The short blast of the ferry boat horn signals the start of your adventure. In just twenty minutes the fresh crisp breezes and sparkling blue water take you to the lush greenery of an enchanting island. Kelleys Island is located in the western basin of Lake Erie about four miles north of Marblehead and twelve miles from Sandusky on the Ohio mainland. The entire island measures more than four square miles and is the largest fresh water American island in Lake Erie. A short drive from major cities makes Kelleys seem right next door, yet the Canadian Border lies only a few miles north of the island.
Remnants of the island’s past can be seen throughout the island as the entire island is on the National Register of Historical Places. Tour the island by bicycle, golf cart, or stroll historic neighborhoods and view restored architectural styles, scenic treasures and natural wonders.
The Glacial Grooves State Memorial is the largest and most spectacular example of glacial grooves left in the entire world. Walk the perimeter of this international study site to view a 400 foot by 35 foot wide gash of prehistoric glacial grooves scoured into native limestone bedrock by the advancement of the Wisconsin glacier 30,000 years ago.
Signs of the island’s era as an Indian hunting ground remain on Inscription Rock State Memorial. This flat-topped limestone boulder on the south shore of Kelleys Island has faint pictographs of men, birds and animals carved by the Erie Indians 300-400 years ago.
Tour Kelleys Mansion, a three story mansion with widow’s walk, built by island co-founder Addison Kelley in the 1860’s. A Unique Feature of the mansion is its amazing free standing spiral staircase, rose colored cut crystal windows, and handsome woodwork. Mansion tours are conducted for a small donation. (Currently under repair and NOT open to the public)
Fishing from various piers or boats will thrill you in the “Walleye Capital of the World”. Island shops sell supplies and licenses, and will aid any angler as to the current “hot” locations and lure selection. Also perch, catfish, smallmouth and white bass are caught in quantity in their respective peak periods.
Constant lake breezes and small waves provide ideal weather conditions for jet-ski’s, and sail or power boaters. As the quality and clarity of the Lake Erie waters steadily improves, shipwrecks from the 1700-1800’s provide fun and excitement to both snorkelers and scuba divers.
Enjoy Kelleys Island’s natural beauty. Abundant waterfowl (heron, egrets, ducks, geese, sea gulls, and an occasional osprey or eagle) add to the island bird population (blue birds, hummingbirds, and migratory species in both spring and fall). Monarch butterflies feast in milk weed each September as they migrate to Mexico for the winter. White-tailed deer with fawns are seen grazing at dusk and dawn. Catch glimpses of rare species like the Lake Erie water snake or Kelleys Island salamander tucked among the rocks.
In the 800 acre Ohio State Park system on Kelleys Island, miles of self-guided nature and hiking trails can be explored. The North Shore Loop begins behind Glacial Grooves and follows the wild flower studded woods along the north shoreline. Discover fossils along the inactive east stone quarry, wetlands, and horseshoe lake while hiking the East Quarry Trail.
The modernized Kelleys Island State Park offers a sandy beach along the North Bay, a stone pier for fishing, a free double boat launching ramp, trailer parking, and 129 shaded camping sites, (no reservations). Group, rent a camp sites, and pet sites are also available. There are no electric or water hookups to individual sites. Several main shower houses are located throughout the park. Call 419-746-2546 for further information.
The downtown area remains the heart of island activity. Browse amongst the unique gift and clothing shops. Enjoy miniature golf, a video arcade, or a seat in Memorial Park. No banks are on the island – although there are ATM machines located in the Island Market and the Village Pump. Several restaurants provide dining experiences inside or outside with a range from full continental cuisine to pizza or sandwiches. Weekends provide a variety of entertainment. Small groceries provide staples, incidentals, and snacks. Top off your stay with a hand-dipped ice cream cone or some fresh island fudge.
Birding On Kelleys Island
Kelleys Island is one of the stepping stones used by multitudes of migrating birds to cross Lake Erie. This 2800 acre island has 17 miles of shoreline and a 600 acre state park.Diverse habitats provide opportunities to see a large variety of birds, including herons,ducks,hawks,shorebirds, cuckoos, woodpeckers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and orioles. The island’s board walk will provide easy access to the North Pond located in the state park.
Join us for our free week-long nature camp called NEST WITH THE BIRDS. When the spring rains warblers and the fall echoes with the flapping of ducks’ wings lifting off a leeside haven, you know you are in a birders’paradise. For Kelleys Island Birding information please contact the Kelleys Island Audubon Club at 419-746-2258 or 440-461-1084. Website: www.kelleysislandnature.com.