Whether your family loves theme parks, shopping, museums, history, architecture, or food, you’re sure to find fun with these 19 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio and the nearby Shores & Islands region.
The Shores & Islands region lies along Lake Erie in north-central 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 during the summer and winter. A successful fishing trip meant a delicious meal of beer-battered perch for the family.
My preschool years included 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 my 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.
19 Things to Do in Sandusky Ohio
Sandusky has a lovely downtown you’ll definitely want to explore. There are several museums, an architectural walking tour (which you can easily do from the warmth of your car in the cold weather), and several eclectic restaurants and eateries.
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 in the Underground Railroad.
Address: 125 Meigs St., Sandusky, Ohio 44870
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
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
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
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
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.
Shopping in the Shores & Islands Area
Sawmill Creek Resort offers some of the best shopping in the Shores & Islands area. Guests will find jewelry, housewares, gourmet kitchen items, and Vera Bradley handbags as well as clothing and accessories for men, women, and children in the restored 10,000 square foot historic barn.
The 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 Deli offers quick and convenient options from snacks and ice cream to salads and wraps, right next to the outdoor pool.
Downtown Sandusky, Port Clinton, Marblehead, Huron, and Vermilion are all a short car ride away.
Sawmill Creek Resort
Address: 400 Sawmill Creek Dr., Huron, Ohio 44839
Where to Eat in Sandusky
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
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
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
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
The Volstead transports its visitors back in time to the days of 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
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
Manny’s Sports Tavern is not only a fun place to hang out with the friends, but also offers an incredible brunch selection.
Address: 6201 Milan Road, Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Sandusky Ohio Attractions
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
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.
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
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, a roller 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
The largest indoor water park in the United States, Kalahari is more than water slides. 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
Great Wolf Lodge is North America’s largest family of indoor waterparks. This Sandusky water park 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
Plan Your Visit to Lake Erie Shores & Islands
The Shores and Islands region of north-central Ohio stretches east of Toledo to the west of Cleveland and includes the following areas:
- Kelleys Island
- Catawba, Marblehead, and Port Clinton
Ready to plan your Shores & Islands Getaway? Pop in to one of the visitor’s centers in the area or request your free travel planning guide. You can also download the Shores & Island Travel Guide. Hopefully, my recommendations for things to do in Sandusky and nearby will help you plan an unforgettable getaway for your family.
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.