BEST OF THE MIDWEST: PUT-IN-BAY, OHIO
Someone once told me Ohio was boring…and now I kind of want to punch them in the face.
In all my travels, you’d think I would have made it to Ohio by now. I mean its Ohio; it literally borders the state I live in. Never drove through it, never explored it…what the hell was wrong with me?!
So I finally got the opportunity to head down to Sandusky to do some ol’ fashion exploring along the lakeshore and islands. Bring it, Cedar Point.
Little did I know how freaking cool this week would actually end up. Basically, the whole time I ran around thinking “am I seriously in Ohio?!”
I feel like I've been living under a rock my entire life.
Sometimes my mind wanders to places far away and it clouds my mind from all the hidden secrets we have right here in the Midwest. It’s not that I dislike what the Midwest has to offer (trust me, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else), it is just that the thought of different cultures or landscapes intrigues my wanderlust of places outside my comfort zone or norm.
That being said, it’s really nice when I discover a new area that is relatively close to my roots.
When telling most people I was on my way to Sandusky for the week, the majority response was “what’s there besides Cedar Point?” My answer, “I have no idea, but that’s what I’m about to find out!”
But boy, did this area surprise me.
Before heading there, I wasn’t sure what Ohio Shores & Islands consisted of. Was it all for families? What about college students my age? I didn’t even know they had islands!
There is so much to talk about for this area because it’s just too damn awesome, but I’ll start with Put-in-Bay.
Located on South Bass Island about 15 miles off the coast of Sandusky, Put-in-Bay is a small village with a big personality. Few families reside here year-round, but during the summer tourism months hundreds like to call it home and thousands like to call it their oasis.
Miller Boat Line takes you straight to Put-in-Bay and Kelly’s Island, two of the most populated islands in the area. The transportation is fast and easy (the ride only lasts about 20 minutes) and if you bring over your car, you can even stay in it for the entire ride over. Pretty convenient huh?
Downtown Put-in-Bay is a dream come true for any Midwestern college student looking for some fantastic bars, live entertainment, and a paradise feel without having to jump on a crowded plane to Key West. Minus the fact that everyone questioned if I had a fake ID because I've been blessed with wearing braces at the age of 21, this area was fantastic! Downtown is filled with bar after bar, each with its own unique feel. Mojito Bay is a giant Tiki Bar with swings as bar stools (which I was obviously obsessed with because I’m an adult child), the Beer Barrel Saloon has the world’s longest bar and the Round House is literally an old circle bar which the locals describe as the place that said “fuck it” during prohibition. Right on.
But even if you’re not into the bar scene, there is plenty of activities to keep you busy. Anything from Parasailing to Kayaking to exploring the worlds largest geode is all available on the small island. During the day the main strip is filled with gift shops, ice cream stores and even a merry-go-round for any age. It's also a must to check out the downtown candy store and try their Sea-Salted Chocolate covered Bacon with Caramel...sweet baby Jesus that thing was created by God. Excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face real quick.
Well, the good news is the drools gone. But I'm about to talk more about food so I might have to excuse myself again.
As far as eating goes Put-in-Bay is nothing short of fantastic. The overall theme is seafood, which is great for seafood lovers! However, for non-seafooders like myself, the options are still savory. The Boardwalk has a steak to die for, the Goat has A+ food (and drinks!) and if you go to The Keys you HAVE to try their Sweat Heat Chicken Sandwich. Food is my thing, so you know I don't mess around with my one true love. If I say get....get it.
Oh! And you can't forget to make a stop at the Old Forge Creperie for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner....or all three), because my strawberry cinnamon and sugar crepe rocked my world and I think I inhaled it in approximately 7.67 seconds. Plus the inside is cute yet bold. Before it was a Cafe and Crepe hot spot, it was a blacksmith's shop. When the new owners took on the project of remodeling, they kept as much of the original wood and decorations as possible and then boosted it with a modern appeal. Totally my style restaurant.
Also on the island is Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial which is a must-see for anyone visiting. This huge monument stands at 352 feet tall and is there to represent peace between the United States, Great Britain, and Canada following the war of 1812. It was specifically built to honor those who had lost their lives during the Battle of Lake Erie when Commodore Perry from the United States successfully overtook the British on the waters surrounding the islands. Visitors can take the original elevator to the top of the structure for a 360 view on an open balcony. Standing along the railing one can see both the Canada and U.S. side of Lake Erie, which is pretty rad because I had no idea that was possible! Also viewable from the top are the many islands which make this area so unique and the village of Put-in-Bay down below.
Lastly, but most importantly, you'll need to find a place to stay. Lucky for you there are multiple motels and a campground on the island so it shouldn't be too hard. The Bayshore resort even has two outdoor pools because why not? Our motel was the Bay Lodging Motel, which unfortunately for me was home to the "Buckeye Tiki Bar" (No Buckeye's, Go Michigan State!!). Putting aside my bias for Michigan State, the motel featured a half indoor, half outdoor pool, a hot tub and of course the famous tiki bar. It's not a five-star resort, but it's the perfect style for the area. Now all I need is to mail them a Spartan decal to replace that Buckeye's logo!
One of my favorite things about the Midwest is that we are surrounded by the beautiful Great Lakes, which most people completely underestimate (I'll save that post for another day). But to sum things up, we have loads of hidden secrets within them, and Ohio Shores & Islands are the perfect examples.
So if you're already planning a trip to Cedar Point, take a couple extra days and head out to South Bass Island to experience the Key West of the north. Or if you have had no plans to head to the area, now you have a reason too! The environment and attitude surrounding the area are unreal. Everyone there truly enjoys having visitors and showing off their beloved island. You'll find more golf carts than cars and have way more fun without spending way more money. Perfect for families during the day, perfect for college students by night. I mean, how did I not know this place was just hours from where I live?! Well, at least I know it exists now because I have a feeling I'm going to be a frequent traveler to those parts. Watch out Put-in-Bay, Shalee will be back.
Traveling to the area? Make sure to share your photos with #LakeErieLove!
Scroll below to see more photos from my Midwest paradise adventure:
This was a hosted trip by Lake Erie Shores & Islands and Green Door Media Works. All accommodation, meals and activities were paid by the hosted company. All opinions are my own based on my experience.