We’ll begin the journey in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. Anywhere from Sandusky to Maumee Bay State Park is fine with me, but the Marblehead Light House draws me in all the time. Living in Tiffin, I could be in Port Clinton or the lighthouse in about 45-minutes and after a stressful week at work, I spent many Sundays just sitting on the rocks that mark the exterior of the Lighthouse. Listening to the water lap the shore and the distant screams of thrill-seekers at Cedar Point provided a soothing calm as the water just washed away the stress from my day.
The Lighthouse is often crowded and while the state has dramatically improved parking in the last couple of years, it can still be a hassle. I like to take the first sunny weekend of the year, those days when the beauty shines through the 20-degree thermometer, and make a trip to the Lighthouse.
Port Clinton has a nice downtown section. However, in the off-season it is not quite as striking as during the summer. Downtown has the historic hotel, which during the off-season has offered a weekend dinner theatre program which offers a great deal and is quite entertaining. There is also a neat popcorn shop – that has been featured on FoodTV – making unique flavors for the popcorn. Among my favorites is the Walleye.
Continuing westward, Maumee Bay State Park was the crown jewel of the State Park Lodges until Geneva State Park opened last summer. Maumee Bay offers beautiful views and tons of things for the family to do. The wife and I spent our one-year anniversary at the park and enjoyed walking the grounds, visiting area shops, and just relaxing. We took the nature trail walk on two occasions and saw 15 deer over the two days.
Maumee Bay State Park is about as far west as I like to go. Heading further west on highway 2 lands you in the industrial section of Toledo. This area provides a vital cog in the region’s economy, but doesn’t offer the most welcome view for the beauty-thirsty traveler.
Grabbing a ferry from Port Clinton or Catawba Point will allow you to visit the islands. Kelly’s Island has traditionally been the quiet family spot with glacier grooves. I haven’t been to Kelly’s in several years, but the increase in “bar shirts” that I see advertising a location on the island makes me wonder if it isn’t beginning to take on the shape of its more famous brother to the west.
South Bass Island is probably the most famous of the islands in Lake Erie, as Put-In-Bay has been labeled the party town of the Midwest. If you head to South Bass in the early afternoon, you'll be rewarded with the peaceful beauty of the island. I have always enjoyed spending the morning riding around the outskirts of the island on a golf cart. However, head into Put-In-Bay about “happy hour” time an you will see a very different town. The small quant village becomes a thriving metropolis with more bounce than any spring break party in Daytona Beach and is not for the faint of heart.