What to do in Lake Erie Islands State Park

Several parks comprise the Lake Erie Island group. The islands were formed during the glacial period when massive ice sheets entered Ohio. Glaciers gouged and scoured the bedrock; their tremendous weight left deep depressions that filled with meltwater, forming the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie, the smallest of the Great Lakes, is shallow–allowing for violent storms with high waves. The lake's high nutrient levels and warm temperatures produce greater numbers and varieties of fish than any other Great Lake. Annual catches nearly equal the combined catch of all other Great Lakes. Yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, channel catfish and walleye are dominant species.

Despite the extreme northern location, the islands have the longest frost-free period of any area in Ohio due to the stabilizing effect of the lake. The grape culture has had a dramatic influence on the islands, sometimes called the "Wine Islands." By 1887, more than one-third of the grape product and nearly one-half of the wine product of the entire state was credited to this area. Wines from these islands were once pronounced by the best judges as being comparable to the best productions of France. Several island wineries still exist today.

Tourism thrives today making the islands one of the most popular vacation spots in the state. The four areas comprising Lake Erie Island state parks were added to the state park system in the early 1950s.

Catawba Island: This day use park also serves as the main headquarters for Kelleys Island, South Bass and Oak Point state parks. A fishing pier, launch ramp, picnic shelter and picnic areas can be found here. Swimming is permitted at your own risk.

Kelleys Island: The family campground contains 45 non-electric and 84 electric sites, showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. A volleyball court and playground offer more to do. The camp office loans games and sports equipment to registered campers. Pet camping is permitted on designated sites. A youth group camp is available by reservation for organized groups. Six miles of hiking trails lead to scenic vistas, historic sites and two nature preserves, North Pond Nature Preserve, and the North Shore Nature Preserve, offering excellent locations for watching wildlife. Picnic areas, a picnic shelter, launch ramps, fishing access areas and a 100-foot swimming beach are also available. Limited hunting is permitted in designated areas of the park. Check with the park office for details. Kelleys Island can be reached by ferry from Sandusky or Marblehead Peninsula. Two premium yurts, complete with efficiency kitchen, bath with shower and furnished living area, along with two Rent-A-Camp units are available during the summer season.

Oak Point: Located on the northwestern tip of South Bass Island, this day use park offers a scenic picnic area, fishing access and overnight docking facilities.

South Bass Island: The family campground features 125 non-electric sites, and 10 full service sites with electric, water and sewer hook-ups. The campground offers flush toilets, showers, and a dump station. Pet camping is permitted on designated sites. A youth group camp is available by reservation for organized groups. Four "cabents," combining the best features of a cabin and tent, are available through a lottery system for weekly rental from Memorial Day to the last weekend in September. A separate lottery is held for rental of the rustic cabin located near the park office. Contact the Catawba Island park office for lottery details. A picnic shelter, picnic areas, launch ramp, fishing pier and small stone beach area are also available. South Bass Island is accessible by ferry from Port Clinton or Catawba Island.

The group of four parks offer fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming, camping, group camping, volleyball, hiking, viewing historic sites, viewing wildlife, hunting, docking facilities, and despite the lack of designated bike trails, many enjoy biking along park and island roadways. In winter, visitors come to enjoy ice fishing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing.

Several parks comprise the Lake Erie Island group, which resides northeast of Port Clinton, Ohio.

This state has four distinct seasons and a brilliant fall foliage display in it southern woods during mid October. Winter lasts from December through February with average temperatures near 25 degrees F. Low temperatures dip to single digits, but do not often drop below zero. Northern regions of the state receive average snowfall amounts of 55 inches, while the central and southern regions of the state receive lesser amounts with averages near 30 inches. This difference is caused by lake-affect moisture patterns.

Spring temperatures begin to warm the landscapes of Ohio by mid March and are in full swing by April. Temperatures range from 40 through 70 degrees F through the spring months. This season often brings the most rainfall, before the drying heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot and humid in the interior of Ohio. Temperatures reach above 90 degrees F frequently through July and August. Cooler fall temperatures don't reach the region until mid to late September. This is a pleasant time to visit as the air is crisp with low humidity levels. Ohio's annual precipitation usually reaches slightly above 50 inches.

c/o Catawba Island (headquarters)
4049 E. Moores Dock Road
Port Clinton, OH 43452

Phone: 419-797-4530

  • Lake Erie Islands State Park Travel Q&A