Kelleys Island is in the western basin of Lake Erie approximately twelve miles from Sandusky, Ohio, and four miles due north of the Marblehead Peninsula. Although it is only a short drive from many large metropolitan areas, this largest American island in Lake Erie is almost within sight of the Canadian border. Its year-round population of 367 swells up to 5,000 from June to August. With a landmass of twenty-eight hundred acres and an eighteen-mile shoreline, the island has a lot to offer. There are a variety of seasonal activities and events, places to explore, and a rich cultural and natural history to discover — something for everyone!
The Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce website provides information regarding lodging, dining, shopping and things to do including a complete list of schedule events, throughout the season, that will make your stay on Kelleys most enjoyable! View or download the Kelleys Island Map, which will give you a complete list of each Chamber business member and their location on the island.
Kelleys Island is on the Lake Erie Coastal Trail and on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. By golf cart, bicycle or on foot, visitors explore the island’s historical neighborhoods and restored houses, as well as its scenic treasurers and natural wonders!
Its location in Lake Erie makes Kelleys Island a perfect spot for water activities. Fishermen refer to Kelleys Island as the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Bait shops sell supplies and licenses and are happy to provide the most current news of what is biting and where. Dock rental is available in several locations. Other water activities include sailing and power boating, canoeing and kayaking, and snorkeling and scuba-diving on near by shipwrecks. One of the island’s biggest assets is its flora and fauna. Unusual land species include the Lakeside Daisy, rock elm and bog violet. Lake Erie water snakes frequent the island’s shoreline. Bird life is evident at all seasons, with abundant numbers of migrating songbirds, raptors and waterfowl in both spring and fall. Occasional sightings of rarer bird species, such as Kirtland’s Warbler and Chuck-will’s Widow, occur annually. Nesting species to watch for are the Bald Eagle, American Woodcock, and Yellow Warbler. In late spring and early summer months white-tailed deer with their fawns graze along island roads.
Sooner or later everyone arrives at the Glacial Grooves Memorial to see the world’s largest and most spectacular examples of glacial grooves. Viewing these grooves scoured into the native limestone bedrock by the advancement of the Wisconsin glacier 30,000 years ago is a sight to remember! On the south shore is another interesting stop, Inscription Rock State Memorial. This flat-topped limestone boulder has faint pictographs of persons, birds and animals. Historians believe that Indians carved the images between three and four hundred years ago.
Monarch Butterfly Tagging
Late summer is the time to watch for butterflies and dragonflies, especially monarchs feasting on milkweed before continuing their southbound journeys. Every year during our Butterfly Festival sponsored by the Kelleys Island Historical Association we tag monarch butterflies as they stop over to rest on their journey south.
Nature Preserves, State Park & Campground
The 677-acre Kelleys Island State Park offers a sandy swimming beach, large stone pier, great for fishing or admiring the view, a free double boat launch ramp and plenty of boat trailer parking. There are 129 campground sites, with group and pet sites, too, available on a first-come basis. The North Shore Trail, which includes the North Shore Alvar State Preserve, begins at the northwest corner of the boat trailer parking lot. The North Pond State Nature Preserve offers a boardwalk around the pond and a trail to the beach. The East Quarry Trails offer the best fossil hunting grounds and good fishing at Horseshoe Lake. The Scheele Preserve boasts one of the best spots for birding and the long winding trail ends at a beautiful beach.
The downtown area remains the heart of island activity where visitors can do everything from browse unique shops to play a game of miniature golf or just relax in Memorial Park and enjoy the sights and sounds of island life. Many restaurants provide both inside and outdoor dining experiences, a complete range of cuisine and a variety of entertainment weekends throughout the season. Enjoy a local craft beer at the Kelleys Island Brewery and sample island wine at the Kelleys Island Wine Company. Most visitors enjoy topping off their stay with an ice cream cone, some fresh island fudge, or a sweet treat from the coffee shop. A small grocery store stocks just about everything anyone would need. Although there are no banks on the island, many businesses offer ATMs as well as the Huntington Bank ATM located near the Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line. Many visitors enjoy the experience of touring the island by a rental bicycle or golf cart. Island Ride Limo/Taxi is another option available for hire. Kelleys Island offers a variety of lodging choices for overnight, weekend or more extended periods including B&Bs, condos, cottages & private homes, motels & resorts and rooms & suites. Keep in mind when planning your vacation travel that some of our lodging accommodations are open year round. Also make sure you check out our Last-Minute Lodging Forum for openings.
Finally, most visitors access the island by ferry. However, others arrive by boats or airplanes. Boaters will find moderately priced full service dockage available by the hour, day, or overnight. Griffing Flying Service offers year-round flights to and from Port Clinton, Ohio 419-734-5400. Check our How to Get Here page for links to the ferry and flying services.