Where? That is what I said when I my Dad told me that he had a wonderful, family friendly spot for us to visit this summer. Growing up on Lake Michigan, a destination on Lake Eerie truly felt foreign to me. We had spent many holidays in Ohio but never visited this surprising gem. To get to Put In Bay, you have to get to Toledo, Ohio and then ferry over by boat to this island in the Midwest (the Ferry is $8/adult and $17/car). Not only is Put In Bay beautiful, but it is also has historical significance.
Its location in between Canada and the United states provided the British army a strategic advantage during the War of 1812 (remember learning about that?!?) In any case because of its historical significance, Put In Bay is a US National Park with a sunning International Peace Monument to commemorate the battle victory. Although the island itself is only 3.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide we were able to have a memorable visit there because of a few things that they island has done right in attracting tourism.
As soon as you get off the ferry, you are offered golf carts and bikes to get around the island. These are truly the most practical ( and the most fun) way to get around. A car is truly just unnecessary, parking on the island is limited and it takes longer to get to and in your car than it would just to walk most times.
The few hotels on the island are huddled together near the downtown part of the island where all the restaurants and shopping is located. The island generally is well manicured but the downtown is immaculately clean and welcoming, especially to families. There are incredible parks, a carousel, indoor and outdoor dining, water sports, and boutique ice cream and retail parlors everywhere. Its truly just picture perfect.
Engaging Park Services
Due to the historical side of Put In Bay Island and the large international Peace Memorial Park, it is impossible not to participate in the learning that is so ingrown to the community there. The park service has a very nice free museum with a theater to make sure that everyone who visit understands that Put In Bay is more than meets the eye.
I know, it sounds funny but truly being on a island, no matter where always kind of seems exotic. There is water EVERYWHERE and it is part of every landscape. Our favorite spot that we visited EACH day we were there was the South Bass Island Lighthouse, this tiny lighthouse is located on the edge of the island with the most stunning views and breeze. The kids and I danced in the wind for hours wishing we had a kite with us.
With the bikes we were able to explore every nook and cranny of this island and I rode with my Dad at sunrise and at sunset. It was such an amazing bonding experience. ( Be aware that in the month of June, the island experiences an infestation of May Flies, large dragonfly looking insects that are harmless but literally swarm the island for two weeks.)
All in all, Put In Bay ended up being a great little getaway in the Midwest. We stayed at the Put In Bay Resort and Conference Center. I would say it was an average hotel that has a pool, continental breakfast and spotty wifi. Although it was just fine for our visit, with the tiki bar by the pool and ashtrays everywhere, the resort had a little bit of a ‘Spring Break’ vibe that I would probably veer away from next time.