After a busy day at Cedar Point (you can read about Day 1 here), we wanted our second day to trend towards some low-key fun. So we drove to the edge of Lake Erie to take the Miller Ferry over to Put-in-Bay.
For those who aren’t local, Put-in-Bay is a popular little town on South Bass Island just a few miles from Ohio’s mainland. The island’s main business is tourism. Families, seniors, history buffs, nautical aficionados, college students, wine lovers, or even people who just like driving golf carts: there’s something for everyone.
You can only get there by boat or air, and it seems a little silly to fly only a few miles. The Miller Ferry is the well-known, reliable way to get to the island, and with two kids who have never been on a boat, I couldn’t wait to introduce them to my favorite way to travel.
Cordy was a little nervous about getting on a boat at first. As she saw it coming to the dock, rocking from the morning waves, she worried that the waves might go over it and pull it under the water. While waiting for the ferry to unload, we discussed flotation and buoyancy (science!) until she felt certain that it was safe. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people traveling at 9:30am on a Friday, so we snagged front row seats on the second level.
Both kids were unsure how they felt about the rocking of the boat at first. But then…
…they LOVED it! Cordy held tight to the rail as the wind blew her hair back, and for a moment I was fully expecting a Titanic “I’m king of the world!” declaration from her. The best I got was, “I LOVE boats now!” Close enough, I guess.
Once we reached South Bass Island, we picked up our rental golf cart from Island Bike & Cart Rental. The island is only a few miles wide, with very limited parking. You can bring your car, but it’s really not that convenient, and you’d be stuck behind slower moving golf carts the entire time anyway. Besides…golf carts! Aaron and I had to agree to take turns driving our golf cart to avoid a fight. Zipping around the island by golf cart is waaaaay too much fun. (And there’s plenty of golf-cart only parking all over the island.)
We decided to leave the day up to the kids. We gave them a list of several attractions and let them decide where we were going. The first stop was Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. This little complex is several activities in one. The main attraction is Perry’s Cave, a natural cave and underground lake you can tour to see where Perry (aka the Hero of the Battle of Lake Erie) and his troops found water and shelter in the War of 1812.
The cave formations are cool, but not for the claustrophobic. Cordy and Mira were fond of “headache rock,” especially after seeing adults hit their heads on it, despite the name being explained beforehand. They didn’t have to duck at all – one advantage of being smaller. I’d show photos here but apparently I’m a lousy cave photographer – nothing but flash.
In the store, you can buy a bag of dirt and then take it outside to pan for gemstones. Sounds kinda simple, but you’d be amazed how much value you can get out of this activity for kids. They took their time emptying some of the bag into the screens and dipping it into the water, then shrieking in delight as they watched the water wash away the sand and reveal sparkling stones of every color. There’s a provided gemstone card to determine what each gem is, too.
Then Aaron and the kids got lost in Fort aMaze’N, while I stayed on the observation deck and laughed at them. (I later went back and did the maze with them.)
There’s also a Butterfly House at Perry’s Cave, filled with exotic butterflies from all over the world. It was almost overwhelming walking through the indoor gardens with so many butterflies all around you. But at least some held still for photos.
So I guess we didn’t let the kids completely pick the day’s agenda. I insisted on the Upper Deck of The Boardwalk for lunch, only because I had heard they have fantastic lobster bisque. It’s true – the lobster bisque is amazing. The view from your table is pretty good, too – nothing but lake views as far as you can see. Not that the kids complained, either – they had activity packs to keep them busy and their meals were served on keepsake frisbees.
After lunch, we browsed the shops of downtown Put-in-Bay, had some ice cream, and took a ride on Kimberly’s Carousel. It’s an all-wood carousel, built in 1917, and has more than just horses to ride. I was on a dog. You can see a rooster behind me and Mira.
Then it was off to see Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial. Cordy was willing to brave over 800 steps to climb to the top of the monument, but by mid-afternoon there was a line and we were less willing to have Cordy wait in a line in an enclosed space. We’ll plan to climb it next time.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent visiting the Crystal Cave (the winery sitting on top of it is more interesting, FYI) and the Aquatic Resource Center, where you can see local fish and kids can learn to fish for free.
Then as we neared dinnertime, we went to the far side of the island (East Point) to look out over Lake Erie before the end of our day. The kids were asking Aaron to show them how to skip stones, and with all of the smooth, flat rocks surrounding us, he was happy to teach them.
Everyone was tired by this point, so we decided to call it a day and begin the long golf cart ride to the Miller Ferry dock on the other side of the island. Aaron got to do the final drive, so I sat on the back of the cart with Mira, watching all of the sights go by us. Mira nearly fell asleep on the ride back to the ferry dock. She sighed and rested her little head against me with a smile on her face, saying it was one of the best days ever.
It was a bittersweet ride back across Lake Erie on the Miller Ferry. The kids were thrilled to be on the boat again, but sad that the day was over. We spent time on the lower level this trip, watching the waves go by.
The day was far more low-key than our previous day at Cedar Point, but even low-key fun eventually wears you out. Two minutes after turning out of the parking lot to start for home:
I’ve only been to Put-in-Bay once before, when I was a child, and I’m surprised at how much I forgot. Both Aaron and I agreed that we’d like to come back to the island again soon, though, so I have a feeling our kids will get to know Put-in-Bay better than I did. There’s still so much we didn’t do: the nature center, kayaking, mini-golf, nature trail walking…and we didn’t even try to visit Middle Bass Island or Kelly’s Island.
It was a lovely way to end the summer, and a much needed family vacation for us. With solo trips to other cities, work, more work, summer camp, and so many other demands pulling our family in different directions, taking even just two days to reconnect and have fun together helped us create new family memories that I hope will last.
Full disclosure: we were invited to Put-in-Bay by Miller Ferry and generously provided with ferry tickets, a golf cart rental and passes to Perry’s Cave for our visit. All other attractions, souvenirs, meals and lodgings while at Lake Erie were covered by our not-so-robust paychecks and the ever-popular credit card. All statements made here are my own.
Oh, and when on the ferry, be sure to check in on Foursquare at the “Middle of Lake Erie” location, just because you can.