10 must-see attractions at Lake Erie

The Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island are a Natural National Landmark. CONTRIBUTED
The Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island are a Natural National Landmark. CONTRIBUTED

While roller coasters loom large across the Sanduskycoastline, there is much more to do along the Lake Erie shores. From waterparks to wineries and museums to marinas, the Lake Erie shores and islands havesomething to offer travelers of all ages. And tourists agree, actually morethan nine million tourists according to the Lake Erie Shores & IslandsVisitors and Convention Bureau, making it one of the most popular leisure andbusiness travel destinations in the Midwest.


Marblehead Lighthouse

Pretty and practical – MarbleheadLighthouse, built in 1821, is both the most photographed and oldest lighthousein continuous use on the Great Lakes. The view from the top is well worth the climb– 77 stairs – with expansive views of the nearby islands and Cedar Point.Meander through the museum and recently opened lifesaving station to take inthe history of the area.


Liberty Aviation Museum

Step back in time at the Liberty Aviation Museum. Located at the Erie-OttawaCounty Regional Airport, the museum collection includes World War II-era planes — including a 1945 B-25 Mitchell bomber — a WWII Vosper PT boat, that iscurrently being restored, and both civilian and military vehicles of the era.The Tri-Motor Heritage Museum is also onsite, enabling guests to view theactive restoration of a vintage Island Airlines Ford Tri-Motor.

A visit to the museum wouldn’t becomplete without a meal or, at least, a creamy milkshake at the Tin GooseDiner. The fully restored diner, named after the historic aircraft that servedthe islands for nearly half a century, was built in New Jersey in 1949 andsends you back in time immediately upon entering.


African Safari Wildlife Park

Get up close – really, really close — with all sorts of wildlife. Where elsecan you feed bison, alpaca, zebra or a giraffe from the comfort of your car?But there is more to the Port Clinton wildlife park as there are also walk-thruexhibits, pig races, camel rides and educational animal programs. Walk throughrabbit row, feed a kangaroo and hold a 6-foot Burmese Python.


Maritime Museum of Sandusky

Shipwrecks, pirates and, even, convicts — the Sandusky area has a rich andcolorful maritime history. With interactive exhibits and educational programs,you can discover shipwreck artifacts, learn about the local wetlands, try yourhand at ice harvesting, discover pirate tales and, even, learn about Sandusky’srole in the Underground Railroad. Climb into a boat or let the kids build oneof their own, it’s interesting for all ages.


Set sail

With a refreshing lake breeze and beautiful scenery, getting to the islands is partof the fun. Whether you choose the speed of the Jet Express (https://jet-express.com/) or the practicality of Miller Ferries (www.millerferry.com) — where you can set sail car and all – travel to the Lake Erie Islands is fun, convenient and reasonably priced as children 5 and under are free.

Kelleys Island

From a600-acre state park to quaint shops and waterfront restaurants, Lake Erie’slargest American island has plenty to offer. The Glacial Grooves are a must-see.A National Natural Landmark, the Glacial Grooves are the largest easilyaccessible grooves in the world measuring in at 400 feet long, 35 feet wide andup to 10 feet deep. Getting around the island is fun and easy via a rented bikeor golf cart, allowing you to take in the natural beauty of the island. Kayakrentals are also available if you want to take in the sights from the water.



Tiny island — big fun. South Bass Island packs a lot into its 2-mile-by-4-mile island and more than 2 million visitors annually travel to what has been dubbed the “KeyWest of the North.” Grown-up fun includes a winery and multiple restaurants andbars. Kids will have a ball at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center – with mini-golf,a giant maze, cave and rock-climbing wall. The whole family can take in thesights at the Butterfly House and nearby Chocolate Museum. No trip to theisland is complete without a visit to the Perry Peace Memorial – declared aNational Monument by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Again, golf cart andbike rental provides easy transportation or climb onto the Island Tour Trainfor a guided tour.


Merry-Go-Round Museum

Part history, part art, the Merry-Go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky blendsboth flawlessly. While the museum’s own carousel – circa 1939 by the AllanHerschell Corporation – is a magnificent centerpiece, the collection ofindividual carousel figures is expansive. From reindeer – recently used asholiday decorations at the White House – to tigers, wolves, ostriches andtraditional horses, there is an enchanting collection of original and restoredfigures. Watch skilled craftspeople work in the onsite restoration shop andtake a ride on the one-of-a-kind carousel.


Stay and play

The fun doesn’t haveto stop when you get to the hotel. There are five family-friendly hotels complete with indoor waterparks in the Sandusky area. From the wilds of Africato the tropics to the backwoods, guests at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, Great WolfLodge, Maui Sands and Rain Waterpark, can experience wet-and-wild fun everyday. From wave pools to water slides and themed restaurants and attractions,it’s more than a place to stay; these hotels are definitely places to play.

Grown-up fun

From wine tastings on the porch to a stroll through the vineyards, wineries are plentiful in the region. Both the islands have their own wineries – Kelleys Island Wine Company and Put-in-Bay Winery – but there are also several on the mainland including Mon Ami Historic Winery & Restaurant, Port Clinton, oneof the oldest wineries in the Lake Erie islands region, getting its start asthe Catawba Island Wine Company in 1872.

Cheers to a great trip!

More information on these and other area sites is available at www.shoresandislands.com.