Lake Erie Shore Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Lake Erie Shore Trip Guide

Summertime is prime time in northern Ohio, where a narrow span of Lake Erie separates America’s roller coaster mecca in Sandusky from Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay for the choice of serene or boisterous—sometimes in the same day. Check out our trip guide for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.


Cedar Point Amusement Park/Resort The 365-acre park in Sandusky gets an 18th roller coaster this summer: Steel Vengeance, featuring a 200-foot initial drop that hits a max speed of 74 mph. The amusement park’s live entertainment and themed kids’ areas make it a destination for all ages.

Cedar Point

Cedar Point; photo courtesy of Cedar Point.

Kayak the Bay Ltd. Limestone formations highlight paddling trips from Put-in-Bay to Gibraltar Island. Rent a kayak and explore on your own, or sign up for a guided experience that includes a walking tour on Gibraltar Island.

Kelleys Island State Park A 20-minute ferry ride from Marblehead ends at the island. At the state park, pitch a tent, laze on the sandy beach, hike the rocky shoreline and gawk at one of the world’s most accessible displays of glacial grooves.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area The bird-watching enclave 25 miles east of Toledo has walking trails and viewing towers. Peak warbler migration is early to mid-May.

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park The white Columbus limestone exterior of the oldest Lake Erie light in operation appeals to photographers. Tours end at the observation deck for unobstructed views of Kelleys Island.

Marblehead Lighthouse.

Marblehead Lighthouse

Maumee Bay State Park Just east of Toledo, this lakeside preserve is a great birding spot and includes Maumee Bay State Park Lodge.

Merry-Go-Round Museum Learn about the history and art of carousels (who knew that the Crusades inspired their creation?), plus ride on a 1939 merry-go-round and visit with a carousel animal carver in Sandusky.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Explore 10 miles of walking trails and migratory bird habitats in wetland, forest and upland habitats, 20 miles east of Toledo.

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial This monument in Put-in-Bay salutes War of 1812 hero Oliver Hazard Perry and the peace between the United States, Britain and Canada. Visitors ride elevators more than 300 feet up to the top deck for Lake Erie views.

Put-in-Bay Winery The pastel exterior of this Italianate home hints at the bright notes in many of the 11 wines made using local and California grapes. Sample five during a tour of the estate.

South Bass Island Busy Put-in-Bay village, about a 20-minute boat ride from Port Clinton, has been a destination for more than 150 years. Most guests tour the island by bicycle or golf cart, or take guided tram tours.


Berardi’s Family Kitchen Chain restaurants crowd Sandusky, but Berardi’s adds a dash of local flavor. Its thick-cut fries were served at Cedar Point from 1939 through 1978.

Beer Barrel Saloon Put-in-Bay’s saloon claims to have the world’s longest bar. At just under 406 feet, it fits 165 barstools.

The Boardwalk A smorgasbord of dining and drinking options fills this Put-in-Bay lakeside spot, incorporating a cantina, fish stand and restaurant. Try the creamy lobster bisque.

Crush Winebar and Kitchenbar Sandusky’s fine-dining Crush stands out with exposed-brick walls, small plates and a variety of wine flights.

Crush Winebar and Kitchenbar

Crush Winebar and Kitchenbar

The Erie Social Shuffleboard Club and Bar Relax with a cocktail, such as the Lake Erie Splash or Float Your Boat, while playing cornhole and board games (free) or renting a shuffleboard court or table in Marblehead.

J Bistro Downtown Dark woodwork, high ceilings and soft lighting at the Sandusky restaurant set the mood for upscale fare, such as king crab and shrimp risotto.

Jolly Roger Seafood House A casual Port Clinton favorite, it’s known for marvelous fish and some of the best coleslaw we’ve tasted. Jolly Roger Facebook page

Netty's Famous Chili Dogs Enjoy casual eats in Marblehead.

Upper Deck at The Boardwalk A popular lobster bisque tops the menu at this Put-in-Bay marina restaurant.

The Village Pump Linger over bowls of Richie’s Famous Lobster Chowder on Kelleys Island. A brandy Alexander (a mix of brandy, vanilla ice cream, nutmeg and crème de cacao) makes for an intoxicating dessert. The Village Pump on Facebook


BayShore Resort One of Put-in-Bay’s quieter lodgings has rooms looking across the lake toward Kelleys Island. Unwind at two shoreline pools and a large hot tub.

Kalahari Resorts Sandusky’s sprawling African-theme resort is a kid’s dream: indoor and outdoor water parks, zipline rides, a high-ropes course, laser tag and a 5-D theater.

Kalahari Resort

Kalahari Resort

Kelleys Island Venture Resort A yellow exterior marks Kelleys Island’s only hotel. The 31 suites look out over the pool, hot tub, Lake Erie and Cedar Point.

Maui Sands Resort and Indoor Waterpark It may not have all the splashy amenities of its Sandusky competitors, but Maui Sands is a relative bargain.

A Water’s Edge Retreat Rock away for hours on the porch of this Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast on Kelleys Island.

For information: Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Centers


Add Your Comment