Things to Do at Put-in-Bay – Tours & Attractions on South Bass Island

Put-in-Bay, located on South Bass Island, is a popular tourist destination on Ohio’s lakeshore of Lake Erie. The small island village has tons of unique things to do whether you’re a local or a nomadic tourist! You and your family can learn about the Battle of Lake Erie or just enjoy the unsalted version of island life! Put-in-Bay is a low key Great Lakes destination that’s calling your name!

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Things to Do at    Put-in-Bay

Family Friendly Attractions & Tours on South Bass Island on Lake Erie


Where is Put-In-Bay?

Put-In-Bay is a tourist village on South Bass Island in Ohio in Lake Erie. It is located about 15 miles northwest of Sandusky on the lakeshore.

Put-In-Bay is a popular summer tourist destination known for its’ historic sites, water activities, and excitingly vibrant nightlife. The island village is accessible by boat from several nearby towns and cities, including Sandusky and Port Clinton.

How to get to Put-in-Bay, Ohio

South Bass Island - Put-in-Bay Miller Ferry Tickets - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Since Put-in-Bay is an island, the obvious way to get there is by boat. Even with all the great lakeshore attractions on the island, the ferry ride to and from Put-in-Bay remains one of the favorite things to do at Put-in-Bay.

The Miller Ferry runs a daily schedule in the summer usually from about 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ferries depart from Catawba at the end of OH-53N at 5174 East Water Street in Port Clinton.

Transit time from Port Clinton to Put-in-Bay’s Lime Kiln Dock on Langram Rd is under 20 minutes.

Passenger fares vary on ages. And they do offer a military discount to U.S. military personnel and military veterans when you present your military ID card or proof of Veteran status.

And yes, you can take your bicycle, motorcycle, car or RV for a fee. Be aware though, if you’re taking your car, motorcycle, RV or boat on a trailer, be aware they’re subject to vehicle guidelines.

While reservations are not required for vehicle transport, vehicles and RVs are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, proof of accommodation required for weekend vehicle travel. Important to note, vehicle fare is in addition to passengers.

Miller Ferry Passenger & Vehicle also offers ferry service to Middle Bass Island.

So, now that you know how to get to this unique Lake Erie island destination, let’s now take a look at all the fun and adventurous things to do on Put-in-Bay that suits solo visitors, couples and families of every size!

Can You Camp at Put-in-Bay?

Of course you can camp at Put-in-Bay! While you certainly can tent camp, you can also bring your RV as noted above.

The most popular campgrounds on Put-in-Bay are South Bass Island State Park Campground and Fox’s Den Campground (below).

South Bass Island State Park Campground

1523 Catawba Ave., Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

South Bass Island State Park Campground, located on the southern end of Put-in-Bay, offers campsites with full hook-up, electric and non-electric sites. Other amenities include dump station, bathhouses and restrooms, fire rings and picnic tables.

Be aware, State Park is over a mile from the downtown strip, so you’ll thank me for recommending a golf cart rental while staying and touring the island.

Don’t have an RV or tent? They also have 4 cabents that sleeps 6. Each has an efficiency kitchen, bathroom with shower and furnished living area with TV. But, you need to brig your own linens and towels. Also, be aware, pets are not permitted in the cabents.

There are no walk-in sites, therefore campers must have reservation (May 1 through mid-October). Reservations may be made up to 6 months in advance online or by calling 866-644-6727.

Fox’s Den Campground

140 Conlan Rd., Put-in-Bay, OH 43456

Fox’s Den Campground, is a privately owned campground located just 5 minutes from downtown Put-in-Bay. They offer both tent and RV camping with over 60 sites with water and electric hookups. 

Amenities such as showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, fish cleaning station. And according to, guests at the Fox’s Den are more than welcome to use the indoor/outdoor pool at the Bay Lodging Resort.

Since they don’t have a website, you’ll need to call them at 419-285-5001 to make your reservation.


Choosing the right campground is important. It can be the difference between an RV trip and a great RV trip. RV LIFE Campgrounds is the most trusted source of campground information in the industry. Millions of RVers use and trust Campground Reviews, which also provides the vast resources available in RV LIFE Pro, the best tool for planning and navigating your RV trips.

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 Rent a golf cart at Put-in-Bay

Whether you’re visiting Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island for a day, a week or the whole summer, you’ve got to rent a golf cart! I highly recommend upon disembarking the ferry on Put-in-Bay, you need to head straight to the golf cart rental locations.

