It’s no mystery that the village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island has a legendary food and nightlife scene, as evidenced by the amount of people that show up on any given Saturday flooding the streets of Delaware Avenue. From munching on mouth-watering perch tacos at the Goat to sipping on minty mojitos at Mojito Bay, there’s more than enough to go around.
That being said, the island’s unique location in the western basin of Lake Erie coupled with the fact that its limestone foundation was carved from glaciers thousands of years ago make for some awesome outdoor experiences. Worthwhile for a visit on nature’s merits alone, a trip to Put-in-Bay in not really complete without scoring some of this gorgeous Great Lakes scenery.
Getting there — Unless you have a private plane, which sadly most of us do not, taking the Miller Ferry is the next best thing. Very affordable with a transit time of under 20 minutes, it’s easily the most efficient way of getting to the islands and perfect for checking things out on the way in. Once docked, taxis are a modest $3.00 and will take you right into downtown Put-in-Bay where you then can determine your mode of transportation. While golf carts are the preferred method, bikes, mopeds and walking work well too.
Speaking of alternative modes of transportation, there’s some fantastic kayaking. At Kayak the Bay, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from downtown Put-in-Bay, you can rent a kayak with quick access to some of the area’s best spots. Gibraltar Island, which is home to some really neat limestone cliffs, has a tiny hidden sand beach as well and also what’s called the Needle’s Eye —One of Ohio’s few remaining natural arches and perhaps the only one you can paddle through. The Benson Ford Ship House, a freighter that’s been converted into a island home, is another cool attraction to check out, albeit much further of a paddle.
Kayak and jet-ski rentals are also available at another great spot, South Bass State Park. While the park is certainly a great place to camp and scope a Lake Erie sunset, the unique stone beach is the perfect spot to get your feet wet…plus the smooth, round stones feel really nice on your tootsies and keep the water crystal clear.
Heading past Perry’s International Peace Memorial to the opposite side of the island you’ll find some often overlooked plantations. Though mostly private, you can see a lot from the comfort of your golf cart and catch a unique glimpse into some of Put-in-Bay’s early history.
Travel just a bit further and you’ll find yourself at the Scheef East Point Nature Preserve, which has some wonderful hiking trails as well a few points of beach access that look out towards Middle Bass Island and Ballast Island. And for the extra adventurous, you can wade through ankle-knee deep water across a shallow reef to catch a glimpse of a little remote island on Buckeye Point.
Switching directions again to the west side of the island visitors will find what locals refer to as the “West Shore.” Filled mostly with private island homes and residences, there’s a few hidden spots that face west away from the lights of downtown and are perfect for mellowing out to an island sunset. And if you happen to be strolling through on a windy day, you might be lucky enough to catch some of Lake Erie’s fury crashing up against the rocks.
While we’ve only just touched the surface of what Put-in-Bay has to offer, it’s certainly a good place to start for first timers or maybe even a new outlook for a wily island veteran. Of course after all that exploring, you’ll need a cocktail or two afterwards to relax. Or three. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you over there next summer at RoundHouse…you’re buying!
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