Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cleveland: Put-in-Bay

Last Fall my parents had the opportunity to visit Put-in-Bay, an island in Lake Erie, and since then my mom has been raving about it and told us that we'd definitely go there when we visited. I don't know why, but I never really thought there were islands large enough to live on in Lake Erie. Boy was I wrong.

It was a bit of a drive to get there from my parent's house. When we finally arrived we had just missed the ferry we were going to take, so we decided to take a drive to the Marblehead Lighthouse to kill some time. My grandpa decided to sit this trip out he wanted to relax at home. I guess we tired him out with all our travels that week.

It was a gorgeous day out and there were a number of picnic-ers at the park. Marblehead lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on Lake Erie, being built in 1821. I'm not sure if you can go into the lighthouse, since it was closed when we were there, but some of the flyers in the windows made me believe that during the summer they do have tours.

Adam wandered down by the lake, apparently ignoring the signs that the rocks were slippery. I'm happy to report that he made it out OK. :)

From one side of the lighthouse, you could see the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH. I didn't realize how close we were to it!

We didn't stay long at the lighthouse, because we still had to get tickets for the ferry. We weren't sure how busy it was going to be that day, especially with all the school groups out and about, so we wanted to get over early to get tickets. It actually ended up being pretty dead at the Jet Express boat launch.

It's about a half-hour ferry ride to Put-in-Bay, it's not bad, the sights are pretty nice along the way. We even saw a home that was in the shape of a boat. At least we think it was just shaped like a boat. Not sure how a boat could get shipwrecked on land in Lake Erie? Those are some serious nautical lovers right there.

There's a small downtown with restaurants and shops right as you exit the boat. The feel of the island is actually a lot like going to an island in the Caribbean. There's even an outdoor bar that has sand floors and fake palm trees. It's kind of weird considering this island is in the middle of a lake that freezes over in the winter.

The funniest thing about the island is that golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation. You can even rent them down by the lake to be able to drive around the island yourself. It was almost like we were down in Florida or something.

We didn't end up renting a cart, since there were 5 of us and it wasn't all that tough to walk around to some of the places we wanted to go. Had my grandpa come with us that day, we definitely would have rented one. One of the places that we had planned on visiting was Heineman's Winery and the Crystal Cave.

Heineman's Winery was founded in 1888 and survived the prohibition era by selling tours through the Crystal Cave. The Crystal Cave is the world's largest geode and according to our tour guide, was found when the owners were digging a well. We decided to buy tickets to the wine tour and to the crystal cave. The wine tour was, um, interesting. It's a really small winery (like 3 rooms big) and our tour guide let us know that he generally didn't give tours. I'm pretty sure we got an abbreviated version of the real tour, because we couldn't have been in there more than 15 minutes (and about 10 of those minutes were him explaining all the different types of wine they make there). They give you a token that you can trade in for a small glass of wine of your choosing at the end.

We saved our wine tokens until after the Crystal Cave tour. Wine + long treacherous staircase + Kristin ≠ fun. So, after we finished with the winery tour, we headed for the Crystal Cave tour. The crystals are composed of strontium sulfate, which is a mineral used in the making of fireworks. They actually used to sell the crystals from the geode, so the geode used to be much more dense with crystals than it is now. We were really fortunate to be the only group in the cave at the time. Our tour guide for this was really cool; she let us wander around and take our time looking at the cave, since nobody else was down there and it was probably 20 degrees cooler than upstairs.

The geode was off to the right as you came down the stairs. It was big enough that my 6'2" dad could stand upright in it, which was kind of surprising. Had we been down there with others, we would have had to climb through the passage you see on the right in the photo below to exit. Now you know why I say we were fortunate to be down there alone.

The crystals had a pretty blue hue to them, which didn't really come out in the photos as it looked in person. I was glad I had brought my fisheye lens to use down there. It really shows how big the cave was and how many crystals there were.

After we were fully satisfied that we had seen enough of the cave, we headed back upstairs and had our wine sample. I tried one of their big sellers, the Pink Catawba and it was a little dry for my taste, I probably would have been better off getting a sweeter wine like my mom did. My mom really liked her sample and ended up buying some of the Sweet Belle.

On the way back to the ferry, we stopped for some ice cream at a small candy/ice cream shop called The Candy Bar and tried to book it back to the boat before the hoards of school groups that were being wrangled up.

Put-in-Bay is a neat little place to visit, I would bet that it's even better in the summer, when all the restaurants, wineries and stores are open and you could spend a weekend there seeing all the sights.

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