If you’ve been following along on Instagram for a while, you may already know how much I love Lake Erie & all the coastal towns we have along the shores of our Great Lake. We frequent Sandusky & Cedar Point the most but a few weeks ago had the opportunity to explore even more of what the Lake Erie Shores & Islands has to offer visitors near & far.
If you’re looking to get away for a couple of nights this fall or winter (or keep in mind for the spring or summer!), I’m going to share some of what we did that could help make for a great road trip for you & your family.
To get things started, we stayed at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky for two nights. Kalahari is the Midwest’s largest indoor waterpark. You can experience the time of your life with everything under one roof. Enjoy the 84 degree temperatures year round. This worked out exceptionally well for us as when we went. The weather had just started to get cold & was rainy most of the time. You forget all about what’s going on outdoors when you’re at Kalahari.
The waterpark portion of Kalahari is simply outstanding. There are tons of stuff to do for a variety of ages ranging from tot pools for the little ones to extravagant water slides for the big kids. The wave pool is also super fun for everyone! Be sure to pack a pair of sandals to easily walk back to your room from the waterpark.
That day we had lunch right inside the resort at B-Lux Grill & Bar that is a great burger & shake joint which is incredibly convenient to have without leaving the property.
Later on that day, we decided to sneak in a kayaking trip since the next few days were calling for rain. We went to Portage River Paddling Company in Port Clinton. Located on Portage River, Portage River Paddle offers watercraft rentals such as single & double kayaks, canoes, & stand-up paddle boards. They closed at the end of October for the season but keep them in mind next year when they reopen in May! They also have gem mining in season which is always fun for the kiddos.
Worth noting that their kayaks are the sit on top type just so you are fully aware in advance. It was pretty windy out when we went so we didn’t last very long but had loads of fun nonetheless – I’d recommend packing a pair of water shoes or sandals to take along with you & bring a pair of extra shoes *just in case* you get wet from your water adventure!
We headed back to Kalahari after kayaking & had dinner on-site at Sortino’s Italian Kitchen. I was super surprised to learn that Sortino’s is actual a local favorite that relocated inside of Kalahari at the end of 2020. Though a bit on the pricey side, we thought it was worth it – the food & convenience was exceptional!
The next morning we headed back to Port Clinton. We visited one of my favorite lighthouses on the North Coast – Port Clinton Lighthouse (who am I kidding though – they are ALL my favorite!) The lighthouse is located in Waterworks Park which is also home to one of Shores & Islands’ Lake Erie Love signs (pictured above.) This restored lighthouse was built in 1896. A replica Lightkeeper’s Boathouse located near the lighthouse features historical displays & artifacts, keeper’s rowboat, & gift shop. The grounds are open year round; however, the Boathouse is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There’s still enough to see & do here without that extra experience. In fact, we’ve visited the lighthouse in the winter & were so excited to see it decorated for the holidays. I’d recommend visiting the lighthouse ANY time of year!
Before heading to our next destination, we made sure to take a pic at the Greetings from Port Clinton mural which is located in the parking lot beside Clinton House.
Our next stop was the Liberty Aviation Museum. Living in the Cleveland area for so long, we somehow have never visited. Liberty Aviation Museum showcases operational, historical aircraft, & vehicles. The museum is open year-round. My son loved the Titanic display & the Blazing Angels video game they had inside. It was very neat seeing all the historical vehicles they are home to.
After we finished up with the museum, we went to explore Lakeside. This wasn’t on our itinerary that was so graciously created for us by Shores & Islands but while we were in the area, we figured why not?! Lakeside Chautauqua is a historic gated community with admission fees in season (Memorial Day – Labor Day) but from September to May, it is free to explore! This areas is very unique as there are shops & restaurants within the community. Of course, many were closed down off season or had limited hours so we missed out on getting some yummy donuts or going shopping but we drove around & spent some time at Bettinger Park right by the lake. There’s a pier, beach, shuffleboard courts, & even mini golf when in season. We definitely have plans to come back & visit when it’s a bit more lively there but we had a lot of fun checking out all the sights to see. More info on Lakeside Chautauqua can be found here.
Afterwards, we had to head to Marblehead Lighthouse since it was so closeby. Marblehead will always have special meaning to us as that is where we took wedding photos after we got married many years ago. We love bringing our son here any time of year. During the season (typically Memorial Day to Labor Day), the lighthouse is open to climb up to the top. For one reason or another, we are just never there when it is open. We’re hoping to check that off our list next year! Regardless though, Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is just a beautiful location. My son’s favorite part is looking at Cedar Point from a distance with the free tower viewer that is there.
After that we headed to African Safari Wildlife Park. It had been quite a few years since our last visit so we were excited to have my son experience it now that he’s a bit older. Admission comes with a cup of food for the animals. Pro-tip: try not to give the animals everything right at the beginning so you don’t run out later. We were saving most of our food for the giraffes but unfortunately due to the weather, they were not out that day. Something to keep in mind if you go in the fall or winter. The people there said when it’s under 60 they do not come out. The zebras were also not viewable that day either so I would suggest calling ahead to make sure the animals you want to see will be accessible when you decide to go. It’s definitely an interesting experience but could be overwhelming to some when you have a bison coming up to your car!
We were then en route to our final destination on this trip but before we went there, we stopped by downtown Sandusky. If you haven’t visited Jackson Street Pier yet, this is your reminder to go! It is absolutely a gorgeous addition to the lakefront with swings to take in the beautiful scenery (which of course is Cedar Point for us!)
Our last excursion on our mini getaway to Shores & Island was to Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. This ended up being our absolute favorite thing we did all weekend. Indoors & TONS of fun! We spent over two hours here & I honestly can’t even remember the last time we stood anywhere that long besides Cedar Point. Admission comes in either packages or you can do an ala carte purchase depending on what you would like to do.
We did everything but the escape room (somehow missed that one!) They have the Ghostly Manor Haunted House (not suitable for young children in my opinion – we loved it though!), Laser Maze, VR Gaming (SO FUN!), Roller Skating – they even give out scooters if you don’t want to roller skate or blade, glow in the dark mini golf (loved!), XD 4D Theater (so fun!), & an area that has bounce houses as well as a play area. There is something literally for anyone in your family to enjoy. They also have an arcade which is VERY reasonably priced – my son left with so many goodies from his video game winnings. Ghostly Manor would be an excellent choice to visit if you are planning on visiting Shores & Islands in the fall or winter.
We had such a great time exploring more of the Shores & Islands region & are counting down the days until we go back. Many thanks to Lake Erie Shores & Islands for having us. For even more information on all that the area has to offer, visit: https://www.shoresandislands.com/