Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center
- 2. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
- 3. 2 PM Antique Car Parade
- 4. The Boardwalk – Shopping & Eating
- 5. Play (or Rest) at DeRivera Park
- 6. Tour the Put-In-Bay Chocolate Museum
- 7. Go Fishing at Put-In-Bay Aquatic Center
- 8. Discover the Past at Put-in-Bay Historical Museum
- 9. Take a Ride on Kimberly's Carousel
- 10. Take the Tour Train Around the Island
- 11. See The World's Largest Geode at Crystal Cave
- 12. Water Sports on the Beautiful Lake Erie
- 13. Enjoy the Views from South Bass Island Put-in-Bay Lighthouse
- Where to Stay in Put-In-Bay
Did you know that Ohio has an island getaway where people ride around in golf carts and families can experience cave tours, tropical-themed restaurants and breathtaking views of a great lake? With all of the family-friendly things to do in Put-in-Bay Ohio, it’s a (not so hidden) secret you definitely want to know about!
Located on Lake Erie, not too far from the popular city of Sandusky, Put-in-Bay Island is a fun and vibrant destination that’s perfect for both date night getaways and family-friendly vacations. There are sandy bottom bars with swinging chairs, a colorful boardwalk filled to the brim with shops and restaurants, mini-golf, a kids’ playground overlooking a picturesque harbor and tons of people riding around the tree-lined streets on their own personal golf carts. Yes, golf carts are the main mode of transportation here!
My family discovered Put-in-Bay Ohio a few years ago and while we’ve lived in the Midwest our entire lives, we never knew this island getaway existed! Now, it’s a family favorite that we make plans to visit Put-in-Bay year after year. During this time, we’ve explored the majority of the 2.5 by 5-mile island. Here are a few of our favorite Put-in-Bay attractions for families.
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13 Fun Things to Do in Put-in-Bay Ohio
There are plenty of things to do in Put-in-Bay Ohio for both adults and children alike – and surrounding this fun is a beautiful island setting complete with a natural lakeside landscape and salt-free/shark-free water to enjoy. But if you are heading to Put-in-Bay in search of adventure, be sure to check out these family fun activities while you are there.
1. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center
Just slightly outside of the main strip is a small village of its own which includes Perry’s Cave, Gem Stone Mining, Fort Amaze’n, War of 18 Holes miniature golf, a rock wall, the Butterfly House and the Antique Car Museum. We ended up spending about an hour enjoying many of these Perry’s Cave activities during our trip.
TravelingMom Tip: Tickets to each activity may be bought separately; however, if you buy all of them at once you get a discounted price!
Our favorite thing to do in Put-in-Bay Ohio was Perry’s Cave. Here we were able to take a walking tour into a damp underground cave full of stalagmites and stalactites. It was both a beautiful and educational sight, but this adventure also came with very low ceiling heights, slippery and wet walkways and the chill of 50 degrees year-round.
TravelingMom Tip: Wear tennis shoes and be prepared to walk hunched over. If your kids are not old enough to walk on their own, you may want to skip this adventure because of the low ceilings and slippery/uneven floors.
2. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
No trip is complete without a visit to a historic sight or national monument, at least in my book. Plus Perry’s Peace Memorial is easy to find as it towers 352 feet over Lake Erie. When we arrived at the memorial we found that there was staff dressed in historic garb ready to answer our questions and tell us more about life during the war of 1812. This stop did not take us very long but was very informative and worth experiencing up close.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
3. 2 PM Antique Car Parade
One thing I always look for on a trip is retro nostalgia – and vintage cars count! This is why my family was super excited to find out that the island has its own antique car parade in the downtown area every Sunday throughout the summer. You can also explore a garage full of antique cars at the Put-in-Bay Antique Car Museum at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center.
TravelingMom Tip: If you have a retro car that you want to bring to the island, you can! The ferry also brings cars over with every pedestrian trip.
4. The Boardwalk – Shopping & Eating
We ended up spending most of our time wandering around the downtown Put-in-Bay area, browsing the stores and dining at the many area restaurants. The stores are similar to what you’d expect to find on any boardwalk, including several t-shirt and gift shops with destination-themed souvenirs.
5. Play (or Rest) at DeRivera Park
We ended spending quite a bit of time at DeRivera Park during our trip to the island. That’s because it’s downtown, has playground equipment for the kids and has park benches with great views of Lake Erie. It’s the perfect place to wind down and is within walking distance to several of the Put-in-Bay restaurants.
