Kelleys Island is an island and with a small village on its southern shore in Erie County, Ohio. The entire island has been designated a National Historic District. It is home to about 300 people (2019), and has several beaches for swimming.
The island is sparsely-populated, with a small village on the south side of the island, residential areas on the east side, a limestone quarry on the west side, and a State Park on the north side.
Ferries from the mainland dock at the village several times/day during prime tourist season. This season lasts from late spring to early fall. Visiting in the winter is difficult as the lake freezes over and becomes impassible. Off season travel should only be attempted if you secured lodging in advance and are solely interested in the winter scenes on the island, as nearly any lodging, restaurants, attractions, or businesses in general will be closed.
During the Ice Age, receding glaciers carved glacier grooves across the island. Kelleys Island was first inhabited by the Native Americans, creating Inscription rock on the southern shore sometime during the 1640s.
By the early 1800s, the first white settlers arrived, but were unable to stay due to a variety of mishaps. By the 1820s the first permanent settlers established themselves. By the 1830s the first quarry opened, and by the 1840s the first winery opened on the island. The use of the island stone destroyed most of the vast glacial grooves, outside of a small preserved area.
- 1 Kelleys Island Ferry Boat, 510 W Main St, Marblehead, Ohio, ☏ . During peak season, ferries run every half-hour and offer late night service on weekends. Offers passenger and vehicle ferry service between Kelleys Island and Marblehead runs daily year-round, weather permitting. Rates of the Kelleys Island Boat Company (each way) are $9.50 for adults, $6 for children, $15 for autos, $4 for bicycles, and $8 for motorcycles as of 2013. There is a parking fee at the Marblehead dock.
- 2 The Jet Express, 101 W Shoreline Dr, Sandusky, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Ferry operates daily during summer and weekends spring and fall.. Offers passenger-only ferry service from downtown Sandusky, Ohio to Kelleys Island aboard hydro jet catamarans. Trip takes 20-25 minutes. Drops off passengers at The Casino downtown. $34 (adult round trip).
- Griffing-Sandusky Airport and Flying Service, 3115 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky, ☏ . Offers service to Kelleys Island with prior reservations.
- 3 Erie Ottawa International Airport (FAA LID: PCW), 3255 E State Rd, Port Clinton, ☏ . Offers service to Kelleys Island with prior reservations. Also houses the Liberty Aviation Museum, which has exhibits on aviation and the Lake Erie Islands.
- 4 Kelleys Island Municipal Airport (Kelleys Island Landing Field). The General aviation airport on Kelleys Island. Some charter flights are available to and from the mainland. The only real way to reach the island during the winter season.
The island has many miles of paved roads if you ferry your car to Kelleys Island. However the island is small enough that Golf Carts are a popular way for locals to get around, and are available as rentals. Those looking to save money and take things slowly often choose to traverse the island on foot or bicycle.
Most of the historic sightseeing attractions on the island lie along it's southern bank, or near the island center.
- 1 Inscription Rock, E Lake Shore Rd (near the ferry dock at the south end of the island.). Dawn-dusk. A boulder covered in native petroglyphs. The petroglphys can be difficult to view looking down, angling your view from a lower position can make them more apparent. Please do not throw coins on the rock. Free.
- 2 Kelleys Island Historical Museum (Kelleys Island Historical Association), 224 Division St, ☏ . Exhibits include the Himmelein House, commercial fishing artifacts, Estes school, island churches and wineries, fossils, Indian artifacts and Shays locomotives. Also offers access to a historic church building and garden.
- 3 Charles Herdon Sculpture Garden and Art Gallery, 110 Laylin Ln, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A sculpture garden created by a former professor of the Columbus College of Art and Design. Wait outside until greeted for access to the indoor art gallery. The indoor gallery contains artwork for sale. Free.
- 4 Kelley's Island War Memorial. A memorial in a small public park downtown. The park offers drinking water, as well as a small playground. Free.
