While visiting Camp Perry, Ohio for the annual Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) national matches, don’t miss the opportunity for your family or even yourself to discover the many offerings along the shores of Lake Erie. There are countless dining, artistic, outdoor, historical, and other activities available in the area, so be sure to plan ahead! Here, we’ve marked the top 5 areas you need to explore outside of Camp Perry this summer.
- Lake Erie Islands:
The western basin of Lake Erie, where Camp Perry is located, is home to several unique islands, open to visitors year-round. Just a short ferry ride away, guests can rent golf carts, bikes, or take their own transportation to explore the many happenings the islands have to offer.
Such islands include South Bass, home to Put-In-Bay. The city is full of history and entertainment suitable for the whole family, such as Victorian-era buildings, parks, restaurants, a candy store, a butterfly garden, miniature golf and much more. The island is also home to the Heineman Winery, a Put-In-Bay staple since 1888. While at the winery, explore Crystal Cave, one of the world’s largest geodes, and Perry’s Cave, a limestone cavern discovered in 1813. Families can also climb inside the Perry International Peace and Victory Monument, one of the tallest monuments in the United States at 352 feet. The site commemorates the lasting peace between Great Britain, Canada, and the US after the victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and the US Navy during the War of 1812. At night, the island comes alive with a row of historic taverns (including the world’s largest bar) and features live bands, a sand-floored bar and other exciting venues. See more about Put-In-Bay at https://putinbay.com/.
Larger in land mass and visible from South Bass is Kelleys Island, another fun and fascinating destination on Lake Erie. The island offers beautiful historic homes, bed & breakfasts, and a camping state park that includes its own scenic sandy beach where families can sunbathe, swim, or even rent kayaks. Just across the street from the beach are the Glacial Grooves, a 400-foot-long natural phenomenon created when a massive glacier moved through the area millions of years ago, forming the Great Lakes. Visitors can walk alongside the ruts, making it one of the most accessible geological destinations in the world. The island offers a number of restaurants (with world famous fried perch and walleye), a general store and other shopping opportunities, as well as a variety of island wineries. Adults: don’t forget your Brandy Alexanders! Learn more about Kelleys Island at https://kelleysisland.com/.
- Marble head by the lake:
Marblehead is a small town about 18 miles east of Camp Perry. The downtown area offers a strip of quaint shops and restaurants along with an eclectic array of artists’ galleries and events. Here, take the Kelleys Island Ferry or drive slowly along the peninsula’s scenic coastline to reach the Marblehead Lighthouse, a state park with the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes (since 1822). The site is known for being one of Lake Erie’s most photographed landmarks and is home to a captivating nautical museum on the grounds. Fish off the rocks, have a picnic, or take in the views of the world famous amusement park, Cedar Point, located across the bay. Don’t forget to pick up your goodies at Mutach’s Market, a full-service grocery store that has served the area since 1907. For more outdoor activities, Marblehead has East Harbor State Park, with a public beach, marshy pond , campsites and impressive viewpoints. For American history enthusiasts, the peninsula allows access to Johnson’s Island, Ohio’s most important Civil War site. Drive across the causeway to tour the Johnson’s Island Museum with various pictures, stories, artifacts, and letters covering the history of the site, which served as a prisoner-of-war depot for Confederate soldiers.
Near Marblehead on the peninsula is Lakeside Chautaqua, a historic gated community offering cultural arts and recreational activities such as fishing off the pier, swimming, boating and more. Play shuffleboard in the park or try the mini putt-putt course. Purchase a partial day, daily or weekly pass to explore more of Lakeside. See all it has to offer at https://lakesideohio.com/.
- Port Clinton:
Port Clinton is the city where Camp Perry is located. Located along the shore of Lake Erie, Port Clinton features a number of activities for individuals and families, including public beaches, downtown restaurants, festivals, and outdoor live music during the summer months. Take the Jet Express catamaran fast ferry to Put-In-Bay, visit the Old Port Clinton Lighthouse, reserve your spot on one of the many charter fishing boats, or grab a basket of fried Lake Erie perch and a bag of popcorn gourmet corn. Visitors can also visit the Liberty Aviation Museum, which displays several authentic World War II aircraft and a flyable Ford Tri-engine “Tin Goose” plane (one of the few remaining airworthy).
Keep an eye out for Wylie the Walleye, the town’s mascot, who can be found around town to remind visitors that Port Clinton is, in fact, the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Learn more about Port Clinton at https://www.portclinton.com/ or through the Chamber of Commerce website at https://www.portclintonchamber.com/.
- Catawba Island:
No more than a 10-minute drive from downtown Port Clinton is Catawba Island, offering several options for those looking for a delicious night out. The Gideon Owen Wine Company serves many local wines, with roots dating back to the 1870s. Interestingly, the original lower cellar is still used for wine production. Just down the street, you’ll find The Orchard, a restaurant offering farm-to-table options in an upscale setting. Taste fresh seafood or Wagyu beef, listen to live entertainment, or try the charcuterie boards (with jams and other local produce) on the outdoor patio. Visit the farm stand next door for a salad or hot honey whipped feta dip, or simply sip wine in the garden area.
If you’re more of a beer lover, Twin Oast Brewing is a farm-to-fermenter location on 60 acres of family orchard, with many of the beers at the taproom brewed with produce harvested directly from the grounds. Try their signature giant Bavarian pretzel or stone oven pizza while enjoying a pint on the beautiful oast stone patio or by the large pond and water feature. If you prefer to stay and cook, no problem. Head over to Bassett’s, a grocery market that is home to various Amish and local produce, as well as a large selection of wine, cheese, and other goods.
As far as activities go, hike or watch the beautiful sunset over the lake at Catawba Island State Park, find another ferry to Put-In-Bay, play miniature golf, or maybe even take an African Safari tour. Wildlife Park. , a member of the Zoological Association of America and home to many exotic animals and passing encounters.
Just a short drive across the bay, you’ll find Sandusky, a town known for its many exciting activities. Sandusky is home to Cedar Point, a world-famous amusement park built in 1870 and now home to more than 70 thrill rides, including 18 roller coasters (many with record-breaking features). The park is built within its own peninsula and has a mile-long sandy beach and a water park. Speaking of water parks, Kalahari Resort & Convention Center, located in Sandusky, is Ohio’s largest indoor water park decked out in an African theme. Purchase a day pass to the many pools and waterslides, play in the arcade, or rent one of the many rooms on the grounds to fully immerse yourself in the #1 USA Today voted indoor water park of 2023.
Other Sandusky amenities include the Sandusky Mall, a Merry-Go-Round museum, Toft’s (the local dairy and ice cream parlor), a speakeasy, and the Jackson Street Pier with a variety of restaurants to enjoy. Learn more about Sandusky at https://www.cityofsandusky.com/.
There is so much to do! Find even more fun activities throughout the Shores & Islands Ohio at https://www.shoresandislands.com/.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearms safety and marksmanship training and the promotion of marksmanship proficiency for United States citizens. To learn more about the CMP and its programs, log on to www.TheCMP.org.