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If you’re looking to take a trip to Ohio but don’t want to stay at the busier stops, Port Clinton is the perfect place to plan a vacation. The town has a plenty of fun activities and is less than an hour away from Cedar Point and Put-in-Bay for some extra fun.
The town is one of my family’s favorite Midwest road trip destinations. You may be scratching your head to understand why Port Clinton is a top travel destination and I don’t blame you. To be honest, the fact that many people don’t know about it is precisely one of the reasons we enjoy it so much. It’s undiscovered as a tourist destination, but the perfect place to get away with the family. Here’s why.
Port Clinton is a central location to two of our favorite (yet often crowded) attractions: Put-in-Bay and Cedar Point. It’s easy to day trip to either from Port Clinton, but you can then retreat back to a quieter location at the end of the day. Port Clinton and its surrounding area of Marblehead also hold several fun attractions that the entire family can enjoy. There’s so much to see and do that if you’re planning a trip to either of these popular attractions, we suggest adding on another day or bench-marking an entire day to spend discovering Port Clinton and the surrounding areas.
Here are our favorite Port Clinton attractions (and nearby attractions) to add to your vacation plans.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking for more Midwest road trip ideas? We made a list of 30+ fun Midwest vacation spots to consider!
Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Port Clinton, Ohio
1. Make Penny Souvenirs at the Marblehead Lighthouse
This was my kids’ favorite part of the lighthouse tour – turning the crank to the machine that popped out a little pressed penny. But that’s ok because it kept them happy and mom was able to enjoy the real beauty of the Marblehead Lighthouse along the rock-covered shores of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. At the Port Clinton lighthouse, we were able to tour the operators’ house, which is now a history museum and gift shop, and take a tour up to the top of the lighthouse for a spectacular view of the area.
Things to keep in mind at the lighthouse:
- The museum is free; however, tickets to the top of the lighthouse cost $3 each, but kids 5 and under are free.
- There are 77 steps to the top of the lighthouse – just throwing that out there.
- There are picnic tables available on the grounds as well as public restrooms – this makes it a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch.
2. Tour the Liberty Aviation Museum
If you’re looking for a historic adventure, head over to the Liberty Aviation Museum. This large campus holds several different vintage planes and artifacts. The kids and I enjoyed walking around and seeing just how big the planes were up close. Although, what they really loved was the museum’s fully functional 1950’s diner. The Tin Goose Diner offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options!
SheBuysTravel Tip: The Liberty Aviation Museum has several different buildings – make sure you visit them all!
3. Explore The Watering Hole Safari & Water Park
The Watering Hole can easily become a full-day adventure if you want to explore the entire campus. This includes the African Safari Wildlife Park, Montego Bay Raceway, a gem mining area and the Monsoon Lagoon Water Park.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The African Safari Wildlife Park is a drive-thru safari and zoo. While you can drive your own car through, you may want to opt for the ride-through instead. It’ll save you from needing to clean up spilled feed and wipe animal slobber from your vehicle afterward, especially if you have your vehicle sunroof open near the giraffes.
4. Grab Ice Cream at a Local Favorite: Toft’s
When we decided to head to Ohio, everyone told us the same thing – Make sure to get some ice cream from Toft’s. So we did.
The ice cream at Toft’s is smooth, creamy and really easy to find. Being that Toft’s farm has been located in Ohio since the 1900s, everyone knows the name and can quickly tell you where to find the nearest parlor. We were happy to find one parlor located across the street from our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express in Port Clinton.
5. Play at Fast Eddie’s Sports Park
Active families can find lots to do at the Fast Eddie’s Sports Park. They offer a variety of activities such as a mini golf course, go-kart course, bumper boats, an arcade and gem-mining for kids. If you’re planning to do it all, be sure to check their website for coupons or special bundle savings beforehand.
Free Things to Do in Port Clinton
6. Play at Lakeview Park
If your kids need to get some wiggles out or you just want to spend some time near the beach, a visit to Lakeview Park should do the trick. Here you’ll find a playground, charcoal grills and a picnic area.
7. See Retro Roadside Attractions
Didn’t know Port Clinton had its own famous roadside attraction? To be honest, I didn’t either! Along the side of State Highway 163, we found a giant man (waiter) holding something, which I later found out used to be a tray of food. His name is Handless Jacques and he is one of the famous roadside attractions still standing from the 1950s.
8. Float Down the Portage River
If you enjoy outdoor water recreation, the Portage River is a local favorite for kayaking, paddle boarding or canoeing. Don’t have the gear? No problem! You can rent kayaks or book a river trip with Portage River Paddling Company.
9. Watch the Sunset at Catawba Island State Park
Fun Day Trips From Port Clinton
10. Ride Rollercoasters at Cedar Point
Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio about a 30-minute drive from Port Clinton. This family-friendly thrill park has rollercoasters, rides for smaller kids and fun events.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Cedar Point offers several special events throughout the season. If you plan a trip during one of these events, like Halloweekends, it’s like getting more bang for your buck.
11. Take a Ferry to Put-in-Bay or Kelleys Island
There are two islands off the coast of Port Clinton and two ferry options to get to them. Both Miller Ferry and Jet Express have a boat launch in Port Clinton and offer round-trip transportation to the islands. If you’re looking for tourist attractions, we recommend heading to Put-in-Bay. There are plenty of fun things to do in Put-in-Bay, Ohio for families like cave exploration, boutique shopping, bike riding and golf cart rentals — it’s the main transportation on the island.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking for more places to explore in Ohio? SheBuysTravels have found plenty things to do in Columbus Ohio!
Where to Stay in Port Clinton
When I asked my kids to name off their favorite things about our trip, swimming in the pool at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Clinton-Catawba Island was one of them. It almost never fails that when you go on vacation to somewhere wonderful, the kids beg to go swimming in the pool almost the entire time. Luckily for us, we stayed at a hotel with a really nice indoor pool so I didn’t mind it so much. It was a welcome chance to relax while the kids had fun.
Address: 50 NE Catawba Road, Port Clinton, OH 43452
Why it works for families:
- Free breakfast
- Free Wifi
- Family suites are available
- Close to family-friendly attractions