Things to do on Middle Bass Island

lake erie vacation
lake erie vacation

Located in the heart of Lake Erie, Middle Bass Island offers adventures and relaxation. This charming island, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Put-in-Bay, offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and laid-back island vibes. Whether you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, delve into local history, or simply unwind by the shore, Middle Bass Island has something for everyone. Let’s dive into the myriad of things to do on Middle Bass Island that make it a must-visit destination.

Getting to Middle Bass Island

Your Middle Bass Island adventure begins with the journey itself. The island is accessible primarily by ferry, offering a scenic trip across Lake Erie’s sparkling waters. The Miller Boat Line operates regular services from Catawba Point on the mainland, with an increased schedule during peak summer months. For those with their watercraft, the island boasts several marinas where you can dock your boat.

Travel tip: Book your ferry tickets in advance during busy summer weekends to ensure your spot.

If you prefer to fly, the Middle Bass Island Airport (3T7) welcomes private planes, providing a quick and exhilarating way to reach the island. However you choose to arrive, the anticipation builds as the island’s shoreline comes into view, promising days filled with exploration and relaxation.

Best Time to Visit Middle Bass Island

While Middle Bass Island is beautiful year-round, the best time to visit largely depends on your preferred activities and tolerance for crowds. Here’s a seasonal breakdown:

  • Summer (June-August): Peak season with warm temperatures perfect for water activities. Expect more visitors and lively atmospheres.
  • Fall (September-October): Ideal for nature lovers, with stunning foliage and migrating birds. Cooler temperatures make for pleasant hiking and biking.
  • Spring (April-May): A quiet time to visit, with wildflowers blooming and fewer tourists. Some attractions may have limited hours.
  • Winter (November-March): Most businesses close, but the island offers a serene, snowy landscape for the adventurous.

For the optimal balance of good weather and manageable crowds, consider visiting in early June or September. You’ll enjoy warm days, cool nights, and a more relaxed island vibe.

1. Where to Stay on Middle Bass Island

Middle Bass Island Lodging Options

This island offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets:

  1. Vacation Rentals: Cozy cottages and spacious homes are available for rent, many with lake views.
  2. JF Walleyes: Offers vacation rentals alongside its restaurant and entertainment facilities.
  3. Middle Bass Island State Park Campground: For those who love the great outdoors.

Middle Bass Island State Park Campground

Nature enthusiasts will love the Middle Bass Island State Park Campground. This primitive camping area offers:

  • Non-electric sites available from May 15 to October 15
  • Free of charge (as of 2024)
  • Each site includes a fire ring and picnic table
  • Reservation required: Call (419) 285-0311 for availability

Camping tip: Pack plenty of bug spray and sunscreen, as the island’s natural beauty comes with its share of insects and sun exposure.

2. Outdoor Adventures on Middle Bass Island

Water Activities

Middle Bass Island’s location in Lake Erie makes it a paradise for water lovers. Surrounded by the waters of Lake Erie there are plenty of things to do involving the water. The fishing is great around the island. Lake Erie offers world-class smallmouth, walleye, and perch fishing. Here are some popular activities:

  • Swimming: Enjoy the refreshing waters at the public beach near the state park.
  • Kayaking and Paddleboarding: Rent equipment from local outfitters to explore the island’s shoreline.
  • Fishing: Cast a line from the shore or join a charter for a chance to catch walleye, perch, or bass.

Hiking and Nature Trails

The island boasts several trails and preserves that showcase its natural beauty:

  • Peterson Woods: A serene forest walk with diverse plant life.
  • Kuehnle Wildlife Refuge: Perfect for birdwatching and spotting local fauna.
  • East Point Preserve: Offers stunning views of Lake Erie and neighboring islands.
  • Costello Nature Preserve: A peaceful retreat with wetland habitats.

Birding highlight: Keep an eye out for the majestic bald eagles that nest on the island. Their presence is a testament to the area’s thriving ecosystem.

Biking Around the Island

Cycling is one of the best ways to explore on this Lake Erie island. The flat terrain and minimal traffic make it ideal for riders of all skill levels. Rent a bike from local vendors or bring your own to cruise along the scenic roads, stopping at points of interest along the way.

Biking route suggestion: Start at the state park, head towards the Lonz Winery, loop around the eastern shore, and finish back at the park. This route covers most of the island’s highlights in a leisurely 2-3 hour ride.

3. Middle Bass Island’s Rich History

Historic Lonz Winery

No visit to Middle Bass Island is complete without exploring the Historic Lonz Winery. This iconic structure, with its castle-like appearance, stands as a testament to the island’s winemaking heritage. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Features wine cellars dating back to the Civil War era
  • Grounds include glacial grooves and a charming frog pond
  • The patio and pavilion open for relaxation and group gatherings

“The Lonz Winery is not just a building; it’s a living piece of Middle Bass Island history.” – Local historian

Lonz Summer Tours: Self-guided tours are typically available on weekends during the summer months, offering a glimpse into the island’s viticultural past.

4. Dining and Drinking on Middle Bass Island

JF Walleyes Bar & Restaurant

JF Walleyes is more than just a restaurant; it’s an island institution. This family-friendly establishment offers:

  • A diverse menu featuring fresh Lake Erie fish
  • A unique pool with a grotto and waterfalls
  • Golf cart rentals for island exploration
  • Tiki Boutique Gift Shop for souvenirs

Middle Bass Island General Store

For those looking to stock up on supplies or grab a quick bite, the Middle Bass Island General Store is your go-to spot:

  • Groceries and essential items
  • Carry-out food options
  • Uncle Joe’s Pizza – a local favorite
  • Island apparel to remember your trip

Local food tip: Try the perch tacos at JF Walleyes – they’re a delicious twist on a Lake Erie classic!

5. Events and Festivals on Middle Bass Island

Middle Bass Music Fest

One of the island’s highlight events is the Middle Bass Music Fest. Held annually at the historic Lonz Winery in Middle Bass Island State Park, this festival brings together music lovers from across the region. Key details:

  • Typically held in mid-July (e.g., Saturday, July 15, 2023)
  • Free admission
  • Features local and regional musicians
  • Food vendors and craft booths add to the festive atmosphere

This event not only showcases great music but also celebrates the island’s community spirit and natural beauty.

Planning Your Middle Bass Island Itinerary

To help you make the most of your visit, here’s a sample one-day itinerary:

  1. Start with breakfast at the Middle Bass Island General Store
  2. Rent bikes and explore the island’s trails and preserves
  3. Visit the Historic Lonz Winery for a self-guided tour
  4. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake
  5. Spend the afternoon kayaking or swimming
  6. Dinner and drinks at JF Walleyes
  7. End the day stargazing at the state park campground

Remember, Middle Bass Island’s charm lies in its relaxed pace. Don’t overpack your schedule – leave room for spontaneous discoveries and lazy lakeside moments.

Practical Tips for Visiting Middle Bass Island

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pack wisely: Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and layers for changing weather.
  • Transportation: Golf carts are popular for getting around. Reserve in advance during peak season.
  • Cash: While many places accept cards, it’s wise to carry some cash for smaller vendors.
  • Cell service: Coverage can be spotty. Enjoy the opportunity to disconnect!
  • Respect nature: Follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the island’s beauty.

The island offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its blend of natural beauty, rich history, and laid-back atmosphere, it’s an ideal destination for those seeking both adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re kayaking along the shoreline, exploring historic sites, or simply enjoying a sunset over Lake Erie, Middle Bass Island provides a unique and memorable experience. So pack your bags, catch the ferry, and prepare to discover all the wonderful things to do on the island. Your Lake Erie adventure awaits!