Despite living two hours from Toledo most of my life, it was a real revelation to me when we moved here that Toledo borders Lake Erie. Not only that, but there are also decent-sized islands on Lake Erie.
I was fascinated. For Labor Day in 2020, we boarded a ferry and headed to Kelley’s Island. It was wonderful. We had big plans to go back. After all, it’s just an hour from our house. But then I spent the entire half-hour ferry ride return trip throwing up (because I don’t do well on boats).
And we haven’t been back.
That changed last week, when my friend took my kids away for 3 days. I was itching to go somewhere. Mario’s schedule was flexible, so he took a half day off of work. We left at noon, and decided to finally get out to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island. We had been avoiding Put-in-Bay because it sounds like the most touristy park of the Lake Erie Islands, and Mario doesn’t do crowds. But since we went in the middle of the week, I figured this was our best chance to see Put-in-Bay with the least amount of people.
I wasn’t wrong.
It was great!
On our last Ohio Island adventure, we found out that renting golf carts can be really expensive. With our three kids (one was very small), it was worth it, but with just Mario and I, we decided to take our bikes. Getting us and our bikes on the ferry, it cost us $44, round trip.
If you decide to take your car, it costs $20, in addition to the passenger prices for the amount of people you’re bringing. South Bass Island is bigger than Kelleys Island, so a car is more useful on South Bass than on Kelleys Island. But we did enjoy using our bikes. Given the light Wednesday traffic, we felt pretty safe using them. Not sure if I’d say the same thing on a weekend.
We took the Miller Ferry, which leaves passengers on the south side of the island. However, the town of Put-in-Bay is on the north side. (In the future, we’ll likely try the other ferry service that docks right downtown Put-in-Bay.)
Before we did anything else, we needed lunch. I was intrigued by the name of the Goat, Soup, and Whiskey restaurant, so that’s where we went. If you’re there on a weekend, call for reservations. On Wednesday at 3pm, they’ve got plenty of space. There are three other locations of Goat restaurants, but they are family owned. The Ohio branch is their second location, because they started in Breckenridge, Colorado. Then they decided to open another location in St. Croix. They’ve got some great places to work, don’t they?
Given the northern Ohio location, we were impressed by the options on their appetizer menu, and could have happily tried everything. Oysters, mussels, escargot, mushrooms, lamb chops . . . we seriously considered ordering our meal from the appetizer menu. In fact, Mario might have. But I tried the perch tacos, and they were delightful.
From there, we headed to the wineries. Heineman’s Winery was right next to Goat, Soup, and Whisky. It’s the oldest winery in Ohio, and they survived Prohibition by making grape juice and leading tours into the world’s largest geode (which apparently 25 people can stand in). We just came for the wine.
We keep trying red wines in Ohio, not expecting much. There’s reason for that. However, there was one white one that was OK. We hightailed it out of Heineman’s and headed for the Put-in-Bay Winery, hoping to make it before they closed. We did.
Put-in-Bay’s presentation was a lot nicer than Heineman’s. (Wine does taste better out of glass glasses than plastic cups.) They also offered flights for tasting, so we were able to try a little of almost everything they offered. We were persuaded to try their chocolate wine, which initially I had no interest in, because . . . chocolate wine? Chocolate with wine–yes. Chocolate wine? No. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and didn’t really want to try. However, we were told that it was far and away their best-seller, so I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.
It turns out that chocolate wine is essentially Bailey’s. While Put-in-Bay’s wines were more drinkable than Heineman’s, and we brought a few home with us, I am still shocked that my favorite turned out to be that chocolate wine.
After that, we dashed away on our bicycles back to the other side of the island, to catch a ferry back to our car. This time, on the return trip, I stayed on the car level and had absolutely no issues with being seasick.
So we will try the Lake Erie Islands again, hopefully sometime in the next three months. I will absolutely not wait another three years to go back!