Golf carts are the most popular way to get around at Put-in-Bay and South Bass Island. They allow you and your family convenience to travel around the island and take in all of the points of interest and attractions the island has to offer.

Be aware that only adults 18 years or older with a valid driver’s license can rent and operate a golf cart or scooter/moped on the island.

Golf cart rentals on the island:

Scooter rental on Put-in-Bay 

✰ PUT-IN-BAY FUN FACT ✰ Golf carts are by no doubt the primary choice of transportation on Put-in-Bay Ohio. The unofficial report for the number of golf carts on the island is over 800, with most of them being rentals. –

Can you bring your own golf cart to Put-in-Bay?

You can bring your own golf cart on the ferry to Put-in-Bay. Golf carts are subject to vehicle fares with Miller Ferry in addition to your passenger fare. I do suggest that you to check to see if they are subject to that additional fee if they are on your RV or vehicle (truck bed or in RV toy hauler).

One important note though, all golf carts operated on South Bass Island and at Put-in-Bay are considered licensed motor vehicles. They must have the proper registration with them.

✰ READ MORE  Can You Use Golf Carts at Campgrounds and RV Parks?

Rent a bicycle at Put-in-Bay

Things to Do at Put-in-Bay South Bass Island Ohio - Bicycle Rentals - Always On Liberty

Renting a bike is a great way to explore Put-in-Bay and South Bass Island at your own pace and take in the beautiful scenery. But also, riding a bicycle around the island and downtown Put-in-Bay is a great way to get some exercise.

Of course you can take your own bicycle on the Put-in-Bay ferry. But if you don’t have one, you can certainly rent bikes on the island.

Bicycle rental rates can vary depending on the type of bike and the duration of your rental. You can also rent tandem bikes, children’s bikes, and other types of bikes to fit you and your family’s needs.

There’s a few rental companies on the island that offer bicycles for rent.

Can you bring your own bicycle to Put-in-Bay?

You can certainly can bring your own bicycle over on the ferry to Put-in-Bay! Just be aware that your bicycle will be subject to a small fee in addition to each passenger fare listed above.

✰ MUST READ Bicycle Safety Rules: How to Ride Safely on Roads and Bike Trails

Visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

Perrys Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Visiting Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is one of the best things to do at Put-in-Bay. 

This National Monument was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The monument celebrates the lasting peace between the United States, Canada and Great Britain.

The Perry Monument rises 352′ overlooking Lake Erie. It’s situated just 5 miles from the longest undefended border in the world.

You can actually take an elevator to the top of the monument to get stunning, panoramic views of the island, lake and gain perspective of where the Battle of Lake Erie took place.

We highly recommend visiting the attraction on a clear day to get the best scenic views of the Lake if you choose to take the elevator to the top.

✰ READ MORE Things to Do at the Port of Erie Waterfront

Explore South Bass Island State Park

1523 Catawba Ave, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

South Bass Island State Park offers a range of recreational things to do at Put-in-Bay and South Bass Island. So, to maximize your experience at Put-in-Bay’s island adventures, wear comfortable action clothing so you can enjoy the park’s variety of outdoor activities!

The ferry-accessible retreat offers dock rentals, a boat launch, a small beach, cabins and of course, their campground (we talked about it earlier in this article).

The park also offers a great selection of outdoor recreation such as hiking, swimming, paddling, fishing, and camping. It also has a beach area and picnic facilities for families to relax and enjoy lunch outdoors.

Hike Put-in-Bay’s Preserves, Parks & Trails

Put on your hiking shoes, grab your trekking poles, backpack with a light lunch and head out to hike the Dodge Woods Preserve, Massie Cliffside Preserve, Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve and the Jane Coates Wildflower Trail to take in a bit of nature while getting some exercise and fresh lake air. The parks and trails are open daily.

Tour South Bass Island Lighthouse

2368 Langram Road, Put-in-Bay, OH 43456

South Bass Island Lighthouse - Put-in-Bay Ohio - Always On Liberty
Photo by Michiale Schneider

South Bass Island Lighthouse is located on the southern end of its’ eponymous island in Lake Erie.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 5, 1990, it’s believed to  be the only lighthouse in the United States owned by a university. It’s presently home to Ohio State University research and academic staff. 

