There are several small towns along Lake Erie that offer a charm that you won’t find anywhere else. I enjoyed exploring all of these historic towns. They each have something unique to offer as well as an opportunity to relax when you want something a little different from the ordinary. When people hear of the towns along Lake Erie in Ohio, they immediately think of the world famous theme park, Cedar Point. I encourage you to explore the surroundings of this popular amusement park and experience the charm of the towns along Lake Erie. From lighthouses to quaint shops, you’ll find something to enjoy while exploring the southern shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.
Marblehead sits on the south shore of Lake Erie and is home to one of my favorite lighthouses in America, the Marblehead Lighthouse. I have visited it several times and have climbed to the top several times. The view from above is out of this world, overlooking the lake and the surrounding shoreline. Marblehead Lighthouse is located in Marblehead State Park, one of Lake Erie’s best known and most photographed landmarks. Its reputation is that it is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The Keepers’ House, next to the lighthouse, offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about the history of the lighthouse keepers. The 1822 house was where the first three keepers of Marblehead Lighthouse lived.
Pro tip: Rocky Point Winery is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and the opportunity to relax and unwind.
Sandusky is a charming little town that is home to the Merry Go Round Museum. Find out how horses were made and how they continue to be a part of history today at Sandusky. Carving tools and a wood carving workshop are also part of this museum. I have visited this museum a few times and it is always a pleasure to ride a horse. The experience takes me back to my childhood days enjoying a ride on a merry-go-round at a local fair. The Sandusky Maritime Museum is an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Bay Area and Sandusky’s role in the Underground Railroad.
Before you leave Sandusky, be sure to enjoy a hot slice of pizza from The Brick Oven Bistro. Bruschetta and brick oven pizza are my favorite dishes on their menu. Whenever I’m in Sandusky, I make sure I have time to enjoy a meal or two at this amazing restaurant.
Once you step off the Miller Ferry boat at Put-In-Bay, you have entered a quaint town on an island surrounded by Lake Erie. You can drive your car or arrive on foot. I like to walk in and rent a golf cart as soon as I get off the ferry. Traveling around the island by golf cart is a very easy way to explore this island. The charming shops on Main Street will entice you with food and fun souvenirs. Dine on the boardwalk and take in the views of the water as you indulge in a meal.
Wine tastings are available at the Put-In-Bay cellar. There is ample parking at the front for cars and golf carts. You can spend an hour to several hours relaxing on this area of the island. I’m a fan of butterfly houses and you can also visit the butterfly house while you are on the island. Butterflies are not only beautiful, but they are also relaxing to watch as they fly around the house. There is a small supplement to visit this attraction and it is accessible for people with disabilities.
4. Port Clinton
Main Street in Port Clinton, Ohio is a historic downtown. A friend and I took a walk down the street and found some fun shops. From flowers to womenswear and handbags, we had a great time shopping in this historic Port Clinton area. One of the highlights of this town is the Sunday Farmers Market which runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., spring to mid-October, in downtown Port Clinton. Another fun event is River Front Live. It starts on the first Friday in June and ends on the first Friday in September. With the lake as a backdrop, shopping, dining, and events still take place here.
Main Street Beach is perhaps what you will remember the most about Vermilion. The nautical history of the city combined with its charm will seduce you again and again. You will instantly be taken back to a quieter place in time. This historic town is charming and bustling with people at a slower pace. A stroll through town takes you to storefronts including The Silly Goose and Brummer’s Chocolates. From dog accessories to specialty items, The Silly Goose has you covered. Since 1904, Brummer’s has been serving homemade chocolates, including my favorite chocolate treats, caramels and chocolates. If you want to sit and watch the water, settle into an Adirondack chair on the boardwalk. Stroll the historic downtown sidewalk to the beach and watch the sunset while looking at the water.
6. Kelleys Island
I love the charm of Kelleys Island. The ferry will take you to the island. You can choose to take your car with you or leave it parked in the ferry terminal parking lot. I like to drive a golf cart around the island so I always park my car and hop on the ferry. Kelleys Island is not as crowded as Put-In-Bay. The Crooked Tree Vineyard offers wine tastings and the opportunity to enjoy this quiet part of the island. The Kelleys Island General Store is one of my favorites and is located on Main Street. You can find everything from souvenirs to bug spray and sunscreen. If you are planning to spend the night on the island, book a stay in one of the charming cottages located throughout the island. Many have a view of Lake Erie and others offer a natural and peaceful setting.
If you’re not spending the night on Kelleys Island, be sure to start your day early and plan to stay late. Immerse yourself in the city and you’ll find yourself in a space you didn’t know was available. The small town of Kelleys Island will captivate you as soon as you step off the ferry.
Stroll through Milan’s historic city square, surrounded by specialty shops and antique shops. Look up as you stroll to admire the architecture of each of the buildings that surround the town square. If Milan is a city that appeals to you, you may recognize that this city is the birthplace of Thomas Edison. In Milan you can shop until you drop and also visit Thomas Edison’s birthplace and museum. The Milan Museum presents the history of the city and the community around Milan. Admire the Roman glass on display and visit the historic buildings on site. Note that both of these museums have small entrance fees.
Located in Marblehead, Lakeside is a community of Chautauqua that has nourished the mind, body and spirit for over 140 years. I have a few family friends who have spent over 30 summers in Lakeside, Ohio. They have always praised this community and on a recent visit to the area I was treated to a short visit. There is something for everyone in the family. Swimming, sailing, beach trips, movies and cultural events are some of the activities that visitors can participate in.
I would like to offer the following advice to anyone visiting this area of Ohio: Mayflies come and go in this area and seem to be a nuisance when they present themselves. It is important to understand that they are part of nature and that they are located near a lake. They don’t last long, because in a few days they won’t be a problem.
Each of these charming towns along Lake Erie in Ohio offers a step back in time. The views of Lake Erie are extraordinary from any of these charming towns. They each offer the parks and an opportunity for you to explore new places and try new experiences. During the summer months, hanging flowerpots and decorated gardens line many streets in these communities.
The colors of summer in all of these cities are incredible. Stroll through the parks and pack a picnic to top off the day by visiting one of these towns. Enjoy an ice cream cone at one of the many family ice cream parlors you will come across. A perfect day is strolling on the beach while wearing an ice cream cone and enjoying one of the amazing Lake Erie sunsets.