Put-in-Bay is a popular vacation spot just 3 miles offshore of mainland Northwest Ohio in Lake Erie. While "Put-in-Bay" is technically a village on South Bass Island, the name commonly is used to refer to the entire island. A summer resort since the mid-1800s, the town can be considered the hub of tourism among the Lake Erie Islands, with its numerous taverns, wineries, restaurants, and hotels. Along with the festive atmosphere of downtown Put-in-Bay, there are key pieces of American history to discover here, relaxing outdoor activities, and natural splendor. This island resort community is also conveniently located near a plethora of mainland parks and attractions, including the world-renowned Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky.
The primary industry of Put-in-Bay is tourism. The tourist season runs roughly between April and October. There are approximately 500 full-time South Bass Island residents, most of whom remain on the island over the winter. Supplies and perishables are flown to the island during the winter months along with the mail, parcels and bank employees who staff the island's only bank (for one day a week) until the spring. The island has a single school that is used for all classes – grades kindergarten through 12 – and also serves the educational requirements of Middle Bass and North Bass islands.
The island is a popular destination for personal watercraft and offers both public and private marinas available to dock watercraft.
Ferries from the mainland originate from Sandusky, Port Clinton, and Catawba Island. Ferries run several times/day during the prime tourist season, daily during spring/fall as weather allows. The Jet Express and Miller Boat Line are the primary carriers, carrying cars and cargo as well as passengers. Parking on the island is very limited and vehicles are not recommended.
- Miller Boat Line, 5174 E Water St, Port Clinton (Follow Route 53 N to the end on Catawba Island.), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Ferry takes you 3 miles from Catawba Island to the southern tip of South Bass Island, where bus or taxi to Downtown Put-in-Bay (2 miles away) is available. Golf cart and bicycle rentals are also nearby. Limited free daytime and overnight parking is available, other parking is paid by the day. Docks and ferries are wheelchair-accessible. Ferries are mostly open-air with a trip time of 18 minutes each way, departing every half-hour from 7AM-7PM Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, with expanded times to 8 or 9PM on weekends and during mid-summer peak times; less-extensive service is available in spring and fall. Season passes are available, along with service to Middle Bass Island. Motor vehicles can also be accommodated but are not recommended due to limited on island parking. (see below). Fare: $6.50/person each way; Children 6-11: $1.50/person each way; Children under 6: Free; Bicycle: Additional $2 each way.
- The Jet Express, toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Jet Express is the fastest and most comfortable way to get directly to Downtown Put-in-Bay in any weather condition, with connections from Port Clinton, Kelleys Island, and Sandusky. These aluminum-hulled catamaran-style ships feature both indoor and outdoor seating and are handicapped-accessible. Season passes and island-hopping tickets are also available.
- Downtown Port Clinton, 3 N Monroe St, Port Clinton (At the bend in Route 163.), ☎ . The 12.5-mile trip takes 25 minutes each way, and runs from 8:45AM to 10:30PM or midnight from May to October. Parking is free for under 30 minutes, or $2/hour with a $10 per 24-hour maximum. A long-term lot is available for a one-time in/out fee of $10. Fare: $28 round-trip; Children 6-12: $4 round-trip; Children under 6: Free; Bicycle: Additional $6 round-trip.
- Downtown Sandusky, 101 W Shoreline Dr, Sandusky (Follow Columbus Avenue to the end, turn left on Water Street, then right on Jackson Street, and finally take a right on Shoreline Drive.), ☎ . A 17-mile trip each way, this trip takes 45 minutes with a stop en route at Kelleys Island. Ferries run from about 9:30AM to 9PM or 12:30AM Memorial Day Weekend to mid-September. Free daily parking is located at Jackson Street Pier, overnight parking is $5/night from the City of Sandusky. Fare: $36 round-trip; Children 6-12: $10 round-trip; Children under 6: Free; Bicycle: Additional $8 round-trip.
There is a good airport on the island (2870 x 75 feet) offering charter services:
- Put-in-Bay Airport, (FAA LID: 3W2), Langram Rd, Phone: +1 419 285-3371. A public airport with a 2870-foot asphalt runway connects Put-in-Bay to the rest of the world year-round. No fuel service is available.
- Dairy Air, Langram Rd, ☎ , toll-free: . Picks up as far as Detroit.
- Griffing-Sandusky Airport, 3115 Cleveland Road, Sandusky, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Service to all of the Lake Erie Islands from Sandusky and Port Clinton airports.
Nearby airports with national and international commercial airline service include:
- Toledo Express Airport, (IATA: TOL). 69 miles/2 hours away by car.
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, (IATA: CLE, FAA LID: CLE). 76 miles/2 hours away by car.
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, (IATA: DTW). 102 miles/2.5 hours away by car.
Given the small size of the island, golf carts, bicycles and mopeds are the most convenient way to get around the island and are available in several locations. Old school buses meet the Miller Boat Line ferries, which dock at the old lime kiln dock on the south side of the island. The buses take travelers approximately 2 miles to Put-in-Bay, past the airport, for a small fee.
Cars are permitted on island roads, though speed limits are low and parking is VERY limited. From mid-March to late-November you can get your car there from the mainland for $15 one-way on the Miller Boat Line (see listing above), located at the end of Route 53 on Catawba Island. Each person traveling with the vehicle also pays the normal fare of $6.50/person one-way. Reservations are not required even on weekends, and vehicles are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Besides cars, they also take motorcycles, trailers, RVs, and other vehicles. During heavier traffic periods, there can be restrictions on bringing your vehicle to or from Put-in-Bay.
- Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, 93 Delaware Ave, ☎ . Apr 20-May 24: 10AM-5PM, May 25-Sept 2: 9AM-6PM, Sept 3-Oct 28: 10AM-5PM; Memorial Observation Deck Operating Hours: July 3-Sept 2: 10AM-6PM, Sept 3-Oct 28: 10AM-5PM. This 352-foot (107 m) tall memorial commemorates Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's September 10, 1813 naval victory over British ships in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. Construction of the monument began in 1912 and it opened to the public on June 13, 1915. It is made up of 78 layers of pink granite, topped with an eleven short ton (10 metric ton) bronze urn. The remains of six naval officers, three British and three Americans, were interred beneath the floor of the monument's rotunda. Small fee ($3) to take elevator to observation deck, which has views of the surrounding islands and southern Canada. Visitor Center features displays, a video theater, and gift shop.
- Crystal Cave. The world's record, largest geode in the world. Located under Heineman's Winery on South Bass Island. Crystals in lengths of up to 18 inches, inside of this geode, that one can stand up in. $7.00, tour of winery included.
- Perry's Cave Family Fun Center, 979 Catawba Ave, ☎ . 20-30 minute tours of the island's largest cave, a War of 1812 themed putt putt course, a 4000 square foot butterfly house with over 500 different types of exotic butterflies, giant human maze, gemstone mining, antique car museum, rock climbing wall, and two gift shops.
- Ohio State's Stone Laboratory, 878 Bayview Dr, ☎ . Tour the Aquatic Visitors Center, participate in hands-on work of a scientist, or check out the view from the South Bass Island Lighthouse tower. Many additional educational options are also available.
- Put-in-Bay Tour Train, 2071 Langram Rd (South Bass Island), ☎ . Board the Tour Train to see the island while learning fun facts and history along the way.
Typical tourist bric-a-brac and t-shirt shops are plentiful here.
There are numerous eateries in the village. Many are located along Delaware & Bay View Avenues in Downtown Put-in-Bay, but others are scattered throughout the island.
- The Boathouse Bar & Grill, 218 Hartford Ave, ☎ , fax: +1 419 285-7206. 11AM-2AM. A nautical-themed family-friendly establishment with sandwiches, fresh perch, and walleye chowder. Often has live music. $5-$12.
- The Boardwalk, Bay View Ave (On the water at the end of Catawba Ave.), ☎ . Enjoy great views of the waterfront with generous portions of Lake Erie perch and walleye, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab, shrimp, burgers, or their famous lobster bisque. $7-$20.
- Chicken Patio, 60 Delaware Ave, ☎ , fax: +1 419 285-7018. Unique wine-based BBQ sauce and outdoor seating with a view of the central village.
- Topsy Turvey, 361 Bayview Ave, ☎ . Best perch platter value around. Everything home made. Located on the back of the Wharfside tackle and bait store, facing a picturesque view of the bay. 5 to 15.
There are many watering-holes in the village, many with live musical entertainment.
- Beer Barrel Saloon, 324 Delaware Ave (At the corner of Catawba Ave.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Live entertainment weekends and most weekdays during the summer. Home to the world's third-longest bar at 405 feet, 10 inches (longer than the height of Perry's Monument!). Also home to Tipper's, offering everything from large (but more expensive) seafood and steak entrees to pasta and sandwiches at moderate prices. A salad bar is available, with Luncheon Buffet 11-4, Seafood Buffet on Fridays after 5PM, Prime Rib Buffet on Saturdays after 5PM, and Breakfast Buffet from 7AM-10:30AM Saturdays and Sundays.
- Level 2 Nightclub, 436 Catawaba, ☎ . 7PM-2:30AM. Level 2 is Put in Bay's only true nightclub with a DJ 7 nights a week. The club has 3 VIP rooms, a light show, and lots of people.
- Put-in-Bay Winery on the Doller Estate, 392 Bay View Ave, ☎ . It is possible to take a guided wine-tasting tour of the Valentine Doller Mansion and experience island life as it was in the 1800s. Sample island wines while relaxing in the wine garden or enjoying the harbor view from the front lawn.
- Bird's Nest Resort, 1371 Langram Rd, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. The Bird's Nest is in a quiet spot with amenities including a swimming pool, play area, fish cleaning facilities, picnic tables, and grills. One of the few lodgings that allow pets on the island. Open May through September. Varies.
- Grand Islander Hotel, 432 Catawba Ave, toll-free: . The Grand Islander Hotel is located downtown Put-in-Bay and is home to the Splash! swim-up bar and the Level 2 nightclub. Splash! is The World's 5th Largest Swim-up Bar, and features 97 seats in the water and live entertainment on the weekends servicing to an older, mature crowd. 49.00.
- Islander Inn, 225 Erie St, toll-free: . Check-in: 3:00, check-out: 11:00. The Islander Inn is Put-in-Bay's oldest hotel. Located in the middle of downtown, The Islander features 1 swimming pool and 3 wading pools and the Dizzy Lizard Swim-up Bar, Put-in-Bay's original swim-up bar. In the past, there's been some reports of wild accusations against guests and removal from their rooms.
- South Bass Island State Park, 1523 Catawaba Ave, ☎ . Check-in: Anytime, check-out: 11:00. This is the most economical way to stay on the island. The family campground features 125 non-electric sites, and 10 full service sites with electric, water and sewer hook-ups. The campground offers flush toilets, showers, and a dump station. Pet camping is permitted on designated sites. A youth group camp is available by reservation for organized groups. Four cabents, combining the best features of a cabin and tent, are available through a lottery system for weekly rental from Memorial Day to the last weekend in September. A separate lottery is held for rental of the rustic cabin located near the park office. Contact the Catawba Island park office for lottery details. A picnic shelter, picnic areas, launch ramp, fishing pier and small stone beach area are also available. South Bass Island is accessible by ferry from Port Clinton or Catawba Island.
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