We try to visit here once a year. Rent a gulf cart and take drive. Best way to get around. Lots to see and do.
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Not to many people know about South Bass island in Lake Erie. Unless you have a boat and can navigate tricky waters I would suggest Miller's Ferry. There is a danger zone from the nuclear power plant to the west that stretches to a national guard camp. All along the way are reefs and you must have a good GPS and map to avoid them. The biggest danger though is inexperienced boaters. Miller's Ferry will take you across for a very reasonable fee along with your vehicle. Don't bring a car if you don't have a hotel or cabin to park it at. Parking is extremely limited and pretty much useless on such a small island laden with golf cart and bicycle rentals. The only drawback to Miller's Ferry is that you don't arrive in downtown, but for 5 dollars or so a person you can take a bus taxi. The Jet Express is overpriced and always overcrowded even though it gets you into downtown. Timing is everything on the island. If this is a family vacation then go in the morning first chance possible. Even by noon you will see drunk 20 somethings stumbling around. The island is filled with many bars (good ones at that), but there is also a family side like the crystal cavern, go karts, and a nice bike ride around the island. If you are going with friends I would suggest a cabin rental or Commodore Perry. The hotel rooms on the island are small and not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but you will be spending most of your time outside of it anyways. Don't just stay in the downtown area though check out the island!
Parked the Car in lot in Catawba, purchased round trip tickets for the Miller Ferry. (Showing our shore discount card that we got at the visitors center we received $1 off each of the four tickets we purchased) The ride over was great! We arrived on the island around 1pm( about a 18 minute ride), all 4 person golf carts were sold out at both cart places near the ferry dock. We ended up paying extra for the last available 6 person one, so reserve before you arrive. "E's" was the cheapest, but we ended up with one from "Island Bike and Cart Rental" since "E" was completely sold out. Its quite a walk to the next nearest Cart rental place, which is at the airport. You do have the option to ride a taxi or a bus downtown for a couple bucks to other rental places. Driving the golf cart around the island was the best part of our day. Some good clean fun, tooting horn at passing golf carts, High fiving passing carts, our 17 year old loved joking with people that we passed, telling them their shoes were untied, complimenting people on their attire, hats, shoes, etc...harmless good fun, and the peolpe were having just as much fun with him. The fellow vacationers had so much fun with us, laughing and joking. Don't take your car, rent the golf cart, you won't be sorry, people are there to have fun and let loose, everyone was having a good time and were really friendly. We did notice that the car would have been dificult to get around in and park, very limited parking for cars, it is all golf cart parking. We visited Perry's monument first thing, excellent view, and the rangers gave us a brief recap of Perry's battle... very interesting. We then went to Perry's Cave, very steep, some steps only wide enough for your shoe sideways, not for anyone with walking disability. Cave very small, a little disapointing if comparing to the Caves/caverns in West Virginia, however our two teenagers only remember those caves from photographs so it was still interesting for them. A small antique car museum right next to cave was nice. We then grabbed some lunch at the boardwalk, ate on the top deck, had Taco's and Nacho's, Salsa was a refreshing change from what we usually get. Nice View of Lake. We then drove to some of the museums that we wanted to see but they all close at 5pm. so if you want to visit them, get an start early. We went to Adventure Bay Fun Center, it was not a very happening place at this time, we were the only 4 people riding the go carts, and only about 10 people in the gameroom. We went shopping in town then just drove around in the golf cart - still having a great time. Our 2 boys ( both teenagers) want to go back, just for the fun that we had on the golfcart. We noticed several bridal shower parties, and bachelor parties. Lots of bars, but we were there early, It seems like it could be a rowdy place at night. We boarded the ferry to go back to Catawba at 7:30. Couple places to play putt putt, next time we go it will be easier since we kind of got the jist of where things are at. The entire place was very picturesque. Lots of Mayflies there, but they were harmless.
Overall it's a nice island, but is definitely a party joint on Friday and Saturday evenings. The downtown scene is probably not a good place to take the kids on these dates, but the rest of the time it's fine.
As a day trip, a trip to South Bass Island is a fairly expensive proposition for a family. There is the cost of the ferry and then the cost of transportation once you are on the island.
We took the Miller Ferry which puts you on the island away from the downtown area. I will certainly check into the Jet Express next time which I hear is a little more expensive but does let you off closer to the downtown area.
There were buses available at the dock, but we were not quite sure how much we could see from them so we chose to rent golf carts. It was $70 for a 6 person cart for all day. Even though this was more expensive, it was a better option because we had several people who couldn't walk far.
There were many great restaurant options on the island and everyone raved about their food at the Boathouse grill.
It was quite cold and windy on the day of our visit so we didn't get to take advantage of everything that the island had to offer. There is shopping, caves, historical sites and just enough of those touristy things your children are dying to do!
I would live to return on a warm summers day and take advantage of all this island has to offer.