DESTINATION: Boating Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Published: Monday, June 17, 2019
Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands is a boater’s dream! Located on Ohio’s north coast, between Toledo and Cleveland, the region is filled with marinas and transient dockage so that visitors via the lake have plenty of places to find adventure. This coastal region provides an eclectic mix of historically significant sites, family-fun amusements, gorgeous scenery, and outdoor recreation.
Fabulous islands, nature areas, lighthouses, beaches, museums, and waterfront dining; spectacular birding, fishing, and entertainment; exciting attractions, waterparks, cruises, and events offer fresh reasons to visit this summer. There has never been a better time to fish the Walleye Capital of the World, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife predicting excellent fishing opportunities for 2019. In addition to forecasted record walleye catches, yellow perch, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass catches will be plentiful.
Major ports-of-call include the Lake Erie islands (South Bass/Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass, and Kelleys) as well as the mainland ports of Port Clinton/Catawba Island, Marblehead, Sandusky, Huron, and Vermilion. Nearly 90 marinas are available for boaters, with most of them offering transient dockage or mooring buoys. There are even several area restaurants that offer dock-and-dine options, for boaters out for a quick bite.
Boating and fishing season runs mid-April through October. The entire region is boater-friendly. Marinas with transient dockage allow those visiting the region via boat to easily reach major attractions, such as Cedar Point amusement park, or get close to downtown shopping and dining districts with businesses located within walking distance.
Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island
The village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island has been attracting visitors for nearly 150 years. Many present-day visitors begin with a narrated tour on the island tour train; but, for those wishing to go at their own pace there are golf carts, scooters, and bicycles to rent. Families will be entertained with a butterfly house, miniature golf, cave tours, arcades, and a carousel. History enthusiasts won't want to miss Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. The National Park Service manages this site that includes frequent interpretive programs offered by park rangers. There are numerous shopping spots and a wide selection of restaurants and pubs to please every taste and budget. Put-in-Bay is also known for its exciting and varied music scene and daily entertainment.
Transient boat dockage at Put-in-Bay is plentiful but also very popular, especially on weekends. Three large public docks downtown can accommodate hundreds of boats. Mooring buoys are also available to rent in the harbor with water taxi shuttle service available. Dockage can be reserved at several marinas including Miller Marina, The Crew’s Nest, Boardwalk Marina, and Park Place Boat Club.
Middle Bass Island
This island lies seven miles north of the mainland and just one-and-a-half miles south of the international boundary between the U.S. and Canada. Called Ile des Fleurs by early French explorers, Middle Bass is a green island with rental homes, cottages and condos, camping, beaches, and a wildlife refuge. There are also a small number of dining spots and gift shops.
Middle Bass Island State Park features a 190-slip marina, shower house, snack and gift shop, primitive camping, bicycle rentals, miniature golf, and more. The state park is the only transient dockage on the island; however, ferry service is available to and from Put-in-Bay if you dock there.
Most commonly explored by foot, bike, golf cart, and/or kayak, Ohio’s largest island is full of adventure for all ages. It has 600 acres of state park lands, 17 miles of coastline, beautiful wildflowers, nature trails, a fossil-filled quarry, and wetlands which are admired by nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The Glacial Grooves National Natural Landmark is not to be missed. There is also a popular downtown district that offers shopping and entertainment, as well as dining. A lakefront campground and sandy beach attract visitors in summer, while spring birding and fall Monarch butterfly migrations are popular seasonal events.
Transient dockage is available at several island marinas, including Craft’s Lakeview Lane Marina and Portside Marina. Kelleys Island State Park, on the north side of the island, offers free boat-launching ramps and trailer parking; however, no overnight docking is available.
Catawba Island / Port Clinton / Marblehead
Slightly deceiving in name, Catawba Island is actually a peninsula. Named for the variety of grapes commonly grown here, the Catawba Island peninsula offers a historic winery, two modern micro-breweries, attractive lake views, rolling orchards, and farm markets. Nearby Port Clinton is known as the “Walleye Capital of the World” for good reason. Here, you’ll enjoy world-class fishing, beaches, sightseeing, shopping, and entertainment. The adjacent Marblehead peninsula features eclectic shopping and art galleries, as well as the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
A public boat launch is available at Catawba Island State Park, while Catawba Island Club offers a full-service private marina. Transient docks are offered at Shrock’s Marina, Tibbles Marina, and Lakevue Marina in Marblehead, as well as Lakefront Marina in Port Clinton.
Sandusky / Huron / Vermilion
On the eastern side of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region lie the coastal towns of Sandusky, Huron, and Vermilion. Each filled with activity and events, bike and golf cart rentals are available as well as taxi service to inland destinations. Sandusky is known for its revitalized downtown featuring the Sandusky State Theatre, museums, art galleries, waterfront parks, unique shops, and fantastic dining. Cedar Point amusement park is in Sandusky as well with a large marina adjacent to the park, making for easy access to family fun. Several indoor water park resorts entertain families year-round. In Huron, it’s all about beach-living with excellent fishing opportunities, championship golf courses, and live entertainment at the Huron Boat Basin Amphitheater. Vermilion is reminiscent of a New England coastal seaport that embraces its nautical heritage. A quaint downtown offers delicious dining options, beautiful flowers, and fun shopping. The Vermilion Lighthouse is adjacent to a public beach and near the opening of the Vermilion River and lagoons.
Transient boaters are welcome at a number of local marinas including Cedar Point and Castaway Bay marinas in Sandusky, as well as the Sandusky Yacht Club for members of yachting associations and clubs. Huron welcomes guests at Mariner Village Marina and Vermilion offers Valley Harbor Marina, Romp’s Water Port, and two Municipal Docks.
Boaters visiting Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands should be aware of Ohio’s boating laws and regulations. Contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Watercraft at www.watercraft.ohiodnr.gov for information. The local U.S. Coast Guard Station can be reached by marine radio at VHF-FM Channel 16.
Lake Erie Shores & Islands adventures begin at www.SHORESandISLANDS.com. Request a travel guide, download a Shore Savings Card, and search for lodging packages while exploring all the ways to start coasting at Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands.
Major LAKE ERIE SHORES & ISLANDS Events (2019)
Walleye Festival - Port Clinton
Festival of the Fish - Vermilion
Pyrate Fest XI - Put-in-Bay
Huron River Fest - Huron
Middle Bass Island Music Festival - Middle Bass Island
Island Fest - Kelleys Island
Dragons & Bacon Fest - Sandusky
Island Wine Festival - Put-in-Bay
This article first appeared in the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.