Put-in-Bay Travel Guide for Families

Perry's Monument Put-in-Bay

If there is just one getaway you take with your family in Ohio this year, make it Put-in-Bay! Put-in-Bay is great for families. Although close to home, a trip to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island feels a million miles away from the daily grind. It is the perfect place to relax, make memories with your family, enjoy amazing cuisine, explore caves, and experience island life.

Spend the day or stay for a few!  There is so much for families to do at Put-in-Bay with many free as well as festivals all season long.

How to Get to Put-in-Bay

To get there, take Miller Ferry located in Port Clinton, Ohio. (Check out all of our Miller Ferry reviews here.)

lower deck on Miller Ferry

We LOVE the ferry ride to Put-in-Bay! Whether you stand on the lower deck (pictured above) in the splash zone or upstairs on the benches, it is a beautiful 20 minute ride.

when Miller Ferry leaves to Put-in-Bay
Miller Ferry on Lake Erie

There is free parking a short walk from dock or you can pay a small fee at the lot across the street.  Ferry tickets are about $7.50 one way for adults and kids 5 years and younger ride free, so it isn’t expensive at all. Plus, you can take your car or bikes too!

How to Get Around Put-in-Bay

You have a couple choices for transportation around Put-in-Bay. You are welcome to drive your own vehicle if you brought it over on the ferry. You can rent or bring your own bikes. The favorite mode of transportation in Put-in-Bay are golf carts!  There are several to choose from and we’ve had very good experiences with both E Golf Carts and Island Transportation Lime Kiln Golf Carts, both are within walking distance of the Miller Ferry dock.

E's Golf Cart Rental in Put-in-Bay
E’s Golf Cart Rental in Put-in-Bay
picture of Island Transportation Lime Kiln Golf Carts at Put-in-Bay
Island Transportation Lime Kiln Golf Carts at Put-in-Bay

We love shooting around the island in a golf cart because it allows us to really enjoy and explore the island. There is something exciting that brings out the kid in you when you drive or ride in a golf cart!

E's Golf Carts for Put-in-Bay Transportation

You can also take the Lime Kiln Bus to downtown Put-in-Bay.

picture of Lime Kiln Bus to Put-in-Bay
Lime Kiln Bus to Put-in-Bay

Once you take the bus to downtown, you can walk around on your own or take the Put-in-Bay Tour Train to many points across the island with on/off privileges.

picture of Put-in-Bay Tour Train
Put-in-Bay Tour Train

(Check out our experience with the bus and tour train here.) We had a lot of fun with this option as well. It is a really good option if it is your first time at Put-in-Bay because the tour explains a lot about the history of the island and attractions.

Attractions at Put-in-Bay

Perry's Monument Put-in-Bay
Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial

The one must-see attraction in Put-in-Bay is Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial. Standing 352 feet tall, this national monument honors those that fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.You can see much of Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie, and even Canada from the top!Perry's Monument Put-in-Bay

It is just $5 for ages 16+. Kids 15 and under are free.

Another must-see is Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. Here you can enjoy several family-fun activities:

  • Perry’s Cave
  • Fort aMAZE’n!
  • War of 18 Holes Miniature Golf
  • The Rock Wall
  • The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay

Choose one or two activities or get the Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center Super Combo Tickets for great savings!

Perry’s Cave takes you down 52 feet into a 208 foot long cave! This 20 minute tour is refreshing in 50° temps and educational!

Perry's Cave Family Center Put-in-Bay
Perry’s Cave Family Center Put-in-Bay

Fort aMAZE’n! is a giant maze that is fun for kids, teens, and adults! Go as a family or race against one another to find all the challenges. There are two forts located within the maze to allow you to get a birds-eye view of the maze.

War of 18 Holes Miniature Golf is exciting 18 hole course with winding paths, beautiful landscaping, waterfalls, a covered bridge, and cave.

Perry's Cave Family Center Put-in-Bay
War of 18 Holes Miniature Golf in Put-in-Bay

The Rock Wall at Perry’s Cave towers 25 feet high with 4 sides to choose from.

Rock wall at Put-in-Bay
Rock Wall at Put-in-Bay

The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay is a 5,000 sq foot aviary with 50 different types of exotic butterflies from around the world and beautiful gardens.

Perry's Cave Family Center Put-in-Bay
Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay

Stop by South Bass Island State Park for an afternoon of relaxing at the beach. This is a free activity at Put-in-Bay that the whole family can enjoy. Swimming, sunbathing, and playing on the playground is a great way to spend the afternoon. You can also rent kayaks and boats at the park. Camping is available here as well.

Put-in-Bay with Grandparents/Grandchildren
Put-in-Bay State Park

Another FREE activity in Put-in-Bay is at the Aquatic Visitors Center. Inside, there is a large open air fish tank of fish and turtles found in Lake Erie, including invasive species that look like eels. Learn about current OSU research being done to protect Lake Erie.

Aquatic Visitors Center at Put-in-Bay

Kids can even enjoy free fishing on Lake Erie everyday on the dock. On Saturdays in the summer, there is a free program for kids at 2pm on the dock with varying topics.

