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Spotlight on Ohio’s Shores & Islands Region: Things to do in Sandusky

Whether you are visiting the area alone, as a couple or with your family, you'll find plenty of things to do in Sandusky, Ohio.

Sandusky and the surrounding area has always held a special place in my heart. As a young girl, a trip to the lake was how my family would escape the rigors of everyday life. My dad spent time both on and near Lake Erie fishing- summer and winter. A successful fishing trip meant a delicious meal of beer-battered perch for the family.

My preschool years were spent with dozens of road trips with my parents and grandparents, driving along the Coastal Trail. I remember peering into the now-closed Blue Hole in Castalia. Tasting cheese and candy samples at Cheese Haven in Port Clinton. And digging my feet into the sand and dipping my toes into the water at East Harbor State Park.

When my family moved out of state, it was the Shores and Islands area along Lake Erie that I missed more than any location in the Buckeye State. And when we returned, the Marblehead Lighthouse was the first stop on the agenda.

When I want a quick getaway or need to relax, I’ll drive up to Lake Erie, find a place to sit, and listen to the waves crash on the shore while seagulls circle overhead.

Some of the destinations I remember as a child are long gone, but as an adult, I’ve found new attractions to love.

What is the Shores and Islands area?

The Shores and Islands region of north-central Ohio stretches east of Toledo to the west of Cleveland. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share some of the attractions that I’ve enjoyed visiting solo, with my husband, or with my family in the following areas:

Hopefully, my recommendations will help you plan an unforgettable getaway for your family.

Things to do in Sandusky, Ohio


The Shoppes at Sawmill Creek near Sandusky, Ohio.

The charming Sawmill Creek Shops, located on-site, offer some of the best shopping in the area. Guests will find jewelry, housewares, gourmet kitchen items, Vera Bradley handbags as well as clothing and accessories for men, women, and children in the restored 10,000 square foot historic barn.


Sawmill Creek Resort also offers several options for dining. During the winter months, guests can dine in the Salmon Run Restaurant or Mulligan’s Pub. Trapper’s Delis offers quick and convenient options from snacks and ice cream to salads and wraps, right next to the outdoor pool.  

Sawmill Creek Resort
 400 Sawmill Creek Dr. Huron, Ohio 44839
Phone: 800-729-6455

Downtown Sandusky, Port Clinton, Marblehead, Huron, and Vermilion are all a short car ride away.

Exploring downtown Sandusky

Exploring Downtown Sandusky

Lover’s of history, architecture, and food will enjoy exploring Downtown Sandusky. You’ll find several museums, an architectural walking tour (which you can easily do from the warmth of your car in the cold weather), and eclectic restaurants and eateries.

Expand your Knowledge in Downtown Sandusky

Inside the Maritime Museum of Sandusky

The Maritime Museum of Sandusky shares the rich history of the Sandusky Bay. Visitors will learn about boatbuilding, ice harvesting, and the commercial fishing that was once prominent in the area. The museum also touches on Sandusky’s role of the Underground Railroad.

Address: 125 Meigs St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-624-0274

 Merry-go-Round Museum in Sandusky Ohio

The Merry-go-Round Museum is housed in what is believed to be the only round face post office in the United States. A perfect compliment to the collection, the design of the museum allows a full-size carousel to operate inside. A complimentary ride is offered with the cost of admission.

Address: 301 Jackson St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-626-6111

Inside the Follett House Museum which is owned by the Sandusky Public Library

The Follet House Museum features four floors of exhibits and artifacts pertaining to the history of Sandusky.  You’ll need an hour or more to browse the collection and in warmer weather, the widow’s walk is said to offer an incredible view of the lake.

Address: 404 Wayne St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-627-9608

The Cooke-Dorn House in Sandusky Ohio offers free guided tours.

The Eleutheros Cooke House and Garden resembles a small castle-like structure until you step inside. The interior is a showplace for the 50’s and 60’s. Count the ashtrays and marvel at the state of the art kitchen that cost more to renovate than many homes at the time of installation.

Address: 1415 Columbus Ave, Sandusky, OH 44870
Phone: 419-627-0640

Inside the renovated State Theater in Sandusky, Ohio.
The State Theatre is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the late 1920s, it was once the crown jewel of downtown Sandusky. Developed as a complete recreation area, it featured a bowling alley and billiard parlor as well as the auditorium. Today the renovated property serves the community with both live performing arts and film. (As of June 2020, the State Theatre is closed due to damage sustained during a tornado. Check website for details)

Address: 4107 Columbus Ave. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 877-626-1950

Path to Freedom statue in Sandusky, Ohio.

Learn how Sandusky played a role as a stop along the Underground Railroad. The Rush R. Sloane House was recently added to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, joining Facer Park where you’ll find the life-sized and poignant sculpture “Path to Freedom”. A brochure which offers information about Sandusky’s role in the Underground Railroad is available at the Shores & Islands Visitor Centers.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry!


Firelands Winery in Sandusky, Ohio offers tours and tastings year round.

Firelands Winery offers award-winning premium wines, produced and bottled in Sandusky. Tours and tastings are available year-round with a special tasting room for Italian wines. In 2018, the winery added a beautiful exposition kitchen that offers exquisite chef-prepared meals that pair wonderfully with their selection of wines.

Address: 917 Bardshar Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-625-5474

Vine & Olive Meditteranean store in Sandusky, Ohio.

