June 2010 Issue
Enjoy your days in the sun on Ohio’s shores and islands.
To some, the phrase is synonymous with slowing down. For others, it signifies having the freedom to go full throttle. Either way, “island time” means doing whatever you want, whenever you want. And never before have there been so many choices in the Lake Erie Islands region.
Gone are the days of typecasting Kelleys Island as “family-only” and limiting South Bass Island to a party persona. The key to enjoying the island region is to rediscover it with an open mind and a few extra ferry tickets for transport between the islands and surrounding mainland.
Whether visiting for a day or staying on Kelleys Island (kelleysislandchamber.com
) for a full week, you can easily check out South Bass, home to Put-in-Bay. The Jet Express’s inter-island schedule (jet-express.com
) allows plenty of time for diving into PIB’s historic past or The Boardwalk’s famous lobster bisque (341 Bayview Ave., Put-in-Bay 43456, 419/285-3695, the-boardwalk.com
If you’re setting up home base on South Bass (visitputinbay.com
), head to Kelleys Island to see why Health magazine ranked it in their top 10 list of “America’s Healthiest Beach and Lake Getaways” last year. Bicycle or golf cart rentals provide hours of exploration on the 2,800-acre island, best known for its glacial grooves and outstanding natural areas. We’ve heard that some make the trip solely for The Village Pump’s Brandy Alexander (103 Lakeshore Dr., Kelleys Island 43438, 419/746-2281, villagepump.com
Perhaps the least known of the public islands in the Western Basin is Middle Bass Island. Don’t let lack of information keep you from exploring this quiet oasis (middlebass.org
), which includes the Kuehnle Wildlife Area and Middle Bass Island State Park. Middle Bass does have a secluded island feel with fewer than 1,000 summer inhabitants, but there are rental cottages, restaurants and two microbreweries featuring live entertainment. To get to Middle Bass, board the Miller Ferry from the Catawba mainland (millerferry.com
). For travel between PIB and Middle Bass, there’s the Sonny-S water taxi, which also accommodates late-night passengers (sonny-s.com
Those with limited schedules can also get in on the island-hopping action by boarding Lake Erie’s very own cruise ship, the Goodtime I (800/446-3140, goodtimeboat.com
). It departs from Sandusky Tuesday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m., complete with an enthusiastic sightseeing narrative during the hour-long trip to Kelleys Island. Guests have until noon to explore the “big island” before heading to Put-in-Bay for a full three and a half hours of island time.
Exploring By Boat
Ironically, many people who visit the islands each year never actually make it into the water. It’s understandable, considering there are enough activities to keep visitors busy for a month, including shopping, sightseeing, hiking and visiting the array of museums, wineries, restaurants and tourist attractions. But a visit to the Lake Erie islands just isn’t complete if you don’t get your feet wet.
“Kayaking is a great way to explore the natural environment of the islands,” suggests John Dodge, who kayaks regularly during the summer months. The Put-in-Bay resident enjoys the exercise and relaxation, but is most enthralled by what he is able to see while kayaking.
“Since you are going slower and quieter than you would in another boat, the wildlife [don’t] seem to fear you,” explains Dodge, an avid birdwatcher. Kayaks, along with paddleboats, Jet Skis, WaveRunners and small powerboats for fishing and sightseeing, are available for rent at Put-In-Bay
Watercraft Rentals in South Bass Island State Park (419/285-2628, pibjetski.com
). It’s the only place on the islands that rents motorized boats and personal watercraft, but kayaks and paddle boats are also available at its sister site in Kelleys Island State Park. Prices range from $10 per hour for a single kayak to $100 an hour for 19-foot boats that seat six.
Whatever mode you choose, owner Bob Gatewood and his staff will help you navigate the safety rules and give you hands-on training before you hit the waves.
For guided kayak tours around the islands, check the schedule at Kayak the Bay (419/967-0796, kayakthebay.com
). Guide Mike Logsdon leads groups to Middle Bass and Gibraltar Islands, along with several interesting sites along Put-in-Bay. Water bike and kayak rentals are also available from the business, located on the PIB waterfront off Bay View Avenue.
