Put-in-Bay is a unique village situated on South Bass Island, residing in Lake Erie, approximately three nautical miles from the Ohio mainland. This small island, approximately 4 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, has been welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors each year since the mid 1800’s! With its laid-back “island” vibes, Put-in-Bay is a popular summer weekend revelry destination, although I found that Put-in-Bay is more than just a party destination. The island is loaded with Ohio history, quaint local shops, bars and restaurants, numerous outdoor activities, gorgeous lake views and some of the best sunsets in the Midwest! A visit to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island makes for a welcoming Ohio getaway! Here is my weekend getaway guide showcasing where to stay, what to do, where to eat and drink, where to shop and where to explore the outdoors in Put-in-Bay, Ohio!
Overlooking Put-in-Bay from atop Perry’s Victory Memorial
Getting to Put-in-Bay:
Weekend getaways are also the perfect short road trips! What better way to see all of Ohio’s natural beauty than to drive to your Ohio destination?! Getting to Put-in-Bay from various Ohio cities is an easy drive from:
*Columbus ~ 130 Miles *Cleveland ~ 75 Miles
*Cincinnati ~ 210 Miles *Toledo ~ 55 Miles
*Athens~ 206 Miles
View of South Bass Island from Miller Ferry
Since Put-in-Bay is located on South Bass Island, you will have to take a ferry to cross Lake Erie (unless you want to swim, but that might be hard with luggage in tow, lol! 🙂 ). I would suggest driving to Port Clinton (Catawba Dock) to catch the Miller Ferry to South Bass Island. Park your vehicle at one of Miller Boatline’s parking lots (both free and paid lots are available). If you want to take your vehicle to the island, Miller Ferry does allow cars for an additional fee. You really don’t need your vehicle on the island, as golf carts, bicycles and taxis are the best way to navigate the small island. Miller Ferry one-way fares are $7/Adult, $1.50/Child (ages 6-11, children under 6 are free), $2/bicycle and $16/vehicle. *Fares are subject to change and larger vehicles are additional cost, please visit www.millerferry.com for more information.
Once aboard Miller Ferry, passengers are welcome to stand on the lower deck to catch the refreshing water sprays from Lake Erie or sit atop the upper deck for great views of the surrounding area. The ferry ride from mainland to South Bass Island is approximately 20 minutes. I felt like a child again aboard the Miller Ferry, loving the gorgeous lake views, wind in my hair and the sun upon my face, I just couldn’t help but smile!
Once on the island, the best way (in my opinion) to get around is by golf cart. Golf carts can be rented by the hour, the day or overnight and can accommodate two to eight people. Located just a short walk from the Miller Ferry dock on South Bass Island is E’s Put-in-Bay Golf Carts. With an easy rental process, we were on our golf cart in no time! Our 4-person golf cart was named the “Grateful Dead” and she was the perfect means of transportation to explore Put-in-Bay! It’s pretty fun to cruise (albeit not quickly, but you are on island time, so no need to hurry!) around an island on a golf cart!
Where to Stay:
From small, locally-operated hotels and resorts, to rustic, yet efficient campgrounds, homes, cottages and condominiums to rent, or quaint Bed & Breakfast Inns, there are plenty of accommodation options for your stay in Put-in-Bay! No chain hotels on this island, making for an authentic island vacation!
View from our balcony at Put-in-Bay Waterfront Condos
We stayed at Put-in-Bay Waterfront Condos in a large condo that sleeps 12, has two balconies with views of the lake and mainland and an outdoor swimming pool.
Other popular accommodation options are Bodee’s Bungalows, Bayshore Resort, Islander Inn, Island Club Rentals, Park Hotel, Put-in-Bay Resort and Conference Center, Put-in-Bay Cabins, South Bass Island State Park Campgrounds and many more. For a complete listing please visit, www.SHORESandISLANDS.com.
What to Do:
Put-in-Bay provides plenty of things to do during your weekend getaway. From exploring downtown, learning about the island’s rich history, taking in the breathtaking views from atop Perry’s Monument, touring two wineries, exploring caves, visiting the aquatic center, watersports, or island hopping, you might find that you need more than one weekend to accomplish your “must-see and do list” on South Bass Island!
From family-friendly attractions, nature and water activities for outdoor enthusiasts, historical tours and museums for history buffs to refreshing local brews, wines and cocktails for those who come to the island for weekend libations, Put-in-Bay truly has something for everyone!
~Exploring “downtown” Put-in-Bay. Take a stroll along the streets of Bay View, Catawba or Delaware to shop, eat and drink at locally owned shops, bars and restaurants. Look for one of the oldest hotels on the island, Park Hotel, ponder the Roundhouse Bar’s round structure, stroll through De Rivera Park and watch the boats in the harbor. This area is the thriving heart of South Bass Island!
