How to Spend the Perfect Day in Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Midwest Travel

Put-in-Bay, Ohio, located on South Bass Island, in Lake Erie, sits just three miles off the shore of Port Clinton, Ohio. History buffs, wine enthusiasts, water birds, and families will all find numerous things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Those who enjoy camping and the outdoors will want to spend some time at South Bass Island State Park.

Although you can get to Put-in-Bay by a flight from Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport in Port Clinton, Ohio, almost everyone comes by ferry. Miller Boat Line offers ferry service to Put-in-Bay from their Catawba Dock on the mainland in Port Clinton. The boat ride will take you less than 20 minutes.

Thank you to Miller Ferry for arranging my transportation and activities.

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Should you take your car to Put-in-Bay? You could, but I didn’t and was glad. During weekends and holidays, you can’t take your vehicle for a day trip. You must show evidence of an overnight stay. Parking is difficult, and some areas are congested. Renting a golf cart or bike, taking a taxi, or using the bus are all viable alternatives to taking your car. We were able to complete all the things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio by using golf cart rentals. It was easy and hassle free.

When I arrive at a new location, I like to get the lay of the land by taking an overview tour, and in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, it was no different. We decided to start by taking the Put-in-Bay Tour Train. You can use this hop-on, hop-off open-air tram as transportation among attractions. However, since we rented a golf cart at E’s Put-in-Bay Carts, we decided to ride the narrated train from beginning to end to get a feel for the town’s layout and distance among Put-in-Bay attractions. If you stay on tour, the entire narrated ride lasts about an hour.

Things to Do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is a park within the National Park System that commemorates lasting peace between the United States and the United Kingdom. It memorializes those who fought and died in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. The park also commemorates peace between the United States and the United Kingdom.

It was in this area that Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry’s small fleet captured a whole British squadron. Perry’s battle flag displayed the saying, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle was the first time the Royal Navy had an entire squadron captured.

The view of Lake Erie from the observation deck of the 352-foot Victory Tower is stunning. While it’s free to visit the Perry’s Victory Visitor Center,  While it’s free to visit the Perry’s Victory Visitor Center, there was a charge to take in the stunning views from the top of the memorial tower. This was one of my favorite things to do on the island. 

Carousel in Put-in-Bay
Kimberly’s Carousel by Allan Herschell Company, Inc. Builders, North Tonawanda, New York

Kimberlys Carousel’s traditional carnival music adds to the festive atmosphere atmosphere in downtown Put-in-Bay, on Delaware Avenue. It’s one of only a few operating carousels in the United States with all wooden horses. The Allen Herschel Company built the ride in North Tonawanda, New York, in 1917. You can buy a pass to ride all day for less than two rides, just in case the kiddos can’t get enough of this amusement ride.

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Perry’s Cave and Family Fun Center alone has so much to do; you could spend several hours here. The entire family will find something fun whether you stay together as a family or divide and conquer. The spelunking enthusiast will find Perry’s Cave enjoyable. The athletic-minded will want to try out the 25-foot rock climbing wall or the 18-hole mini-golf course. Fort Amaze’n, a giant maze challenge with an observation tower, is excellent for those who like a challenge. The Family Fun Center also has a Butterfly House, Antique Car Museum, and gem mining.

Butterfly House

I had the luxury of a quiet calm respite at The Butterfly House. Because I enjoy photography, I spent over an hour at the Butterfly House, photographing many of the over 50 species of butterflies, waiting patiently for them to move into just the right pose. They have butterflies from all over the world here. From this experience, I learned that when many butterflies open their wings, they display their stunning colors. Butterflies with closed wings frequently blend into their surroundings to protect themselves from predators.   

Perry’s Cave

Registered as a natural Ohio landmark. Commodore Oliver Hazard “Never Give Up the Ship” Perry, discovered the cave in 1813. Perry’s Cave is a natural limestone cave sitting 52 feet below South Bass Island’s surface in Lake Erie. During the 20-minute cave tour, we saw cave pearls, stalactites, and stalagmites formed from calcium carbonate deposits. When planning your day, consider there may be a wait to enter the cave.

Pipers Pro Planning

  • Wear comfortable shoes with rubber soles to avoid slipping.
  • Inside the cave, the temperature remains at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so you may want to wear a sweatshirt to stay comfortable in the summer.

Antique Car Museum

Antique car buffs will enjoy the Antique Car Museum, where you’ll find the island’s oldest automobile on view. The exhibits include rare Model Ts, vintage snowmobiles, as well as gasoline and road sign memorabilia. Admission is free.

