For as long as I can remember, I’ve been familiar with Lake Erie. As a young girl, I remember visiting the Marblehead Lighthouse with my parents, fishing with my dad on the lake (not my favorite memory as I tend to get a bit queasy on the lake), and listening to my dad recount his ice fishing experiences.
But I’ve never really considered how fortunate the state of Ohio is to border a Great Lake, how vital the lake has been to the area’s economy, or how much history can be found along the shore if you take the time to seek it out. These are just a few of the things I learned on my recent visit to the Maritime Museum of Sandusky.
A visit to the museum begins with a short movie inside a two-story replica of the Cedar Point Lighthouse. The film provides an overview of the history of the lake and Sandusky area before sending you off to explore the exhibits: Passenger Boats, Pirates on Lake Erie, Wetlands, Harvesting the Sandusky Bay, Local Boat Makers and Sandusky Area Shipwrecks.
Don’t mistake the Maritime Museum of Sandusky as boring. You’ll find many interactive features located throughout the exhibits. Computer stations aid in expanding the information presented at the exhibits and stations located throughout the main building provide hands-on learning that ranges from shipbuilding to rope tying to ice carving.
The Harvesting Exhibit gives visitors a glimpse into the past when ice harvesting was common on Lake Erie and the Sandusky Bay was a huge resource. Workers toiled for ten hours a day in extreme cold and fierce winds to cut blocks of ice that were transported as far as Panama. It was hard work to saw a chunk of ice from the lake and workers only made $2 a day.
Other exhibits highlight commercial fishing on the lake, the role Sandusky played in the Underground Railroad due to the location on the lake, and its proximity to Canada.
I also learned about the pirates that roamed on the Great Lakes, why Confederate soldiers were held prisoner on Johnson Island, read about some of the shipwrecks on the inland seas, and learned how passenger boats made mass travel popular on the lake.
An outer building showcases the antique wooden boats built by the boatyards once popular in Sandusky. Visitors can watch volunteers work to restore Lyman boats through the large glass window at the back of the building. Those with an interest may sign-up for one of the restoration classes that the museum offers.
This building was especially interesting to me because I remember my dad owned a wooden boat when I was young. He’s not typically a fan of museums, but I couldn’t help think that he would enjoy this one.
The other outbuilding contains a collection of outboard motors and left me wondering if this could be the world’s largest collection.
The Maritime Museum of Sandusky offers many programs throughout the year for individuals and groups. The museum offers monthly historical programs. Homeschool programs, school field trips, and programs for Scouts can be arranged by calling the museum.
Visitors will find ample free parking, interesting exhibits, and a warm and welcoming staff. Plan to allow a minimum of one to two hours to watch the movie and explore each of the three buildings.
Visit the Maritime Museum of Sandusky
Address: 125 Meigs St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Visit the Website for Current Hours and Ticketing Info: http://www.sanduskymaritime.org/
Other Attractions in and near Sandusky
Visiting Sandusky, Ohio (Ideas to help you plan your trip)
The Merry-Go-Round Museum
Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark
Cedar Point Amusement Park
Cooke-Dorn Historic House
The Follett House
Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve
Toft’s Dairy Ice Cream
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
If you’re a fan of unique museums you may want to check out the very first KFC that is located in Kentucky.
Thanks to Lake Erie Islands & Shores for arranging my visit to the Maritime Museum of Sandusky.