- 5 Monument to the Unknown Soldier. A small monument in the island cemetery. Free.
Ohio's largest island is full of adventure for all ages. It has 600 acres of state park lands, 17 miles of coastline, beautiful wildflowers, nature trails, a fossil-filled quarry, and wetlands which are admired by nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The north half of the island is far less developed than the southern shore, and is where most of the natural activities are.
- 1 Glacial Grooves State Memorial (across the street from the Kelleys Island State Park office). Dawn-dusk. The world's largest accessible glacial grooves, embedded with fossils that are 350-400 million years old. Located on the north side of the island, the grooves can be viewed from a walkway and stairs. The wavy trough is 400 ft (120 m) long, 35 ft (11 m) wide, and up to 10 ft (3.0 m) deep carved by glaciers pressing large stones along the bedrock. Partially accessible to those in wheelchairs. Free.
- 2 Kelleys Island State Park, 920 Division St, ☏ . The park features hiking trails, camping, boat launch ramp, fishing, summer programs, picnic sites, and a sandy swimming beach. Nature in the park includes an Alvar ecosystem - scarce outside of Scandinavia, and rare plants such as the vulnerable Lakeside Daisy. Remnants of abandoned quarry operations can also be seen. Free.
- 3 [dead link] Scheele Preserve, Monagan Rd. Dawn-Dusk. A nature reserve on the Island's east side with a single trail. The beginning of the trail is a low difficulty and usually a good place to spot birds. The end of the trail is often difficult to pass through as it is frequently obstructed by debris and mud. The trail ends on a beautiful white sand beach. Free.
- 4 North Pond State Nature Preserve, Ward Rd. A preserved lake marsh with a variety of plants, amphibians and migratory birds. Many of the plants here are endangered. Contains a number of observation towers for Birders connected by wooden boardwalks. Does not allow pets. Free.
Because everything must be shipped to the island, most general goods are somewhat more expensive than on the mainland, and selections are limited. There is however, a good deal of general outdoor gear branded with the island name sold at various shops, which can double as souvenirs. If you tend to pack lightly, consider at least stocking up on essentials before setting out. There is no pharmacy on the island, so plan to bring enough medicine for the duration of your trip.
- 1 Kelley's Island Market. A general store for basic goods such as toiletries, food, and movies. Has an ATM.
- 2 Village Peddler, 130 Division St, ☏ . March-December 10AM-5PM. Sells clothing, accessories, shoes, and gifts.
- 3 Caddy Shack Square, 115 Division St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers a variety of themed shops, plus a miniature golf course and a tiki bar.
- 4 Kelley's Island General Store, 118 Division St, ☏ . Sells items for tourists including batteries, island apparel such as windbreakers, and bottled drinks. Also rents Golf Carts by the hour or day.
Fare is hallmarked by freshwater seafood from the lake and fried side dishes. Most pubs also offer a number of sweets and desserts, as well as a salad, hummus platter, or other basic vegetarian option. Keep in mind that nearly every eatery is also a pub, so the atmosphere of each place tends to change a bit after early dinner time, though things rarely get rowdy.
- 1 Seaway Marina, 240 E Lakeshore Dr, ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-7PM, F Sa 7AM-10PM. A marina that offers a variety of amenities including laundry, restrooms, golf cart rentals, and fuel. The main building has a convenience store, and a cafe serving coffee, breakfast, and deli items.
Nearly every restaurant on the island doubles as a pub, serving refreshing drinks on the warm summer days of the tourist season. Several bars exist in the village, and Kelleys Island Brewery produces several varieties of ale and lager at their facility west of the village.
- 1 Kelleys Island Wine Company, 418 Woodford Rd, ☏ . Rustic indoor and outdoor setting, dining options, special events, catering, and wines. Has a cantina next door that specializes in blue agave tequila. Horseshoe pit, arcade, volleyball, cornhole, and gift shop also available. Has some cute goats in their backyard, with feed available from their gift shop.
