Except everyone in Ohio just says Put-in Bay, which is the name of the town on the island.


So as with Mackinac Island, South Bass Island is reachable only by ferry. There are two lines, but we took Miller Ferry. It comes out on the opposite end from the town of Put-in Bay, so be prepared for a walk, bike, or drive before you come across most of the island’s attractions.


You can bring your car or bike, walk, or rent a golf cart, which is by far the most popular way to get around. Golf Carts on South Bass are like horses on Mackinac. They’re so incredibly widespread that drivers who see you walking anywhere other than downtown will stop and ask if you need a lift, clearly concerned that someone would choose to walk when there are golf carts for rent all over the place.


But walk we did, which was fine until the end of the day, when we were exhausted and ready to sit but still had to walk back across the island to the Miller docks.

Our first stop was Perry’s Victory National Monument and Peace Memorial, which commemorates the victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and his men over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. Although with a middle name like Hazard, he was pretty much assured of winning, right?


It also commemorates the lasting peace between the U.S., Britain, and Canada since then. Which is awesome, because the border between the U.S. and Canada is the longest undefended border in the world. That’s awesome. But you never think about it, because a) it’s been that way for some two hundred years and we’re used to it and b) you never, ever talk about that in history class.


So the other cool thing is that, as it turns out, the Perry Monument is the third tallest national monument in the U.S. (Who comes in fourth? Lady Liberty.) Once inside, you climb thirty-seven stairs and then take an elevator to the observation deck, which offers some crazymazing views of the surrounding islands, Canada, and Ohio. It’s $5/person for adults (free for children under 15) and completely worth it.

A word of advice: don’t wear a skirt up there unless you’ve got a boyfriend with a coat to lend you so you can weigh it down. It was so windy!


Back on the ground, we headed off to Perry’s Cave. (A lot of things on South Bass are named after Commodore Perry, although it’s a shame more of them don’t take advantage of the fact that part of his name was Hazard.) It’s $8/person for adults or $4.50 for children 6-12, but you can buy combination tickets for the various attractions offered by Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, like the butterfly house.

But more on that later.


This is the entrance to the cave, but unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of photos inside – they have lights overhead, but it’s not sufficient for photography. Or at least not with my camera. Everything with the flash caught only the rocks in the very, very foreground and lost everything else in darkness, but when we turned the flash off things turned out blurry. Oh, well.

Anyway, O. Hazard Perry and his men came to the island in search of drinking water and were directed to the cave by local First Nation (according to our tour guide, although of course the website says Perry himself is credited with the cave’s discovery). The cave lake they used is still there. You used to be able to drink from it – the old Victory Hotel used to draw water from it for guests – but the Health Department put the kibosh on that once they realized it was happening.


In fairness to the Health Department, there’s actually an obvious health risk to this one, unlike that spring on Mackinac Island. (The bf never did get sick, by the way.) The old owner of Perry’s Cave – in addition to cutting off the tops of stalagmites to sell in the gift shop, thinking they’d grow back by the following summer (they didn’t) – tried to make money by encouraging guests to use the cave lake as a wishing well. At the end of the season, his employees would dive for the cash. But some of the pennies were never retrieved, so the water has a greenish tint from the copper leached into the lake over the decades. Long story short: metal poisoning.

The butterfly house was right next door, and it was the last weekend to go before they closed for the season. Sans combination ticket, it’s $8/person for adults or $4.50 for kids between 6 and 12.


Three butterflies landed on me, guys. THREE. BUTTERFLIES. LANDED. ON ME. Which according to the docent is considered good luck – not three, just any number of butterflies landing on you in general. Either way, it was AMAZING. The first one alit on my skirt but flew off again before we got a picture, but we managed to capture a photo of the one on my shoulder. And the one that landed on my hand hung out for a while as we made our way around the aviary. This little girl saw me and looked like she couldn’t believe a butterfly would land on my hand rather than landing on her and supplying a day’s worth of childish wonder.

The really cool part is that the one on my hand was this type of huge butterfly with these brilliant azure wings on top – but we had such a hard time getting a good look at them because they just fluttered around constantly and would only land on the windows. Until that one decided to take a ride.

Plus there were all these other butterflies that didn’t land on me. Psh. They missed out.

Before going home, we headed to the Upper Deck at the Boardwalk for lunch. The bf had the walleye sandwich; I tried lobster bisque in a bread bowl, which was fantastic even though I thought New England had ruined Midwestern seafood-based soups for me. Maybe I’ve just never had a really good seafood-based soup in my home region before.

The menu said the lobster was imported from Maine – the bisque was definitely lumpy like it had real lobster – so maybe that’s the difference. Anyway, it was delicious. And the view reminded me of dining at the Pink Pony on Mackinac.


If you have more time than we did – if you live closer or stay overnight rather than taking a day trip – be sure to check out some of the other attractions on the island. Here are some suggestions to get you started.


Crystal Cave and Heineman’s Winery

Aquatic Visitors Center

Kayak the Bay


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