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Lake Erie Islands Travel Guide

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Glacial Grooves, Kelleys Island © Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism

The Lake Erie Islands, including Kelleys Island and the three Bass Islands further north, are popular holiday destinations during summer, each offering their own attractions with a diverse range of recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming and camping. Limestone cliffs, historic sites, wineries and sculpted caverns can be found on the different island retreats, and the warm waters of the shallow Lake Erie are a perfect resting ground for migrating birds making the islands one of the best bird watching areas in the country.

Formed during the glacial period, the islands consist of limestone bedrock that has much evidence of glacial scouring on the rock surfaces. The Glacial Grooves State Memorial on Kelleys Island is an enormous piece of limestone rock containing the most spectacular example of deep glacial grooves in the world, carved by the advancement of the great glacier that carved out the Great Lakes. South Bass Island is home to Crystal Cave, which is the world's largest geode in the world, large enough to stand up in and containing crystals up to 18 inches (46cm) long.

The Lake Erie Island region was once inhabited by the Ottawa and Huron Native American tribes before being ousted by European settlers in 1812, and evidence of these hunting grounds remain in over 70 archaeological sites found around the islands. Inscription Rock State Memorial, also on Kelleys Island, is a limestone boulder carved with ancient characters and images of men, animals and birds from about 500 years ago.

The naval Battle of Lake Erie was fought in Put-In Bay on South Bass Island, an American victory over the British that ensured control of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes, and is commemorated by Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on the island. South Bass Island, named for the excellent bass fishing in the surrounding waters, is the most visited of the American Lake Erie Islands and its Victorian-style village filled with gift shops, fine restaurants and lively pubs has been famous as a summer resort for over a century. In the 1860's grape production became extremely profitable and wine making has had a strong influence on the island culture, with several wineries still offering tasting and tours to visitors today.

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