- 2 The Village Pump, 103 Lakeshore Dr, ☏ . A downtown pub. Has good hours. Servings can be rather large. Specialties include perch and their "Brandy Alexander", a creamy drink.
- 3 Captain's Corner. A lively pub with good hot food.
- 4 Kelley's Island Brewery (Kelley's Island Brewpub), 504 W Lakeshore Dr, ☏ . Has a wide variety of microbrews and desserts. $5-10.
- 5 West Bay Inn. A restaurant and bar in a remote part of the Island. Not actually an Inn.
- 6 The Island House. Focuses on spirits and desserts. Has some higher end meat and cheese options for food.
- 1 Kelleys Island State Park, 920 Division St, ☏ . 45 non-electric, 82 electric sites, showers, flush toilets, volleyball court, six miles of hiking trails, North Pond Nature Preserve, North Shore Nature Preserve, picnic areas, a picnic shelter, launch ramps, fishing, 100-foot swimming beach and hunting. Has two yurts with lake views that can be rented.
- 2 Kelleys Island Venture Resort, 441 W Lakeshore Dr, ☏ . Check-out: 11AM. 30-room hotel with balconies and decks. Has a hot tub and pool. Bicycle rental included. $125-300.
- 3 The Fly Inn Luxury B&B. A bed and breakfast close to the airport
The south side of the island is well connected with 4G cellular service and businesses offering Wi-Fi. Outside of downtown, especially on the north side of the island, cellular signals can be poor or non existent. On the north shore you may be able to be able to intermittently connect to Canadian cell towers - Be aware that you may accidentally incur international charges depending on your provider and plan. To avoid this, as well as battery drain, consider switching your phone to airplane mode.
- 1 Kelley's Island Library & School (Estes School), 528 Division St (Pull around back of the main school building.), ☏ . June to August: M 5-7PM, Tu 1-3PM, W 10AM-noon,Th 1-3PM, Sa 10AM-noon. Otherwise: M 5-7PM, Th 1-3PM, Sa 10AM-noon. Offers free Wi-Fi. Limited hours for actually going inside, but the Wi-Fi signal reaches to the parking lot. May offer small art exhibitions and other programming on occasion. Free.
- 2 Kelleys Island Post Office, 427 W Lakeshore Dr, ☏ , toll-free: . 24/7 (Lobby). Shares a building with the electric co-op. The electric co-op has a free observation and rest area next to the lake and some coin operated binoculars.
Despite its low population and remoteness, Kelleys Island still has a police department and an emergency medical service, however the island lacks a proper hospital. Undeveloped areas of the island get poor or no cellular service, making dialing 911 hard or impossible. Let someone know your travel plans if you go out alone.
When a sidewalk is available use it. Walking on the road is punished by a $100 fine from the island police.
The bedrock on Kelleys Island is very close to the surface, and often bare patches of it are exposed in parks. This rock can be slippery, especially after rain or near the lake. Always pay attention where you're stepping, especially near cliff edges.
Lake Erie is volatile and can be dangerous. Be careful while swimming, especially alone. There is no lifeguard at the public beach, and riptides do occur, so have a buddy and know how to deal with one should you find yourself caught in one.
Don't enter the abandoned buildings in the woods. Most haven't been maintained since the 1930s, and they are battered often by the temperamental weather of Lake Erie.
It is possible to walk to the island in the winter over frozen waters, but this should never be attempted. The frozen over lake is treacherous, and the ice is often not as thick as it seems. Falling through even once would mean certain death, as there will be nobody to help you warm up, even if you do manage to escape the frigid waters. When elderly locals talk about doing this back in the day, they almost always qualify it by mentioning how stupid and suicidal it was of them to even try this.
- Cedar Point - This amusement park is visible from the south shore.
- Sandusky - The largest nearby mainland city.
- Marblehead - A common port for ferry rides to and from the island.
- Cleveland - One of the largest cities on the lake.
- Toledo - The Glass City on the southwest shore of Lake Erie