Exploring Kelleys Island and Sandusky [Ohio’s Shores and Islands]

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Ohio has islands. Let me repeat that in case you need to hear it again — Ohio has islands!

That always surprises people, but since Ohio is located on the south shore of Lake Erie, it makes sense. I was recently invited to check out the area with other midwest travel writers, and I had a great time exploring Kelleys Island and Sandusky, Ohio.

Lake Erie Love in Sandusky Ohio
Image Credit: Sara Broers

My trip to Sandusky and Kelleys Island was hosted by Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores and Islands, however, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links and/or credit card referral links.  We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands

When you think of Ohio, I bet islands, beaches, and coastlines aren’t the first things that come to mind. But since the state is situated on the south shore of Lake Erie, you can find them all. This area of the state includes some of the most popular Ohio vacation spots:

  • Put-In-Bay
  • Kellys Island
  • North Bass Island
  • Middle Bass Island

This area of Ohio is conveniently located within driving distance of several cities, including Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.

Explore More: Looking for more activities? Check out all of the fun things you can do in Ohio.

Sandusky, Ohio

If you’re from Ohio or a neighboring state, you probably know Sandusky as the home of Cedar Point, one of the best amusement parks in the United States. Even though I’ve lived in Ohio on and off for the majority of my life, this was my first trip to Sandusky that didn’t involve Cedar Point.

But there’s more to Sandusky than Cedar Point (although you absolutely shouldn’t skip Cedar Point). It has even been named one of America’s best small towns for families.

If you plan to visit Kelleys Island, you can take a ferry from Sandusky to get there, so you should plan to spend part of the day enjoying this little town.

Pro Tip: One of the great things about Sandusky, Ohio, is that it is a very LGBTQ-friendly town.

Hotel Kilbourne Sandusky Ohio
I stayed at Hotel Kilbourne, one of the many LGBTQ-friendly businesses in Sandusky.

The first thing you’ll want to do is stop for breakfast at Wake Up and Waffle. This restaurant, owned by sisters originally from Cleveland, serves breakfast and brunch daily, specializing in hot Liege waffles. These yeasted dough Belgian-style waffles are made with pearl sugar imported from Belgium. Savory or sweet, these waffles are a great way to start your day.

Wake up and Waffle Sandusky

After breakfast, head to Sandusky Segwave for a guided tour of historic downtown Sandusky. Both 1 and 2-hour tours are available. Don’t worry if you’ve never been on a Segway before — you’ll receive some training before heading out on your tour.

Sandusky Segwave

Kelleys Island, Ohio

Kelleys Island is a popular vacation spot in Ohio, but I confess that this was my first trip there. I’d always heard of Kelleys Island and its next-door neighbor, Put-In-Bay, but I had never made it up there until now, even though this area is only a 2 to 2.5-hour drive from Columbus.

How To Get To Kelleys Island

To get to Kelleys Island, you’ll most likely take a ferry from the mainland. However, you can also get there via private boat or airplane.

I took the Jet Express from Sandusky. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes, and tickets can be purchased at the Jet Express ticket window. Ferries run daily throughout the summer and on some weekends in the late spring and early fall.

Jet Express in Sandusky Ohio
I took the Jet Express from Sandusky to Kelleys Island.

Things To Do On Kelleys Island

Kelleys Island is a place to slow down and relax. Some of the most popular activities include swimming, boating, and fishing. Here are a few other highlights you won’t want to miss on Kelleys Island.

Visit the Glacial Grooves

The Glacial Grooves are one of the most popular attractions on Kelleys Island and one of the best examples of this type of geological occurrence in the world. These grooves are massive — 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 15 feet deep.

Visit the Herndon Gallery

The Charles Herndon Galleries and Sculpture Gardens consists of 2 galleries and a 10-acre sculpture garden and is a fun spot to visit on the island. Herndon, an Ohio native, opened his first gallery in 2000 and added the annex in 2002.

Rent a Golf Cart or Bike

While cars are allowed on Kelleys Island, the best way to get around is by golf cart. There are multiple places to rent a golf cart at the marina and downtown. If you’d prefer a more active way to get around, bike rentals are available, too.

Play Mini-Golf

Located in the heart of downtown is an old-fashioned mini-golf course. You can play a round or 2 and then stop by a nearby restaurant or cafe for ice cream, coffee, or a cocktail.

Visit the North Shore Alvar

The North Shore Alvar State Nature Preserve is a gorgeous spot on the island that you won’t want to miss. “Alvar” refers to a limestone plain without soil that is often home to uncommon plant species. It’s a beautiful spot on the coast that will make you forget you’re in Ohio.

Shop Local: Don’t forget to pick up a Lake Erie candle as a souvenir from your trip to Ohio. They also make a great Ohio-themed gift.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a unique midwestern destination, definitely check out Kelleys Island, Ohio (and stop in Sandusky on your way there)! This Ohio island offers plenty of relaxation and gorgeous views plus it’s a short distance from many cities, making a great weekend trip or road trip stop.

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Featured Image Credit: Sandusky Segwave