Many of us grew up spending lazy summer days along the Lake Erie shore in Marblehead and Port Clinton and spending a day on the Bay. There were even a few occasions when we would accompany our dads on a fishing excursion – though those trips were few and far between because they usually liked doing the guys’ trip thing. While my dad preferred and still prefers to experience Lake Erie while being in the midst of it, I like my feet planted firmly on solid ground, plus I don’t like freshwater fish (call me weird!). The exception is when I hitch a ride on one of the ferries, en route to South Bass Island and the summer hot spot of Put-in-Bay.
Starting the Trip
Knowing that my parents would enjoy a day on the lake, with my wife and I and our daughter, I planned a day to stow away to explore the island with the intent of making some great memories. Our day began with a relaxing ride to South Bass island, thanks to the Jet Express. It’s important to remember that on busy days, it may take you a bit to find a parking spot when arriving at the mainland dock and you may not find a spot in one of their free lots so pony up the cash and park in the big paid lot. There are also nearby lots that charge a fee for parking. During the summer, plan to arrive up to 30 minutes before your ferry departs, but don’t stress if you miss your ferry to the island. Ferries run every 45 minutes or so during the busy season.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that there’s a convenient customer drop-off spot at the entrance so you can drop off anyone in your party that may not appreciate or be able to walk several blocks from the parking area to the ferry ticket office, while you seek out a parking spot. While we could have chosen to take our vehicle to South Bass Island, this time around we were picking up a golf cart from Delaware Carts before beginning the adventurous drive around town.
Make Your Own Day on the Bay
I thought I’d amaze my parents with some of the tidbits I’d learned last year on the Put-in-Bay tour train. I drove past the original schoolhouse, the smallest state park in Ohio and some of the wineries before stopping at the Butterfly House. The Butterfly House is a great stop for all ages and one that my family really enjoyed on our last trip to the island. My mom, wife, daughter and I had fun looking through the impressive gift shop where my daughter tried to convince me that she needed a pair of butterfly wings. Inside the exhibit, my daughter enjoyed photographing the many butterflies while my parents’ enjoyed a few minutes sitting on one of the benches simply relaxing and marveling at the beautiful varieties of butterflies as they flitted by, as the butterflies occasionally landed on them.
We continued our tour of the island after leaving the Butterfly House and were thrilled to find the famed Benson Ford Shiphouse. Built in 1924 by Ford Motor Company, the Benson Ford once transported iron ore and other supplies across the Great Lakes. In 1986, after 50 years of service, the boat was scheduled to be scrapped. The quarters were purchased by an Ohio couple and situated on South Bass Island. The best view of the home is actually from the water but I was excited to get any glimpse of it.
The sky had darkened so we decided to head indoors for a few minutes at the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center. I know I mentioned that my dad is not a fan of museums, but this one is small, not overwhelming and allowed him to get out of the rain. A win-win for all. The museum holds the private collection of two school teachers and displays animals from Alaska to creatures you’ll find on South Bass Island today. Here, there is a great deal of interesting information. Each week throughout the season they hold special workshops and events. While we were hear, my daughter got to make an eagles nest from a variety of provided materials. It was really a hoot!
By this time, my daughter was hungry, so we headed back in town for a stop at the Candy Bar, her favorite shop in Put-in-Bay and the most kid-friendly bar on the island. I didn’t expect my parents’ to enjoy this small shop as much as they did but they had fun reminiscing when they saw sweet treats from their past. My mom almost bought a giant Sugar Daddy, before settling on a Sky Bar.
We enjoyed our treats across the street in the DeRivera Park which honors Joseph De Rivera, a Spanish entrepreneur and philanthropist who purchased South Bass Island in 1854 and was instrumental to its development. The park offers historical markers, a play area for kids and a large comfort station with lockers, restrooms and showers.
We hopped back on the golf cart and headed towards to the Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve. Open sunrise to sunset, this Put-in-Bay park was once home to one of the largest Purple Martin roosts in the state of Ohio. South Bass Island is a popular place for bird viewers to visit throughout the year, but particularly in the spring.
By now my daughter was pretty tuckered out. We enjoyed our drive along the island and slowly made our way back to town, and headed towards the dock to catch the ferry to the mainland. But I had one quick stop in mind before we boarded that ferry, the South Bass Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse wasn’t open for our visit, but the grounds offer wonderful views of the lake.
When planning a multigenerational vacation, getaway, outing, or just a day on the bay, there are several things to keep in mind.
1. The abilities of each member in your party.
As my parent’s age, I need to remember that they may not be interested or able to keep up with the physical activities they enjoyed 10, 5 or even 2 years ago. I need to be mindful of this when planning activities.
2. The interests of each member in your party.
While my mom is up for anything, my dad doesn’t enjoy museums, getting photographed or visiting countless little shops. It’s important to strike a balance so everyone in the group, from my teenage daughter, to my parents; have an enjoyable day.
3. Decide in advance who pays for what.
While I had planned to treat my parents’ to a great meal, they wouldn’t hear of it.