Ohio maybe isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you talk about summering on the Great Lakes. But just off the coast from Sandusky, which sits on the southern shores of Lake Erie, is a series of picturesque resort islands all serviced by a fleet of jet-powered catamarans. It’s unlike anything else on Lake Erie.
Jet Express is a ferry service made up of four high-speed, passenger-only catamarans. They run service to Kelleys Island and Put-In-Bay Village on South Bass Island, departing right from Sandusky or from Port Clinton, across Sandusky Bay. The trip takes anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes depending on which dock you leave from. The boats themselves are sleek and move fast. They offer cushioned passenger lounges or open-air decks from which you can watch the smaller, multiple Lake Erie Islands as they pass by.
Another route to Put-In-Bay is Miller Ferries, which also offer passenger and boat ferries to Put-In-Bay as well as Middle Bass Island. Boats take off from Catawba, OH and can accommodate trailers. Trips take 20-40 minutes, depending on your destination.
The islands are definitely worth your time. Put-In-Bay Village on South Bass Island has been a Great Lakes resort town for more than 150 years and has the architecture, amenities and stories to prove it. It has an active nightlife scene and is renowned through the region for the live music acts it draws every summer. Also on the island are two famous caves you can explore and a 100-year-old peace memorial enshrined by the National Parks Service. Known as Perry’s Monument, the memorial celebrates lasting peace struck between the United States, Great Britain and Canada.
Kelleys Island is a little more low-key and features a National Historic District and Glacial Grooves State Park, from which you can view the actual grooves left behind when the glaciers that formed the Great Lakes receded hundreds of thousands of years ago. There’s plenty of quality fishing to be done from the island and lots of bird-watching. The island’s south shore is home to a flat-topped limestone boulder that still holds pictographs carved by Erie Indians more than 300 years ago.
Ferry schedules and tickets can be found online at the Jet Express website, http://www.jet-express.com/. Depending on your destination, a roundtrip ticket will cost you $33 to $39. One way, it’s $18 to $21. It’s also helpful to know (wink, wink) that Jet Express is the only island ferry that makes late night departures from Put-In-Bay Village. It’s a great way to get out and see Lake Erie and really enjoy yourself while you do it.