A few years ago I visited Put-in-Bay for a travel writing conference that I attended and had the amazing opportunity to sleep in the historic Benson Ford Ship house. It was an amazing experience and I have been wanting to take my family back to South Bass Island ever since!
Thanks to Miller Ferry (the best budget-friendly way to South Bass Island!) – they invited us to come back and explore Put-in-Bay on Green Island week! There are SO many things to do in nature outdoors in Put-in-Bay!
On South Bass Island there are several short but lovely shaded trails to enjoy. Below you’ll find a list of them along with ecological research labs, underground adventures, and beautiful spots to walk around the island.
We spent an entire day on the island on the first Miller Ferry out and the last Miller Ferry back and we STILL didn’t get to finish everything we wanted to do! So this list below will keep your family quite busy enjoying the beautiful nature and outdoors in Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island!
What is Green Island Week?
Green Island Week is usually in August and events are on Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass Island, Gibraltar Island and Kelleys Island! Each island has different ecological outdoor activities from kayaking, history tours, nature center tours, eco-tours, stargazing cruise on Miller Boat Line, lighthouse tours, and so much more!
How do I get around Put-in-Bay / South Bass Island?
After you take Miller Ferry over to South Bass Island you have several options on how you want to get around the island. My recommendation is renting a golf cart at E’s Golf Carts. It’s SO easy to get around the island with little effort with a golf cart. You can also bring over a bicycle or car on Miller Ferry and of course, you can always walk around the island.
Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve
Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve was one of our first stops when we arrived in Put-in-Bay. If you hop off of Miller’s Ferry and take a right towards (and past) E’s Golf Carts, keep doing down that road till you find Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve. Keep an eye out for wildlife and the Chimney Swifts!
It’s one of my favorite quiet spots on the island because not only are there several preserves and trails down there but the hiking trails are short and wrap around the island coast. Between here and Massie Cliff Preserve, you are sure to find a quiet secluded lake front spot no matter how busy the trails are.
While you’re on the lake front look for otoliths which are Sheephead or Freshwater Drum inner ear bones!
This little inlet is just outside of Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve – you can’t miss it! There is some lovely rock art and areas for kids to climb around on and dip their feet into Lake Erie! This is my favorite art piece that I took a photo of several years ago there but it is now faded.
Massie Cliff Preserve
Massie Cliff Preserve is just down the road from Scheeff and is a more wide open trail than Scheeff. The trail opens up to a larger field area where there’s plenty of room to run around. If you’re looking for a trail to set up a picnic on – this is it!
There is also a dock at the end of the Massie Cliff trail where is almost a guaranteed spot to catch a glimpse of the elusive water snake you’ll see signs about all over the island! Don’t worry, if you’re anywhere near one they will leave immediately as they do not care to be near humans! So if you want to see one look quietly on the shore edge and down the dock if the water is high!
Dodge Woods Preserve
Dodge Woods Preserve was a lovely surprise since when we took the trails it was a storybook creation. As you walk through the trails there were plaques with a page from one of Eric Carle’s books that you could read as you went down the short trail.
It was perfect for my 4 year old and easily kept her running from book page to book page. You’ll pass Dodge Woods on your way to Massie Cliff and Scheeff from the ferry dock.
Perry’s Cave is one of two caves found on South Bass Island in Put-in-Bay, Ohio and I HIGHLY recommend going to both caves on the island! Neither are spooky, scary, or difficult to tour as long as you can take a flight of stairs. (Although the stairs are extremely steep, they are not difficult.) The tour itself is only about 15 minutes and takes you have 55 feet under the surface of the Earth.
Being a cave enthusiast I always jump at the chance to go into any cave system. When I learned that there was not one but TWO caves in Put-in-Bay I KNEW I was destined to visit both! Inside Perry’s Cave you’ll not only see some basic cave formations but you’ll also see an underground water source that is up to 24 feet deep in some areas!