South Bass Island Light is open for inside tours on select dates (SBIL link) from June-October. The grounds are open to the public from dawn to dusk with occasional closure for private events. Visitors just can’t enter or tour the inside except for dates listed in the link.

But, if you are able to score an inside tour of South Bass Island Light, make it a point to climb the stairs of the lighthouse! Take in stunning views of Put-in-Bay and Lake Erie. 419-285-1800

Tour Heineman’s Winery and Crystal Cave

978 Catawba Ave, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

Heineman's Winery and Crystal Cave - Put-in-Bay Ohio - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Miller Ferry

While you’re visiting South Bass Island, you just have to visit Heineman’s Winery at Put-in-Bay!

Established in 1888, it’s one of Ohio’s oldest family-owned wineries where you take a guided tour to see their winemaking process. After your tour, enjoy a wine tasting to sample local flavorings.

But, there’s another attraction worth checking out at Heinman’s! A year after Gustav Heineman emigrated from Germany to Put-in-Bay, Ohio in 1887, he established a winery on the island.

But, while he was digging his 30′ well under his winery, he discovered a large crystal cave that was lined with mineral crystals.

Today, the limestone cave is home to the world’s largest Celestite geode. Definitely plan a family tour of the cave for a small fee.

Tour the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum

411 Catawba Avenue, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

The Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum shines a spotlight on the history and culture at South Bass Island, Put-in-Bay and the neighboring Lake Erie Islands.

There’s several different exhibits that feature the island’s geological and cultural history, Native American heritage, early settlers, as well as it’s rich maritime history.

Make sure you stop at the Resale Shop next door to the Museum. For information on the seasonal exhibit feature or details on the Museum, call 419-285-2804.

Visit Aquatic Visitors Center

360 West Shore Boulevard, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

OSU Aquatic Visitors Center - Put-in-Bay Ohio - South Bass Island - Always On Liberty
Photo source: OSU Aquatic Visitors Center

About 1 mile west of downtown Put-In-Bay, you and your family can experience seeing Lake Erie’s ecosystem up close at the Aquatic Visitors Center. There’s plenty to learn through their hands-on exhibits and information about the fish and wildlife.

Check out the fish in the display tanks and raceways. Look at live plankton in microscopes or fish from the dock. And, see how Scientists are researching ways to protect Lake Erie and the shores.

Admission is free and they are open select days in summer. And, kids under 16 years of age can fish from the fishing pier for free.

Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center

255 Meechen Rd., Put-in-Bay, OH 43456

The Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center is a great place to see exhibits of North America’s wildlife; including birds, mammals and cool things that lurk underwater.

There’s also live wildlife displays with a viewing window. You and your family can learn about the geology of the region. You certainly don’t want to miss seeing the Turtle Ecosystem Pond that features Map Turtles and Midland Painted Turtles. And don’t miss seeing the eagle’s nest, frog pond and pollinator gardens.

This is the the ideal place for visitors to see, touch and learn about the nature and wildlife of the Lake Erie Islands.

✰ READ MORE Best National Parks of the Great Lakes to Visit in the Summer

Family Time at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

979 Catawba Ave, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

Kids Gem Mining Perry's Cave Family Fun Center - Put-in-Bay Ohio - Always On Liberty
Photo source: Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center is a super fun tourist attraction located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie!

The family-oriented venue features several interesting and interactive activities for visitors, young and old, little and big, and everyone in between!

Plan on taking the Perry’s Cave tour (more below), play a 18 hole hole round of mini-golf (more below) on their nautical themed course with educational information.

Let the littles sift through dirt mining for their own gemstones while the big kids test their strength and courage on the 25′ rock climbing wall.

And for those who love colorful and exotic flutterby’s, definitely plan an hour to walk inside the butterfly house (more below)!

Go Down Under in Perry’s Cave

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Perry's Cave - Put-in-Bay Ohio - South Bass Island - Always On Liberty

Discovered in 1813, Perry’s Cave, named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, lies 52′ below South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay) in Lake Erie. The cave measures about 208′ long by 165′ wide.

Similar to other limestone caves, it has heavily encrusted calcium carbonate deposits that formed stalactites, stalagmites and cave pearls on the cave’s walls, ceiling and floor.

What’s cool is the temperature inside the cave remains about 50° year-round, even in the bitter cold winters.