Olive & Vine is a Mediterranean bakery (with free samples) that offers an impressive selection of prepared foods in the market and deli, including wines, olive oils, and balsamic vinegar. Tip: When you visit, buy a loaf of the freshly baked bread- the Italian Herb bread is delicious!
Address: 4917 Milan Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-502-4000

Toft's Dairy is the oldest dairy in the state of Ohio. Their ice cream parlor in Sandusky offers 51 flavors of ice cream.

Toft’s Ice Cream is the oldest dairy in the state of Ohio, and when it comes to creating a high-quality, tasty ice cream, they’ve nailed it. Toft’s has parlor locations in Fremont, Port Clinton, and Sandusky. With 51 flavors to choose from in Sandusky, guests can quickly become overwhelmed so make sure you try the two samples you’re allowed before making your decision.

Address: 3717 Venice Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-625-4376

Hearth Tavern in Downtown Sandusky offes good food and service.

ZINC Brasserie & the hearth tavern share space and a common kitchen in Downtown Sandusky, while offering guests two distinctly different dining experiences. Independently owned and operated, you’ll find the owner, Cesare Avallone in the kitchen preparing quality, tasty food while Andrea manages the front of the house. You’ll find excellent food and service in a welcoming, fun atmosphere.

Address: 215 East Water St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-502-9462

The Volstead speakeasy in Sandusky.

The Volstead transports its visitors back in time to the days of the prohibition with this fun speakeasy atmosphere. Housed in what was once the Old Dorn Winery and Green Door Brothel, this cozy property is steeped in Sandusky history.

Address: 316 East Water St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Small City Taphouse in Sandusky Ohio.

A relatively new restaurant, Small City Taphouse, offers a blend of Asian and Vietnamese foods that can be paired with one of over 45 craft beers on tap. The décor is comfortable and trendy; a great place to have lunch with a friend.

Address: 202 Columbus St. Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-502-0099

Manny's Sports Tavern in Sandusky in Ohio.

Manny’s Sports Tavern is not only a fun place to hang out with the friends, but also offers an incredible brunch selection.

6201 Milan Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Family Fun in Sandusky

Ferris Wheel at Cedar Point

As the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point draws families and roller coaster enthusiasts from around the country. As Cedar Point celebrates 150 years in 2020, look for exciting new additions such as the Snake River Expedition, French Quarter Confections, and a new Bands in Residence program.

Address: One Cedar Point Drive Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-627-2106

Those visiting Cedar Point may opt to stay at the Hotel Breakers. With beach access, volleyball nets and seating for sunbathers, the historic property offers beautiful sunrise views. The full-service hotel features several restaurants, two outdoor pools, and an indoor pool. There’s also a complimentary shuttle throughout the Cedar Point peninsula.

Arcade at Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark in Sandusky

Castaway Bay indoor water park boasts a warm, comfortable 82-degree temperature year-round, a perfect escape from frigid Ohio winters. Featuring a water coaster and large indoor/outdoor hot tub, when your little ones tire of splishing and splashing, they can retire to the lobby and meet the Peanuts characters.

Address: 2001 Cleveland Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-627-2106

Ghostly Manor in Sandusky, Ohio offers fun for the family.                                                                                Photo credit: Ghostly Manor

Despite its name, Ghostly Manor is not an attraction to visit just for Halloween. This family entertainment center features Ohio’s fastest virtual roller coaster, an interactive glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course, skating rink, and bounce houses for the younger crowd. The older crowd may enjoy tackling the onsite escape room.

Address: 3319 Milan Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-626-4467


Outdoor waterpark at the Kalahari.

The largest indoor water park in the United States, the Kalahari is more than a water park. With dining options, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, a petting zoo, a virtual coaster, and a game room larger than Dave & Busters, this is one attraction that is guaranteed to keep you busy. So busy you may need to slip away for a spa treatment.

Address: 7000 Kalahari Drive Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-433-7200

Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky.

Great Wolf Lodge is North America’s largest family of indoor waterparks. In addition to the waterpark, the Sandusky resort offers a kid’s club with craft projects, a MagiQuest adventure, arcade, and Scoop kid’s spa experience. Guests are encouraged to swap their bathing suits for pj’s and meet in the lobby for evening programs featuring a short skit, storytelling, and a chance to meet their favorite Great Wolf Lodge character.

Address: 4600 Milan Road Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 800-641-9653

Request your Lake Erie Shores & Islands Travel guide and Shores Savings Card.

Ready to plan your Shores & Islands Getaway? Pop in to one of the visitors centers in the area or request your free travel planning guide. You can also download the Shores & Island Travel Guide.

Tip: Make sure you snag the Shores & Islands Savings Card to save money at restaurants, hotels, and local attractions.

A special thank you to Shores & Islands, Sawmill Creek Resort and Green Door Media for hosting me during a recent press event and introducing me to more area attractions and restaurants to love. 

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Mel @ Adventures of Mel

Tuesday 24th of March 2015

Sandusky looks to have everything on the list for a great getaway! Beautiful photos, Tonya! I'm so ready for a trip with the family. Thanks so much for sharing at Inspire Me Wednesday. Featuring you in this week's issue.


Sunday 29th of March 2015

Thanks Mel, and to think I forgot all about the link-up this week. :( I have got to get my act together! Thanks for the feature. Protection Status
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