Top 13 Unforgettable Things to Do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio

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Welcome to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Lake Erie that defies the typical island getaway stereotype. 

Are you ready to learn about the best things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio?

Far from being just a party destination, Put-in-Bay is a vibrant tapestry of adventure, history, and natural beauty, perfect for families, history enthusiasts, and thrill-seekers alike. 

From the moment you step onto the island, you're invited into a world where every turn reveals new wonders, from historic monuments and serene natural parks to exhilarating outdoor activities. 

One of my favorite things about this small island is that it's easy to explore, and I'd consider even going just for the Irish Nachos (more about that later…)

Join us as we explore the best things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, and uncover the true spirit of this enchanting island.

Aerial view of Put-in-Bay showing a vibrant marina with docked boats, surrounded by greenery and buildings, with a glimpse of the lake in the background.

How to Get to Put-in-Bay

Accessing this island paradise is part of the adventure, and a few options exist.

  • Ferry Services: Catch a ride with Miller Ferry from Catawba Island for a scenic 20-minute journey that welcomes both passengers and vehicles, ideal for those bringing their car for convenience. Alternatively, Jet Express offers a passenger-only service from Port Clinton and Sandusky, perfect for those looking to dive straight into the island's downtown buzz. Both services provide unique views and a memorable start to your island adventure.
  • Private Boats: Sail directly to Put-in-Bay and dock at one of the island's welcoming marinas, offering a personal touch to your journey with amenities for a comfortable stay.
  • By Air: For an aerial perspective, small aircraft can land at Put-in-Bay Airport, providing a swift and scenic entry to your island getaway. Charter services enhance the experience with breathtaking views of Lake Erie and its islands.
The Jet Express III ferry, filled with passengers, glides through the waters near Put-in-Bay, against a backdrop of a hazy sky and distant shorelines.

Getting around Put-in-Bay

Navigating once on Put-in-Bay has various fun and convenient ways to explore every nook and cranny of this picturesque island.

Given its compact size, getting around is easy, making it possible to experience the whole charm of Put-in-Bay in just a day or two.

Here's how to get around Put-in-Bay efficiently and enjoyably.

  • Golf Carts: The go-to choice for flexible island exploration, available for rent by the hour or day to suit groups of all sizes.
  • Bicycles: Ideal for leisurely sightseeing, bike rentals offer a healthy and intimate way to discover the island's charm.
  • Scooters: Zip around Put-in-Bay and cover more ground quickly; it's a fun option for adventurous spirits.
  • Walking: Embrace the island's pace and explore attractions on foot, the most immersive way to experience Put-in-Bay's vibrant atmosphere.
Two rows of white 2-person golf carts lined up and ready to be rented. Clear blue day with trees in the background.

Historical things to do on Put-in-Bay

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

Standing tall as a symbol of peace and historical triumph, Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial offers you a lesson in history and unparalleled views of Lake Erie.

Ascend the tower to witness a breathtaking panoramic view and learn about the story of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's triumph in the Battle of Lake Erie at the same time.

The towering Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, with the American and British flags flying at half-mast on a bright, sunny day, symbolizing peace and historic reconciliation.

Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum

The Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum offers a deep dive into the history of Put-in-Bay and the surrounding islands.

With exhibits ranging from the development of the tourist industry to the stories of pirate lore and the viticulture heritage of the islands, the museum provides a comprehensive look at the factors that shaped this unique region.

It's a great stop for anyone looking to understand the island beyond its surface beauty. It offers insights into the people, events, and industries that have made the islands what they are today.

South Bass Island Lighthouse

The South Bass Island Lighthouse, standing since 1897, is more than a navigational aid; it's a historical landmark offering stunning views of Lake Erie.

Managed by The Ohio State University, this picturesque site combines educational insights with natural beauty.

While the lighthouse interior tours are limited, the grounds provide a perfect setting for breathtaking views and serene moments, making it a must-visit spot in Put-in-Bay.

Natural Wonders on Put-in-Bay

South Bass Island State Park

Embrace the tranquility of South Bass Island State Park, a pristine natural haven perfect for camping, picnicking, and soaking in the sun along its shores.

It's an idyllic spot to reconnect with nature and enjoy a slower pace of life, with stunning views.

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave offers a unique underground experience, home to the world's largest geode. Enjoy the shimmering crystals surrounding you in this natural wonder.

The cave's cool temperature and sparkling walls provide a magical escape from the ordinary.

