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16 Fun Things to Do in Kelleys Island, Ohio

It’s a laid-back getaway on Lake Erie that really comes alive during the summer months. With plenty of things to do in Kelleys Island to fill a day or a week, this is a fun Midwestern getaway!

things to do Kelleys island ohio view of marina from above in picturesque Lake Erie Ohio
Marina views at Kelleys Island, Ohio

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Fun fact: Kelleys Island, Ohio is the largest freshwater American island in Lake Erie. It’s also home to great camping, beaches and hiking areas.

There’s also delicious food, fun activities and natural wonders perfect for all ages. This guide covers all the best things to do in Kelleys Island, how to get there and get around the island and helpful tips to make the most of your time on the island.

👉Don’t have time to read the whole article? This is the best kayaking tour on Kelleys Island, which is a fun way to see the island.

Let’s dive in!

sign on Kelleys island ohio with lots of arrows and activities with marina in background
So many things to do in Kelleys Island!

Kelleys Island, Ohio

If you’re wondering where Kelleys Island is, I get it! Before I visited the Sandusky, Ohio area, I had no idea either!

Here’s a map of the island, as well as the best things to do in Kelleys Island. Zoom in to check out the specific activities or zoom out to see where it is in relation to the mainland USA or Canada.

Kelleys Island is home to a complex past. Once inhabited by Native Americans, who eventually fled the island during the War of 1812. Early settlers thereafter identified potential in the island’s limestone, and Datus and Irad Kelley started mining it and bought the land. Read more here.

How to get there: ferry to Kelleys Island

ferry to Kelleys island side of boat with lake on blue sky
Leaving the island on the Kelleys Island Ferry

The best way to get to Kelleys Island is to take a ferry. The Kelleys Island Ferry typically starts operating in March and goes through December, with minimal shutdown due to winter crossing conditions. During the summer months it runs every 30 minutes, departing from Marblehead.

From Sandusky or Port Clinton, you can take the Jet Express to the island.

Getting around Kelleys Island

how to get around Kelleys island picture of blue and tan golf cart on sunny day
Preferred way to get around: golf cart

The best way to get around the island is by renting a golf cart. What’s more fun than a summertime vacation on an island just golf carting around?

Renting a golf cart is affordable and an easy way to see Kelleys Island. When you get off the dock, you’ll immediately see a spot to pick up a golf cart. But hurry – you’ll want to get to the island before noon to swipe one that’s available, especially during peak travel season. There’s also other golf cart rental companies located throughout Kelleys Island.

Another fun way to see Kelleys Island is by renting bicycles, which are available at several locations, too.

Alternatively, you could pay to transport your vehicle to the island, available by using the Kelleys Island Ferry from Marblehead.

Tips for visiting Kelleys Island Lake Erie

white and red lighthouse with blue sky trees along shoreline
Marblehead Lighthouse near the port

Kelleys Island is a nature-lover’s destination. It’s not as lively as the nearby Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Don’t expect large crowds or live music at every other restaurant. Instead, the island has a more laid-back vibe.

Here are a few must-do’s and important info to make the most of your time on the island!

  • Summertime is the best time for visiting. The weather is the best in summer and the island really comes alive during these months.
  • Consider transportation relative to where you’re departing. Coming from the mainland, Kelleys Island Ferry runs from March – December, if you’re in the Marblehead area. From Port Clinton and Sandusky, the Jet Express runs Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • Book your accommodations early! There’s a limited number of vacation rentals on the island and they get booked up way in advance.

Where to stay on Kelleys Island Ohio

Lake Erie Ohio sunset pink purple and blue sky with reflective lake surface
Sunset views from mainland Ohio near the port

Speaking of places to stay, the options are somewhat limited. You won’t see large chain hotels here! But that’s part of the island’s allure, right?

Here are a few ideas for you…

  • Waters Edge Retreat – an upscale bed and breakfast. And you guessed it – you’ll get great views of Lake Erie since it’s right on the water.
  • Independently owned vacation rentals – search for the right size and amenities you need on the local visitor bureau’s website.
  • Mainland Ohio – Marblehead, Port Clinton or Sandusky. If you’re making the most of your day trip to Kelleys Island, stay in an area with close access to the ferry. I personally loved the Fairfield Inn & Suites Waterfront with views of Lake Erie.😍

Even if you book later in the season and you can’t find accommodations directly on the island, it’s easy enough to commute back and forth from mainland Ohio to Kelleys Island.