Gemstone Mining

My daughter and granddaughter enjoyed discovering fossils and gems through the hands-on gem-mining experience. They purchased a bag of rough mix and then took their mix and panned it with water to uncover some sparkling gems. What will your bag hold?

Wine Tastings

Put-in-Bay Winery and Heineman’s Winery are the two wineries on South Bass Island. They provide a wide variety of choices to sample some local wine in a relaxing atmosphere.

Put-in-Bay Winery

Put-in-Bay Winery located on Bay View Avenue on the historic Dollar Estate. The panoramic view of the harbor from the front yard makes it the perfect place to sit in a chair, watch the boats, and just relax with a glass of wine.

In addition to wine tasting, Put-in-Bay Winery offers tours of the historic Dollar Mansion.

Heineman’s Winery

Gustav Heineman founded Heineman Winery in 1888. Today it is still going strong with fifth-generation Heinemans contributing to the winery. They offer 21 wine types that you can purchase by the glass or bottle. Their wine garden is a perfect place to escape and enjoy a glass of the award-winning Pink Catawba.

Winery tours are available for those oenophiles in your group.

Fun Fact: Crystal Cave, the world’s largest geode, sits beneath Heineman’s Winery. Paid tours of Crystal cave helped save the winery from going out of business during Prohibition.

Put-in-Bay Restaurants

The Boardwalk Restaurant

Boardwalk Restaurant
Boardwalk Restaurant Known for Lobster Bisque

The Boardwalk is a casual family-friendly restaurant, known for its seafood. Give their lobster bisque a try.

Motorboating Magazine voted The Boardwalk Restaurant, one of the ten best boating destination bars in the United States. It offers 80 mooring buoys and a harbor taxi for boaters. The Upper Deck has 180-view of the harbor, so it’s the perfect spot for watching the sunset over the natural beauty of Put-in-Bay harbor.

Throughout summer, you’ll find live music at the Boardwalk’s Main Deck, which adds to the island’s fun atmosphere.

Dairy Isle

Truth be told, we went to Dairy Isle twice on our day trip to Put-in-Bay. The weather was warm, and the ice cream was the perfect foil. Or at least that’s what we told ourselves when we went back the second time.

Find some vacation planning tips, to plan your weekend getaway, check out 7 Ways to Pack More Relaxing Travel in Your Over-Scheduled Life.

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How to Spend the Perfect Day in Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Amy Piper
Author: Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.


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  1. Gretchen Garrison

    Shouldn’t having Ice cream twice in one day be a required part of travel? Thanks for the great suggestions and pictures!

    • Piper

      I certainly think it should!

  2. Pamela McKuen

    Wow–there is so much to do at put-in-Bay. It sounds heavenly to see it all without a car as a distraction. I’m a huge fan of lobster bisque.

    • Piper

      This was definitely a great summer spot.

  3. Tara

    This sounds like a fun spot for a family vacation! I especially love vacations where I can leave our car behind and explore on foot.

    • Piper

      If that’s the case you might like Mackinac Island, Michigan. Have you ever been there?

  4. Amy McMahon

    The gem mining looks awesome! I hope you’re all doing ok these days.

    • Piper

      My daughter and granddaughter had so much fun with that! Yes, we are doing great these days and looking forward to getting back on the road.

  5. Natalia

    Put-in-bay looks like a great destination. So much history, fun, and pleasure. I didn’t know about the life of butterflies and why they close their wings.Perry’s cave is a very interesting experience. Having a dinner with a view of the sunset on lake erie with a glass of local wine would be perfect. Thank you for sharing your post.

  6. Jamie Edwards

    Especially like your butterfly photos! Will bookmark for a future travel date. Thank you for sharing!

  7. 8junkies8

    Interesting – Put-In-Bay has a lot of different angles from natural coves to an auto museum and a seafood restaurant! I loved the picture of the port, looks so stunning.

  8. Ivan Kralj

    I’m a big fan of funfair, so All-Day deal with the carousel would draw my attention, hahah…
    OK, that, and wineries.
    Or BETTER: or wineries.
    I guess, ‘don’t drink and DRIVE’ is still valid There!

  9. cHUCK


    • Piper

      You really should! It’ll be a fun day for sure!

  10. katie

    Wow, I didn’t know Ohio offered such wonderful destinations and activities – As an ice cream lover, dairy isle is calling my name!

    • Piper

      Put-in-Bay was a wonderful island vacation in the middle of the Midwest! Maybe I’ll do a post on ice cream. That would be a fun one to research!

  11. Greg

    There are about 25 bars on the island it’s a fun place.

    • Piper

      I need to go back and stay overnight, as I have heard it’s a lot of fun!



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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in traveling through a food lens and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.


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