There are several small towns along Lake Erie that offer charm that you will not find anywhere else. I have 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 amusement park, Cedar Point. I would encourage you to visit the area around this popular amusement park and explore the charm of the towns along Lake Erie. From the lighthouses to the quaint shops, you will find something to enjoy while exploring the southern shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.
Marblehead lies on the southern 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 climbed to the top several times. The view from above is out of this world, with views of the lake and the surrounding shoreline. The Marblehead Lighthouse is in Marblehead State Park, one of Lake Erie’s best-known and most photographed landmarks. Its claim to fame is that it is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes. The Keepers House, next door to the lighthouse, offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the lighthouse keepers’ history. The 1822 home was where the first three keepers of the Marblehead Lighthouse lived.
Pro Tip: Rocky Point Winery is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and an opportunity to kick back and relax.
Sandusky is a charming small town that is home to the Merry Go Round Museum. Learn how the horses were made and how they continue to be a part of today’s history in Sandusky. Carving tools and a working wood carving workshop are also part of this museum. I have visited this museum a few times, and it’s always a joy to hop on a horse. The experience takes me back to my childhood days of enjoying a ride on a merry-go-round at a local fair. The Maritime Museum of Sandusky is a chance to learn 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. The bruschetta and brick oven pizza are my favorite things on their menu. Every time I am in Sandusky, I make sure that I have time to enjoy a meal or two at this incredible restaurant.
Once you step off of the Miller Ferry Boat in Put-In-Bay, you have stepped into a quaint town on an island surrounded by Lake Erie. You can drive your car or arrive on foot. I enjoy arriving on foot and renting a golf cart as soon as I step off the ferry. Traveling around the island by golf cart is a super-easy way to explore this island. The charming shops on Main Street will lure you in with food and fun souvenirs. Dine at the Boardwalk and enjoy the views of the water while you indulge in a meal.
Wine tasting is available at the Put-In-Bay Winery. There is ample parking out 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. The butterflies are not only beautiful, but they are also relaxing to watch as they fly throughout the house. There is a small fee to visit this attraction and it is handicap accessible.
4. Port Clinton
The Main Street in Port Clinton, Ohio, is a historic downtown area. A friend and I strolled down the street and found some fun shops. From flowers to women’s clothing and purses, we had a great time shopping in this historic area of Port Clinton. A highlight of this town is The Sunday Farmers Market that runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., from spring through the middle of October in downtown Port Clinton. Another fun event is River Front Live. It kicks off the first Friday in June and ends on the first Friday in September. With the lake as a backdrop, shopping, dining, and events are always happening here.
The beach on Main Street might be what you will remember most about Vermilion. The town’s nautical history combined with its charm will lure you in over and over. 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 up homemade chocolates, including my favorite chocolate treats, caramels, and chocolates. If you want to sit back and look at the water, place yourself in an Adirondack chair on the wooden boardwalk. Stroll the sidewalk from the historical downtown area to the beach and enjoy the sunset while watching 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 parking lot at the ferry terminal. I enjoy riding a golf cart around the island, so I always park my car and hop on the ferry. Kelleys Island is not as busy as Put-In-Bay. The Crooked Tree Vineyard offers wine tasting and an opportunity to enjoy this quiet part of the island. The Kelleys Island General Store is a favorite of mine and is located on Main Street. You can find everything from souvenirs to bug spray and sunscreen. If you plan to stay overnight on the island, book a stay at one of the charming cottages located throughout the island. Many of them have views of Lake Erie and others offer a quiet, natural setting.
If you are not spending the night on Kelleys Island, be sure to start your day early and plan to stay late. Immerse yourself in the town and you will find yourself in a space that you never knew was available to you. The little town on Kelleys Island will win you over as soon as you step foot off of the ferry.
Stroll the historic town square in Milan that is surrounded by specialty and antique shops. Look up as you stroll to take in the architecture of each of the buildings that go around the town square. If Milan is a town that rings a bell with you, it may be that you recognize that this town is the birthplace of Thomas Edison. In Milan, you can shop until you drop and also tour the birthplace and museum of Thomas Edison. The Milan Museum showcases the history of the town and the community around Milan. View the Roman glass on display and tour the historic buildings on site. Note that both of these museums have small entrance fees.
Located in Marblehead, Lakeside is a Chautauqua community that has been nurturing the mind, body, and spirit for more than 140 years. I have a couple of family friends who have spent more than 30 summers in Lakeside, Ohio. They have always spoken highly of this community, and on a recent visit to the area, I was given a short tour. There is something for all family members to partake in. Swimming, sailboating, hanging out on the beach, movies, and cultural events are some of the things visitors can take part in.
I would offer the following advice to anyone visiting this area of Ohio: Mayflies do come and go in this area and seem to be a nuisance when they show up. It’s important to understand that they are a part of nature and being near a lake area. They do not last long, as within a few days they will no longer 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 tremendous from any of these charming towns. They each offer parks and an opportunity for you to explore new places and try out some new experiences. During the summer months, hanging flower pots and decorated gardens line many of the streets in these communities.
The colors of summer in all of these towns are incredible. Stroll through the parks and pack a picnic lunch to top off your day visiting one of these towns. Enjoy an ice cream cone from one of the many family-owned ice cream shops you’ll come across. A perfect day is taking a stroll to the beach while carrying an ice cream cone and taking in one of Lake Erie’s incredible sunsets.