Family Fun things to do on Put-in-Bay

Perry's Cave Family Fun Center

Perry's Cave Family Fun Center is your one-stop destination for entertainment and adventure. From the fascinating underground cave tours to miniature golf, there's something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

It's a place where fun meets education, with plenty of activities to engage visitors of all ages. The areas listed below this category are all a part of the fun center.

Tip: Look for a value pass to get the best bang for your buck! Combo passes start at around $16.

Perry's Cave

Perry's Cave, located in the heart of Put-in-Bay, invites visitors on an extraordinary journey beneath the island's surface.

This natural limestone cave, discovered in 1813, is steeped in history and geological wonders.

Take a cave tour to explore Perry's Cave, which has an underground lake and rare cave formations. It will also provide a cool respite from the summer heat and a fascinating glimpse into the earth's depths.

Butterfly House on Put-in-Bay

Step into a world of fluttering beauty at the Butterfly House. This greenhouse is home to hundreds of butterflies from around the globe.

It's a place where nature's delicate balance is on full display, inviting you to slow down and appreciate the smaller wonders of the world.

Two butterflies, one with bright blue and white wings and the other showcasing brown and eye-patterned wings, rest on lush green foliage, highlighting the diversity of butterfly species in their natural habitat.

Gemstone Mining

Dive into the exciting world of Gemstone Mining at Put-in-Bay. This family-friendly attraction offers a hands-on opportunity to sift through mining rough in a sluice, revealing hidden gems, fossils, and geodes.

It's a fun and educational activity, teaching you about the types of stones and fossils you uncover.

Each bag of mining material includes precious stones and ancient fossils, ensuring everyone walks away with a personal treasure.

War of 18 Holes (Mini-Golf)

The War of 18 Holes mini-golf course offers a unique blend of entertainment and education. This mini-golf experience takes players through a themed journey inspired by the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.

As you navigate through the 18-hole course, you'll encounter fun facts and historical events related to Put-in-Bay and its significance in American history. 

Rows of colorful miniature golf balls in hues of blue, purple, pink, green, red, and white, neatly arranged in a yellow cage, ready for a playful round of putt-putt golf.

Fort a'Mazen

Fort a'Mazen offers an exhilarating experience for those who love puzzles and a bit of friendly competition.

This giant maze, designed for kids and adults, challenges you to find your way through its intricate pathways, solving clues and navigating obstacles to reach the end.

It's not just about getting lost; it's about discovering your way through strategy, wit, and a bit of luck.

Rock Wall

The Rock Wall is a fun attraction if you are seeking adventure and challenge. This towering rock wall invites all skill levels to test their strength, agility, and determination.

Whether you're a seasoned climber looking to maintain your skills or a novice eager to try something new, the rock wall offers a safe and thrilling experience.

Reaching the top provides a sense of accomplishment and spectacular views of the surrounding area, making it a rewarding endeavor.

Free things to do on Put-in-Bay

Aquatic Visitor Center

The Aquatic Visitor Center offers a unique glimpse into the aquatic life of Lake Erie.

While there, you can learn about the lake's ecosystem and conservation efforts through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and even fish off the docks.

Antique Car Museum 

The Antique Car Museum is a trove for automobile enthusiasts and history buffs. Featuring a collection of vintage cars and memorabilia, the museum takes you on a nostalgic journey through the golden era of motoring. 

Sepia-toned image of a classic car's interior featuring a vintage steering wheel, fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, and a detailed dashboard evoking a nostalgic mid-20th-century vibe.

DeRivera Park

Nestled in the heart of Put-in-Bay, DeRivera Park offers a serene green escape with shaded picnic areas, and breathtaking harbor views.

This park is named after José DeRivera, one of the island's original settlers. The park is a testament to the community's appreciation for nature and public spaces.

Children will delight in the playground, while adults appreciate the tranquil setting and historical markers that dot the landscape.

Leisure & Recreation on Put-in-Bay

Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum invites you to indulge in chocolate's rich history and flavors.

With a collection of chocolate artifacts and the chance to purchase various chocolates, it's a sweet escape for chocolate lovers.

On the opposite side of the building is a cafe with a large selection of Toft's Ice Cream, cakes, hot drinks, and breakfast items.

An assortment of chocolates, prominently featuring 'Dark Coconut Creams', presented in a display case with labels, ready to entice and delight the senses of any chocolate connoisseur.

