By Elaine Kish
Lake Erie is the twelfth largest lake in the world in area and its borders include four states and one Canadian Province. Ohio is fortunate enough to have 312 miles of that shoreline. However, if you ask anyone who has visited the Sandusky Bay and the north shores and islands locations, they will tell you these are some of the most popular and beautiful areas. You can find fun and excitement at Cedar Park amusement park, as well as outdoor and indoor water parks, for the younger set; relaxation and wineries for those wanting to take it easy; water sports and boating for lake enthusiasts; fishing for the anglers; monuments and lighthouses for the history buffs; and good food for everyone. When visiting the area, be sure to stop at one of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands welcome centers located in Port Clinton and Sandusky for a travel guide to plan your activities.
New in 2017 is Cedar Point Shores Water Park, which includes some of the former Soak City adventures as well as new attractions on 18 acres of Lake Erie shoreline. Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center will host various games from baseball and softball to soccer and lacrosse, with miniature golf, trampolines, playgrounds, a high-ropes course and food concessions for families to enjoy.
Kalaharai Resorts & Convention Center has added has added a new five-slide tower to their outdoor waterpark.
With paddle sports growing in popularity among water recreation activities, several new businesses have opened up along the coast offering various means of paddling – kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. Each spring and fall thousands of migrating birds rest on the shoreline either before or after their long flight across Lake Erie, making the area a haven for birdwatching. Due to its location on Lake Erie, Sandusky was a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Visitors can obtain a brochure to take a self-driving tour.
The Follett House Museum in Sandusky includes exhibits on Johnson’s Island Confederate Prison and other history of the area. The Keeper’s House in Marblehead is the oldest surviving home in Ottawa County and once was the home of the operator of the Marblehead Lighthouse. The African Safari Wildlife Park is a drive-thru safari that allows visitors to get up-close and personal with exotic animals from the comfort of your vehicle. Waterslides and lazy rivers abound with an assortment of indoor waterparks including Castaway Bay, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Maui Sands Resort and Rain Water Park. They offer a variety of fun no matter what the weather is outside. How about an airboat ride? Air1 Airboats is a 30-40 minute ride with views of wildlife and Cedar Point Amusement Park. It is suggested that children be age 6 and older to ride, due to the noise.
What would a visit to the shore be without feeling the sand between your toes? The top family-friendly beaches in the area are Nickel Plate Beach in Huron, Central Park Beach in Lakeside, East Harbor State Park, and Main Street Beach in Vermillion. There are lighthouses on the coast from Vermillion to Port Clinton. The beacons in Vermillion, Huron and Marblehead are free to view. For an additional fee (children 5 years and under are free), visitors can climb the 77 steps to the top of the Marblehead Lighthouse for a spectacular view of the area. The onsite museum and lifesaving station are free to tour.
Sawmill Creek Resort offers lodging a stone’s throw from the lake. A 235-acre resort, you can plan your own adventure to include a championship golf course, private beach, tree top zip-lining, kayaks, jet skis, hot air balloon rides, indoor and outdoor pools, nature preserve trails, the Sawmill Explorer Cruise boat, the Sawmill shops, and four restaurants. Their cozy lodge offers a relaxing atmosphere.
After you’ve experienced the land adventures, head out to the islands for more fun. There are several ways to get there. The Jet Express is a high-speed passenger ferry to Put-in-Bay and downtown Kelleys Island, running from May to October, weather permitting. Miller Ferries offer passenger and vehicle transportation to Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island. They operate year round, weather permitting. The Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line is the only passenger and vehicle ferry service to Kelleys Island. You can visit Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay aboard Goodtime Lake Erie Island Cruises which run from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
There are numerous islands in this area of Lake Erie. Located on Gibralter Island is Ohio State University’s Stone Lab which offers free tours of the fish hatchery. Kelleys Island is home to the world’s largest massive limestone grooves cut by glaciers during the last ice age. You can view the grooves from a surrounding walkway and stairs, and see the natural wonder containing fossils up to 400 million years old. Stacked north to south and separated by channels, South Bass, Middle Bass and North Bass Islands are well known as exceptional locations for bass, walleye and perch fishing.
Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island is the most well-known area of the Lake Erie Islands. It is the home of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The free visitor’s center tells the story of the Battle of Lake Erie and Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British through exhibits and videos. Often called “The Key West of Lake Erie,” Put-in-Bay has something for everyone. Most visitors travel the island by bicycle or golf cart. Another popular way is the Put-in-Bay Tour train which offers a guided narrated tour with on/off privileges at popular sites and attractions. There is a beach area for swimming and nearby picnic areas. Numerous shops offer nautical gifts, jewelry, clothing, and gourmet foods, as well as souvenirs of the area. Local wines are available by the bottle or glass.
There are numerous types of lodging on South Bass Island to accommodate families and groups of all sizes – hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, cottages, vacation rentals and campgrounds, some of which are waterfront, have dock privileges and are pet friendly. For campers, South Bass Island State Park is a 33-acre wooded campground and lakeside picnic area.
Many visitors make the Lake Erie Shores area an annual trip and yet they find new and different things to do each time they visit. For more information or to plan your Lake Erie Shores & Islands trip, consult their website at www.shoresandislands.com where you can request a Travel Guide.
Cedar Point Shores
New for 2017 at Cedar Point Amusement Park is their expanded outdoor waterpark. Cedar Point Shores offers a new entrance gate, new poolside bar, new changing and showering areas, more lounge chairs, additional shade, new landscaping and unobstructed views of Lake Erie.
Storm Surge takes riders on a large raft as they slide 76 feet to the ground. Lake Erie Nor’easter is an exciting inner tube ride through an enclosed, twisty slide. Cedar Creek provides a relaxing ride down a lazy river. For thrills, the Fishermen’s Fury body slides and Riptide Raceway mat racer slides will not disappoint.
Point Plummet is a six-story-tall, four-person aqua-drop slide that will simultaneously send four riders on a nearly vertical free fall when the floor drops out beneath them. Each rider will traverse their own 400-foot-long slide through a series of flat loops and s-curves. On that same structure is Portside Plunge, two five-story tube slides for single or double riders. This adventure sends riders through an enclosed tube with intense drops and turns before shooting them out into the sun. Lakeside Landing is a new family slide complex featuring 12 kid-sized water slides along the perimeter of a zero-depth-entry pool. Parents can relax nearby under shade structures or in a lounge and sun deck area. The mythical Lake Erie Monster, Lemmy, comes to life in Lemmy’s Lagoon, a new family splashground.
When you’re ready to take a break for a snack or a meal, the new Crystal Rock Café features chicken fingers, flatbreads, salads, and pizzas. New Coca-Cola refillable drink stations allow guests to quench their thirst even faster. Covered seating completes the area. Muffleheads Beach Bar is a swim-up bar and pool area for adults. Schooner’s Beach Bar, adjacent to the Breakwater Bay wave pool, features tasty signature cocktails and beverages with live entertainment. New cabanas will be the perfect place to relax for large groups or families. Cabana upgrades include free Wi-Fi, charging stations, ceiling fans, TVs and dedicated food and beverage service.
“Our history started as a simple bathing beach back in 1870, when it was all about cooling off and enjoying time together along the shore of Lake Erie,” said Jason McClure, Vice President and General Manager of Cedar Point. “The transformation of Cedar Point Shores puts all the pieces together – the connection to the lake, the mile-long Cedar Point Beach and thrilling water attractions.” Admission to Cedar Point Shores can be purchased separately or in conjunction with admission to Cedar Point Amusement Park. For more information about Cedar Point Shores, visit cedarpoint.com/cpshores.
Lake Erie Shores and Islands