Alright already – enough chatting! Let’s get to this list!!

Things to do on Kelleys Island

Day trip, weekend getaway or a longer stay – here are the very best things to do in Kelleys Island Ohio!

1. See the Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve

glacial groves of rock with trees on Kelleys island ohio
You gotta see these massive grooves in person!

The most famous glacial grooves in the world based on the size and accessibility, these are incredible to see in real life. 

I’ll be honest, when I was first researching things to do in Kelleys Island, I wasn’t quite sure I would be into seeing the Glacial Grooves. However seeing them up close really caught my interest!

Over 2 millions years old, massive glaciers moved from Canada to Ohio (over thousands of years), causing the ice to cut massive grooves into the limestone. This giant glacier covered much of northern North American, and was likely thousands of square miles of land, over a mile thick.

The trapped debris under the glacier and the sheer volume and weight of the glacial ice carved deep grooves into the rock.

The largest grooves at this site are about 15 feet deep and 34 feet wide – wow!

The glacial grooves are one of the top sights bringing visitors to the island, and have been designated as a National Natural Landmark.

Location: 739 Division St, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

2. Kelleys Island State Park 

Kelleys island state park beach from above with green water rocky shore and trees lining lake
One of the beaches at Kelleys Island State Park

Located in the northwestern part of the island and covering an area of 677 acres, this state park has a few different features worth mentioning.

If you like camping, it has a great campground with primitive spots for tent camping. Go to sleep at night listening to the waves hitting the shore – how peaceful!

Kelleys Island State Park also offers swimming at two beaches. The rockier one is great for rock-skipping. The sandy beach is best for wading in the water and is especially great for kids.

Note: to get down to the pebble beach pictured above, you’ll need to climb down a steep cliff. There’s a rope to help prevent slipping, but it’s not really that easy. Use caution and don’t attempt it if you’re not comfortable.

The Glacial Grooves are located within the park boundary as well.

Location: 920 Division St, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

3. Go kayaking

multiple colored kayaks on Kelleys island state park beach with sand and lake
Kayaking on Lake Erie

Kayaking on Lake Erie is one of my favorite ways to see the area! 

Renting kayaks or taking a kayak tour is a fun way to spend the morning or afternoon while vacationing on Kelleys Island. Explore the fun coastline and see the best that Lake Erie has to offer.

In the summertime, don’t forget to use sunblock. Be sure it’s fish-safe sunblock to protect the living creates within Lake Erie! This is my favorite eco-friendly sunblock that works great.

Location: 920 Division St, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

4. See the abandoned quarry (one of the most unique things to do in Kelleys Island)

Back in the 1800’s, the occupation many had on Kelleys Island was to crush large stone into smaller rocks and stone, which is known as quarrying. The old quarry operations are still standing on the island, although they’ve been abandoned for decades.

But if you’re up for a little adventure, you can (carefully and respectfully) visit the quarry and stone crusher ruins on the island.

Note: I’ll have to admit I was a bit creeped out by these buildings at first until I discovered what they were. Unlike ancient ruins such as the time I visited Tikal in Guatemala, there’s not any information about it on site. 

Location: 920 Division St, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

5. Eat at Doc’s

picture of soup and salad at restaurant table
Grabbing food at Dockers Waterfront Bar and Restaurant

Can we get to the food already?

If you’re looking for a fun place to hang out, or water views and outdoor dining, Dockers Waterfront Bar and Grill (or Doc’s, as the locals call it) is the right stop for you.

Located right on the marina in the downtown area, Doc’s is a great spot to grab a sandwich, some seafood or a burger. They have great lobster rolls, crab cakes and salmon.

The entire dining area is located outdoors, so there’s always a great view at Doc’s!

Location: 114 W Lakeshore Dr, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

And since we’re in the area, let’s see all the things to do in downtown!

6. Go mini golfing (one of the most family-friendly things to do in Kelleys Island)

mini golfing things to do kelleys island picture of flowers, green put put, tree and buildings in background
Mini golf course downtown

One of the best things to do in Kelleys Island for kids is mini golf! Located in the heart of downtown, this 18 hole mini golf course is the perfect way to spend an hour (or 2!) while on the island.

It’s a really affordable activity, too. At the time of this publication, it’s only $7 per person to play, or just $10 for an unlimited number of rounds all day.

Location: 115 Division St, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

7. Shopping on Kelleys Island

Looking for a perfect souvenir to remind you of your time on Kelleys Island? The downtown area is where you’ll find it! 

