A Local’s Guide to Put-in-Bay Island

Did you know that northern Ohio has islands?

Put-in-Bay Island is a great option for your next getaway. Learn more about the best places to eat and top things to do on PIB from a local year-round resident, Katrina Reed. 

I met Katrina during my first visit to Put-in-Bay Island and we’ve stayed in contact since then.

She is the Communications Manager for the Miller Boat Line ferry. I asked her to share more about Put-in-Bay from a local’s perspective along with her favorite local spots. 

view from Perry Monument on Put in Bay Island

What’s the story behind Put-in-Bay island’s name?

The name “Put-in-Bay” is probably derived from our secure harbor, a place where a ship can “put into the bay” for refuge from temperamental Lake Erie storms.

Also, a 1700’s map created by the British, names the harbor “Pudding Bay” perhaps because it is shaped like a pudding bag, commonly used in the ship’s galley (kitchen).

scenic view from Put in Bay Island

How long have you lived on Put-in-Bay Island? 

I have lived here since 2010, so this year makes it 10 years!

view from Miller Ferry

Why did you move to Put-in-Bay? 

My husband had been coming to the island for years and loved it.

I agreed to move here before even having visited. I had never even heard of the island before I met him. 

vehicles on Miller Ferry

How do you get to Put-in-Bay Island? 

By private boat, plane, or like most… aboard Miller Ferry.

The ferry leaves from Catawba at the end of State Rt. 53 North. You can bring your vehicle or leave it on the mainland and walk on the ferry.

Miller Ferry has 5 free parking lots & the rates are affordable, making island living possible. 

golf cart on road on Put in Bay Island

What was the biggest transition to island life?

No Target, no Costco… not even a DrugMart or CVS! But it has made me realize I don’t need to go shopping regularly.

Also, there are no highways here and the island is three and a half miles long, about a mile and a half wide, so my commute anywhere is only five mins! 

put in bay island in the Winter

Everything closes in the winter except the school, grocery store, post office, gas station, hardware store, and repair shop. It is quiet, serene, and peaceful.

As for the vibe, it depends on if Lake Erie freezes.

If so, we have many people enjoying ice activities around the island. Ice fishermen, ice skating, the kids will do a game of ice hockey, iceboating.

So, the island comes alive… but in a very different way than in the summer. 

small plane Put in Bay Island

Can you leave Put-in-Bay Island in the Winter? 

Miller Ferry runs in the winter until Lake Erie freezes. If the lake freezes, we fly.

small plane Put in Bay Island

The planes are small, from 4 seats to 10 seats.

It is a short ride, like six minutes from take-off to landing and the ride over Lake Erie is so pretty. 

Is the cost of living more for basic items? Where do you grocery shop? 

The grocery store is small and a bit more expensive, gas is about $2.00 extra a gallon.

If we are on the mainland and it is convenient, we will grab groceries on our way home.

Otherwise, we shop at the Island General Store. 

view of Put in Bay Island from the Miller Ferry

How often do you go to the mainland? 

We go about every 3 weeks. In the summer, we may go more often because the ferry schedule makes it very convenient.

Miller Ferry has trips coming and going to PIB every half hour. We can have a date night off the island or run to Home Depot, a day at Cedar Point

Breakfast at the Forge Put in Bay Island

Where is your favorite place to eat breakfast?/lunch/dinner on Put-in-Bay? 

Hmmm… Breakfast is The Forge, they have great breakfast sandwiches, waffles, breakfast tacos, and coffee.

Lunch… would be Reel Bar, they have a great open-air dining area, good wraps, and salads.

Dinner would be the Upper Deck. I love their lobster bisque, lobster roll, and shrimp dishes.

Plus, they have dining areas with a Lake Erie view. It is a great place to go at sunset.

I also love the Goat because they have craft cocktails and anything you order is amazing! Their patio is a great place to “people watch” too. 

sunrise near Perry's Monument on Put in Bay island

Where is your favorite place to watch the sunrise/ sunset? 

That’s easy!

Sunrise anywhere on the harbor. It rises right behind Perry’s Monument.