Be forewarned: Once on the water, you may get the sudden urge to also try water skiing, windsurfing or kite boarding. To participate in these sports, you’ll have to bring your own equipment or make new friends.
Dropping a Line
It’s no secret Lake Erie offers world-class fishing, and the best way to experience it is by boat. Walk-on head boats, like Shore-Nuf Charters, depart four times daily (247 Lakeshore Dr., Port Clinton 43452, 419/734-9999, shore-nuf.com
). Private charters are also abundant in the area.
Captain Al Maier will have you hooked up with walleye or perch in time for dinner from Just One More Fishing Charters out of Marblehead (330/414-7125, justonemorefish.com
). To leave from Kelleys Island or Put-in-Bay, try Char-Tom Charters (614/419-8265, chartomcharters.com
). Most private charters accommodate up to six people and include everything you need to fish except for an Ohio fishing license, which can be purchased at most marinas.
Viewing the lake from the top of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Put-in-Bay won’t be an option this year due to restoration of the monument, but there are still opportunities to see Lake Erie from above.
Tom Becker, from Marion, takes in the view by parasailing over the lake several times each summer. The 78-year-old got the bug about eight years ago after watching his daughter take to the skies. He now drives a convertible with “PARASAIL” on its plates and counts the days until his next sail. You just may see him in action. He’ll be the one parasailing in dress pants, a formal shirt and tie.
While Becker may be a parasailing veteran, Jason Hall, owner of Put-in-Bay Parasail, says most of his customers are first-timers. His 10- to 15-minute rides depart from the dock at The Boardwalk (419/285-3703, putinbayparasail.com
Griffing Flying Service is another way to see the sights from above. The airline offers 20-minute scenic tours in addition to transportation to and from the islands. Groups of five fly in a Piper Saratoga and groups of three fly in a Piper Archer taking off from either Sandusky or Port Clinton. Cost for the group flight runs about $175. (419/626-5161, griffingflyingservice.com
EXPLORING THE MAINLAND
Once you set foot on the islands it’s tempting to stay put, but you could be missing out on some of the area’s most interesting destinations.
Port Clinton may be known as the “Walleye Capital of the World” for its fishing, but this popular vacation spot also attracts visitors for its beaches, sightseeing, shopping and nightlife. Take a stroll around downtown and you’ll pass 30 different historical sites and points of interest. A visit to Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center West, at 770 S.E. Catawba Rd. (St. Rte. 53), will help you locate nearby wineries, golf courses and plenty of activities for the kids. Before you leave the area, drop by Cheese Haven (2920 E. Harbor Rd., cheesehaven.com
) for some edible souvenirs. It’s been a visitor favorite for the past 60 years. portclintonchamber.com
The road along Marblehead peninsula winds past quaint roadside stands, unique tourist attractions and the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Enjoy a lighthouse keeper’s view from the top and explore the area’s history in the park’s museum. Definitely stop in the charming coastal village of Marblehead to shop for art, antiques and nautical gifts, or to eat ice cream while watching the freighters come in. marbleheadvillageohio.com
Lakeside, a Chautauqua-style resort on the northern edge of the Marblehead peninsula, operates much as it did when it was founded 137 years ago. There’s swimming, boating, shuffleboard, horseshoes, tennis and volleyball, as well as shopping, casual dining and intellectual experiences to nourish the soul. A favorite activity is walking the streets to admire the hundreds of pastel-painted Victorian cottages. Gate fee required. lakesideohio.com
Water parks and Cedar Point’s roller coasters have made Sandusky famous, but there are hidden gems around every corner of this historic resort city — activities that will lower your heart rate, not raise it. Take a spin on an antique carousel at The Merry-Go-Round Museum or kayak the calm waters of Sandusky Bay. Splurge with a day spa package at Kalahari Resort or pamper your palate with French-inspired cuisine at the Zinc Brasserie on Columbus Avenue. The Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center East at 4424 Milan Rd. (U.S. Rte. 250) is filled with ideas. Stop by to pick up maps and brochures for Sandusky and the entire lake region. shoresandislands.com