The Best Things To Do at the Shores & Islands of Lake Erie

August 24, 2022

Disclaimer: we were hosted by Shores & Islands Ohio for this trip. Photos and opinions are our own!

It’s been a few years since we’ve stayed at Lake Erie. Our last visit was in 2016, when the folks from Shores & Islands hosted us around the time of Owen’s birthday. He was obsessed with lighthouses at the time, so we visited the structures on the mainland and South Bass Island. This summer we were happy to return to explore more of Port Clinton, Marblehead, Lakeside, Kelleys Island, and Catawba Island, so we present some of the best things to do at the Shores & Islands!

1. Get Lakeside Views at the Fairfield Inn & Suites

The newer Fairfield Inn & Suites Port Clinton Waterfront sits right on the shore, so if you’re lucky your hotel room offers views of Lake Erie.

The hotel features patio space on the lake, a fitness center, pool, and a continental breakfast. It’s an awesome home base for exploring the region.

2. Kayaking, Mining, & Baby Goats at Portage River Paddling Co.

Portage River Paddling Company in Port Clinton is a one-stop shop for loads of fun!

They offer kayaking and canoe adventures of the Portage River. You can spy water lilies, an eagle’s nest, loads of plant- and wildlife in and amongst the calm waters of the river.

Afterwards, purchase one of the gem mining packages to sift for treasures.

And before you leave, SAY HI TO THE BABY GOATS!

3. Sip Wines on the Patio at Gideon Owen Wine Company

Regulars to the area will remember the long-running Mon Ami winery on Catawba Island. In 2019 the winery was purchased by Quintin and Donna Smith, who have handsomely refurbished the restaurant, patio, upstairs event space, and the historic winery, and added vineyards. They renamed it Gideon Owen Wine Company in honor of one of the original winemakers on the peninsula.

Quintin gave us a tour of the restaurant, event space, and the original underground wine-making and barreling facilities, still in use today!

The Smiths own Twin Oast Brewing company just up the road, and like that beautiful property, they’ve given Gideon Owen Wine Co. an expansive patio, perfect for catching live music, tasting house wines and cocktails, and feasting on burgers or fresh Lake Erie walleye.

4. Visit the Port Clinton Lighthouse & Waterfront Park

Just prior to our last visit in 2016, the historic Port Clinton Lighthouse had been moved from a long-time spot inland to its rightful place on the waterfront. Over the years the non-profit behind it has updated Waterfront Park, surrounding it with walking paths, sculptures, greenery, and historic displays. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset and walk out on the jetties to see boats come and go.

Fun fact: ever since our last visit, we’ve donated in our son Owen’s name, so that he is officially a Keeper of the Port Clinton Lighthouse.

5. Cool Off at The Ice Shanty

Finish off your evening in Port Clinton with sweet creations at The Ice Shanty, serving locally made Toft’s Dairy ice cream.

6. Say Good Morning to Marblehead Lighthouse

Marblehead Lighthouse is one of the region’s signature sites. Take time to stroll the surrounding state park; enjoy views of the islands, Cedar Point, and the mainland; or schedule a time to climb the lighthouse ($3, cash only, Memorial Day-Labor Day).

In 2022 the Marblehead Lighthouse celebrates 200 years!

7. Breakfast Burritos and Crepes at Latitude Cafe

Latitude Cafe in Marblehead is a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. Their menu covers everything from French toast and crepes to eggs benedicts and breakfast burritos, omelets and biscuits & gravy. Read more about Latitude Cafe here!

8. Fuel Up at Victory Coffee

Before you hop the Kelleys Island Ferry, fuel up with iced coffee, espresso, tea, sandwiches, quiche, scones, muffins, and more at Victory Coffee & Company.

9. Ride the Kelleys Island Ferry

The Kelleys Island Ferry runs regularly from Marblehead to the island, leaving hourly Monday-Thursday and every half hour Friday-Sunday. The journey takes only 20 minutes. One-way fares are $11 for 12+, $9 for seniors, $7 for 5-11, and free for 4 and under. If you’re leaving a car in their lot, parking is $15.