The great thing about Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center is that they also have other attractions to enjoy like the Butterfly House, Fort aMaze’n, War of 18 Holes (mini golf), Rock Wall, Antique Car Museum and more!
Perry’s Butterfly House
I HIGHLY recommend not only visiting Perry’s Butterfly House but also purchasing one of their Combo tickets which is perfect for seeing multiple attractions on the grounds! You can choose 3 attractions or access to ALL of them for very reasonable prices!
The Butterfly House was AMAZING! Walk through various paths in their 4000 square foot Butterfly House and see if you can find over 50 species of butterflies! One of the things that I really loved in the Butterfly House was that they had identification guides laying around for their various butterflies so that you could learn the names of the butterflies you were seeing!
Cost: Various Depending on Attractions / Combo. See here for pricing.
Heineman’s Winery + Crystal Cave
I had visited Crystal Cave in Heineman’s Winery several years ago so I made my husband and kids tour this incredible cave as well! Although it is an extremely short 5 minute tour it’s something you will never see again in your life. Imagine stepping through to the center of the earth and seeing crystals growing up to 18 inches big! That’s Crystal Cave! Plus after your cave tour you can take their winery tour to see how they process their grapes!
Cost: $4/kids, $8/adults (12+)
Stone Lab Aquatic Resource Center
The Aquatic Visitor’s Center located in Stone Lab is operated by Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They feature freshwater fish and Lake Erie’s ecological systems in awesome displays with rows of tanks, microscopes, other animals, and events for kids! In fact kids ages 16 and under can fish for free off of their pier right in the marina!
Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center
Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center is another location in Put-in-Bay that we sought out to visit and I’m glad we did! Imagine a tiny Smithsonian on the island – that’s what you’ll find here. Rows and hallways of taxidermy animals to learn about. The lady working the desk was extremely knowledgable and offered to take out their resident snake for us to see, pet, and learn about!
Cost: $2-3/person or $8/family
South Bass Island State Park
South Bass Island State Park is one beautiful place we unfortunately did not have much time to explore. As you can see we packed in a TON of things to do in one day so hopefully next time we will have more time to explore here! You can camp, boat, fish, swim and hike here on this 33 acres! In the winter you can even ice skate and go ice fishing in the right conditions!
You can see some glacial grooves here although the best glacial grooves are seen on Kelleys Island. If you’re looking for a lovely breezy place on the island to enjoy some green scenery this is a wide open spot to stop – with a playground!
Kimberly’s Carousel & DeRivera Park
DeRivera Park is at the center of the busy downtown area on Put-in-Bay. It’s a massive block full of shade, walkways, playgrounds, picnic tables, and even showers! YES – you CAN shower (pay) in DeRivera Park which I wish we had known when we visited! We were camping on the mainland and the DeRivera Park showers looked awfully nice!
Across the street from DeRivera Park is an original Allen Herschell Carousel built in N. Tonawanda New York in 1917. One of only 100 carousels with wooden horses remaining in the USA! Tickets are CHEAP! For $1.50 you can ride this incredible carousel, or pay $5 for an all day unlimited pass! The carousel animals are AMAZING! From roosters to fish WITH worms in their mouth – my daughter rode this carousel over and over and over again!
Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Monument can be seen from the downtown Put-in-Bay area so while my daughter was riding the carousel and playing at the park my older boys went over to tour Perry’s Monument. I had been a few years ago and highly recommended this tour to them. Plus my son had a FREE 4th Grade National Park Pass!
Although there’s not a ton of shade, there is plenty of space for kids to run and trails to walk around Perry’s Monument. Not to mention it comes with some of the best open lake views on the island! We picked up some Dole Whips from The Dairy Isle right down the street and enjoyed them in front of Perry’s!
South Bass Island Lighthouse
The only lighthouse on the island, South Bass Island Lighthouse is free to tour and visit! You can only go inside of the lighthouse and climb the stairs on certain days but you can always visit the grounds! It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.