Put-in-Bay is a bucolic family travel getaway destination in Lake Erie. Importantly, this Ohio island vacation destination is as easy on the wallet as it is on the eyes. Budgeting a family vacation can be tricky. However, here at The Vacation Gals, we see family travel as a big priority. Shared travel experiences bring families together and create memories that last a lifetime. With so many people anxiously watching every dollar these days, we wonder: Is it possible to have a family vacation — and not a “staycation” — for around $500? Yes, especially if we drive instead of fly. We spoke with Julene Market, co-owner of Miller Boat Line and a life-long resident of Put-in-Bay’s South Bass Island, Ohio, for insider tips on the best cheap ways to have a Put-in-Bay family vacation in Lake Erie.
What is the most family-friendly place to stay on the island?
The BayShore Resort, Langram Rd., is conveniently located with walking distance of Perry’s Monument and the village area. Amenities include a swimming pool and the atmosphere is family friendly. Camping is another popular option at the South Bass Islands State Park on Put-in-Bay, with a stone beach, playground, watercraft rentals and pier.
What are some free activities for children on Put-in-Bay in Lake Erie?
The Aquatic Center gives kids fishing poles + bait and allows them to fish off their pier. The downtown DeRivera has a playground (and this fall will adding a playground expansion) – it’s a convenient location with nearby restrooms. Perry’s Memorial has added dozens of new family events at the Memorial grounds and at the Visitor Center including military reenactments, celebration, education, crafts – all interactive “hands-on” projects.
There is a stone swimming beach and playground at the State Park. Many people have become reacquainted with the old fashioned picnic. Put-in-Bay has two State Parks, a public park, plus a US National Park where a family can enjoy a lunch while looking over Lake Erie. The Wildlife Center sponsors “Wild Tuesday” through the summer, guest speakers are brought and the topics feature wildlife (fish, snakes, mammals, birds, amphibians, butterfly, stargazing) – it’s a huge hit with the kids. Although not free, sampling the grape juice at Heineman’s Winery is a fine tradition to set with the kids!
Should families bring their cars on the island?
If you’re planning on making a day trip to Put-in-Bay, most people choose to leave their vehicle parked behind on the mainland in one our free parking lots near the Miller Ferry Dock. Once on Put-in-Bay, folks choose to take a bus or cabs, or rent (or bring!) bikes. The overall island favorite way to get around; is to rent a golf cart (up to 8 passenger seats available), available for rent near the Miller Ferry Dock. But, if you are planning to spend the night or more, bringing your car is convenient, and actually a better value. Just remember that Fridays coming to the island and Sunday leaving the island are high traffic times aboard the ferry.
Why is Miller Ferry a good value vacation choice for Put-in-Bay in Lake Erie? Any insider tips for a budget family trip there?
The Miller Ferry cruise to Put-in-Bay is under 20 minutes long, passengers can see several islands (and Canada) in the distance and get a prime view from on board. Over 60 coupons are on our website, plus an island map. It’s convenient, with free mainland parking, the lowest fares and most frequent trips. Adults can sign up for our free e-news and save another $1 off your round trip Put-in-Bay passenger ticket. The Family Fun Pack can be purchased at our Miller Ferry Ticket Booth on Catawba, and can easily cover a day of fun. There’s Perry’s Cave, tours, Butterfly House, gem mining, and putt-putt golf for children.
Aboard Miller Ferry: Children 6-11 yr are $3 round trip, children 5 yr + under ride free, strollers are also free (and a stroller can be folded up and fit aboard a golf cart). Can’t bear to leave your pet dog at home? Bring him along, he’s free aboard the Miller Ferry! The bike rentals rent kid size bikes and helmets; there are lockers downtown near the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce building.
Plan a picnic in a park, you can’t beat the view. Bring your lunch, or I recommend you simply buy some goodies and foodstuff at our grocery store on the island, the prices are reasonable!
What are the most child-friendly restaurants there?
All island restaurants are casual, resort wear is fine, all are family friendly. Looking for ways to save? Our coupons page features several island eateries, ranging from pizza, fast food, to sit down on the waterfront – all offering specials, discounts and kids’ meals. These coupons have become a huge hit with everyone, especially value-seeking parents with young children.
Fave family restaurants (I asked a mom with a 5 yr old girl about this one)… She recommends the Upper Deck, and Frosty Family Pizza Family Meal Deal because there’s ‘plenty to share.’
Thanks, Julene. Put-in-Bay sounds like a great way to budget a family vacation without having to resort to camping in one’s own backyard. Camping, boating, visiting a US National Park and more all come in for around $500 at Put-in-Bay in Lake Erie.