Surrounded by Lake Erie, Ohio’s South Bass Island feels a world apart from the mainland. The island’s only town, Put-in-Bay (often written Put In Bay), has become a top Midwest getaway. The village got its name in the 1700s, when boats would “put in” to the bay during inclement weather.
Put-in-Bay has many restaurants, shops and bars concentrated in its downtown. Relax in a village nightspot and enjoy live music, available almost any evening. During the day, find a winery and pass the afternoon lounging on the expansive vineyards. Doller House, one of the area’s most famous wineries, doubles as a museum depicting island life in the mid-1800s. Heineman’s Winery is home to the famous Crystal Cave, which holds the world’s largest geode.
Spend a few hours at Perry's Cave Family Fun Center, with cave tours, an antique car museum and a butterfly house. Learn about the history of the island at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which was built to commemorate those who fought in the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie. The setting of the massive column against the water creates a perfect photo opportunity.
Lake Erie appears prominently in Put-in-Bay’s recreational activities; during summer the waterfront is filled with swimmers, kayakers, Jet Skiers and sailors. Moorings are also available so that visitors can bring their boats from the mainland.
The town offers a variety of accommodation that ranges from budget hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfasts. South Bass Island State Park, located at the far end of the island, has a campground with full facilities.
Although cars are permitted in Put-in-Bay, most people opt to explore by foot, or with golf cart or bicycle, both of which can be rented upon arriving on the island.
Most people visit Put-in-Bay from May to September. Ferries run to and from the island daily during the peak season. Port Clinton, Sandusky and Catawba Island are the top mainland departure points. Alternatively, visitors can fly into the tiny Put-in-Bay Airport or take a private boat.