Unexpected Ohio – A Photo Essay.

By Posted in - Featured Post & Ohio & Travel Blog & U.S.A. on September 3rd, 2013

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.

Natural Beauty:

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.


Wine Tasting:

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:

24 Hours In Put-In-Bay, Ohio

The Burgeoning Wine Scene Of Northern Ohio

12 Reasons To Go To Put-in-Bay This Summer

All My Favorite Drinks Come From Lake Erie Islands

Viva Lake Erie Shores and Islands: An Instagram Session

We’re On Island Time…In Ohio!

*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!


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(19) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Muza-chan -

    September 3, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Beautiful photos 🙂

  • Vera Marie Badertscher -

    September 3, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Glad you’ve discovered my native state. Next time go a little farther south and enjoy the Hocking Hills, Terrific Columbus, and historic Cincinnati and other Ohio River haunts.

    • Bethany Salvon -

      September 13, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Thanks for commenting Vera! We would definitely love to go back and maybe next time we can hit up those spots. 🙂

  • Juliann -

    September 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

    As an Ohioan, I certainly thank you for all your kind words and appreciation of Ohio. I love this state; it’s much more diverse than people probably know. I live in southwestern Ohio (Cincinnati) which is drastically different than the Lake Erie region. And we’ve got plenty of good vineyards down here, too.

    Ohio. Who knew?! 🙂

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures -

    September 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    The last time I was in OH was when I was like 4 years old, so I have zero memory of it. My grandparents and Mom are from there. I looove that first shot wow! Your pics make me want to visit!

  • angloadventure -

    September 3, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Hey, from Illinois and although I frequented the dunes quite a bit, I’ve never been to this. Love Cedar Point though, hope you made it there. Lots to see in the great lakes, really miss it because the water is temperate enough for swimming. Unlike where I live now (Seattle).

  • Lindsay -

    September 4, 2013 at 5:25 am

    So very excited to see your post! I grew up in Sandusky and am always trying to explain why it is such an awesome place. It’s always an uphill battle, but your pictures are beautiful and really capture the essence of what a treasure the area is to the Midwest!

  • Sicorra -

    September 4, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Those pics are beautiful. I grew up on the Canadian side of Lake Erie and loved it. And we visited Cedar Point several summers. It was so much fun.

  • Adam -

    September 4, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Not sure if you remember, but I was in Cleveland on a short trip at the same time you were arriving to start exploring these islands about this time last year. Looks like they really are beautiful. Hope you got the chance to spend some time in Cleveland because it was a surprisingly cool city.

  • Jaime -

    September 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    As an nw Ohio native, a local realtor, and overall lover of the islands, just would like to add a few comments. Your pictures are beautiful!! And Sandusky I wouldn’t say is the main gateway to the islands, it is def. one of them. You can also find transport in Marblehead, port Clinton and Catawba island. All are beautiful places! You could even go by plane! As with most of Ohioans, we are proud of our home, so thank you for your kind words! As for the wine…. Well…..I will just say I love going to many local wineries ( and there are lots). But they are def. not my favorites. However, nothing beats a girls night at a local wine venue, lots of laughs, music and friendship – and in that – memories! If I can offer any local travel tips please don’t hesitate!!!

  • Christy -

    September 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Wow. I never would have imagined a place like this in Ohio. These photos are stunning!

  • Charu -

    September 6, 2013 at 6:23 am

    Such beautiful photos, Bethany! And Randy, great job at evoking the landscape of Ohio…truly gorgeous!

  • Laura -

    September 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I’m from Pittsburgh so Ohio is basically my backyard. You’ve captured its beauty perfectly!

  • Peggy -

    September 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Stunning photography. I left Catawba Island several weeks ago, after living on the lake for 23 years. You captured the feel of the islands. Next time, be sure to visit Catawba Island Brewery for some great craft brews!

  • Ally -

    September 10, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Where were your natural beauty and wine tasting photos taken? I’m doing senior pictures soon and those places look perfect!

    • Bethany Salvon -

      September 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Hi Ally,

      The wine tasting photos were taken at Hermes Vineyards and the natural beauty photos were taken at Old Women’s Creek and at Sheldon Marsh. Good luck! Both spots would be beautiful. 🙂

  • Melissa -

    September 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    You might try http://www.oplin.org/snake/index.html and check Quick I.D. to choose characteristics that this snake has. (Saw you were asking on Pinterest.)

  • Jennifer -

    September 21, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Beautiful photos. I remember annual summertime trips to Sandusky. Gosh, I haven’t been there probably since my senior trip in high school just before graduation.

  • Rashad Pharaon -

    December 15, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Love how you include U.S. locations – especially places that people may think of as ‘not very exotic.’ I tell people all the time that they absolutely can be travel bloggers in their own countries – even their own cities!