything in one afternoon. Besides, we really wanted to get out of town and sit and enjoy the shoreline.
Before we headed back to the dock to catch our ferry back to the mainland, we stopped at Scheeff’s East Point Nature Preserve for a nature walk/photography workshop with Chloe from the Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy. She walked us through the preserve to several beach areas, pointing out interesting flora and fauna along the way. The girls had their heart set on spotting a water snake on our walk and though Chloe tried to find one for us, we left without a sighting.
We did however, get a few great pictures and I learned a lot more about the conservation efforts to ensure that natural areas on the island remain protected and preserved. Our day proved that not only is Put-in-Bay fun for the family and multigenerational trips, but it also makes a fun day out with teen girls! If only our day hadn’t gone by so quickly.
Have you been to Put-in-Bay? What are you waiting for?
Best of the USA: Put-in-Bay
A Family Friendly Getaway to Put-in-Bay
Traveling to Put-in-Bay via Miller Boat Line
Bay Lodging Resort in Put-in-Bay
Take a Ride on the Put-in-Bay Tour Train
Educational Family Travel: Visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
Kayak the Bay for Active Family Fun
Things to do: Put-in-Bay, Ohio A Delightfully Lazy Day on Put-in-Bay
Looking for more things to do in Ohio? Check out my Ohio Bucket List for ideas.