I had never visited Kelleys Island before. I found it difficult to assess exactly what to expect from the island when I was preparing for the trip. There seemed to be discrepancy in opinions, as there was this general assumption that "locals" like the island (more than Put-in Bay) while the reviewers on tripadvisor - probably by 1st time visitors and not locals - had scattered reviews.
I got two conclusions from my trip:
1) one must treat visiting Kelleys Island like visiting a beachtown like Outer Banks. It's not really an attraction to have a day trip to see the glacier groove. Locals love the island because they go here to just relax: to boat, hike, bike, and drink in peace. And it's hard to assess this from looking at other tripadvisor reviews because locals don't use tripadvisor to go to the island. The assets of Kelleys Island are : A) there are no traffic lights on the island because very few cars use the road. B) unlike big beach towns where cars dominate the road and the shores are difficult to see due to large sands, big buildings, and big roads, shores are literally right next to the roads in Kelleys Island, without even fences. It's one of the few places where you can bike along the shores for miles in the sun and breeze without worrying about other people or cars. Just you, bike, and water.
2) a first-time visitor should do decent amount of research before visiting to really take advantage of the island without getting lost; otherwise, it might seem like a small island with nothing but water, trees, and a glacier groove.
Here are some of the resources that I have found incredibly helpful.
1) map of the island with almost all of the important landmarks:
2) schedule of the ferry:
3) Kelleys Island home page has really useful information. It even shows you thorough list of places for bike and golf cart rentals to compare
4) State park
5) Kayak information
-DAY 1 Saturday-
1) 1:30PM - Got on the ferry from Marblehead. $18/person to get on the ferry, $10 to park the car (indefinitely), and $30 to take the car on the ferry. I didn't bring my car. I had good experience with interacting with other travelers. They all seemed down for good times. As soon as the ferry took off from the main land, I spotted handful of people opening their canned beers. It's that kind of a trip.
2) 2PM -Got a ride from Mark from Eagles Nest B&B to the B&B from the dock and again to the bike rental. Now, the website lists Caddy Shack and Portside Marina as the only two options to rent bikes. The problem was that their bikes didn't have gears or hand breaks; only the reverse pedals break, which are just annoying to operate in my opinion. However, I found a place immediately left to Portside Marina that had bikes with hand breaks and gears. Their price was same as Portside Marina: $20 for all day and $25 for overnight. I rented two for overnight.
3) 3-6PM I biked to the state park. It was an easy ride, no hills and probably took 10 minutes. Even my girlfriend wasn't tired. I wanted to kayak, but they were not there during the off-season. I chilled at the sandy beach for a bit. There is a pier to the left of the sandy beach, and I thought it offered a breath-taking view. I also checked out glacier groove, which I thought was a-okay; it literally took 5 minutes to walk around. I also tried the north shore hiking trail which was nearby; literally no one used this trail, and I wouldn't recommend it. The best part about the trip was biking slowly, looking at the sky and the shore, and taking a deep breath and enjoying the moment. Just being that close to the shore away from city life and cars and people was unreal.
4) 6-7:30PM: ate at Village Pump. From looking at the reviews, I knew I shouldn't expect sophisticated dining. I was pleasantly surprised however by decent quality and great price of food. My perch tacos were $8.99 and were pretty good. I wanted the taste of the local fish and I got just that. Bacardy Alexander tasted like kahlua, which isn't really my thing. But I have to admit that Village Pump don't play tricks by saving alcohol; the drink had strong punch.
5) 8PM: watched sunset. A great thing about a small island with great views of the shore in a big lake: you get firstrow seats on sunset and sunrise. There is big pier near the Kelleys Island Venture Resort, and the view from there was breath-taking.
6) 9-9:30PM: Drank at B&B and talked.
7) 10PM: got the pit fire going near the shore, just relaxed and talked.
-DAY 2 Sunday-
1) 6:30AM: Woke up early to bike to the eastern shore to see the sunrise. It was refreshing experience, but unfortunately there were too many clouds! Even if I knew this ahead of time, I would do it again though. It was a great memory. Came back to B&B and went back to sleep.
2) 9AM: Had homey breakfast at the B&B. Care-free conversations with other guests.
3) 11AM: Checked out but left our belonging at the B&B counter to be watched. Weather was great, so we biked more along the shore and got some breath-taking pictures. Found some swimming-pool chairs near the shore, so sat down and stared at the sky and enjoyed the breeze for a while.
4) 1PM: gift shopping. There is one gift store across from the Kelleys Island Market that had the most extensive array of souvenirs. There were some cool decals and shirts that I liked. Time went by faster than expected shopping.
5) 1:30PM: ate lunch at Bag the Moon. Similar food as Village Pump. They had good happy hour options like $1 canned beer and 30 cents wings. The fryer shut off early at 2PM though (on a Sunday).
6) 3PM: got the ride from Mark, who also brought our bag from B&B, to take the ferry out the island.
It was an really awesome trip, and I look forward to trying other things like camping, boating, and fishing on the island.
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