10. Rent a Golf Cart to Explore Kelleys Island

The best way to get around Kelleys Island is renting a golf cart from somewhere like the Kelleys Island General Store. You can spy faded petroglyphs on Inscription Rock, see the ruins of old wineries and quarry buildings, visit the Glacial Grooves, play mini-golf, buy fudge, shop the variety of stores and restaurants.

11. Sip Wine Slushies at Monarch Winery

Kelleys Island now has three wineries. The newest is Monarch Winery, where you can sip wine slushies and sit in the butterfly garden.

12. Explore the Herndon Sculpture Garden

The Charles Herndon Galleries and Sculpture Gardens are free to visit. You’ll find them a short ways off the main road, behind the airport. You can do a quick stroll through the gardens or poke your head into the artist studio.

13. Lunch at Kelleys Island Wine Co.

Kelleys Island Wine Co. is one of the biggest and most exciting destinations for dining on Kelleys Island. It includes a full service restaurant and winery, expansive gardens and tents, a cantina serving tacos and margaritas, even a small petting zoo! Guests are welcome to order food from the restaurant or cantina, then find seats on the picnic tables. You can stroll through the grape arbor, say hello to the farm animals, or just relax in the shade.

14. Hike the East Quarry Trails & Horseshoe Lake

Kelleys Island was once home to significant limestone quarries, and one of the largest abandoned properties has become a hotspot for hiking. Five miles of paths snake around the quarries and Horseshoe Lake, as nature slowly reclaims it over the years.

15. Savor Beer and Pizza on the Patio at Twin Oast Brewing

Before purchasing Gideon Owen Wine Company, Quintin and Donna Smith opened Twin Oast Brewing just up the road on the Catawba peninsula. It’s easy to see why the brewery has become such a popular destination for the area, with massive tiered patios, lawns, firepits, water features, orchards, even a small concert venue.

The brewery is also a full-service restaurant, pairing pretzels, pizzas, tacos, burgers with their house beers.

Twin Oast takes its name from the two iconic towers. Oasts are English hop-drying kilns, and the duo at the brewery were specially built for it as decorative pieces, modeled on actual oasts from overseas. They’re a centerpiece of the stunning, 60-acre property.

16. French Toast and Coffee at Orchard Farm Stand

Orchard Farm Stand on Catawba Island lets you start your morning amongst orchards and open spaces. They serve coffee and a full breakfast of avocado toast, biscuits and gravy, sandwiches, French toast, and more.

After breakfast you can stroll the store and farm stand, check out the orchards. Linger long enough and you can grab cocktails and wines at The Coop, sitting behind the market and with a bar, lush patios, and water features as a backdrop.

17. Swimming and Shuffleboard at Lakeside Chautauqua

Lakeside Chautauqua is an historic community that’s been frequented by generations of families since it was founded in the 1870s. Part of the Chautauqua movement popularized from that time through the 1930s, these communities were formed around the central pillars of arts, education, religion, and recreation.

Although the movement has declined since its height in the early 20th century, communities like Lakeside are still popular destinations as a “resort” of sorts for families. Visitors can come for the day, rent a house for week, even stay the full season. Get a look at Lakeside fees here.

The tight-knit community offers plenty of activities for the whole family. Kids can ride bikes and hit up the playgrounds. You can swim or fish off the piers, or rent kayaks or canoes. You can play a round of shuffleboard, visit the many shops and restaurants, or attend the multitude of events held at Hoover Auditorium, from concerts and speakers to movies and exhibitions. The calendar is loaded!

18. Enjoy Burgers and Fries at Slack House

You’ll work up an appetite with all the activities at Lakeside! Swing by the Slack House for classic eats like burgers, fries, and shakes.

There’s no shortage of activities around Lake Erie! For more ideas in the region, visit our Lake Erie Islands travel page or consult Shores & Islands.

Disclaimer: we were hosted by Shores & Islands Ohio for this trip. 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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