“Where is Put-In-Bay?”
When I tell people in Chicago that we took this trip more times than not, they have never heard of this place. To fill you in, Put-in-bay is an island off Ohio on Lake Erie and below is how we ended up there and what we did.
One of my very good friends was visiting me from Ireland who I hadn’t seen in almost a year so I thought what better time to take a roadtrip, show her more of the USA and to go somewhere I didn’t know existed up until recently – Put-in-Bay.
Day 1 : Road Trip from Chicago
We embarked on the 4 hour drive from Chicago to Ohio early on a Tuesday morning, Google maps indicated to me to take one turn out of the city and then it was pretty straight the entire way passing what seemed like an unnecessary amount of corn fields and toll booths. Who knew there was an Island off Ohio? This was the time to check it out. We finally pulled into the parking lot at Port Clinton pulled out our luggage and headed towards the Jet – express ferry which would be our way to get to the island. We paid the fare of around $25 each and hopped onto the boat. It was such a glorious day and the views on the way through Lake Erie were simply stunning passing other small islands and houses looking like they were worth a fortune to our final destination. I had heard that the weather in Chicago wasn’t too great so I was pretty smug that we had found the sunshine.
We made it to the Island and the next port of call was to find our hotel, I asked one of the guys at ferry booth for directions – we were both sweating in the heat, lugging our bags and dreaming of a pool, so the sooner we found the hotel the better. We walked through the quaint streets filled with country style store fronts and we saw older couples zipping around on Golf carts, we found out that carts are the main form of transport on the island and very few cars are on the island as they need a permit to do so. I had heard that the island was especially known for its party scene and bachelor / bachelorette parties however as we arrived on a weekday I guess we caught more of a mellow atmosphere on the island. We followed the directions given to us and our hotel turned out to be only a 5 minute walk from the lake -we quickly realised that the island was a lot smaller than we initially thought. As we walked toward the reception door, we saw that there was a pool with a bar right in front – all of our prayers had been answered and we were ready to jump in. We quickly checked into our hotel, The Commodore Resort, unloaded our belongings to our room and made our way down to pool, dying to cool off in the water with some form of alcoholic drink to start our getaway. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool and catching up with each other and then headed out later in the evening.
Day 2: Golf Cart rental & Winery
Golf Cart Rental
So we decided to rent a golf cart for a couple of hours to see more of the Island, we paid $19 for 2 hours rental so it was so worthwhile. We noticed quite a lot of cart rental companies around but we just went with the closest to our hotel.We hoped in that amount of time we would make it around the entire island, I think we made it around about 3 times in total – the island is that small! It was another gorgeous day and we took turns driving around the cart which was a highlight of our trip taking in the views of the lake, we passed vineyards, the winery we were visiting later, a tiny airport, barns and guesthouses on our way . Again, we were met with elderly couples also on golf carts and got real entertainment out of overtaking them going literally 10 MPH, the maximum speed a golf cart was capable of – I think we may have been some of the only people in our 20s on the island which we were totally content about.
I had booked us into the Put-In-Bay Winery tour months in advance, but I think would have accepted walk ins – it cost us a mere $10 each for a sampling for about 8 different types of wine and the tour, so reasonable and a perfect activity after racing around the island on the cart! We showed up for the tour and as it was quiet on a weekday, it turned out it was just the two of us and our tour guide on the tour. The winery tour is situated in an Estate House, which was incredibly majestic. Our tour guide filled us in on the history of the house and the interesting story about the family who used to live here, the Dollar family – rumour has it that those people’s spirits still roam around inside the house. Turns out many people on the island have witnessed unusual happenings in the Dollar Estate but also in the hotels on the island, one hotel being the Park Hotel which is one of the oldest on the island.
Places to eat on the island
To be honest, it was really hard to find good food and places to eat on the island – I think I have just developed really high standards given the Chicago food scene is so good that it was really hard to find quality restaurants.
Places we tried include:
I cringe everytime I go away and end up at an irish bar, but with our limited options we decided to try Hooligans Irish pub we close to our hotel. They offer standard Irish pub grub.
We ate breakfast here both mornings as it was one of the only cafes we could see open on the main street. As we went in the first week of September, I think things were slowing down on the island after the high peak summer season, so a lot of businesses had shut their doors until next year.
We ate here one evening – both of us ordered pizza, one could have done us – they were pretty big!
Bars on the island
This was one of my favourite bars on the island, turns it is one of the oldest too. The exterior of the bar is round shaped and it was actually constructed on mainland Ohio and shipped over and assembled. While we were there they had a live Jazz / Blues band playing on the stage directly behind the bar, which set a great atmosphere.
This bar made the island seem exotic, located in a straw hut near the lakefront with the floor covered in sand with swings as bar stools, they have a serious selection of mojitos to choose from.
This was bar at our hotel pool – they offered up 4 different types of summery cocktails for around $7 – a fraction of the price you’d pay in Chicago for the same drink.
Overall, the island makes for a great road trip and getaway – it’s hard to understand why more people don’t know about this island.