In the northern part of Ohio, where the mouth of the Portage River meets the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, lies the city of Port Clinton. A relatively small city, Port Clinton has a population of 6,133 as of the 2020 census.
It also boasts a cost of living that’s 20% lower than the U.S. average. While Ohio does have some generally desirable cities, Port Clinton is one of the more attractive places to visit. Along with nearby Sandusky and the easily-accessible Lake Erie Islands, the area is fondly known as “Vacationland.”
Port Clinton itself is distinguished by classic architecture that predates the Second World War. It lends the city a certain quaintness while still keeping it linked to its roots. The world-class Lake Erie fishing industry has led Port Clinton to become known as “The Walleye Capital of the World.” Local festivals take place constantly here, and there’s always something to do.
With that in mind, vacationers and residents alike are constantly looking for affordable activities in and around town. Luckily for them, there are plenty of them. Here are 20 affordable things to do in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Table of Contents:
- I. GET OUT ON THE WATER
- 1. Miller Ferry Line
- 2. The Jet Express Ferry
- 3. Boat Charters at Fisherman’s Wharf
- 4. Portage River Paddling Company
- II. SEE SOME OF THE LOCAL ATTRACTIONS
- 5. Ottawa County Visitors Bureau
- 6. Liberty Aviation Museum
- 7. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center
- 8. The Butterfly House
- 9. African Safari Wildlife Park
- 10. Watering Hole at Monsoon Lagoon Water Park
- 11. Port Clinton Lighthouse at Waterworks Park
- 12. Fast Eddie’s Sports Park, Bar, and Kitchen
- 13. Twin Star Bowling Alley
- III. ENJOY THE SERENITY OF THE LOCAL PARKS
- 14. Catawba Island State Park
- 15. Lakeview Park
- 16. Kelleys Island State Park
- 17. Shade Acres Campground
- IV. ATTEND A UNIQUE ANNUAL EVENT
- 18. Walleye Festival
- 19. New Year’s Eve Walleye Drop
- 20. Oastoberfest
I. GET OUT ON THE WATER
1. Miller Ferry Line
One of the biggest draws for Port Clinton is the ability to get out and explore the Lake Erie waters and the islands that lie just a few miles offshore. To get there, the Miller Ferry is an extremely affordable option. They run two separate routes out to the lake. One takes passengers to Put-In-Bay, a village on South Bass Island with a full slate of attractions of its own. The second route runs to Middle Bass Island, known as the “relaxing island for active people.” People typically go out there to enjoy swimming, fishing, and enjoying the scenery. With the Miller Ferry, getting there is half the fun!
- Individual adult tickets start at $8
- Children are FREE
- Cars, bikes, and other cargo incur additional fares
2. The Jet Express Ferry
The Jet Express runs more like a bus route. They aim to get passengers to their destinations as quickly and efficiently as possible. On a loop that runs between Port Clinton and Sandusky, the Jet Express makes stops at Put-in-Bay, Kelley Island, and Cedar Point. Four speedy catamarans make up the bulk of the service, ensuring a speedy ride out to Erie’s beauty.
- Adults: $36.50
- Youth ages 12-16: $15.00
- Youth ages 6-11: $6.00
- Children under 6: FREE
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3. Boat Charters at Fisherman’s Wharf
These boats are perfect for those with no particular place to go who just want to enjoy the open water. Fisherman’s Wharf specializes in fishing trips of course! They own three different boats for passengers to charter: the Waterfox, Miss Cindy, and the Irish Drifter.
Have a smaller group? No problem. They also have walk-on head boats for as few as one person. With a boat charter, you’ll be sure to get out there and catch some Walleyes. Just be sure to book in advance. They fill up fast!
Cost: $75 per person for the walk-on head boat. Prices vary for private charters.
4. Portage River Paddling Company
With all the great things to do on Lake Erie, it’s easy to forget about the Portage River. The paddling company is on the bank of the Portage just a couple of miles from the mouth, so adventurists can enjoy some very wide areas of the river.
In fact, some spots measure over 3,000 feet! Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and tandem boats are all available by the hour for a day of top-notch nature watching. Patrons can also check out their exciting ax-throwing range before or after checking out the Portage.
Boats start at $16 per hour depending on the size.
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II. SEE SOME OF THE LOCAL ATTRACTIONS
5. Ottawa County Visitors Bureau
This is the place to start if you’re visiting Port Clinton or any other part of the county. The visitors center can get you started on learning everything about the places to stay, historic sites, parks, attractions, and dining.
6. Liberty Aviation Museum
What started as a collection of aircraft from WWII has now become a tribute to the aviation heritage of Port Clinton and other area communities. This is a great visit for historians. The exhibits here feature vintage aircraft, watercraft, and land vehicles from the past.
As a bonus, visitors to the museum can visit the Tin Goose Diner for lunch or dinner. It’s an actual restored piece of Americana originally built in 1949, and still in full service on the Aviation Museum property.
- Adults: $12
- Children 6-12: $8
- Children 5 and under: FREE
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7. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center
What does the inside of the earth look like 52 feet below the surface? Perry’s Cave, located on South Bass Island, is the perfect place to find out. This registered Ohio natural landmark was discovered in 1813. It is filled with stalagmites, stalactites, cave pearls, and beautiful rock formations.
