A Social Distancing Island Vacation In The Midwest

Thanks to Miller Boat Line for inviting my family to visit Put-In-Bay for a social distancing vacation and for providing ferry service and a golf cart for us to use on the island.

A few years ago I discovered Put-In-Bay, Ohio while I was putting my trip to (nearby) Cedar Point together. It seemed like a fun place to visit so we went for an afternoon of fun before we headed home from Ohio to Illinois where we lived. My family absolutely loved the island and back in 2018 I called Put-In-Bay “one of my favorite vacations to date”. That still rings true today. Riding around on the golf cart and living on “island time” you feel like you’ve left the midwest for the day and are visiting the coast or an island somewhere in the Caribbean.

When I was invited back for a visit this summer I knew that I really wanted to visit the island again but, to be honest, I didn’t know if I was ready to go anywhere. I am at high-risk health wise so we’d been staying home since mid-March and hadn’t even gone into a grocery store so I wasn’t really sure I wanted to head to another state on vacation. But then I started thinking about all the outdoor things the island offered and how easy it would be to go on a social distancing vacation there. After figuring out a few logistics we decided to head there for a day, leaving before the sun came up and heading home in the dark of night, and I’m so glad we did.

You can read all about our first trip in 2018 here where I share my favorite things to do with kids in Put-In-Bay but in today’s post I wanted to share more about the outdoor things families can do and specifically how we were able to socially distance from others. When I was sharing about my trip earlier this week I had a number of people message me and ask about that particular topic. I think a lot of people want to get out of their homes but are still wary of being around crowds so I am really excited to share about our trip and help other families take a safe, social distancing vacation during this time!

First of all, we went to Put-In-Bay on a Tuesday to avoid the weekend crowds since I had heard Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were the slowest days on the island. I was pleasantly surprised to discover no crowds at all, even in the downtown area. I am sure Put-In-Bay is not as crowded on the weekends as it was a few years ago- with many opting out of vacations this summer- but I still felt like a day early in the week was the best choice.

Next, we thought about transportation to the island. We loved riding the Miller Boat Line ferry last time we went to the island but I was worried about social distancing on a boat. I checked out their website and was pleased to see a variety of safety guidelines in place including requiring masks on board for ages 6 and up, social distancing reminders, and limited capacity on the ferries.

Since I didn’t know how crowded the ferry would be we elected to take our van over to the island. This allowed us to remain in our vehicle on our trips to and from the island. (Note: The only way to take a vehicle on the ferry over the weekend is if you have an overnight accommodation so keep that in mind if you are wanting to bring your vehicle.) I felt most comfortable with this plan before our trip but while we were on the boat everyone was wearing masks and social distancing so if you choose not to take a vehicle I’d recommend staying on the bottom deck where you could spread out more along the edges of the deck.

Once we got to the island we found the E’s Put-In-Bay Golf Carts just north of the dock where the ferry dropped us off. We parked in the lot next to it and then rented a 6-person golf cart. I was happy that they offered a car seat for us to use with our toddler. She absolutely loved riding in the golf cart as you can see by the video above!

My favorite thing to do on the island is just ride around in the golf cart talking and exploring the island with my family. Looks like our dog-baby loved it as well!

We went to some of the places we had gone to before but here’s a list of 25 things you can do outdoors in Put-In-Bay:

  • Visit South Bass Island Park and swim in the lake! It’s a pebble beach but they have plenty of grassy areas you can sit as well.
  • Visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial and learn about the Battle of Lake Erie.
  • Grab ice cream at the Chocolate Cafe and enjoy it on their patio area outside. (For adults, there is also a beer garden there….)
  • Walk along the lake.
  • Play in DeRivera Park.
  • Ride bikes around the island.
  • Learn about the island aboard the tour train.
  • Bring a tent and go camping at one of the campgrounds.
  • Play at the playground downtown or in South Bass Island Park.
  • Ride a jet ski.
  • Play mini golf at Perry’s Fun Center.
  • Go on a ghost tour.
  • Take fido to run around the dog park.
  • Watch the sunset.
  • Have a picnic in the park with takeout from a restaurant. (The lobster bisque from the Upper Deck on the Boardwalk is delicious!)
  • Play a round of golf at Saunders Golf Course.
  • Go parasailing.
  • Adults can enjoy a wine tasting at one of the islands two wineries.
  • Go hiking on one of the trails in the nature preserves.
  • Go to the Aquatic Visitors Center and fish off the dock.
  • Mine for gemstones at Perry’s Fun Center.
  • Go kayaking.
  • Hit some balls in the batting cages at the Adventure Bay Amusement Park.
  • Eat at one of the many restaurants with an outdoor patio.
  • Take a ride on the carousel.

There’s more but this list above could keep you busy for a whole week :) Make sure to check each attraction’s website or Facebook page as you plan your schedule since some places are closed certain days or have adjusted hours right now.

Overall, I think that if you are in the Midwest and looking for a social distancing vacation spot, Put-In-Bay is a great choice. There is plenty to do outdoors for both families and couples and everyone we encountered was very thoughtful when it came to the six feet social distancing guideline. There is also a mask mandate in Ohio which is fairly new so I found that comforting as well and most people I observed wore masks when in close proximity to others.

Have any other questions about my experience or visiting the island? I’d love to answer them! Feel free to message me on social media and I’ll do my best to help :)

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