Monday, September 9, 2013

A Visit to Put-In-Bay/South Bass Island (Ohio)

As much as I’ve always been intrigued with islands and geographical points of interest…and despite the fact that I’m from the upper Midwest USA, we’d never been to any of the Lake Erie Islands. 

Among others, we’ve been to Mackinaw Island, the 4 major islands of Hawaii, Vancouver Island, the Isle of Skye, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, South Carolina’s coastal islands including Hilton Head, Georgia’s Sea Islands, Sanibel, the Florida Keys, North Padre Island, the San Juan Islands, Cedar Key, and the South Island of New Zealand.  But we’d never visited this group of islands…despite the fact that we’ve lived within driving distance of them for most of our lives…

The Lake Erie Islands are a chain of islands in Lake Erie. The above photo shows some of them.  In addition to the islands shown above, other major islands include Kelley’s Island and Pelee Island.  There are 26 of them in total.  Most of them are part of Ohio with Pelee Island being the only major island in the group that is part of Ontario Canada.  Many of the islands are large enough that they are popular tourist attractions with car and passenger ferries running from the mainland as well as between some of the islands.  There are also some small airports and numerous private marinas which provide other ways to reach the islands.

Our family took this passenger ferry from Port Clinton Ohio to Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island.  Jet Express II was built in 1992.  It is 98.4 feet long and 28.5 feet wide.  It will carry up to 395 passengers and with its twin V-12 diesel 3600 HP engines, can power the boat at speeds up to 40 MPH. 
Jet Express operates 4 boats, all of similar size and capacity.  Routes are between Port Clinton and Sandusky on the mainland and Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island as well as to Kelley’s Island.  Miller Boat Line operates vehicle/passenger service between the islands and the mainland from their mainland base at Catawba.  They operate 4 mixed use vessels… Another firm operates a small passenger ferry service between South Bass and Middle Bass Island.
For information regarding all of the ferry services to and among Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands, you can go to
FYI… You can also take a ferry from Sandusky OH to Pelee Island, Ontario Canada.  For more information, go to  The vessel used on this route is the MV Jiimaan.  It’s about 200 feet long and it can carry up to 400 passengers and 40 vehicles.

On the way over to Put-in-Bay, we passed this rather distinctive home which is located on the south end of South Bass Island.
Built in 1924 for use by the Ford Motor Company, the Great Lakes freighter 'Benson Ford' was used to transport iron ore and other materials across the Great Lakes for the growing auto company.  The ship was 612 feet long by 62 feet wide.  After more than 50 years of service, the ship was decommissioned and purchased for intended use as a barge.  However, it never sailed again. 
Eventually the company opted for a less conventional use of the ship.  In 1986, the entire forward superstructure of the ship was removed and transported by barge to South Bass Island.  The 62 foot by 59 foot section would be initially used as a 7,000 square foot, four story summer home.  The home included the walnut paneled state rooms, dining room, galley, and passenger lounge designed by Henry Ford for his own pleasure while traversing the Great Lakes on business.
It was later sold again.  The father and son that bought the ship home renamed the ‘ship’ the Benson Ford and have utilized the unique structure for personal use ever since. With recent renovations, the structure includes a garage and massive family room, five bedrooms, five full baths, a dining room, living room, reading room, galley, and the pilot house, which offers spectacular views of the setting sun off the western shores of the island.
For more information as well as interior photos of the home, go to  It has been featured on both HGTV's Extreme Homes and MTV's Extreme Cribs...

South Bass Island is the most popular island…but it’s also the ‘action island’ on the US side of the lake.  Put-in-Bay is also a family spot and the home of “Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial”, but it is also a very popular spot for partying!  Day trippers make up the bulk of the ferry passengers…and many of those passengers stay in ‘down town’ Put-in-Bay, traversing among the many restaurants and bars. (Several of the bars ban anyone who is under the legal drinking age)

Here we’re following Amy (driving), David II as well as Emmett Lee and David III on down the road toward the Perry Peace Memorial.  The principal method of transportation on South Bass Island is via rented golf carts.  Several services provide this service, some furnishing electric golf cars and others a gasoline motor version.  Four, six and 8-person golf carts are available.
Golf Carts are licensed as motor vehicles on South Bass Island and they’re driven on public roadways just as cars are.  Bicycles and mopeds can also be rented.  In addition, you could bring your car over to the island via Miller Boat Lines…

David III and Emmett Lee posed at the base of Perry’s Peace Memorial with this ‘soldier’.  He was dressed in a uniform copied from those used in the War of 1812 between the USA and Britain.
The Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes called the Battle of Put-in-Bay, was fought on the 10th of September 1813, in Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio during the War of 1812.  Nine vessels of the United States Navy defeated and captured six vessels of  the British Royal Navy.  This ensured American control of the lake for the rest of the war, which in turn allowed the Americans to recover Detroit and win the Battle of the Thames to break up the Indian confederation of Tecumseh.
This was one of the biggest naval battles of the War of 1812.  The British lost 41 killed and 94 wounded. The surviving British crews, including the wounded, numbered 306.  In total, the Americans lost 29 killed and 94 wounded.  For more about this sea battle, go to