Aquatic Visitors Center at Put-in-Bay

Go kayaking in Put-in-Bay with Kayak the Bay. Get an up close look at nature, the islands, and beautiful sail boats in the harbor by renting a single or double seated kayaks from this family-owned business.

Kayak the Bay in Put-in-Bay

Kimberly’s Carousel is one of only 100 carousels in the USA with all wooden carved horses! This delightful carousel was built in 1917 and still delights children! Located as you enter Put-in-Bay’s downtown area, this Put-in-Bay attraction is nearly free.

picture of Kimberly's Carousel Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Kimberly’s Carousel Put-in-Bay, Ohio

The #1 Attraction at Put-in-Bay is the island. Enjoy sightseeing, driving around the island and exploring. It is a beautiful island and there is so much to see. Try not to do it all in one day – spend the night if you can or save some fun for a return trip. Relax, unwind and enjoy spending time with your family on this beautiful island. It is a great way to escape your everyday life for a taste of island life without going far.

Where to Eat in Put-in-Bay

There are many restaurants to choose from at Put-in-Bay. We’ve had the chance to sample many!  One of our favorites is The Boardwalk, located right on the water with gorgeous views of Lake Erie. (Check out our reviews on The Boardwalk here.)

Boardwalk waterfront put-in-bay restaurant

You can dine inside on the Upper Deck or outside on the Lower Deck – lots of amazing seafood, steaks, burgers, kids meals, and amazing lobster bisque.

Lobster roll at The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk Upper Deck is a nicer place to dine on the island.Boardwalk waterfront put-in-bay restaurant

If you like Mexican food, check out Big Man Burrito, located at Frosty Bar for tacos, taco bowls, nachos, walking tacos, and of course amazing burritos!

Big Man Burrito Put-in-Bay
Big Man Burrito in Put-in-Bay

The Chicken Patio is located right in downtown Put-in-Bay. They are famous for their wine basted chicken that is cooked on a large 21 foot charcoal grill all day and night long. The portions are hearty and food is delicious! Enjoy at their outside patio or across the street at the park.

Chicken Patio in Put-in-Bay

If you are looking for a hearty burger, look no further than Reel Bar!  They serve up 1/3, 2/3, or 1 lb Triple burgers that you can top with as many of the 15 Free toppings as you want!

Eat at Tony's Garage for the Best Burgers at Put-in-Bay
Tony’s Garage in Put-in-Bay

The Put-in-Bay Brewery Co. is another good family dining option because their menu offers a lot of variety including Lake Erie perch, pizza, seafood, salads, lettuce wraps, hand-pattied burgers, and more.

picture of Put-in-Bay Brewery Co Pizza
Put-in-Bay Brewery Co Pizza

For dessert, stop by Chocolate Cafe for ice cream, chocolates, coffees, and more!

Chocolate Cafe Put-in-Bay
Chocolate Cafe Put-in-Bay
Chocolate Cafe Put-in-Bay
Chocolate Cafe Put-in-Bay

Special Events at Put-in-Bay

There are many upcoming events at Put-in-Bay for the whole family from regularly scheduled daily events to annual events. Some upcoming events include: Island Artisans Fair, Soccer Cup Challenge, South Bass Island Lighthouse Tours, I-LYA Junior and Senior Sail Regattas, Nature Camps, Put-in-Bay Jeep Invasion, Musket & Carronade Weekend, Island Eco Tour & Fair, Ford Tri-Motor Visits Put-in-Bay, Stargazing Cruise aboard Miller Ferry, and more.

Where to Stay

We have never stayed on the island of Put-in-Bay but have stayed in Port Clinton at Five Bells Inn.

This bed and breakfast is very family friendly with a private grassy area and beach access! Enjoy breathtaking scenery of Lake Erie and the lagoon. Five Bells Inn is the perfect way to end a trip to Put-in-Bay as you retreat in comfort in Port Clinton, Ohio.

A Party Island is Family Friendly?!

As you can tell from this post, Put-in-Bay is a great family-friendly Ohio destination that feels like a vacation away! That being said, I want to address the whole idea that Put-in-Bay is also known as a party island after dark and on the weekends. I have visited during the weekends during the day and was 100% comfortable being there with my kids. I have stayed on the island until the last ferry at 9pm and had no problems with it being a party island.

That being said, I’m sure that if you take your children to one of the bars at night, you would have a different experience. However, most families don’t take their kids to bars at home let alone on vacation, so I don’t really see this ‘party island’ label as having any affect on you and your family having a good time. I just want to be transparent about this as it is a real concern for families that have never been to Put-in-Bay when they hear it is a party island.

Island life at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island is truly special and there is something about it that refreshes the soul, body, and mind. My family has made Put-in-Bay an annual tradition, we love it every time.

Check out all of our Put-in-Bay posts and reviews over the years here.

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Founder and Lead Blogger at Akron Ohio Moms
Cindy is the top Akron Blogger with her own take on awesome brands for families, where to vacation for families, a beat on local activities and family fun, a knack for getting moms to share , and a house that is always 2 weeks away from a complete remodel!
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