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Your guide to Put-in-Bay
Welcome to Put-in-Bay
Yes, Ohio has islands, and South Bass Island — home to the village of Put-in-Bay — is among them. It’s located north of the mainland in Lake Erie, off the coast between Toledo and Cleveland, and just south of the (invisible) Canadian border that bisects the lake. It’s a compact place — just a few miles end to end, totalling 397 acres. Fewer than 150 people live on the island year-round, and food and mail are delivered by plane in winter. (The waters surrounding it freeze over, so it can also be reached by ATV or snowmobile.) Fun fact: the island has more cemeteries (two) than grocery stores or banks (one of each). No one comes to Put-in-Bay for the edgy excitement. It’s a place to let the summer days slowly overtake you while rousing yourself occasionally to wander the village or mustering enough energy to picnic near the rocky shoreline at South Bass Island State Park.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Put-in-Bay
Put-in-Bay is a summer community, with the high season running from April through October. As a family-friendly destination, it tends to be most crowded when school is out and the weather is at its prime, between June and August. Fall can be lovely, with cool days and blue skies, although rain can sweep in across the lake. Day-trippers provide a daily ebb-and-flow; if you’re planning to stay a few days, it’s advisable to line up reservations for golf carts or bikes prior to arrival. A number of low-key events occur on the island throughout the summer, including a weekly antique car parade and a mid-July Jeep Invasion, when Jeep owners bring over their vehicles for scavenger hunts and other diversions.
Top things to do in Put-in-Bay
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
Put-in-Bay’s claim to glory is that it was the base of operations for a fleet overseen by Oliver Hazard Perry during the War of 1812. Perry and his ships lurked behind the Bass Islands one day when the British fleet — based just across the way in Canada — was spotted approaching. Perry commanded his fleet to slip out and hit the British unawares, winning a decisive victory and incapacitating their six ships. This turning point in the war is marked by Perry’s Victory Memorial, a 352-foot-tall pink granite column capped with an 11-ton bronze urn. A ranger stationed on-site points out highlights of the region and the location of the historic battle.
South Bass Island State Park
This small state-run park is a popular spot to lounge on summer days, with a large herd of picnic tables and a small-stone beach for swimming. It’s perfect for an afternoon picnic, and to wander the grounds and seek out the melancholy ruins of the foundations of the Hotel Victory, which was considered one of the largest and most glamorous hotels in the nation when it opened in 1892.
The Butterfly House
The 4,000-square-foot butterfly house opened in 2004 and is home to some 50 species of butterflies from around the globe, many of them extravagantly colored and patterned. Spend some time studying the identification chart, and then see how many species you can locate when wandering through the aviary.