Shipping out to the Erie Shores & Islands: Part 3

August 31, 2016

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For the second day of our Lake Erie lighthouse-hunting getaway, we woke up early and caught the Miller Ferry to South Bass Island and Put-In-Bay. This was our first visit to the island. (Read parts one and two of our adventures first!)

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The ferry takes mostly passengers, although there were a few cars lined up. The ride is only about 20 minutes, and you get to enjoy views of the mainland and the various islands as you cross. After we arrived, we strolled off the ferry and walked up the hill to get a golf cart from E’s Put-In-Bay Golf Carts. They’re one of many golf cart services on the island; it’s an easy way to get around without having to park a car and while still enjoying the island views and breezes. E’s golf carts are all named for different comic book and movie/TV characters; we drove around in Thor all day, although I spied a Strong Bad and a Ron Swanson in there…

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Speaking of Ron Swanson… our first order of business was breakfast, so we headed into the town of Put-In-Bay itself and got in line at Pasquale’s Cafe. We were debating between a couple choices, and a local suggested Pasquale’s. Amazingly, it was about 9:30 a.m. and every breakfast place had a 20 minute wait. (Stay tuned for more details about breakfast.)

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While we waited, the boys enjoyed the park nearby and the view of the marina.

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Post breakfast, we did our first bit of lighthouse hunting and drove over to Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, often referred to as Perry’s Monument. It commemorates Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Now the flags of the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada fly together as a symbol of peace.

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The monument rises 352 feet into the air, and for $5 (cash only, FYI) you can travel up it by elevator. The views are spectacular, and in every corner of the observation deck sits a map detailing the landscape before you.

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For the purposes of our lighthouse exploration, we counted Perry’s Monument on our list. Why? Because although the monument is not a purpose-built lighthouse, it was outfitted with a light at the top, and thus is considered the second tallest lighthouse in the world. Don’t believe me? Read the list on Wikipedia. For our purposes, we’ll count it. (Although technically our beloved Cape Hatteras Light is still the tallest purpose-built lighthouse in North America.)

Therefore: three lighthouses down, one to go.

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Our visit coincided with celebrations for Commodore Perry’s birthday (he was born and died on August 23), and on the memorial grounds there were musket and carronade demonstrations. After watching some of the reenactments, we stopped by the visitors center before heading out to our next stop. (Hat tip to Mrs. Breakfast With Nick for catching this photo.)

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We hopped into the golf cart and rolled out of Put-In-Bay proper to Perry’s Cave, site of the actual caves from which Perry sourced fresh water, and now home to a family fun center. The main feature, though, is the actual cave.

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The cave is a sight to behold. It’s damp and a wonderfully cool 50 degrees. I had to stoop most of the time. The guide – who cracked a bunch of corny jokes – pointed out stalactites and stalagmites, old bits of history, and a crystal clear underground pond.

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Back up top there are plenty of activities to occupy a couple hours’ time, from mini golf to a maze to gem mining to buying and cracking open geodes to a butterfly garden and more.

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After Perry’s cave we drove across the street to Heineman’s Winery. We weren’t interested in the wine as much as we wanted to see THE WORLD’S LARGEST GEODE.

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The geode was discovered in 1897 when workers were digging a well for the winery. The Crystal Cave, as it’s called, is large enough for a group of about 15 people to stand in. The winery was able to survive Prohibition by selling tickets to the cave. We followed a guide down a steep staircase into the geode, where she explained the different features. It’s impossible to photograph – you just have to see it for yourself.

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After the multiple cave visits, we rode back into Put-In-Bay in search of dinner and ended up at The Keys, a bright and colorful island-themed restaurant with sprawling patios along the waterfront. We received wonderfully attentive service there; it was a welcome respite from the heat of the day. The boys enjoyed hot dogs while the adults split a Cuban sandwich and fish tacos.

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By then it was getting late in the day, and we could see storms coming on the weather map, so we slowly made our way back down to the southern tip of the island. We stopped for a while at South Bass State Park so the boys could take a dip in Lake Erie.

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While the shores are rocky, the water was crystal clear.

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And then it was on to our final stop of the trip: lighthouse number four, the South Bass Island Lighthouse. This one turned out to be my favorite. It’s an old house built in the 1890s and is now operated as part of Ohio State’s Stone Lab. You can tour the home during the summer months, but even when it’s closed you can still stroll the grounds.

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The house sits on a lonely little corner of the island, with sweeping views of the lake and the surrounding islands. Compared to the busy-ness of Put-In-Bay, the lighthouse is quiet and calm.

Four lighthouses down, zero to go.

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After our stroll around the lighthouse, it was back to the Miller Ferry, where we joined a couple hundred people heading back to the mainland. The storms were close but hadn’t hit, and the waves sprayed the decks below. We watched from the upper deck for a while, until the boys wanted to run down there and get soaked.

The rain was just starting as we climbed into the van to head home. That concluded our weekend in Port Clinton and Put-In-Bay! It was a worthy celebration of our lighthouse-loving little boy.

Full disclosure: ferry tickets were provided by Miller Ferry. Some activities were courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands; golf cart was compliments of E’s Put-In-Bay Golf Carts. Photos and opinions are our own.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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