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Island Time, Heartland Style

Discover why Kelleys Island, Ohio, is one of the most popular of the Lake Erie Islands.

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Kelleys Island Ferry arrival
The Kelleys Island Ferry arrives.


We ended the afternoon at The Village Pump, an eatery in the heart of downtown across from Portside. We enjoyed an early dinner of fried clams, perch and a pitcher of their famous Brandy Alexanders, followed by a requisite nap aboard the Sundeck while our son fished off the transom in the marina. Three rounds of miniature golf under the lights and a moonlit cart cruise to the state park and back served as the night’s entertainment.                                                                      

On the Water
To get an active start to our Sunday morning, we walked east along Lakeshore Drive to Inscription Rock Park to see petroglyphs, believed to have been inscribed by members of the Erie Nation more than four centuries ago. After checking out of the condo and packing the boat, we assembled an impromptu picnic lunch at the Island Market and hopped aboard the Sea Ray for a round-island tour, using the boat’s portable cooler to keep everything chilled.

We arrived at the beautiful bay off Kelleys Island State Park campground around lunchtime, where we anchored in the sandy shallows and swam, fished, relaxed and did some beachcombing. We snorkeled in the clear waters off Camp Patmos children’s summer camp on the east shore, following smallmouth bass and sheepshead through the weed beds and chasing them across the rocky bottom, and took turns towing each other in an inflatable raft we had brought along.  

Enjoying our Sunday afternoon afloat, we delayed our return to the mainland until I spied a storm cell looming over the horizon to the west. With little geography to break winds sweeping east across the Great Plains, and shallow waters for the breeze to kick up, Lake Erie is famous for producing fearsome boating conditions with short notice. The threat of foul weather prompted us to make a beeline for the mainland, where we arrived at the dock just before a squall blew through to provide a fitting end to a summer weekend enjoying a classic Lake Erie Island.

Visiting Kelleys Island
Anyone with plans to follow in our wake to Kelleys Island — by private boat or island ferry — should start the looking and booking process as early as possible, especially if they plan to visit on prime summer weekends such as Fourth of July, Island Fest (July 19-21), Homecoming (August 17-18), Tall Ships Visit (August 29) or Labor Day.

Call 419-746-2360 or visit for the island’s summer schedule of events and a list of marinas and accommodations, including The Quarry condominiums and a score of bed and breakfasts in beautiful, often historic, homes that line the waterfront.

The Kelleys Island Ferry, out of Marblehead, Ohio, due south of the island, takes vehicles towing trailered boats and is a good alternative for those who don’t want to cross Southwest Passage aboard their own vessel. 419-798-9763;

Portside Marina is one of several marinas offering transient dockage to visitors arriving by private boat. 419-746-2668;  

An excellent trip-planning source for the entire area is the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center. 800-255-3743;

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