Marine News from the Great Lakes

Kelleys Island - On And Off The Water

Published: Friday, February 8, 2019
By: Jordan Killam, Director

The western basin of Lake Erie offers a unique experience to boaters, primarily because there are so many beautiful islands to visit within close proximity to each other. One waterlogged paradise, however, stands out. Kelleys Island, often referred to as the “Emerald Isle of Lake Erie”, satisfies a multitude of vacation desires. The roughly 4.4 square mile destination facilitates a harmonious blend of lively bars, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and of course, natural beauty.

Docking Here

Kelleys Island has its own ferry boat line, which can be accessed in Marblehead, OH. The Jet Express also travels to Kelleys from South Bass Island and Sandusky, OH. However, getting to the island is easy by private watercraft. When boats arrive, Kelleys offers four marinas for transient dockage. After docking, visitors may rent a golf cart or a bicycle to get around the island. Some marinas offer on-site golf cart and bicycle rentals and also serve as bait and tackle shops.

Plan on staying the night? All marinas will accommodate overnight stays. Some offer shower and laundry facilities so boaters can freshen up after a day spent out on the water. If boaters prefer to anchor in other locations, such as Sandy Beach in the spacious North Bay, they may bring a dinghy to dock at a downtown marina. The island is also home to a resort hotel, a small motel, and a variety of bed and breakfasts, private condos, and cottages for rent.


Roughly one third of Kelleys is preserved in its natural state. The island offers a handful of beautiful hiking trails, each with their own special features - ranging from Devonian era fossils and breathtaking alvars at water’s edge to unique pond habitats and birder-friendly forests. Perhaps the most popular attraction is the island’s glacial grooves, which were formed over 20,000 years ago and serve as the world’s largest and most humanly accessible example of glacial scoring. The grooves are the crown jewel of the island’s 677-acre State Park, which boasts lakefront campsites and a public boat launch.

The island has also been added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to visit the Kelleys Island History Museum, Old Stone German Reformed Church, and cemetery to learn about the lives of early settlers, including Native Americans.

Kelleys is the perfect destination for fishing. This region of Lake Erie is often referred to as the “Walleye Capital of the World”. Spring and summer offer the perfect conditions for abundant walleye fishing, and the late summer months into fall facilitate excellent yellow perch fishing.

Dining and Shopping

Kelleys is home to a brewery and a winery, but also boasts an eclectic array of restaurants that will suit any appetite. Whether it’s seafood, Italian-inspired cuisine, creative American fare, Greek food, or fresh Lake Erie perch and walleye, it’s on the menu!

The island also features a varied array of shopping opportunities. Visitors seeking souvenirs, stylish clothing and t-shirts, pet accessories, garden decor, bargain resale, or essential items won’t be disappointed.

Ready for your next island adventure? Contact the Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce to help you plot your course! Call 419-746-2360 or email [email protected].


This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Lake Erie, Travel


Go back | Show other stories

Check the Map!

Boat shows, destinations, magazine locations

Check it out!