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Located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay is a charming and historically significant destination in Ohio.
Known for its rich history, vibrant atmosphere, and beautiful natural surroundings, this island has been attracting visitors for generations.
The history of Put-in-Bay is closely tied to the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.
It was here that Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s naval forces achieved a pivotal victory against the British in 1813.
To honor this historic event, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a towering 352-foot column, was erected.
Visitors can explore the memorial, which also serves as a symbol of peace and international cooperation.
What makes Put-in-Bay particularly appealing is its diverse range of attractions and activities.
The island offers opportunities for water sports, from kayaking to jet skiing, with Lake Erie as your playground.
Nature enthusiasts can explore the island’s natural beauty, with South Bass Island State Park offering hiking trails and stunning views.
Perry’s Cave, an underground wonder, lets you delve into geological history.
But it’s not just about history and nature; Put-in-Bay also boasts a lively nightlife scene.
Its bars and restaurants, like The Boardwalk and Mr. Ed’s Bar and Grille, feature live music, making it a popular destination for those looking to unwind after a day of exploration.
This island is particularly a popular place for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Put-in-Bay is known for its scenic golf cart tours, a fun and convenient way to explore the island.
You can visit the South Bass Island Lighthouse, Butterfly House, and other picturesque spots.
This island, with its mix of history, nature, nightlife, and unique attractions, continues to be a beloved destination, offering something for everyone who visits.
It also has a storied history of brawls and unruly crowds, so it’s important to know about all the fun as well as the safety steps to enjoy your time on the island.
Warnings & Dangers in Put-in-Bay
OVERALL RISK: LOW
The risk is low, but there are some summer weekends that get rowdy and, at times, dangerous. We'll discuss all the ways to keep the risk low. Just know summer weekends, that risk goes up to medium.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need to take a ferry to get to the island unless you have your own boat. Once you're on the island, golf cart rentals and taxis are the way to get around.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
Specific theft data isn't available from the local police, but given that this is a top summer tourist destination, you should treat it as a medium risk. Use extra caution at night when you're at a restaurant or bar when crowds will be thick.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is another medium risk based on the severe weather potential throughout the year. However, the risk is only present when disruptive or severe weather is on the way. If you stay informed about weather risks and lake advisories, you can keep the risk low. Avoid planning a day outdoors if storms are in the forecast.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, but again, I don't have crime data to back that up. The summary comes from a review of news stories from the past few years. It's especially important to avoid any large crowds that are getting rowdy. That's when the risk is highest.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk on a small island with no hard targets nearby. It's also wise to keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious. No place in America is safe from gun crime.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
If you only book rentals and ferry rides from approved vendors, you'll face a low risk. It's smart to be vigilant with anything that seems suspicious, pressured, or anonymous when booking a room or rental.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
For women traveling for summer parties, stay in groups and don't leave a friend behind. The crowds can get rowdy, and it's not a safe place to be alone, especially after dark.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The last few years of water quality reports show full compliance and no violations. You should always check with your hotel or rental company about any water issues, but it's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Put-in-Bay
There is a travel website for Put-in-Bay, but I must warn you, do not use putinbay-dot-com.
It ranks highly in many Google searches, but my antivirus caught several Trojans from being downloaded to my computer.
The only website you should use for the official tourism information is VisitPutinbay.org.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a towering 352-foot column on South Bass Island, commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Its observation deck offers stunning panoramic views of Lake Erie and the surrounding islands, a testament to the enduring spirit of peace.
Set sail on Lake Erie with one of the local charter companies.
You can enjoy a relaxing day on the water or even try your hand at sailing.
Embark on a thrilling adventure with one of the watercraft rental companies.
You can go parasailing, rent jet skis, or take a leisurely boat tour around the island’s shoreline.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Chocolate Museum and Café.
Learn about chocolate-making and enjoy delectable treats, including fudge and truffles.
Yes, you get free samples among more than 100 options.
Challenge your friends or family to a game of mini golf at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center’s exciting course.
A gem mining experience is also part of the center.
This is a great kid-friendly location.
Adventure Bay is another entertainment area for the family, with batting cages, go-karts, and more.
Another great activity with kids is riding Kimberly’s Carousel from 1917.
It’s one of the last of its kind across the country.
The carousel is in the center of a shopping district.
Perry’s Cave is located 52 feet beneath the surface of Lake Erie; this cave’s history dates back to its discovery in 1813.
It spans an impressive 165 feet in width and 208 feet in length.
What makes it even more fascinating is the presence of a rare underground lake inside the cave, its water level mirroring the ebbs and flows of Lake Erie.
Dive deeper into the island’s history at the Lake Erie Historical Society Museum, which features artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of Put-in-Bay.
