Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands make for the perfect summertime escape, boasting South Bass, Kelleys and Middle Bass Islands that span both Ohio and Ontario borders.
These stunning natural areas provide the ideal setting to learn and experience island life, from activities for kids to adult-focused events – there’s something here for everyone!
Put-in-Bay Aquatic Visitor Center
The Put-in-Bay Aquatic Visitor Center is a family-friendly science center designed for learning through play. A great place for teaching children about Lake Erie ecosystem and natural beauty that surrounds it, this Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center first opened its doors in 2008. Attractions include animal and waterfowl mounts native to Ohio as well as an expansive nature trail filled with native plants providing great birding vantage points.
The Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center serves as both a fish hatchery and research facility, where visitors can view fish through hands-on exhibits. Furthermore, research on Lake Erie’s invasive species as well as ecosystem health is also conducted here; during peak tourist season children’s programming may also take place here.
Put-in-Bay Aquatic Visitors Center’s fishing pier provides an exciting activity for kids and families. All gear is provided for free so guests can fish for free; while learning about lake ecosystem while discovering an interest in fishing. Open from late May until September.
Perry’s Cave & Family Fun Center
Lake Erie islands provide the ideal summer escape, easily accessible by car ferries from Ohio’s three largest islands and their Canadian cousin Pelee, yet seeming like another world away. Home to vineyards, orchards, truck gardens, schools, churches, hotels and summer cottages; their proximity makes for the ideal summer retreat!
But they’re also an adventurer’s haven with plenty to do both on and off the water, like parasailing, jet ski rentals, fishing charter boats and kayaking – not forgetting national historic sites (Old Fort Niagara) and memorials honoring figures like Oliver Hazard Perry who helped win battles during the War of 1812. For history lovers there’s Old Fort Niagara as a national historical site while for military enthusiasts there’s Old Fort Niagara National Historic Site as well as commemorating his victory during Battle of Lake Erie during War of 1812. For history lovers there’s Old Fort Niagara National Historic Site while for military buffs there is also the Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry Memorial which honors him for his victory during his victory during battle during War of 1812.
Put-in-Bay’s family-fun complex is highlighted by Perry’s Cave, a limestone cavern steeped in history and listed as an Ohio Natural Landmark. Tours lead visitors through a maze of stalactites and stalagmites before culminating with visits to an underground lake whose waters rise and fall with lake levels. Other activities available on-site include Butterfly House, Heineman Winery and 25ft rock wall activities – plus War of 1812 mini golf competitions or gem panning at GemStone Mine!
“Gibraltar in the Lake,” an island located within Lake Erie and nicknamed after Gibraltar in Spain is a popular tourist spot. Once used as a lookout point during the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813, later becoming home to Civil War financier and philanthropist Jay Cooke who named it after Gibraltar – today operated by Ohio State University as a research facility.
Gibraltar Island provides activities and entertainment suitable for visitors of all ages. From breathtaking views from the Rock of Gibraltar, exploring caves and military history relics, or enjoying its many beaches such as its popular eastern beach which receives ample sunshine throughout the day, Gibraltar is full of wonder and offers something exciting for every age.
Europa Point is another attraction on Gibraltar Island, home to one of the oldest lighthouses in America – Trinity Lighthouse was completed in 1913 and features unique architecture that blends Romanesque and Greek Revival styles. There is also a mosque serving four percent of Gibraltar’s population as well as Catholic church services and an ancient Great Synagogue dating back to 1793 at Europa Point.
Gibraltar’s highest point is known as The Rock of Gibraltar and offers breathtaking views across both Europe and Africa. Additionally, this rock is home to The Skywalk; an illuminated glass walkway which extends over the top.
South Bass Island
South Bass Island lies off of Lake Erie’s north shore and is home to Put-in-Bay, which attracts over 750,000 visitors annually. This tiny 3.5 mile-long island offers something for all visitors: thrill seekers can ride roller coasters at Cedar Point while history lovers commemorate Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.
Nature enthusiasts looking for an escape can visit South Bass Island State Park and discover its beaches, forests and vineyards for hiking and picnicking. Geology fans will also love its glacial grooves! Heineman Winery and Old Stone Barrel Winery both provide tasting tours on the island for vacationing oenophiles!
Attending Sunday services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on South Bass Island is one of the island’s cherished traditions, providing island residents and temporary guests alike an opportunity to worship alongside fellow believers while on vacation.
Rent a bicycle from E’s Put-in-Bay Golf Carts or Boathouse Cart and Bike Rental for an enjoyable way to tour South Bass Island. Thanks to its flat terrain, pedal around Downtown, along the waterfront, Heineman’s and Massie’s Cliffside Preserve or Kelleys Island for an exciting day trip – Ohio’s Lake Erie island offering natural beauty while offering respite from South Bass’ bustle!