South Bass Island, in Lake Erie, Ohio, is home to Put-in-Bay—the Midwest’s favorite island vacation destination. At a diminutive 3.7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, South Bass Island is nonetheless brimming with attractions that draw over 750,000 visitors yearly. Read on—you’ll want to visit Put-in-Bay, too!
Located only 3 miles from mainland Ohio, South Bass Island—also referred to as Put-in-Bay island—is easily reached by aircraft, charter boat, and the ever-popular South Bass Island Ferry, departing from northern Catawba. South Bass Island is one of over a dozen Lake Erie Islands, which include Kelleys Island, Pelee Island—officially part of the Canadian province of Ontario—the other Bass Islands, Johnson’s Island, and Rattlesnake Island. The largest Lake Erie Islands are inhabited, and share the collective moniker “Vacationland”.
The most popular of these archipelagic destinations is Put-in-Bay. Described as the Key West of the Midwest, it features prominently on every South Bass Island map, its downtown core nestled on the north side of the island, and abutting the famous Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial—the world’s tallest Doric column, commemorating the Battle of Lake Erie, and the long-standing alliance between the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.
Singles, families, and groups are drawn to South Bass Island, where adventure, education, and exploration await. Nature lovers are sure to enjoy South Bass Island State Park—a 33-acre, ferry-accessible retreat, whose beaches, wooded areas and South Bass Island camping sites provide a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of main street Put-in-Bay. For the vacationing oenophile, South Bass Island is home to not one, but two, wineries: Put-in-Bay Winery, and the award-winning Heineman Winery. Both provide tastings and tours in a pleasant setting—and what better way to discuss what to do on South Bass Island than while whetting your whistle?
For the shopaholic, downtown Put-in-Bay is a delight. From upscale fashion and beach-essential apparel to chocolate, candies, snacks, and cold drinks, to locally crafted jewelry and other one-of-a-kind items, it’s possible to shop till you drop—then wine, dine, eat, drink and be merry, in one of the many Put-in-Bay bars and restaurants that dot South Bass Island.
There’s pizza and casual pub fare galore, fresh seafood, fine dining, and so much more. The bounty of South Bass Island awaits! Enjoy sophisticated cocktails, or grab a refreshing brew at the Beer Barrel Saloon—home of the world’s longest bar! And did we mention Put-in-Bay’s many Tiki bars, swim-up bars, and swimming pools?
You’ll be drinking and dancing the night away—so make sure to book ahead at one of the many hotels on South Bass Island, or check out Put-in-Bay’s motels, resorts, cabins, bed and breakfasts, villas and rental homes that comfortably accommodate singles, couples, families and large groups. Just remember, rooms sell out quickly during peak season; if possible, reserve your accommodation well in advance. Several hotels and resorts offer great discounts & packages to Put-in-Bay.
Want to explore South Bass Island at a more leisurely pace?
Consider a trip to Perry’s Cave and Crystal Cave—you’ll find gemstone mining, the world’s largest geode—and nearby, the beautiful Butterfly House (home to 50 species of exotic winged wonders), the unique War of 18 Holes mini-golf course, and the fascinating Antique Car Museum. For the young and adventurous—or the young at heart—a brand-new rock climbing wall, and Fort aMaze’n—Put-in-Bay’s giant, brain-puzzling maze—promise hours of fun.
South Bass Island is steeped in history. Visit the Lake Erie Historical Society, easily accessible from the island’s downtown. You’ll find letters, photographs, papers and other rare artifacts that shed light on island life as it was in years past. And for an entirely different experience, the Put-in-Bay Chocolate Museum provides insight into one of the world’s favorite treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth with over 100 varieties of fine chocolate—then savor a sip of locally roasted coffee. It’s a divine pairing, sure to energize you for your next exploration of South Bass Island!
Getting around the island is easy
Automobiles are permitted—some visitors transport vehicles on the Put-in-Bay ferry—but given the island’s small size and busy streets, you might consider adopting the local custom of walking, riding—or driving a golf cart! Golf cart rentals are available. Please remember that golf carts are treated as licensed vehicles, and all state traffic laws apply. For those still inclined to travel by car, the Put-in-Bay taxi service provides fast, affordable transportation.
Hop on a bike, hit the road, or take to the trails, and explore the wild side of South Bass Island. Rent a jet ski, hire a charter boat, or glide slowly through the waters of Lake Erie in a kayak. Keep an eye out for perch and walleye—South Bass Island is a fisherman’s paradise! Helicopter and biplane rides are also available, giving you a bird’s-eye view of Put-in-Bay and beyond. One can’t miss attraction is the Put-in-Bay Tour Train name on of Ohio’s Top Ten Guided Tours.
The popularity of Put-in-Bay—with its wide-ranging activities, ease of access, pleasant, natural surroundings and close proximity to the other Lake Erie Islands—make the South Bass Island Real Estate market an attractive investment option. Homes on South Bass Island are often available at a cost lower than that of the national average, allowing purchasers to acquire their very own island home—or enjoy recurring South Bass Island rental profits.
The next time you’re in the Midwest—or even if you’re not—hop on a ferry to South Bass Island, visit Put-in-Bay, and find out for yourself why this Lake Erie Island is far and away the United State’s most beloved offshore destination north of the 40th parallel! Be sure to browse the 5 things not to do on your Put-in-Bay Vacation!