Hey, look at me! It’s like 3 months after our anniversary trip to South Bass Island, Ohio, and I’m just getting around to this handy travel guide. To be fair I prepped this image like a month ago but I have so much to say about this place that I kept putting off writing the content.
If you didn’t know, we have a Great Lakes theme going with our wedding anniversary trips. We were married on the shores of Lake Superior, so when our first anniversary rolled around it seemed natural to visit Door County, Washington Island and Lake Michigan. Year two we visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island and Lake Huron. This year we headed to Sandusky Ohio, South Bass Island and Lake Erie. I don’t think we knew quite what we were getting into with South Bass Island—-it’s called the Key West of the Midwest and for good reason. Our trip was quite the adrenaline rush!
A bit of pre-trip info: we road-tripped to Sandusky from Madison, WI. We spent one night at Indiana Dunes State Park (amazing! Here’s a picture of us on the beach, it was foggy). The next day we walked around Notre Dame’s campus and arrived in Sandusky, Ohio. We spent the afternoon and early evening at Cedar Point Amusement Park and rode some of the biggest coasters in the world! That night we biked around Sandusky and visited some local establishments—-don’t miss Volstead Bar (definitely a trip highlight!). The next morning we visited Miller Ferry and took the ferry from Sandusky to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island….you can take your car, or leave it. It will cost you $7 per person, $2 per bike and $15 per car. When you get to the island you’ll be able to rent bikes or golf carts to get around (we brought our own bikes). The entire island is very small and you can easily get around without a car. Also, don’t make a fuss about where your lodging is, as everything has a great location!
We got a room at the Islander Inn. This place is definitely the party epicenter of the Island. If you want a spring break scene with bikini contests, pool DJs, the world’s largest swim up bar (literally) and a non-stop party, this is where to find it. The rooms are pretty expensive at the height of summer (around $399 per night) but you won’t be bored. The quality of the hotel is decent—-you can tell it takes a beating from being constantly filled with rowdy party-goers, but overall it’s a nice place. Just don’t expect peace and quiet or a tranquil setting! I think if we went back we would probably opt for a bed and breakfast or maybe renting a vacation home, but I’m glad we had this experience for our first visit! It was a hoot. Most hotels on the island are expensive and it seems like you’re mostly paying for the atmosphere and party scene. If you’re not planning to just sit at your hotel’s swim up bar I would definitely explore different lodging options (maybe even the state park) and just plan to visit the island’s public party pools (there’s no shortage).
EAT + DRINK
For the most part all of the bars and restaurants on South Bass Island are located one one main street, and there are tons of them. The party scene on this island is honestly unlike anything I have experienced before. Everyone is there to enjoy the beautiful Midwestern summer and have a great time! We didn’t encounter any bad places on the island and these were just a few of our favorites:
1. Share a bowl of lobster bisque at the Boardwalk. The boardwalk has a great view of the marina and you can see the huge yachts coming and going.
2. Visit The Keys and enjoy a margarita on their amazing patio (great views of Lake Erie’s clear blue waters) they have a pretty impressive margarita bar with lots of flavors to choose from!
3. Spend an afternoon or happy hour at any of the island’s swim-up bars. Our hotel (The Island Inn) was home to the world’s largest swim-up bar and we went every evening for happy hour and to people watch.
4. Visit Mojito Bay! It’s this little tiki bar themed place with sand floors and SWINGS to sit on at the bar. “Swing” on in for a cocktail and some live music.
5. Visit Goat Soup and Whiskey! It’s located just outside of the “downtown” area but is a short bike ride away! Their 2nd floor patio (pictured) is beautiful. We had our official anniversary dinner here and really loved it!
SEE + DO
You will not be bored while you’re on the island. You could show up with just a swimsuit and have a fantastic time without ever leaving your hotel. But, I’d urge you to get out and experience some of the activities available on the island.
1. We had perfect weather during our visit so we rented kayaks and kayaked out to two nearby islands: Gibralter Island and Middle Bass Island. There are beautiful rock formations and beaches to explore! I recommend using Kayak the Bay.
2. You also shouldn’t miss the opportunity to bike around the island—-visit some of the bars and restaurants that are off the beaten path, check out the Perry Memorial, snap your picture at the EVOLVE sign and the state park located on the south side of the island.
3. Run to the local liquor store and get sandwiches to go from one of the bakeries, delis or grocery stores and pack up a cooler for the afternoon! There are several hidden beaches on South Bass Island that you can discover and enjoy! It’s so fun to swim in the water and lay on the crushed shell beaches. For the most part we had the beaches all to ourselves!
4. Bar hop the island. There are so many bars that you probably won’t get to all of them in one night….but over the course of a weekend you might get close!
If you’re looking for a little getaway in the Midwest that packs a lot of punch into a few days definitely consider Put in Bay on South Bass Island!