Get up close with the island’s wildlife at the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, where you can see various species of animals and learn about conservation efforts.
For more history, put the Benson Ford Shiphouse and Bass Island Lighthouse on your list of things to do.
Both have tours throughout the year, but the shiphouse has more limited access.
If you purchase a tour on the Put-in-Bay train, you’ll get access to many of these locations listed without having to drive or walk.
Places to Avoid in Put-in-Bay
This is a small island, so you don’t need to worry about dangerous neighborhoods.
The city has a couple of different personalities throughout the year.
From April through October, it’s open with regular ferry service.
Avoid weekends if you don’t want to be in the party atmosphere.
It can get rowdy.
Weekdays are much better for family vacations or work retreats.
From November through March, the island ferry service stops, and only one or two businesses island-wide are open.
It’s mostly used for ice fishing on frozen Lake Erie.
To get to the island, you’ll need to take a charter flight.
There are plenty of other ice fishing options on shore that don’t require the effort to get to a rather isolated island.
If you think April is the “slowest” time of the new season to go, think again.
Walleye anglers head to the island for the hatch.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Put-in-Bay
- Put-In-Bay does have its own police department. They can be reached by calling (419)285-4121. You can also follow them on Facebook @pibpolice.
- You can also follow the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office since they are the next step of law enforcement in the region. Sign up for WENS Alerts on the Sheriff’s website to get information about severe weather, road closures, or lake issues.
- You can ferry a car to Put-In-Bay, but it’s not recommended. First, it will cost a lot of money to get the car to the island. Second, it will take several hours to load and unload the car. Finally, once you drive around, you’ll realize there’s hardly any parking available anyway.
- Anglers throughout the year need a license from the Ohio Department of Fish & Game. Please read through the rules, restrictions, and non-resident requirements before you make the purchase.
- If you’re visiting on a weekend during the high season, you’ll have a hard time finding a hotel or rental for just one night. Keep that in mind when booking a weekend trip. Most places require a 2-3 night stay.
- Golf carts are the preferred way to get around the island, but all drivers must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Those who are 16 and 17 with a license can drive a golf cart, but a parent or guardian must sign off on it.
- You cannot operate a golf cart if you’ve been drinking. The same drunk driving laws apply to golf carts as cars. There is a taxi service on the island if you need to get back to your hotel after drinking.
- It’s important you don’t miss the last ferry back to the mainland if you don’t have a rental on the island. In summer, hotels and rentals are sold out, and if you miss the ferry, you’ll be stuck until the next morning.
- If you are at a bar or restaurant and trouble is brewing, please leave. Some of the events over the past few years have gotten out of control with fights and large brawls. Never try to stop a fight. Just go home.
- The ferry, island, and many hotels are dog-friendly. There’s even a dog park on the island. You are required to keep your dog on a leash and clean up immediately if they relieve themselves.
So... How Safe Is Put-in-Bay Really?
Put-in-Bay is safe most of the time.
However, when it’s not safe, it can be VERY risky.
Each person reading this article will have a different tolerance for the antics of Put-in-Bay on summer weekends.
At the same time, the small Put-in-Bay police department realizes there are times they can’t handle the large crowds alone and plans to be more diligent about calling backup as needed.
New rules and restrictions are being considered or put into place to help stop trouble before it starts.
However, none of that is going to take away from the party atmosphere of Put-in-Bay.
It’s designed to be a place to go for fun, much like Key West or Daytona Beach at Spring Break.
If you want to have the safest, quietest, and least risky experience, visit during the summer during the week and avoid the weekends.
For those who want a more relaxed, family-friendly island experience, consider a trip to Kelly’s Island.
How Does Put-in-Bay Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
Even though this island is close to the Canadian border, you'll still need all the paperwork and proof of visa and passport for the United States. You'll show your documents at the airport and can travel to Put-In-Bay without additional processing.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. Try to purchase as much as possible with a credit card since it offers the best fraud protection. Do not wait until you get to the island to get cash. Cleveland's airport does have a currency exchange option.
You'll get four seasons here but pretty brutal winters if you don't like snow and cold. Plan for outdoor adventures, and that means the 5-7 day forecast will be especially important as you pack. Bring sunscreen and bug spray when it's warm outside, and you'll need comfortable walking shoes.
You'll be about two hours from Cleveland and Toledo, but Cleveland Hopkins International is a much larger airport. It should be your first choice.
Comprehensive travel insurance is the best option to cover any delay, cancellation, accident, or illness along the way. If your health insurance doesn't extend to the United States, please consider a supplemental plan. There is no free healthcare in America.
Put-in-Bay Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Ohio - Safety by City