Unexpected Ohio – A Photo Essay.
I didn’t really know what to expect when we went to Ohio. To be honest my only real impression of it had been years before when I was starting over. Numb from a terrible break up I decided to move to California. In my beat up black Hyundai Elantra, I borrowed $1,500 from my grandmother, piled in my rabbit Ree, two of my greatest friends and whatever clothes I could fit between it all. I was Cali bound.
On the way we traveled through Ohio and besides stopping for a bite to eat and a place to crash we didn’t see much of it. The only thing I remember was the endless amount of overly religious billboards that suddenly appeared after crossing the state border. Coming from democratic Massachusetts we all thought it was pretty bizarre, we joked about the signs and headed to our next stop, Kansas.
So when I returned last September to get a glimpse of the real Ohio I wasn’t really sure exactly what that entailed. I was told the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region was called the Key West of the Midwest. I had been to Key West – where chickens run around the streets, the water is perfectly blue and Key Lime flavors everything.
Key West is so relaxed it looks like Jimmy Buffet played God for the day and created his dream utopia. Could anything in Ohio really be like that?
I had my doubts.
But I also knew my friend Ryan had good taste. If he liked Ohio this much then there must be a reason. So we hopped a plane and away we went to the Lake Erie region to explore the other side of utopia.
This is what we found….
Lake Erie & The Islands:
A Perfect. Blue. Bliss. Dotted by vibrant green islands where your only transportation is a bike, golf cart or a boat. A relaxed pace of life and water as far as the eye can see. Stormy skies that open up over the water and create the perfect photo-scape that you assume can only naturally belong to the Atlantic. It’s a peaceful, beautiful place and it turns out, that aside from the wild chickens, the lifestyle here is a lot like Key West.
If the lifestyle described above is your kind of heroin then Sandusky is the gateway drug. Sandusky is a main jump off point to the islands and is quite cute in its own right. It slightly reminded me of a small city near where I grew up but 100% better because people cared enough to make it look pretty. With a classic 1950′s Main St. America layout, Sandusky could’ve easily fallen into the land of the forgotten but it didn’t. Instead the parks are beautiful and the atmosphere is alive – sidewalks are lined with shops, high end eateries, down to earth bars and a classic barber shop. There is even a Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky. After learning that the marina cost only about $100 a month to dock a boat we seriously contemplated buying a sailboat and moving here. Spending our summers swimming in Lake Erie sounds very appealing. We joked with Ryan that we should turn it into the next big travel blogger boom town. Just like Chiang Mai, Sandusky sports fast wifi, ridiculously low prices, an easy going lifestyle and an endless amount of fun. All we would need to do is start a night market.
In any case, all of these reasons definitely make it a perfect spot for a laid back holiday. I should also mention that the famous Cedar Point amusement park is right nearby and instead of religious billboards, the signs heading into town claim that there are more indoor water parks here than anywhere else in the world. It’s like a family vacation paradise.
One of the main reasons we wanted to visit Ohio was so that we could learn about the ecological diversity of the area. From glacial grooves to nature walks, it turns out this region of Ohio is flooded with natural beauty. We were fortunate in that we traveled with environmental scientist, Stacy Carpenter from Blue Lion Training. Exploring the land with her was fantastic because we learned a lot about the diversity of the woods – something I know very little about. We spotted snakes, deer and learned about several ways an acorn can save your life if lost in the woods. She filmed a few videos for her environmental workshop where we learned even more about the area around us. This area of Ohio is certainly no slouch in the Eco department so if you love the outdoors and science be sure to check out the trails and all the educational centers in the region.
I’ve WWOOFed on a vineyard in Tuscany, I’ve sampled some of the best France has to offer and I’ve camped my way around Sonoma and Napa. Wine from Ohio? When I saw this was on the itinerary I was psyched – who doesn’t look wine tasting and cheese boards? But I wasn’t expecting much, after all this is Ohio and I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone talk about Ohio wines. Oh wait, yes I remember – NEVER. Boy was I wrong. Turns out Northern Ohio is lush with vineyards and what matters more is that the wine is really, really good. Add beautiful scenery and live music into the mix and you really can’t go wrong.
I hope you like my photos of Lake Erie Shores and Islands. Sometimes it feels really good to be wrong and I am so happy that my initial Ohio assumptions were completely inaccurate.
Small Town America, the burgeoning wine scene, stunning natural beauty and relaxed pace of life on the islands were a complete surprise for me. It’s no wonder Randy described this area as one of America’s best hidden hotspots in Men’s Health. It is.
Ohio is our hidden travel gem – What’s yours? Let us know in the comments!
Want to learn more about visiting northern Ohio? Check out the stories below:
*We’d like to thank Lake Erie Shores and Islands for hosting us, and Ryan Whaley of Green Door Mediaworks for showing us around the islands and Sandusky. As always our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!