Key West of the North: Put-in-Bay Island

Beach Essentials

Where: Lake Erie, Ohio, Midwest USA 
July for great weather, bartender and barbershop festivals, and a summer Christmas celebration!
Activities: Camping, golf, cycling, swimming, sunbathing
Go there for: Learn about the 1812 Battle of Lake Erie at the Perry Peace Memorial

Where It’s At

Nicknamed the ‘Key West of the North,’ Put-in-Bay Island on Lake Erie has been attracting tourists for over 100 years with its shopping, boating, fishing, nightlife, and relaxed pace of life. Boaters flock to the island where they find Lake Erie life with a twist of the Florida Keys. Jimmy Buffet tunes drift out of bars and restaurants, sandals and straw hats are the norm, and the pace of life seems to glide along nice and slow. Not only is it a short boat ride from the mainland, but it’s surrounded by great day trip ideas, like Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky and the other Bass Islands which offer a more secluded camping holiday.

When to go to Put-In-Bay

Late spring and early summer are considered high season, where temperatures can range comfortably from 65F to 75F. A summer hotspot, Put-in-Bay hosts annual events like theBartender Olympics and the Barbershop Quartet concert every July featuring harmonizing quartets from around the region. Because the island grows considerably quieter during the winter months, islanders and tourists celebrate Christmas together every July 25.

Things to See and Do in Put-In-Bay

In addition to an extensive harbor where boaters can dock for the week, the island offers an array of activities. With few cars circulating the island, you can rent golf carts or bikes at a decent price for the afternoon to explore quiet neighborhoods and secluded beaches – perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Perry Peace Memorial

Throughout the war of 1812, Put-in-Bay Island served as a base of operations for American Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry. The Commandant drank fresh water from the caves found on the island and it was from the harbor that Perry sailed on September 1813 to defeat the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie, a battle that initiated a successful American counter-attack that drove the British out of Lake Erie and into Canada. The American victory gave the country and the United States navy a memorable slogan of positive accomplishments, “We have met the enemy and they are ours…,” Perry wrote to the commanding American Navy General.

Today, the Perry Peace Memorial, the nation’s third tallest monument, offers a bird’s eye view of other Bass Islands of Lake Erie. Modeled like a 352-foot granite Greek column, the monument commemorates not only an important naval victory, but a peace that has lasted over 150 years. In fact, the 3,987-mile boundary between the United States and Canada in Lake Erie is the longest unguarded international border in the world. Each year in September the island celebrates this peace with a parade and a performance by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra at the Peace Memorial.

Daytrips to the Bass Islands

Frequent ferries allow you to island hop between some of the other Bass Islands: Kelleys Island,the largest American island in the Great Lakes region, features glacial grooves carved in limestone 30,000 years ago and undisturbed natural wildlife habitats; Pelee Island, just inside the Canadian border, caters to quieter visits with secluded campsites.

Daytrip to Cedar Point Amusement Park

Or for a change of pace, you could take a ferry to Sandusky, Ohio, just a few miles away to ride some of the fastest, highest, most terrifying roller-coasters in the world at Cedar Point Amusement Park. Situated on a 364-foot peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie, the park offers dozens of rides for thrill-seekers. On a clear day, riders can even sneak a peek at Put-in-Bay from the top of The Magnum‘s first hill, standing 205 feet tall.

More Information

Put in Bay
Official tourism website for the island

By Mary Fitz

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