Put-in-Bay Tour Train

The Put-in-Bay Tour Train guides you to the island's key attractions, providing insights into its rich history, natural landscapes, and cultural highlights.

It's an ideal way for first-time visitors to learn more about the island's unique story to get acquainted with Put-in-Bay.

Stops include:

  • Perry's Cave and Family Fun Center
  • Heineman's Winery
  • Perry's Victory and International Peace Monument
  • Lake Erie Island Nature and Wildlife Area

Put-in-Bay Wineries

Discover the rich flavors of island-made wines at Put-in-Bay Winery and Heineman's Winery.

Embark on a wine-tasting tour that guides you through the winery's history and picturesque setting.

Whether you're a connoisseur or simply curious, the winery's selection promises a delightful taste exploration.

Four wine glasses lined up on a wooden board from white wine, rose wine, to dark red wines. Background is blurred out.

Put-in-Bay Watercraft Rentals

Dive into excitement with Put-in-Bay's watercraft rentals. Whether you prefer the gentle pace of a kayak, the speed of jet skis, or the freedom of a private boat, the island offers plenty of options to make a splash.

Female in life jacket standing on jet ski in the golden hour of the day. Water flying away from the jet ski in what looks like diamonds with the way light is hitting it.

Annual Events

Put-in-Bay's calendar is packed with annual events that showcase the island's vibrant community spirit and rich traditions.

From the Pyrate Fest to the island-wide garage sale and historical reenactments, there's always something exciting happening.

These events offer a great way to experience the local culture and enjoy the fun.

Tip: Look at the community calendar for upcoming events to create an even more memorable island experience.

Where to Eat

Dining at Put-in-Bay promises a delightful array of options, from waterfront establishments offering scenic views to cozy, hidden gems scattered throughout the island.

Whether craving freshly caught Lake Erie fish, indulging in gourmet dishes, or enjoying traditional pub fare, you will find the culinary scene as diverse as it is delicious.

Tip: If you want live music, check out the scene in the downtown area. 

These are my top food picks:

The Boardwalk

No visit to Put-in-Bay is complete without a meal at The Boardwalk. You can savor the freshest Lake Erie perch, a local delicacy, while enjoying stunning waterfront views.

The Boardwalk offers a relaxed dining experience that epitomizes the island's laid-back vibe and culinary excellence.

Hooligans

Hooligans is an Irish-themed pub and restaurant in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, known for its cozy atmosphere and hearty, traditional Irish fare. This restaurant is my favorite place to eat on the island! The Irish Nachos are amazing.

Where to Stay

Put-in-Bay offers a range of accommodations, including hotels, rental homes, bed and breakfasts, and camping options. Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak season.

FAQs: Put-in-Bay

How does Put-in-Bay compare to Kelleys Island?

Put-in-Bay is renowned for its lively atmosphere, rich history, and diverse attractions, catering to those seeking entertainment and educational experiences.

In contrast, Kelleys Island offers a quieter, nature-focused retreat, ideal for relaxation and outdoor exploration.

Can I visit Put-in-Bay for a day trip or plan an overnight stay?

Put-in-Bay can be enjoyed as a day trip. Still, an overnight stay is recommended to experience the island's nightlife, dine at various restaurants, and explore all the attractions without feeling rushed.

What is the best time of year to visit Put-in-Bay?

The best time to visit Put-in-Bay is from May to September when the weather is warm, and all attractions are open.

July and August are the busiest months on the island.

A colorful directional sign at Put-in-Bay with distances to various locations like Chicago, Bulgaria, and Fort Myers Beach, against a backdrop of a serene waterfront and a boat, evoking a sense of adventure and travel.

Final Thoughts: Things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a treasure trove of adventure, history, and natural beauty. There are plenty of things to do on the island that cater to every interest.

From the historical heights of Perry's Victory to the serene beauty of South Bass Island State Park, there's no shortage of unforgettable experiences.

We invite you to plan your trip, dive into the island's charm, and discover why Put-in-Bay is a must-visit destination on Lake Erie. 

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Three wine glasses sitting on a wooden railing with three different colors of wine. Blurred grapevines behind the glasses.
Three images: Black/blue/white butterfly sitting on a green leaf, the "Jet Express" boat transporting people across the lake, Concrete "peace" tower with flags of USA, Canada, UK nearby.
Aerial view of Put-in-Bay showing a vibrant marina with docked boats, surrounded by greenery and buildings, with a glimpse of the lake in the background.

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