The Lake Erie Islands are located just north of Sandusky, OH, and include Kelleys Island, Pelee Island, the Bass Islands and several other smaller islands. The majority are part of the State of Ohio, but Pelee Island is actually part of Ontario, Canada. These sparsely populated islands, with fewer than 1,000 year-round residents altogether, are a major tourist magnet visited by more than 750,000 people each year.
The Lake Erie Shores & Islands area has recently expanded on its reputation as a wine-producing region with new tasting rooms and craft breweries forming the 19-stop Cheers Trail that offers visitors a unique way to taste their way through the region. For foodies, downtown Sandusky is booming. Within a short walking distance of nearly a dozen marinas that dot the city's waterfront, you find everything from fish shacks to fine French dining.
Special downtown events include the annual Ohio Bike Week motorcycle rally, North Coast Oktoberfest, Cruisin' by the Bay, Dragons & Bacon Fest, and Witches' Walk, as well as the monthly Art League's Art Walk Sandusky, the Bayfront Bazaar & Brew series, outdoor movies at Paper District Marina and Amphitheater, and Party at the Pier outdoor concert series.
Where to Dock: Battery Park Marina in Sandusky
Kelleys Island was used as a military rendezvous point during the War of 1812, first by the British and later by the United States. After the Kelley brothers purchased the island in 1840, they operated limestone quarries and timber-cutting operations, and grew grapes. Today the island is primarily a vacation destination offering rocky shorelines, pristine beach, lush forests, fragrant vineyards, historical homes and friendly hospitality. Highlight: Quarrying operations revealed glacial grooves in the bedrock, now regarded as some of the best visual evidence of Pleistocene ice sheets anywhere. The grooves are now protected as part of Kelleys Island State Park.
The island also features several public beaches, and many areas allow swimming, boating and fishing. Boaters can dock at either Crafts Lakeview Lane Marina or Seaway Marina, and island accommodations include Kelleys Island Venture Resort, offering 31 luxury suites equipped with all the amenities one could desire -- swimming pool, therapy areas, hot tubs, etc.
As some stories have it, the name Put-in-Bay originally referred to the harbor, because it was shaped like a pudding bag with a soft bottom, although most accounts say it is simply because ships would put in at the island's natural shelter to avoid Lake Erie's famous storms. Put-in-Bay is actually the name of the town on South Bass Island, the southernmost of the three Bass Islands.
Often referred to as the Key West of Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay is a hugely popular destination during the summer, and its shops, restaurants and bars are packed with tourists arriving by ferry from Port Clinton and Sandusky. History buffs must visit Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 325-foot pink granite column honoring Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's 1813 naval victory over the British, wherein he uttered the now famous phrases "Don't give up the ship" and "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The memorial column is the highest open-air observatory operated by the U.S. National Park Service, and the remains of six naval officers --- three British and three Americans ---are interred beneath the floor of the rotunda.
The Put-in-Bay Township Port Authority owns the mooring field in the downtown harbor and offers boaters the perfect anchorage while visiting South Bass Island. About 80 mooring buoys operate on a first-come, first-served basis. The Harbor Taxi Service operates three harbor launches to transport you to the Boardwalk Dock in the heart of downtown. Three other large public docks can accommodate hundreds of private boats.
Cedar Point is a 364-acre amusement park located on a peninsula just east of Sandusky. Opened in the late-1800s, it is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2020. One of the park's key attractions is its 17 roller coasters -- the second-most in the world -- as well as nearly 60 other rides. Cedar Point is open every day from mid-May until Labor Day and is open on weekends until the end of October.
Other attractions include a mile-long white-sand beach, indoor and outdoor water parks, two marinas, an outdoor sports complex, and several nearby resorts. Overnight accommodations at the park range from the beachfront Hotel Breakers to private cottages and cabins along the Lake Erie waterfront. The Cedar Point Marina and Castaway Bay Marina both offer everything boaters need, including a floating pier system, gas dock, laundry, marina store, picnic area, gated docks and swimming pool, as well as discount tickets to the park, a courtesy shuttle, and two restaurants, the upscale Bay Harbor and Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que. Nearly 100 guest docks are available at the Cedar Point Marina, ranging in size from 30 to 125 feet. Single reservations are taken with at least one day's notice, and 50-foot docks include cable TV.