After a colder than usual winter for most of the U.S., spring is finally here and it’s time to leave our dens of hibernation and head outdoors. For a new type of playground, consider the Lake Erie Islands of Ohio.
Most people are surprised to hear there are islands in Ohio but look at a map and you’ll see these bodies of land clustered together in the lake’s western basin, north of the state’s mainland. They are the Jersey Shores of the state and a prime vacation destination. There are over two dozen islands, a few of which are Canadian, but only five are inhabited and only three have ferry service.
Enjoy fresh seafood at the Boardwalk
History aficionados will like touring the U.S. Brig Niagar
Begin your adventure with atrip on the Jet Express, heading from Sandusky to South Bass Island. The high-speed passenger ferry makes additional stops at Kelley’s Island and Cedar Point, a top-rated amusement park in the U.S.
Put-In-Bay is an idyllic village on South Bass Island. Historians believe the origin of the town’s name refers to the bay’s use as a shelter from bad weather. Some, however,think it’s derived from the harbor’s shape, which according to an 1879 journal entry was described as a “pudding bag with a soft bottom.”
Visitors have been coming to Put-In-Bay since the 1850s, when Jose DeRivera, a Spanish merchant, bought several of the islands and began developing them. He was responsible for getting the grape-growing and wine-making industry started in the area, a business that still thrives today.
When it comes to Put-in-Bay, this sign says it all!
The Jet Express whisks passengers from Ohio’s mainland to the islands
The majority of folks get around the island via golf cart or bicycle. Both are practical methods of transportation to explore the miles of roads, parks, preserves and trails. Golf carts, which are available to rent from various shops in town, are in abundance and it’s quite a humorous sight tosee rows of them lining the streets.
With its diverse mix of architecture, Put-In-Bay charms visitors. But this little village,is more than a pretty face. History was made here during the War of 1812 in the Battle of Lake Erie, which marked the only time a British fleet had been defeated.
You’ll learn all about this pivotal conflict when you tour the U.S. Brig Niagara. The ship is a reconstruction of the original, a two-master, square-rigged sailing vessel, which plies the Great Lakes preserving and interpreting the story of the Battle of Lake Erie.
History enthusiasts will also enjoy Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie and Commodore Perry’s victory, as well as the subsequent peace between America, Canada and Great Britain. Managed by the National Park Service, theimposing, 352-feet, Greek Doric monument is made of 2,340 blocks of pink granite. Head up to the observation deck for picturesque views of the lake and surrounding islands.
The island is home to the world’s largest celestite geode, called Crystal Cave. Discovered in 1897, the cave is known for its translucent blue celestite crystals. Another subterranean attraction is Perry’s Cave. This Ohio Natural Landmark boasts formations createdby encrusted calcium carbonate deposits from centuries of water dripping from the ceiling.
Shoppers will enjoy the eclectic stores and galleries dotting the town center. And when it comes to food, you’ll find numerous restaurants to choose from with a variety of offerings. At night, the area is a live entertainment district with musicians performing everything from country to rock.
If you want to take the laid-back pace down a notch further, head toKelley’s Island.Known as the Emerald Isle, Kelley’s is a peaceful mecca for nature lovers with hiking trails, rocky shorelines, a pristine beach, lush forests and quarries. It’s also the site of the Glacial Grooves, a National Natural Landmark. The grooves are the largest glacial striations in the world andwere scoured into solid limestone bedrock eighteen thousand years ago by the ice sheet covering North America. They represent the powerfulforce of nature, while providing a record of our earth’s history.
If you go: www.shoresandislands.com & www.visitputinbay.com