Laurie took this photo of David III, myself, Amy, Emmett Lee and David II at the Perry Peace Memorial.  It was a hot day and we wisely opted not to climb all the way to the top of the monument…

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial is operated by the National Park Service.  It features a 352 foot tall monument, the world's most massive Doric column.  It was constructed at Put-in-Bay between 1912 to 1915, in order "to inculcate the lessons of international peace by arbitration and disarmament." Beneath the stone floor of the monument lie the remains of three American officers and three British officers.  It is among the tallest monuments in the United States.  Only the Gateway Arch, San Jacinto Monument, and the Washington Monument are taller.  In 2002, a new visitor center was opened.  It depicts the battle and contains various artifacts. The memorial is visited by over 200,000 people each year.

As we cruised from one end of the island to the other, we passed South Bass Island’s airport.  Helicopter and bi-plane rides are available.  We stopped and watched a couple go up in this open-cockpit 1935 Waco bi-wing.  I love the sound of those piston engines!  The price was $160 for 2 persons for 15 minutes.  For more information, go to
The Waco Aircraft Company (WACO) was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio, USA. (The name has nothing to do with Waco TX) Between 1919 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes.  The company initially started under the name Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio but changed its name to the Waco Aircraft Company in 1928/29.  For more information as well as a number of photos of Waco airplanes, you can go to

Here’s a photo of our ‘Ohio family’ on the south end of South Bass Island. (Left to right: David II, David III, Amy and Emmett Lee) It’s a happy and loving family, that’s for sure!

The federal government purchased two acres at Parker’s Point, at the extreme southwest tip of the South Bass Island in May 1895.   Unlike the day's typical design of a large lighthouse with a small, detached keepers dwelling, South Bass Island’s Lighthouse consisted of this large, two-and-a-half-story, redbrick dwelling with an attached, twelve-foot-square tower. The tower stood forty-five feet tall when finished and was crowned with a fourth-order, L. Sautter and Cie., Fresnel lens that produced a fixed red light through the use of a ruby chimney in its lamp.  South Bass Island Lighthouse was lit for the first time on July 10, 1897.  Operations ended in about 1959 when the structure and light were replaced by an automated electronic light mounted atop a steel tower…

This is the vehicle ferry boat landing near the south end of the island.  The Miller Boat Line operates these ferry boats.  Pictured here are the ‘William Market’ and the ‘Islander’.  The Islander…to the right…is the smallest of these ferries at about 90 feet long and 38 feet wide.  All of the others are just a touch longer at 96 feet.  The other 2 boats in the company’s fleet are named the ‘Put-in-Bay’ and the ‘South Bass’.

Emmett just had to get in the water!  This is Stone Beach at the South Bass Island State Park and Campground. 

The campground was very busy on this beautiful summer weekend… There are 135 campsites and a few cabins in the park.  The ‘beach’ was busy but with all of the rocks, it wasn’t a great place for wading.  There was also a small dock area and ramp for people to use for small craft.  Kayaks were available for renting…

But…back to reality!  We didn’t take a lot of photos of ‘downtown’ Put-in-Bay.  There were lots of shops, places to eat and bars…lots of bars!  There seemed to be a number of bachelor parties and bridal parties underway in town, plus there were lots of other folks out to have a good time.  The town itself was clean and well maintained… Parking, even for a golf cart, was challenging to say the least!  If I were to return, we’d do it on a weekday…just for a little more peace and relaxation.

Here is Laurie with David III and Emmett Lee… Yes, I finally did take a photo myself!  We’re on the top deck of the passenger ferry just getting ready to head back to the Ohio mainland. 
I was proud of the fact that I talked one very drunk young woman into sitting below deck, i.e., away from us, as 'it would be a smoother ride' and she’d be less likely to hurl, barf or whatever.  As we waited in line, to board she kept saying she needed a bag for the trip back…

Amy captured this sunset photo of Laurie and me as we cruised back into the harbor at Port Clinton Ohio.  It had been a good day!

One final photo… This is the harbor at Port Clinton.  This town of a bit more than 6,000 people is also known as the "Walleye Capital of the World."  In addition to its fishing and boating industries, the town is known for the annual National shooting and small arms matches at neighboring Camp Perry, its proximity to the Lake Erie islands, the Cedar Point amusement park and a number of local wineries.  Port Clinton's transient dockage on the Portage River is a safe harbor for Lake Erie boaters.  Port Clinton is sometimes referred to as "Vacation land" due to the large number of tourists that flock to the area in the summer months.
Just click on any of these photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for taking the time to peruse these many pictures and all of the text!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Dear Dave. You certainly do have a beautiful and loving family.
    These are wonderful memories made for you and your family.
    Blessings, Catherine

  2. I love the pictures and can look all of you are happy and fun, love the kids!!

  3. Sure looks like a fun day was had by all. I would have never dreamed someone could say "we're going to the islands" and mean Ohio.