Cute bicycle at The Keys
~Stand in the world’s largest known geode! Want to do something so unique that only visitors to South Bass Island can do? Visit the Crystal Cave at Heineman’s Winery! The Crystal Cave is 30-feet wide and formed from a large deposit of Celestite crystals, forming the world’s largest known Celestite geode! Cave and winery tours are $8/Adult and $4/Children ages 6-11.
Selfie in the Crystal Cave at Heineman’s Winery
~Ride Kimberly’s Carousel. Kids of all ages will love to ride the 1917 Herschel Carousel, tickets can be purchased at the Carriage House.
~Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. With numerous family-friendly activities, a visit to Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center is the perfect spot for kids of all ages! Enjoy touring Perry’s Cave, the Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay, the Antique Car Museum, War of 18 Holes Mini-Golf, Fort Amaze’N, rock climbing and gemstone mining. Visit www.perryscave.com for more information and entrance fees.
~Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center. Visit the wildlife center to learn about the conservation efforts of the Lake Erie Islands ecosystem. Entrance fees are $3/Adults, $2/Seniors, $2/Children (ages 6-11, children under 5 are free) or $8/Family. The Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Fun photo op at the Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center
~Aquatic Visitors Center. Operated by The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, the historic fish hatchery offers free guided tours. Visitors can learn about Lake Erie ecology and view live fish and macro invertebrate displays. Children under 16 can fish for free off the dock! The Aquatic Visitors Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am-6pm. Even if you visit when the center is closed, walk along the docks for a gorgeous view of Gibraltar Island and Perry’s Victory Memorial!
View from the Aquatic Visitors Center
South Bass Island has been a popular vacation destination since the mid 1800’s. Prior to its getaway status, South Bass Island played an important role in the War of 1812. Master Commandant Oliver Perry led U.S. Naval Ships into victory against the British when he captured an entire British squadron during the Battle of Lake Erie. With over 200 years of history, South Bass Island will delight history buffs!
~Put-in-Bay Tour Train. Taking the Put-in-Bay Tour Train around the island is a great way to start your visit! This hour long train ride will give you a great lay-of-the-land and loads of historical facts about the island during the narrated tour. The train makes five stops along the way at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Heineman Winery & Crystal Cave, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial & Visitor Center, The Doller House (Put-in-Bay Winery) and the Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center. Visitors can catch the train at The Depot, downtown Put-in-Bay. Visit www.putinbaytrans.com for ticket information.
~Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. No visit to Put-in-Bay is complete until you visit this memorial and visitor center. Perry’s Victory Visitor Center tells the history of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 while Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial commemorates the lasting peace between the United States, Great Britain and Canada. For breathtaking views, climb 30ish stairs to the elevator which will take you straight to the top. At 352 feet tall, visitors are treated to spectacular views of the Lake Erie region and a on a clear day, Canada can be seen upon the horizon! Admission to the Visitor Center is free, admission to the memorial is $5/Adult and children under 15 are free.
~Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum. Enjoy learning about the history of the Lake Erie Islands and island life during the turn of the 20th Century, while perusing the 6,000 square-foot museum. Entrance fees are $3/Adult and Children and $2.50/Seniors, the museum is open daily from 11am to 5pm May through October.
~Stonehenge Estate Tour. Visitors interested in the grape-growing history of the island and way of life in the mid to late 1800’s will enjoy a charming tour of Historic Stonehenge Estate. For admission prices and more information about the Stonehenge House, please visit www.stonehenge-put-in-bay.com.
~South Bass Island Lighthouse. The South Bass Island Lighthouse was first lit in 1897. Visitors can tour the historic Lake Erie lighthouse Mondays and Tuesdays from June to August, admission is free. If you miss the tours, visit the grounds daily from dawn to dusk for gorgeous lake views.
South Bass Island Lighthouse
~Antique Car Museum. Located at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, the Antique Car Museum contains the oldest car on the island and several antique cars used on the island over the last century! Admission is free.
Antique Car Museum at Perry’s Cave
Where to Eat:
Put-in-Bay has lots of delicious restaurants to entice and satisfy your palate. From local flavors, pub food, seafood, pizzeria’s, coffee shops, a bakery and so much more, I spent the weekend eating my way through Put-in-Bay. With lots of great food choices, I would suggest trying them all! The best way I have found to try everything is by sharing a variety of small plates at numerous restaurants to get the true taste of the local area. Let the list of awesome foodie options commence…
~Restaurants: Axel’s Waterfront Café, The Boardwalk Main & Upper Decks (multiple restaurants), The Boathouse, Chicken Patio, Frosty’s Backyard, The Goat Soup & Whiskey Tavern, Hooligan’s Irish Pub, The Keys, Mossback’s, Mr. Ed’s Bar & Grille, Old Forge Café & Creperie, Pasquale’s Café, Put-in-Bay Brewing Company, Reel Bar, Topsy Turvy’s Bar & Grille, and Blu Luna Ristorante
Fish Tacos at The Keys
Refreshing Libations and Nightlife:
Sometimes the best way to unwind after a long day exploring a new place is by sipping on a drink at a local bar, brewery or winery. Put-in-Bay has plenty of options for nightlife and great places to savor a cocktail, local beer or a glass of local Ohio wine! Drink your favorite cocktail or beer and sample Ohio-made micro brews and wines, just remember to always drink responsibly and never drink and drive (even on a golf cart)! Cheers!
