Is there anywhere as lovely as the Lake Erie Islands? Perhaps, but beautiful Kelleys Island is a place to fall in love with. And I surely loved my hosted trip, to this “Ocean in the Midwest”! Thank you Jill Bauer and Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands!
Traveling with Sara Broers of Travel With Sara we stayed in Port Clinton at the lovely Fairfield Inn & Suites at the Port Clinton Waterfront and checked out the area before heading the next day to Kelleys Island.
Downtown Port Clinton
Nicknamed “Walleye Capital of the World” the town hugs both the shore of Lake Erie and the Portage River. Taking a spin downtown, we had to take pictures of the cool Port Clinton, Ohio mural and sit in the HUGE Lake Erie Life Adirondack chair.
Kelleys Island Ferry
Willy Nelson’s Blue Skie’s Smiling at Me song comes to mind when I think of the beautiful weather we had for our ferry ride! To get to Kelleys Island, we took the Kelleys Island Ferry This hosted ride departed from Marblehead Ohio. During the 20 minutes we spied sail boats and the lovely island as we came to shore.
Our captain guiding the boat said he had been doing this since 1997!
Golf Carts away
Once we arrived, we were outfitted with a golf cart and off we went! This island is a lot quieter than Put-in-Bay, the other island we visited before. To get around the island you need a car, golf cart or bike!
History on Kelleys Island
Native Americans were the first residents on the island. They came in the spring and the fall for the fishing.
It was in the 1830’s that the Kelley brothers from Cleveland, Datus and Irad Kelly arrived. They came to the island for the forest of red cedar. The Kelleys Island Chamber website states that this was, “highly prized as steamboat fuel.”
The Kelley brothers also came for the quarry and the expansive limestone on the island. They began purchasing parcels of land. They were not the first Europeans to live here, the island had previously been known as Cunningham’s Island, after the first European settler to have lived here.
The Chamber shares that the name Kelley’s Island was formalized when the island became a township in 1840, and then a Village in 1887. Common use has dropped the apostrophe. While Irad returned to Columbus, Datus and his wife Sara remained and built a community that grew over the years.
This is a rock of native limestone where Ohio pre-historic Indians believed to be of the Erie tribe created inscriptions or pictographs. According to the Kellys Island Chamber, “in 1885, Addison Kelley and others filled in the carvings on this rock so they could be photographed for posterity, as they were already wearing away due to the soft nature of the limestone rock on which they were carved.”
A note by the Inspiration Rock stated that the inscriptions were measured and drawn in detail by Captain Seth Eastman. While the inscriptions are nearly gone, they can still be seen a bit and are protected. The Chamber also added that there were originally two Inspiration Rocks, but now only one is left. This was such amazing history.
Perhaps the most fascinating find on Kelleys Island were the Glacial Grooves! Formed by the movement of a massive sheets of ice during the last ice age, the island is a big hunk of Columbus Limestone. The glacier literally carved grooves into the limestone making it appear like a huge bowling alley! The glacial grooves are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and up to 15 feet deep.
Sara and I climbed steps to the grooves and saw this marvelous geological find. While much of this limestone has been quarried away, the grooves were preserved when in 1892, a small section of quarry land was set aside by the Kelley Island Lime & Transport Company to preserve one of the last grooves.
Formed in 1886 on the Lake Erie Island of Kelley’s Island, Ohio, the Kelley Island Lime & Transport Company was also known by its initials, KIL&T. It was once the worlds largest producer of lime and limestone products. Today the Glacial Grooves are next to the Kelleys Island State Park.
Nature on Kelleys Island
Driving around on Kellys Island is a fun experience. We crossed the airport runway there was a sign warning to look for oncoming planes!
You see a lot of beautiful shoreline and bridges and docks. I spied one bush filled with birds. My favorite nature stop was at North Pond State Nature Preserve. This beautiful wetland had a boardwalk and Sara and I walked right into the wetlands. This wetland has a channel leading to Lake Erie and the pond that we saw here was formed as the lake receded from its ancient shoreline.
Here we saw a variety of water plants and insects. I am sure wildlife also abounds in this area as well. The pristine area was like walking into a time warp. Kelleys Island is a place to go and find yourself to get away from it all.
The Village Pump for lunch
We dined at the Village Pump, a cool restaurant. We were automatically drawn here because we were greeted by (we assume the owner) when we first arrived at the island in the morning. The building originally was a post office and barber shop erected by Gus Kelley in 1890.
On their website they share that today, “The Village Pump has been the destination watering hole for boaters and visitors alike since 1983. Specialties include the ‘famous’ Brandy Alexander and Lake Erie perch deliciously prepared by Pump chefs. We feature a full bar and dining service March through December! “
Sara and I shared a neat Italian sandwich which was wonderful!
Kelleys Island History Museum
What can you say about an entire island that is on the National Register of Historic Places? Kelleys Island fits the bill. Sara and I had to stop by the little historical museum which shares history of the island. I enjoyed some of the history like the photo and story board stating, “travelling with the winter mail boat was the safest way to travel, but you were also expected to help out if the boat got stuck”.
My favorite item at the museum was a formation of the island from jewelry, it appears to be mostly brooches and might include a few buttons. Besides the fun museum there is also the historic German Reformed Church that was built in 1866. You can tour this as well.
I enjoyed taking a gander at the War memorial on the island. It covered the Civil War, Spanish War, World War I and World War II.
The trip to Kellyes Island was so peaceful and relaxing. While here, Sara and I met a couple. Her name was Kelly. They have been coming here for years. They chose the island initially because of the name, they stay in a yurt in an onsite camping ground.
There are a variety of houses to rent on the island. What a restful place to come. I can see how it would be easy to stay here for weeks on end with a couple books, a bike and good food! Friendly people, island beauty, what more could you want?