Just north of the sleepy little town of Port Clinton, Ohio – midway between Toledo and Cleveland – lies the Bass Islands. Accessible only by ferryboat, plane or private watercraft, is the village many have dubbed the Key West Of The North, Put-in-Bay. By winter fewer than 500 people call this island home where ice fishing, euchre, and potlucks pass the lonely winter.
When spring rolls around hundreds of cottagers and many thousands of tourists will flock to the island with many days seeing in excess of 30,000 visitors. Home to the world’s longest bar the Beer Barrel Saloon, this sleepy village brings a family vacation to a new level with quite a large number of attractions all paced into a tiny 2.5 by 5-mile island.
Nearly every day of the season there are Put-in-Bay Events that appeal to young and old alike from historical to family fun events like the popular Pirate Fest held annually in late June. Few vacation destinations in the United States offer so many varied things to do in such a small area as Put-in-Bay.
Wineries with guided tours, caves to explore, rock walls to climb and so much more. An aquatic Center operated by the Ohio State University affords children and adults the opportunity to learn about the ecosystem of Lake Erie and kids get to fish from the docks with equipment provided by the center.
In the center of the island, towering over 300 feet into the air, the Perry International Peace Memorial with an observation deck at the top that delivers a stunning 360-degree view to the Lake Erie islands as well as the Detroit and Toledo Skylines.
After ascending to the top, rangers offer a narrated tour about the history of the Doric Colum, the third tallest in the United States. At the base of the column, rangers reenact historical battles complete with musket firing demonstration and period correct garb.
The Monument and its grounds are designated as part of the National Parks of the United States.
Two ferry-boat companies serve the island. The Miller Ferry is responsible for transportation of freight and vehicles to the island and also carries passengers.
The Jet Express is the primary ferry for the transportation of passengers with five high-speed catamarans that arrive into the downtown area. The Jet Express is the only ferry-boat that offers late night service and a downtown location.
You will not need your vehicle on the island and they are in fact discouraged. Long wait times and few parking spots will greet those who choose to bring a car.
Once on the island you will quickly notice that cars, for the most part, have been replaced by Put-in-Bay Golf Carts. Reservations are suggested prior to arrival as often times there are more tourists than carts! Operated under the same rules as a car, golf carts can be driven just about anywhere on the island and seat between up to eight people.
In the winter months, the Put-in-Bay airport serves as a lifeline to residents as small aircraft deliver medical needs, fresh bread, milk and produce.
In the summer the airport is a hub of activity with old style barnstormers offering flights in a restored Waco airplane over the islands. Several helicopters also operate from the facility taking guest on rides of varying length with some great photos opportunities.
If water sports are your passion, there are Jet Ski Rentals, boat rentals, and kayaks at numerous locations complete with training and a large open riding area.
Parasailing, either solo or double, is a big hit and boats operate off the docks of the popular Boardwalk Restaurant complex in the downtown area. Riders can fly up to 1000 feet in the air and stay completely dry or be “dipped” into the water for a cool off.
Foodies will not be disappointed as the village features over twenty great dining options from resort casual to upscale. Lake Erie herself provides two of the most popular local dishes -Walleye and Lake Erie Yellow Perch – caught locally and prepared fresh daily. If you have never experienced Lake Erie Yellow Perch lightly dusted and fried you don’t know what you are missing!
All the basic food types are available on the island from steak to BBQ and the local grocery store is well stocked with everything you need should you prefer a cookout in the park.
The are several Put-in-Bay Hotels Resorts and Home Rental options, many with modern amenities such as fitness centers and swim up bars. The Put-in-Bay Resort is the island’s largest and newest facility and is located just a block from the downtown area. The resort has a large heated pool with swim up bar and is popular with locals.
The Put-in-Bay Villas are ideal for those who have larger groups and prefer a more modern home rental complete with linens and maid service.
Bay Lodging Resort just a few blocks from town has a rather unique pool that is half indoors and half outdoors. You actually swim under the building to go from one to the other! The property has 2 bedroom rentals and standard hotel rooms and is very popular with families.
Put-in-Bay is also home to the South Bass Island State Park which is part of the Ohio Parks System. The park has a playground for children, a bathing beach and is a popular place for a family picnic. Primitive campsites, as well as a limited number of full service sites, offer campers some great views of the Western shoreline and sunsets.
Vacation dollars these days are harder than ever to come by. Put-in-Bay Ohio offers travelers more options than most for a lower cost and in many cases free things to do. Stop by this summer and experience the “Key West Of The North”