A chain of archipelagic islands, the Lake Erie Islands are fun places to visit. There are many summer homes and some year around ones. They have also become a place for anyone to visit and just hang out, drive around any particular one that is developed, see the sites, enjoy a latte or glass of wine and imbibe of some great food.
One of the larger islands, South Bass, is home to Put-In-Bay which is known for its hospitality. In 1784 unidentified explorers charted these 20 islands naming one of them Pudding Bay because the bay resembled a pudding bag. Over time the name morphed into Puden Bay and eventually became Put-In-Bay. Weekends, and particularly times like Christmas in July, the bay is full of people and boats. Lots and lots of boats! It is a popular boating destination.
You may wonder how I got that aerial shot. It isn’t all that mysterious. South Bass Island and particularly the bay has a rich, American history. The Battle of Lake Erie was a turning point in favor of the Americans during the War of 1812. Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry commanded the American fleet within Put-In-Bay that defeated and captured six British vessels which turned the tide of the war.
The story of the battle is quite interesting and there is a visitor’s center where they show a movie of and about the battle. Don’t miss the movie! There is a lot to see within the center including this statue of Perry and it is well worth spending some time here.
The memorial to Admiral Perry is visible from inside the center. Be sure to visit it, too, when you are on the island because now that renovations are complete you can go up to the top of the memorial to get those great aerial shots.
The views are fantastic but hang on to your hat and small children! It can be very windy up there. Both British and American officers from this war are interred within the rotunda of this spiraling memorial.
Along with the bay, you can see Peele Island which is actually in Canada. Peele is the only Lake Erie Island under the rule of Canada.
We always take Miller’s Ferry (www.millersferry.com) from Catawba across to South Bass. Slower than the Jet Express, it is part of the fun for this family. You can take in the lake, sea gulls, boats, overhead geese and the approaching island at a leisurely pace.
This year we paid to park–a whopping $5.00. I like the paid parking as there is someone there watching your car until you get back to pick it up. Plus, we received a deep discount for our golf cart rental from E’s Golf Carts (http://esgolfcarts.com) by showing the parking ticket coupon. When you arrive at the island and walk up to the street, take a right and walk a short distance to E’s. It’s worth the walk in savings on the golf cart day rate.
You can stop at the gift shop or anywhere in town for brochures and information on what there is to do on the island, restaurants and shops. But, if you go back past the ferry dock straight on you will come to the lighthouse. We at Umpqua River Haven, of course, love lighthouses and this one is historic and unique as they go.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, South Bass Lighthouse is thought to be the only lighthouse in the US owned by a university. Brought into service in 1897, it is a 2 ½ story Queen Anne brick house with a 3 story tower on one corner. Originally fitted with a Fresnel oil powered lens, it was eventually converted to electric power. There is much more to the story of this beautiful lighthouse now owned by Ohio State University but that is part of the fun of visiting—to discover the stories.
There are caves, a natural museum and haunted places to discover but one of our favorite things is to just cruise around the island in a golf cart. It is easy to see the beauty of the island, the houses, the lake and bay, birds and more at the slower motoring in a golf cart. I got this shot out on one scenic point.
We had early morning coffee at a small outdoor coffee stand on the bay. For lunch we went to our favorite place to eat on The Upper Deck (http://www.the-boardwalk.com/pdscms). The Lake Erie perch served here is yummy and the views of the bay are fantastic!
We did some shopping in town acting like the day-trippers we were. We also had a golf cart problem and had to hop the free bus transport back to E’s which is about 2 miles from town where we broke down. The bus driver was most helpful and E’s had a cart ready to go so we didn’t have to wait around for one.
At the end of the day we relaxed at a local winery with a glass of wine and watched the bay.
If you are ever in the Toledo/Cleveland area make a point to head to Catawba, hop on the Miller’s Ferry and head over to Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island for a day. It’s a fun time and you can take the family along. There are a lot of things for kids to see and do. And if you are so inclined, you can rent bicycles to tour the island with. We went on a Monday to avoid the crowds. The trip back on the ferry leaves you with great views of the island and thoughts of returning again.