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.

By The editors of
March 25, 2013

Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.


Cedar Point Amusement Park/Resort The 365-acre park in Sandusky will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2021 with special activities and the debut of a Snake River Expedition riverboat ride. The amusement park’s 18 roller coasters, live entertainment and themed kids’ areas make it a destination for all ages.

Cedar Point; photo courtesy of Cedar Point.
| Credit: 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. Pitch a tent, laze on the beach, hike the rocky shoreline and gawk at one of the world’s most accessible displays of glacial grooves.

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

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 views of the Lake Erie islands.

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.

South Bass Island A bluff-top campground and lakeside picnic area offer escapes from the bustle of Put-in-Bay.


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.

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

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

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 Lake Erie perch or bowls of Richie’s Famous Lobster Chowder on Kelleys Island. Cap off the evening with a cool brandy Alexander. The Village Pump on Facebook


Anchor Inn Boutique Hotel One of Put-inBay’s quieter lodgings offers 10 rooms and suites—plus a cottage—with luxe touches, such as towel warmers and rain-head showers.

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, mini golf, laser tag, and a 7-D theater.

Kalahari Resort

Kelleys Island Venture Resort A yellow exterior marks Kelleys Island’s only hotel. The 31 suites have patios or balconies that 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.

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