You won’t find any big brands or chains here, everything is local, which is part of the island’s appeal! Check out the clothing and accessories, lake décor and trinkets available. I actually found this cute lake life tank above at West Bay Bar and Restaurant.

Location: downtown – the intersection of Division Street and W Lakeshore Drive on Kelleys Island

8. Visit Memorial Park

cement statue in flower garden on sunny day
Beautiful and important flower garden and memorial

There’s a small area in downtown that’s a show of appreciation for those who served in previous wars. Right across from Captains Corner and next to Kelleys Island General Store is a memorial dedicated to the men and women who lived on the island and went to war.

The Civil War, WW I and WW II all had military personnel who where killed during their service. The Memorial Park honors them.

Beautifully appropriate, the monument shares the area with a butterfly garden. I loved seeing the fluttering wings while simultaneously paying respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Location: downtown – the intersection of Division Street and W Lakeshore Drive on Kelleys Island

9. Taste the local wine at Kelley’s Island Wine Co

Fun fact: the climate surrounding Lake Erie creates amazing growing seasons for grapes. The result? Fabulous wineries all across the region!

If you’re looking for a good time and good wine, then look no further than Kelley’s Island Wine Co. I loved the wine flights which allow you to choose which Lake Erie wines you like the best.

You’ll be surprised to see a full service restaurant, too! The pizza smells absolutely delightful once you step inside, and you’ll certainly fill up on their mussels, brie mac n cheese or curry chicken.

Whether you’re stopping by quickly or catch one of their live music events, this is one of the most fun things to do in Kelleys Island.

Location: 418 Woodford Rd, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

10. Golf cart around the island

narrow road with trees and fallen leaves on dreary day
Exploring the island on a golf cart

Is there anything better than an island made for golf carting? Didn’t think so.

Whether you’re spending a day on the island or a week, the island is fun to put around on! Take an adventure to see the sights. Yes, it’s the primary way to get around the island. But it’s also the most fun way to do it!

Discover fields with classic red barns in the middle of the island. Or take your golf cart down to the beach at Kelleys Island State Park. 

Golf carting the island reminds me of hanging out on Put-in-Bay. Both islands are fun to enjoy from a golf cart – especially during the warm summer months!

Location: anywhere

11. Hang out at West Bay (one of the most fun things to do on Kelleys Island)

things to do Kelleys island picture of picnic tables pots with flowers and lake in background
West Bay Bar and Restaurant

For all the good vibes, head to West Bay Bar and Restaurant! The perfect spot for a cocktail, yard games and to just chill is West Bay. It’s on the western end of Kelleys Island, away from the commotion of downtown.

West Bay is known for their $10 buckets of Rum Punches, burgers and flatbreads. Try the giant soft pretzel and Walleye basket, too.

With yard games and an outdoor bar and seating area, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon!

West Bay has a dock where you can park your boat and enjoy dinner, drinks or the sunset. So if you’ve rented a boat and are traveling from Sandusky or Put-in-Bay, you can pull up to West Bay.

Bonus: they fire a cannon at sunset during the summer (weather permitting). It’s a favorite for kids to watch!

Location: 1230 W Lakeshore Dr, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

12. See Inscription Rock

Ancient pictographs and inscriptions from pre-historic Indians are on display at Inscription Rock. 

The large, limestone rock is difficult to make out because of the exposure to elements and some vandalism over the centuries. It’s unknown what the inscriptions mean, but there are at least 8 people in the story.

As the weather wears down on the rock it’s getting harder to see the inscriptions, so there’s a helpful rendition of it on a plaque at the site.

This is one of the most unique things to do in Kelleys Island.

Location: navigate to Inscription Rock, E Lakeshore Dr, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

13. Go hiking in North Pond State Nature Preserve

hiking trail in forested area with tall trees green leaves and dirt
One of the many hiking trails

This island has so many outdoor and natural spaces, you could fill your days exploring all of them! 

Hiking in North Pond isn’t going to get you the same elevation gain as the hikes in Mt Rainier National Park or waterfall views like El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. But it is a good walk and allows you to truly connect with nature.

Fun fact: North Pond (and Kelleys Island) is part of the Lake Erie Birding Trail, where large numbers of birds pass through to Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Location: navigate to North Pond State Nature Preserve, Ward Road, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

14. Hike the North Shore Loop Trail

sign at forested trail entrance that includes map and north shore loop trail no motor vehicles
One of the best hiking trails on the island

Looking for more outdoor adventure? Check out the North Shore Loop Trail in the Kelleys Island State Park.

