By Heather Rader
Posted On: Jun 23, 2022
You don't have to leave the state for an island getaway this summer! Located three miles from mainland Ohio in Lake Erie, South Bass Island has become one of the Midwest's favorite summer destinations. This compact 3.5-mile-long by 1.5-mile-wide island is easy to explore, making a day trip to South Bass Island and the village of Put-in-Bay a relaxing escape.
The best way to get to Put-in-Bay (on South Bass Island) is by Miller Ferry. Leaving from Catawba Island Ferry Terminal, the ride aboard Miller Ferry to the island is just 18 minutes. Passengers can sit on the upper deck for a bird's eye view or stand on the lower deck. And all Miller Ferries are family and dog-friendly, plus wheelchair accessible.
Ferry passengers can park their vehicle on mainland at one of seven parking lots (five free and two paid lots are available). While you can take your vehicle to the island via Miller Ferry for an additional fee, there's limited parking throughout the island. Transportation options like golf carts, taxi services, bicycles and a tour train are great ways to explore the island without your vehicle.
For a day trip, I suggest leaving your vehicle on the mainland and renting a golf cart to explore the island at your own pace. E's Put-in Bay Golf Carts is located a short walk from the Miller Ferry dock. They offer two to eight passenger golf cart rentals. I also recommend booking in advance.
While South Bass Island is a small of island of 397 acres, there's recreational activities abound. From kayaking the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails, paddleboarding, jet ski and boat rentals to hiking the numerous nature trails and preserves, this island is a nature enthusiast's dream!
Jane Coates Wildflower Trail
Be sure to explore the Jane Coates Wildflower Trail, Benjamin Woods Preserve, Cooper's Woods Preserve, Dodge Woods Storywalk Trail, Massie Cliffside Preserve, Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve, Oak Point State Park, South Bass Island State Park, and the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center.
To learn more about the islands' role in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, visit Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. The memorial was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. While there is no admission fee at the Visitor Center, to visit the observation deck of the Doric Column Memorial, 317 feet above Lake Erie, the admission fee is $10 for adults and children under 15 are free.
After climbing 37 stairs from the lower plaza to the upper plaza, take an elevator to the top where you'll be greeted with sweeping views of the island, Lake Erie and on a clear day, the shores of Canada. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial is the tallest open-air observation deck in the National Park Service and the world's largest Greek Doric column.
There's plenty of family fun on South Bass Island! Visit Perry's Cave Family Fun Center to explore Perry's Cave, 52 feet below the island's surface, visit the Butterfly House to admire more than 50 species of butterflies, play a round of mini-golf at War of 18 Holes and find yourself out of a maze at Fort aMaze'n. Combo tickets can be purchased for the attractions at Perry's Cave Family Fun Center or purchase a Put-in-Bay Family Fun Pack through Miller Ferry.
Another fun island attraction is taking the Tour Train. The train departs every 30 minutes from downtown Put-in-Bay and can be used as hop on or off transportation to the most popular island attractions.
Lunch from The Keys
You'll work up an appetite after the exploring the island and there's plenty of restaurants in downtown Put-in-Bay and throughout the island to satisfy your cravings. The Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail is a fun way to take a bite out of the island's culinary scene. Start your island food adventure by asking participating restaurants for a trail map and after making a purchase at eight restaurants (be sure to stamp your card at each destination), turn your card into the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center for a commemorative gift.
A great way to relax on island time is by visiting a local winery. Situated on the water with views of Gibraltar Island, Put-in-Bay Winery at Doller Estate makes for a great spot to sip on local Ohio wines. Visitors can also tour the historic Doller House to learn about island life in the 1800's.
The Crystal Cave at Heineman's Winery
Heineman's Winery was founded in 1888 and is the oldest family owned and operated winery in Ohio. Along with local wines, this winery has something special hidden below its surface…a crystal cave! The Crystal Cave was discovered in 1897 and is the world's largest geode with crystals ranging from 8 to 18 inches long. The cave is a must-see for any budding geologist or those curious by nature's unique formations.
With so much to see and do, you'll find fun and excitement all day with a trip to Put-in-Bay!