There’s even an underground lake, suggesting subterranean connections to Erie. The interior of the cave holds a temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year. The tours here typically last about 15 or 20 minutes, but all of the guides are happy and available to continue to chat as long as you’d like about the natural wonders of the cave.
- Adults: $10
- Children 6-12: $6
- Children 5 and under: FREE
8. The Butterfly House
On the same property as Perry’s Cave, the butterfly house was opened in 2004 and is 4,000 square feet of protected butterfly habitat. It is home to 50 types of butterflies. Secret walkways through beautiful gardens bring guests as close to the butterflies as possible. Families will especially want to check this one out for educational experiences and an unforgettable day.
- Adults: $10
- Children 6-12: $6
- Children 5 and under: FREE
9. African Safari Wildlife Park
The unique thing about this zoo is the drive-through experience. It’s just like a real African safari! As you navigate the grounds from the comfort of your car, you’ll encounter giraffes, zebras, alpacas, and so many more exotic animals. Of course, you can also opt for the walking experience, or take advantage of the park’s educational programs. Maybe even end your day mining for gems.
Cost: Daily rates start at about $15 for young children and range to about $30 per person during peak months. Memberships are also available.
10. Watering Hole at Monsoon Lagoon Water Park
Even by the refreshingly cool shores of Lake Erie, the summer gets hot! At the Watering Hole, people can swim in a pool with a swim-up bar for refreshments, enjoy a fun water slide, rent a cabana, and stay cool all day. The facility also has a putt-putt course and a ride-through safari attraction.
- Daily waterpark tickets start at $40
- Daily Mega tickets to see the whole park start at $48
- Kids 2 and under – FREE
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11. Port Clinton Lighthouse at Waterworks Park
This symbolic reminder of Port Clinton’s heritage has been standing since 1896. It reminds the community of its deep ties to Lake Erie. Back in 2010, after being privately owned for 60 years, the lighthouse was donated back to the city and immediately started restoration on it.
There’s a nice paved Pathway around the parking area, benches that have been donated and dedicated to those who have passed, and of course, the lighthouse itself. Each year, the site also holds the annual lighthouse festival, where people can take free tours of the structure, see live music, enjoy a local art show, and build up their civic pride.
- FREE to visit
12. Fast Eddie’s Sports Park, Bar, and Kitchen
Fast Eddie’s is more than just a family restaurant. It’s a small amusement park that the kids around Port Clinton have been enjoying for years. They have multiple attractions including go-karts, bumper boats, a full arcade, miniature golf, and gem panning to keep the kids busy all day long. Of course, the restaurant is there for when the fun is winding down.
All day pass is $24.99
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Varies depending on the day of the week. Bowling is typically under $6 per round
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III. ENJOY THE SERENITY OF THE LOCAL PARKS
14. Catawba Island State Park
Catawba Island is a perfect park for those who love to enjoy the water on their own. It has multiple boat launch areas, a beautiful grassy area with stunning lake views, and plenty of room to put a kayak or a canoe into the water. Picnic tables and a rustic stone shelter house are available for use.
15. Lakeview Park
Sometimes the family just needs to get out of the house for a few hours. Lakeview Park has a playground, charcoal grills, a private picnic area, and plenty of room for sports and play. To top it off, the beach is direct across the street and the historic lighthouse is just a few blocks down the road.
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16. Kelleys Island State Park
Accessible by private boat or one of the ferries, Kelleys Island State Park is 677 acres with a dedicated area for both RV and tent camping, and multiple small cabins for rent. From here, you can enjoy the natural splendor of Erie, enjoy a weekend getaway, and see the stunning glacial trails– evidence of the monumental glaciers of the ice age. Campers can even enjoy the well-maintained facilities to help keep them comfortable during their stay.
Campgrounds start at $24 per night
17. Shade Acres Campground
Don’t want to travel out to the islands for your stay? Try Shade Acres. It’s an affordable campground mainly containing trailers and cottages for rent. They will rent out properties daily, or for multiple weeks at a time. The campground is close to multiple beaches, and all of the ferries, and they even have a fish cleaning and freezing service available.
Varies based on property rented
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IV. ATTEND A UNIQUE ANNUAL EVENT
18. Walleye Festival
This Memorial Day weekend festival has brought excitement and joy to the local Port Clinton residents for 42 years running! Held at Waterworks Park, directly in the shadow of the Port Clinton lighthouse, the multi-day celebration is hosted to live music, fishing derbies, carnival rides, and of course delicious local cuisine!
Cost: FREE to attend
19. New Year’s Eve Walleye Drop
A Port Clinton New Year’s Eve doesn’t need a ball drop. They have Wylie Jr. the Walleye, a 20-foot, 600-pound, LED-lit fish that drops at midnight to commemorate the new year. The original Wylie was made in 1997 out of paper mache, but this version is larger than life and directly precedes one of the best fireworks shows in the Great Lakes. In true Port Clinton fashion, there are many other events to get into on December 31st. Ask the locals about the party!
Cost: FREE to attend
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Varies by year
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