Few things I enjoy more than promoting Ohio tourism. As a native who’s been living away for the past nine years, the affection for my home state has only increased. Not only is Ohio great because there are so many places that are absolutely gorgeous, but it’s also extremely affordable to visit. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic and want a unique, affordable long weekend getaway (it’s only a 6-7 hour drive from D.C.) that is much cooler weather-wise, look no further than the Lake Erie Islands.
As a little background, the Lake Erie Islands consist of: Kelley’s Island, South Bass (the village on the island is called Put-In-Bay), and Catawba Island. There is also Marblehead, Port Clinton and Lakeside, but those are on the mainland. The area’s commerce is fishing and tourism, and, trust me, it’s worth the visit. There’s a slower feeling there. People sleep late, drink their coffee outside, potluck lunch, drink wine before it’s socially acceptable anywhere else, and get from point a to point b via golf cart. The gentle Lake Erie breeze makes for a gorgeous climate, and just about everything that can be outside, is outside.
Put-In-Bay will always have a special place in my heart. When we were little, we went for ice cream, cave tours, and history. As an adult, all those things are still amazing, but being able to drink alcohol on PIB certainly makes the experience even better. Walking down the Delaware Street, the sound of Kimberly’s Carousel fills the air, and smells of BBQ chicken from Chicken Patio make anyone’s mouth water. The live music at the bars, which happens as long as the bars are open, can be heard, and I will forever associate acoustic 90’s music with my many trips there.
It’s been a goal of mine to bring someone who has never been to Ohio to Ohio to show them how awesome it is. Last summer, I brought my friend who grew up in New York and gladly made a believer out of her. Unless she’s a fantastic liar, she loved it. Earlier this summer, I brought Jim. He has been to Ohio plenty of times, but this was his first trip to Put-In-Bay.
We took the Jet Express from Port Clinton to downtown Put-In-Bay. While it’s certainly not the cheapest way to get there (The Miller Ferry is definitely more affordable), in my humble opinion, it’s the most fun. It goes fast, and the ride itself is enjoyable. Insider tip? Get in line early to get a good seat outside.
We made it to the island! This is the view upon docking. That monument is Perry’s Monument, which you can go up in. It was closed for several years, so I don’t take for granted to opportunity to see the amazing views from up top. While we didn’t go up this time, I’ve been several others, and it’s totally worth it. You can see parts of Canada up there! So cool!
We rented golf carts from Island Bike and Cart Rental, which is convenient to both the Jet Express and Miller Ferry docks. It’s a few dollars more expensive by the hour than if you venture on to the island by foot and rent from there, but I always snatch up a cart the minute I get off the boat if I can, because there are many times in which all carts on the island are rented. In other words, if the island is crowded, get what you can, or you may be out of luck.
Our first stop was Heineman Winery and Crystal Cave. I find this place so nostalgic because we went there so many times as kids. I have fond memories of my parents and their friends (who have kids my age) sitting there drinking wine while we played horseshoes.
The tour is really cool, and worth doing! For $8, you go in to the cave, tour the winery, and get a glass of wine! Ohio specializes in sweeter wines because of the climate, so don’t expect to get a rich, dry red here. The top seller is Pink Catawba, which certainly has its merits. It’s a good beginner wine, if you will.
Next, we went to Goat Soup and Whiskey. They are known for their perch tacos, which I hear are amazing. I personally am not a fish fan, so I drank my lunch. Just kidding.. I had a BLT, which was fantastic. But, the real reason I go to Goat is for their basil mojitos. Y’all. This baby is a blackberry basil mojito. I seriously dream about these things year round. Amazing. Incredible. Worth going there just for this. So. Darn. Good.
Then, we returned our golf cart and hoofed it over to Mojito Bay, which, in my humble opinion, is the funnest place on the island. (Insider tip: If you’re going to be staying around Delaware Street, return your golf cart. You can get a DUI on a golf cart, so it makes more sense to walk to play it safe). We had mojitos (obviously), and listened to the fantastic live music.
Two words: Chicken Patio. This is another place I dream about year round. The chicken is wine-basted and delicious.
Final stop: The Boat House. It was 4th of July Weekend, so we obviously had to get red, white and blue cocktails.
Looking for a weekend sneak away? Look no further than Put-In-Bay. It’s such a unique experience, and I promise you’ll love every minute of it.
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