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.
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.
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.
The 600-acre newly modernized Kelleys Island State Park has a sandy swimming beach, a stone pier for fishing, a free double boat ramp, and boat trailer parking. There is a campground with 129 sites, with group and pet sites, too, available on a first-come basis. Trails thread their way through a variety of areas. The North Shore Trail begins at the northwest corner of the fisherman’s parking lot. There are three entrances to the East Quarry Trail, two on Ward Street and one on Monagan Road. Call 419-746-2546 for further information regarding the state park and its facilities. The Boardwalk and Scheele Preserve are also great natural and green space locations.
The downtown area remains the heart of island activity where visitors can do everything from shop in unique shops to play miniature golf or just sit and watch passers-by. There are no banks on the island, but there are ATM machines at The Village Pump and at the Seaway Marina. Restaurants provide both inside and outdoor dining experiences, a complete range of cuisine, and a variety of entertainment on most weekends. Small grocery stores stock just about everything anyone would need. Most visitors enjoy topping off their stay with a hand-dipped ice cream cone or some fresh island fudge. Another must-see island specialty is the Sweet Valley Trading Post, which is on Division Street directly north of downtown near the State Park camp grounds.. Kelleys Island offers a variety of lodging choices for overnight, weekend or more extended periods including Condos, Hotel/Motels, B&B’s, Cottages, Efficiencies and Homes. Look in the Kelleys Island Visitor’s Directory for listings to make reservations. Keep in mind when planning your vacation travel that some of our B & B’s and Cottages are open year round.
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 or visit www.griffingflyingservice.com.