Sunset is from South Bass Island State Park. Both are amazing photo ops. 

drink with a view on Put in Bay island

What are your favorite spots to grab a drink on Put-in-Bay Island?

Frosty’s is an island tradition you can’t miss.

Great vibe, drinks… you can’t go there without making a new friend. But my fave is The Red Moon… it is a little hidden bar located in the lobby of the Park Hotel.

It has a speakeasy vibe with all handcrafted cocktails and infused drinks. 

view from Perry Monument Put-in-Bay

What do you do when guests come to visit you who have never been to the island before? 

Sometimes we will go to the mainland to ride Miller Ferry over with them. My kids love the ferry ride. Then we take them on a golf cart tour of the island.

We try to stop at places that are unique to Put-in-Bay.

geode in cave on Put in Bay Island in Ohio

A trip to the observation deck of Perry’s Monument, spelunking in the Crystal Cave & Perry’s Cave, a hike & beach glass hunting at Scheeff Nature Preserve, ice cream from the Candy Bar, usually topped off by a watermelon wheat beer at Put-in-Bay Brewing Company.

Kimberly's Carousel Put in Bay

It also depends on who is visiting, but we have gone parasailing, jet-skiing, take the kids to ride Kimberly’s Carousel or gemstone mining, mini-golf is always fun. 

nature trail Put in Bay Island

What are your favorite hidden gems on Put-in-Bay island? 

Nature Preserves for sure. Put-in-Bay has a wildflower trail, two nature preserves along the lake, and a Story Walk Trail.

Sometimes we have friends ride their bike over on Miller Ferry and we will take the day exploring the Nature Preserves.

It is a perfect day of nature, wildlife, and exercise… all with a bonus ferry ride and Lake Erie views. 

bicycle on Put in Bay Island

How many residents live on Put-in-Bay Island year-round?

Estimated around 300-400

Is there a school on the island? 

Yes! Put-in-Bay School has around 90 students and there is one school for preschool through 12th grade. Class size ranges from 2 to 8 kids. The 2020 graduating class is 6 kids. 

I love Put in Bay island

The quiet, serene vibe in the fall and winter. We don’t use salt on the roads, so everything stays white and pretty all winter. 

snow on Put-in-Bay Island in Ohio

Do you get cabin fever on the island? How do you cope with it? 

Yes, I leave about every 3 weeks.

winter on Put in Bay Island

What is the local culture like with the residents on Put-in-Bay Island? 

We have a very active, tight-knit community. Residents help and support one another.

There are many community groups and activities from the Senior Center to Recreation Committee to yoga and runners club. 

Miller Ferry to Put in Bay island

What’s the best part when the tourists come to PIB?

Spring is fun because there is so much anticipation and an exciting vibe in the air. Everyone is happy to get the season started and welcome guests.

vineyard on Put in Bay Island

What’s the best part when the tourists leave PIB? 

September and October are amazing!

Everything is still open, but there are no lines, crowds, or traffic. The smell of grapes is in the air and the leaves start to change, with the Lake Erie backdrop.

kayaks at Put in Bay Island

What are your favorite outdoor adventures on Put-in-Bay island?

Riding my bike, boating, fishing, hiking, spelunking!

Kelley's glacial groves in Ohio

What are your favorite things to do on the other local islands near Put-in-Bay?

Favorite things on other islands – I LOVE the Middle Bass Island Music Festival at the Historic Lonz Park. Unfortunately is canceled for 2020, but will return on 2021.

I love just exploring the other islands.

Kelley’s glacial groves, lunch at the Pump. I love playing tourist at the neighboring islands and PIB too!

view of island from Put-in-Bay

Where do the locals go-to getaway? 

Most islanders are avid travelers. Once November comes, everyone starts to travel. Whether it is to Europe, a cruise around the world, Alaska, Hawaii.

ferry to Put in Bay Island

Are you ready to plan a visit to Put-in-Bay Island?

I know I am! Thanks again to Katrina for giving us insight from a local’s perspective. 

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A Local's Guide to Put-in-Bay Island

1 thought on “A Local’s Guide to Put-in-Bay Island”

  1. When did they rename this island? It was South Bass Island and the bay was called Put-in-Bay.

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