But, there’s more to it being ‘just a cave’! There’s also a rare underground lake in Perry’s Cave! There’s actually a tide that indicates subterranean diversity.

Make certain you’re wearing sturdy and comfortable walking shoes with rubber soles. And bring a light jacket or sweater as it will be a bit balmy underground.

Enjoy a round of mini-golf

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Who doesn’t love a little competitive round of mini golf with your family and friends? Put-in-Bay has a nautical themed island favorite; War of 18 Holes at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center.

Chart your course around their challenging 18-hole miniature golf course while taking in a little history from hole to hole! It’s a great way to wind down after a day of excitement or an after-dinner family event.

Visit the Butterfly House

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

LIttle Girl with Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay Ohio - South Bass Island - Always On Liberty

If you and your family have never been to a butterfly house, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. Nature lovers can visit the Put-in-Bay Butterfly House which is located at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center (above).

It’s a beautiful tropical garden filled with hundreds of free-flying exotic butterflies from all over the world. Put-in-Bay visitors can observe these colorful creatures up close and learn about their habitats and life cycle.

Tour the Benson Ford Ship House

Benson Ford Ship House - Put-in-Bay Ohio - South Bass Island - Always On Liberty

The Benson Ford Ship House sits proudly on the shores of Lake Erie on South Bass Island at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

This unique ‘ship house’ has its’ own magnificent story. The four-story vacation home belongs to Bryan Kasper and his family.

The Ship House was once the forecastle of a huge cargo ship created for Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company, hauling iron ore around the Great Lakes.

Today, the breathtaking scenic getaway is a must see family attraction when you visit the neighboring islands and Put-in-Bay.

Visitors can get there by a refreshing bicycle or golf cart ride or enjoyable afternoon walk out on West Shore of South Bass Island.

However, if you’re looking for an inside tour, you need to buy tickets for only 2 dates for 2023!

Check out Free Doc Bites’ video about the Benson Ford Ship House:

Put-in-Bay Beaches & Water Sports

Adding to our list of things to do at Put-in-Bay is to relax, swim and sunbathe on their several sandy beaches. South Bass Island State Park and Oak Point State Park are popular places to take the family to enjoy the unsalted beach life.

Another of our top things to do atPut-in-Bay is enjoying the many water sports and activities on the water like kayaking and SUPS (stand up paddle boards), jet skiing and boating.

There are several places you can rent boats, kayaks, paddle boards and other water equipment at Put-in-Bay.

You can also join a guided tour to explore the incredibly beautiful waters of Lake Erie.

✰ MUST READ  Boating Safety: Lifesaving Kayak Safety Tips for Beginners

Take a scenic cruise

What’s island life without taking a boat ride on a warm summer day on Lake Erie? 

Put-in-Bay offers different boat tours that allow you to explore Lake Erie and nearby islands. Whichever is your forte, you and your family can take in a relaxing scenic and historical boat tour, or a Put-in-Bay sunset cruise or daytime tiki cruise to enjoy the natural beauty of the island waters.

Or, if you’re into fishing, there’s a couple fishing charter services that can take you out for a day of reel fun!

Fishing tours at Put-in-Bay

You can also take a ferry to Middle Bass Island where visitors can explore the island’s nature reserves, parks and beaches.

✰ READ MORE What to Bring in your Personal Boat Tote for a 1-Day Cruise or Day Sail

Put-in-Bay’s Nightlife Scene

While Put-in-Bay may lack the typical island palms and clear turquoise waters, the island doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its’ vibrant nightlife! It’s the perfect place to unwind and celebrate the reason you’re visiting.

The island boasts a good selection of restaurants,  clubs and bars that offer live music, dancing, and island-themed concoctions for adult imbibing and relaxing.

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Wrapping up these family-oriented attractions and top things to do at Put-in-Bay

Aerial View of Put-in-Bay Perry Monument - Always On Liberty

As you see, island getaways aren’t just about palm trees and coconut drinks in the tropics! These incredibly fun things to do at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island are a great way to get a taste of the unsalted life!

These family favorite attractions and tours are the perfect cure to enjoy the summer on the Lake Erie!

And lastly, once you get back to the mainland of Ohio’s Lake Erie shore, be sure to visit Cuyahoga National Park and the Covered Bridges Auto Tour! Check out our video for more details on what we did and where we stayed!

Visit Put-in-Bay- South Bass Island-Always On Liberty

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