The trail is a double loop, coming in at 2.2 miles. It’s a really flat trail and can be done at a leisurely pace. Located near the old quarry ruins (#4 above) and one of the Kelleys Island State Park beaches (#2 above), there’s a few things in the area to see while exploring the trail.

Location: just north of the Glacial Grooves, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

15. Hit the beach (another favorite on this list of things to do in Kelleys Island)

beach on Kelleys island with rocky shore blue water on sunny day
Gotta love a beach on Lake Erie😍

With a few different beaches around the island, there’s plenty to choose from! Pebble Beach is located near the marina and offers good views of the island.

Grab a towel or beach chairs and sit along the beach and watch the waves hit the shore. If you’re traveling to Kelleys Island with kids, this is a great spot fro them to dig in the sand and rocks.

Location: 515 E Lakeshore Dr, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

16. See an outdoor sculpture garden

random sculptures in tree area on overcast day
Herndon Sculpture Garden

An interactive exhibit located on a remote area of the island, the Charles Herndon Galleries & Sculpture Garden. This distinguished artist has a large property and his collection is displayed throughout the garden.

The gardens and studio are free to walk through, and art is available to purchase.

Location: 114 Laylin Ln, Kelleys Island, OH 43438

Best things to do in Kelleys Island

things to do on Kelleys island picture of marina, blue lake water blue sky and a few boats
Another view of the marina

Well, that’s a wrap! This island is perfect for nature lovers who want a getaway to a peaceful island. With beaches and hiking trails to explore during the day and lake sunsets to see at night, this is fun little vacation destination nestled right on Lake Erie!

Let’s take a look at what to do in Kelleys Island again, in a quick list…

Things to do Kelleys Island

  1. See the Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve
  2. Kelleys Island State Park
  3. Go kayaking
  4. Check out the Old Wine Ruins
  5. Eat at Doc’s
  6. Go mini golfing
  7. Shopping on Kelleys Island
  8. Visit Memorial Park
  9. Taste the local wine at Kelley’s Island Wine Co
  10. Golf cart around the island
  11. Hang out at West Bay
  12. See Inscription Rock
  13. Go hiking in North Pond State Nature Preserve
  14. Hike the North Shore Loop Trail
  15. Hit the beach
  16. See an outdoor sculpture garden

Related content:
34 Cool and Unique Things to Do in Put-in-Bay You’ll Love
27 Awesome Things to Do in Sandusky Ohio You Can’t Miss
Best Hiking in the Midwest: 16 Cool Hikes You’ll Want to See
16 Best Midwest Road Trips – Scenic Routes You Can’t Miss

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16 things to do Kelleys island on Lake Erie picture of boats on lake in harbor

Thank you to Shores and Islands Ohio for hosting me! As always, all opinions are my own.


Monday 21st of March 2022

I’ve never been to Ohio, but this post draws me in! Thanks so much for putting together the Google maps image, super helpful.


Monday 21st of March 2022

Sounds like it's time to book a trip to Kelleys Island! Glad you found the map helpful, too. :)


Sunday 20th of March 2022

Thanks for the great guide! I'd never heard of Kelleys Island but now its going straight on my To Visit List!


Sunday 20th of March 2022

Oh great Leah! It's a cool spot in the Midwest, that's for sure.


Saturday 19th of March 2022

Kelleys Island looks like a fascinating place to visit! What a cool place! I'd especially love to visit Old Wine Ruins - I love exploring ruins! Thanks for the great guide!


Sunday 20th of March 2022

You're spot on Hannah - Kelleys Island is a very interesting place to see. Hope you can make it there sometime!

Josy A

Saturday 19th of March 2022

Woooah it's pretty mad to think just how much the landscape must have changed when those glacial grooves were created. That is sooo fascinating!

Kellys Island looks really fun to explore (and eat your way around!)

Fab post Nikki!


Sunday 20th of March 2022

Right?! It's incredible to think of the size of those glaciers. And it's really cool to see the grooves up close. Thanks for visiting the blog today. :)


Saturday 19th of March 2022

SO many cool ideas, love it! I would start with wine tasting, it looks so cozy and nice. Saving this for future!


Sunday 20th of March 2022

Glad you found it helpful, Lasma. And yes - wine tasting is delicious😍