Often referred to as the “Key West of the Midwest,” Put-in-Bay is known for its great bars and nightlife. Whether enjoying a mojito on a swing at Mojito Bay Tiki Bar, your favorite cocktail at the Roundhouse Bar or at Beer Barrel Saloon (according to Guinness World Book of Records, it’s the world’s longest bar!), a margarita from Rita’s Cantina at sunset, or a local craft brew at Put-in-Bay Brewing Company, one thing’s for sure, you won’t go thirsty on South Bass Island!
~Bars: Mojito Bay Tiki Bar, Hooligan’s Irish Pub, The Keys, Goat Soup & Whiskey, Fishbowl, Frosty Bar, Joe’s Bar, Mossbacks, Mr. Ed’s Bar, Reel Bar, Roundhouse Bar, The Boardwalk (home to Rita’s Cantina, Clawdaddy’s Bar, and the Burgee Bar), Topsy Turvey’s Island Bar, and the Blue Marlin Swim-up Bar at Put-in-Bay Resort
~Breweries: Put-in-Bay Brewing Company
Beer flight at Put-in-Bay Brewing Company
*Heineman’s Winery was founded in 1888 by German immigrant Gustav Heineman. Today, the fifth generation of the Heineman family operates the winery, making Heineman’s Winery the oldest family owned and operated winery in Ohio! Producing over 20 different Ohio wines and 2 kinds of grape juice, providing winery tours and tours of the Crystal Cave, make a visit to Heineman’s Winery a family affair!
*Put-in-Bay Winery opened in 2009 in the historic Doller Estate. Built in the 1800’s by Valentine Doller, one of the wealthiest residents of South Bass Island, visitors can tour the estate (learn about South Bass Island’s wine history, ice harvesting and life in the 1800’s) with several wine samples throughout the tour. With views of the harbor and Gibraltar Island, sitting on the front patio area of the winery with a glass or bottle of wine is the perfect way to relax on South Bass Island!
Where to Shop:
Whether you are looking for handmade candy, resort wear, t-shirts, home décor, gifts or souvenirs, Put-in-Bay provide a wide selection of local shops to choose from:
~Apparel, Gifts, Home Décor and Souvenirs: Island General Store, Carriage House Shops, The Shops at Compass Pointe/Island Hardware, Country House, Del Sol, Home Port Gifts, The Lobster Trap, Misty Bay Boutique, Mariner’s Locker, Put-in-Bay Surf Shop, Put-in-Bay T-Shirt Shop, Sunstopper’s and Wharfside
The Lake Erie region of Ohio has beautiful and lush scenery waiting for you to explore it by foot, bike, or boat. With beautiful lake views, nature preserves, state parks and beaches, outdoor enthusiasts are sure to feel the invigorating spirit of the great outdoors! Whether bird-watching, hiking, camping, cycling, fishing, kayaking or canoeing, getting back to nature and exploring Ohio’s natural beauty is easy to do on South Bass Island!
Kayaks from Put-in-Bay Watercraft Rentals
~Fishing: Put-in-Bay Fishing Charters
With beautiful scenery, vibrant nightlife, water sports and activities, nature preserves and parks, historical tours, two Ohio wineries and great local restaurants, Put-in-Bay will delight your senses, entice your taste buds and share its laid-back “island time” with you, luring you back to explore more of its Ohio charms!
Lake Erie Sunset
Watch the video below to see more of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island!
Who doesn’t need a weekend getaway every once in a while? Go ahead, plan your Ohio weekend getaway to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, you deserve it! An Ohio weekend getaway is the perfect escape to drink, eat, explore and shop local!
There is so much to explore along the shores of Lake Erie! Need more ideas for your next vacation to Lake Erie? Visit www.SHORESandISLANDS.com to start planning your Lake Erie getaway and to find out why I have so much #LakeErieLove!
Do you live on or near South Bass Island and have more suggestions? Have you visited Put-in-Bay? What is your favorite thing to do on the island? Please let me know in the comments below!
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Thanks for reading!
A special thanks to Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Miller Ferry, E’s Put-in-Bay Carts, Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Put-in-Bay Watercraft Rentals and the Put-in-Bay Tour Train! Some of my activities were arranged by Lake Erie Shores & Islands in exchange for writing a travel post about my experience. As always on Ohio Girl Travels, all opinions are my own!