920 Division Street, Kelleys Island, Ohio 43438
Park Office Phone: (419) 746-2546
East Harbor Park Office Phone: (419) 734-4424
Reservations: (866) 644-6727
Kelleys Island, known as Lake Erie’s Emerald Isle, is a fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts, and a relaxing retreat for vacationers. The island is renowned for its unique geological, ecological, and archaeological features, and popular for its recreational offerings and picturesque landscapes. The 677-acre state park is located on the northern shores of the island.
Getting to Kelleys Island: Privately operated ferries offer frequent daily service for cars, RVs, bicyclists and pedestrians from the mainland at Marblehead and Sandusky. These ferries can be reached at Sandusky or Marblehead Peninsula.
Golf carts and bicycles are available for rent from private vendors.
You can find more information about each of the following activities below.
Limestone cliffs, historic wineries, crystal caverns and a shimmering Great Lake greet visitors to the Lake Erie Islands state parks. These five state parks offer unique island retreats with an atmosphere both festive and casual. Fishing, boating and swimming can be enjoyed at each park. Several parks comprise the Lake Erie Island group. The islands were formed during the glacial period when massive ice sheets entered Ohio. Glaciers gouged and scoured the bedrock; their tremendous weight left deep depressions which filled with meltwater, forming the Great Lakes. Lake Erie, the smallest of the Great Lakes, is shallow--allowing for violent storms with high waves. The lake is divided into three basins. The western basin has an average depth of 25 to 30 feet; the central basin averages 61 feet; and the eastern basin shows an average depth of 120 feet. Lake Erie has high nutrient levels and warm temperatures which produce greater numbers and varieties of fish than any other Great Lake. Annual catches nearly equal the combined catch of all other Great Lakes. Yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, channel catfish and walleye are dominant species. The islands are composed of limestone bedrock. Small scratches in the rock surface known as glacial striations are common while major grooves such as those found at Kelleys Island are rare but awesome. Vast stands of red cedar and the presence of underground caverns, both associated with limestone are found here. The islands and shoreline support a variety of reptiles including the state's highest concentration of the harmless fox snake. The timber rattlesnake was at one time quite prevalent on the islands but is now gone from the area. Rattlesnake Island was so named due to the presence of this reptile years ago. Migrating songbirds rest here before winging across the lake. Hundreds of different species have been identified, making this one of the best birdwatching areas in the country. Several nesting pairs of the magnificent bald eagle are located in the area.
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Kelleys Island camping offers the following:
- 43 non-electric sites
- 46 electric sites
- 35 sites with full hook-up (water and electric)
- Pets are permitted on designated sites
- Showers with flush toilets
- Dump station
- Volleyball court & playground
- Picnic shelter available on a "first come, first served" basis
- Youth group camp that can accommodate up to 50 people is available by reservation for organized groups
Swimming: A 100-foot public swimming beach on Lake Erie. Swim at your own risk.
Fishing: Lake Erie is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World." A valid Ohio fishing license is required A stone pier & shoreline fishing are offered on the island's north shore. A fish cleaning house is located in the campground.
Boating: A double-lane launch ramp located on the island's north shore provide access to Lake Erie. Kayak rentals are available at the sand beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Limited hunting, including bow hunting of deer, is permitted in designated areas of the park. Check with the park office for details. A valid Ohio hunting license is required. You can find out more information about getting a valid Ohio hunting and trapping license on Ohio's division of wildlife website: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/hunting-trapping-and-shooting-sports/hunting-trapping-regulations/licenses-and-permits. Pursuant to Ohio Administrative Code, no person shall at any time hunt, trap, kill, pursue, or shoot at any wildlife and/or wild animals by any means within 400 feet of any nature trail, picnic area, service area, residence, barn, parking lot, cabin, or other structure.Kelleys Island State Park Hunting Map
Kelleys Island offers 8 miles of hiking with varying degrees of difficulty.
- North Pond Nature Preserve - 1 mile - easy; paved boardwalk with observation deck
- North Shore/Alvar Loop Trail - 2 miles - moderate hiking and intermediate mountain biking; hilly and rocky
- East Quarry Trail - 5 miles - novice and intermediate mountain biking; moderately level with rocky terrain
The park has two picnic areas.
Prior to the War of 1812, the Lake Erie Island region had been occupied by Ottawa and Huron (Wyandot) Indian tribes at different times throughout the years. A testimony to their existence on the islands is carved in Inscription Rock on Kelleys Island. Pictographic writings over 500 years old are etched in this massive limestone boulder.The Ottawa and Huron were eventually moved out by European settlers. The War of 1812 ended the last Indian threat to the European settlement of Ohio. One decisive naval battle of that war was fought in Put-In-Bay, off the shores of South Bass Island. Oliver Hazard Perry with an inferior fleet defeated the British making famous his saying, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The victory gave the Americans control of Lake Erie and led to the ultimate defeat of the British in that war. The islands remained sparsely settled until 1854 when J.D. Rivers purchased five of the islands. At first he turned Put-In-Bay into a sheep ranch, having at one time a herd of 2,000, but eventually he converted the island into a fruit farm. Despite the extreme northern location, the islands have the longest frost-free period of any area in Ohio due to the stabilizing effect of the lake. It soon became apparent to islanders that the cultivation of grapes was very profitable. The grape culture has had a dramatic influence on the islands, sometimes called the "Wine Islands." By 1887, more than one-third of the grape product and nearly one-half of the wine product of the entire state was credited to this area. Wines from these islands were once pronounced by the best judges as being comparable to the best productions of France. Several island wineries still exist today. In addition to raising fruits, the islands supported other profitable industries. Logging of red cedar, quarrying for limestone and the propagation of fish provided additional means of support. For over a century, South Bass Island has been famous as a summer resort. Ruins of the Victory Hotel, destroyed by fire in 1919, are still evident. Tourism thrives today making the islands one of the most popular vacation spots in the state. The five areas comprising Lake Erie Island state parks were added to the state park system in the early 1950s.
Several other state parks are near the Lake Erie Islands. Crane Creek State Park, west of Port Clinton, is one of the state's foremost birding areas and is notable for its spring and fall bird migrations. East Harbor State Park on Marblehead Peninsula sports the largest campground in the Ohio state park system. Swimming, picnicking, boating and fishing are popular at East Harbor. Marblehead Lighthouse, built in 1821, is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation of the Great Lakes and Ohio's 73rd state park. It is located off S.R. 163 on the east side of the Village of Marblehead. State nature preserves located in the area include Sheldon Marsh, Old Woman Creek, Erie Sand Barrens and DuPont Marsh. Contact the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves for more information. The Ottawa County Visitors Bureau is an excellent source for travel options and ideas all around the Lake Erie Islands area.