TravelingMom Tip: Looking for a place to eat? There are several choices on the boardwalk, but our favorite is The Forge for s’more crepes!
6. Tour the Put-In-Bay Chocolate Museum
Located on Catawba Avenue, between Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church and Heineman Winery, is the Chocolate Cafe and Museum. It’s a great place to enjoy cafe drinks, chocolates or ice cream after learning about the history of chocolate during a free tour of the onsite chocolate museum.
7. Go Fishing at Put-In-Bay Aquatic Center
The Put-in-Bay Aquatic Center is operated by Ohio State University and offers kids the opportunity to learn about nature through hands-on activities, like fishing! If your kids are 16 or under, they can give fishing a try for free off the Aquatic Center’s pier. Just be sure to register ahead of time for your tour.
8. Discover the Past at Put-in-Bay Historical Museum
The Lake Erie Islands are home to several historic moments, include the Battle of Lake Erie, fought on September 10, 1813. You can find information on this and other artifacts (some that are for sale in their resale shop) at the Put-in-Bay Historical Museum, operated by the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society.
9. Take a Ride on Kimberly’s Carousel
I think all of our eyes lit up when we saw the 1917 Herschel carousel near downtown Put-in-Bay! This beautiful antique is still giving rides today and you can purchase your tickets at the Carriage House shop adjacent to Kimberly’s Carousel.
10. Take the Tour Train Around the Island
If you’re not planning to rent a Put-in-Bay golf cart, you can opt for getting around the island via the Put-in-Bay Tour Train instead. This experience includes an hour-long narrated tour and on/off privileges at several of the most popular island attractions.
11. See The World’s Largest Geode at Crystal Cave
Find Crystal Cave at Heineman’s Winery, one of two Put-in-Bay wineries on the island! This beautiful cave was discovered in 1897 and can be toured, along with the wine cellar. You even get a 5oz glass of wine or grape juice to taste from the winery during your tour.
12. Water Sports on the Beautiful Lake Erie
Older kids may enjoy heading out on Lake Erie to jet ski, stand-up paddleboard or go kayaking. There are several opportunities for Put-in-Bay watercraft rentals on the island that offer either guided tours or allow you to head out on your own. Or, if you want to try a different way of sightseeing, you could try parasailing.
13. Enjoy the Views from South Bass Island Put-in-Bay Lighthouse
Another way to experience an aerial view of Put-in-Bay is to climb to the top of the South Bass Island Lighthouse. Tickets are $5 per person and children 3 and under are free with a paying adult.
What to Expect During Your Visit
Ferry to the island
Since Put-in-Bay is an island, you must take a ferry over to it from the mainland. We took the Miller Ferry Line from Port Clinton and it was easy to navigate with friendly and helpful staff. Another Put-In-Bay ferry option is the Jet Express. Just be sure to remember to check the times for the last boat off the island – when we visited the last boat left at 9 pm.
Prepare to be lost
If this is your first visit to the island it is very easy to feel lost upon arrival. The docking and unloading area is not within view of the main downtown area and you will arrive at what looks like an empty natural island. My advice is to make reservations ahead of time with Erie Island Carts – a local Put-In-Bay golf cart rental company.
By making reservations ahead of time, Erie Island Carts will have a “taxi” pick you up at the dock and transport you to your very own personal golf cart to use for the day. You will then be free to discover the island on your own terms – but if you want to head downtown, simply turn right out of their parking lot and drive straight until you reach the fun.
Also, remember that this island is big and spread out. You will need some sort of transportation from the docking area to the downtown area – whether it be a bike, car or golf cart. Walking downtown might take up most of your day that you wanted to use exploring the island and having adventures.
TravelingMom Tip: This island had so much more to discover and we found that our one day set aside to navigate it just wasn’t enough. Be sure to plan for an entire day or a couple of days when visiting to be able to truly experience all of the things to do in Put-in-Bay Ohio.
Where to Stay in Put-In-Bay
Put-In-Bay Resort and Conference Center – families can enjoy the pool, splash pad, and complimentary breakfast.
Bay Lodging Resort Hotel – families can enjoy the free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, indoor/outdoor pool, and onsite golf cart rentals.
Find more places to stay in Put-in-Bay using this interactive map.
TravelingMom Tip: There are also great choices for hotels on the mainland in Port Clinton, Ohio. Find out where we stayed and read more about kid-friendly things to do in Port Clinton Ohio.