By BARRY GOODRICH
After a spring spent quarantined, Northeast Ohioans are more than ready to enjoy the outdoors this summer. And with many vacationers hesitant to fly due to COVID-19 concerns, the shores of Lake Erie and its islands offer ideal options for those who want to enjoy staycations closer to home.
Traditionally a drawing card for visitors from all over Ohio and beyond, the region is rebounding from a slow start. The anticipated opening of Cedar Point on July 9 has been a boost while the affordability and easy access of the area is also attracting vacationers, some of whom have traveled from out of state in the past.
“We’ve seen a gradual increase of people coming to the region since late April,” said Larry Fletcher, president of Lake Erie Shores and Islands. “We had 53 requests for our travel guide back in the spring and after the announcement that we were re-opening, that jumped to over 500.”
Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers welcomed back visitors for overnight stays on June 12. The classic beachfront resort hotel with waterfront views and balconies is operating under state protocols with employees subject to daily temperature and health screenings and guests are required to wear masks.
For those who would rather be closer to nature, Lighthouse Point has more than 100 luxury RV sites with hookups for water, sewer, electric and cable and complimentary Wi-Fi. Ultimate campsites include a dedicated patio and large grill.
Camping is an ideal way for families and small groups to practice social distancing while on vacation. Most privately owned campsites and Ohio state parks are open and accepting reservations for RV and tent camping and cabin and cottage rentals.
“Our occupancy rates are from 50-75 percent what they were at this time last year,” said Fletcher. “We lost Spring Break and we’re not seeing the business travel we usually do. But there was a high demand for waterfront cottages when the travel restrictions were lifted.”
With the consensus that smaller communities are safer than denser, highly populated destinations, the Lake Erie shores and islands offer a chance to get away with both economical and geographical advantages. “There are millions of people within a three to four-hour drive,” said Fletcher. “And we have a lot of activities that lend themselves to social distancing.”
One of the area’s more popular attractions is the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton – the Midwest’s only drive-thru safari where carloads of guests can enjoy sightings of bison, zebras and giraffes.
As always, Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay will be popular destinations for visitors to the region. The Sandusky Segwave, a Segway tour through the streets and parks of Sandusky, and walking tours offered by the Erie County Historical Society include the Underground Railroad, Kelleys Island and downtown Vermilion.
Charter fishing is another popular way to enjoy the lake while social distancing at the same time. Adventurous vacationers can enjoy the lake on WaveRunners and by parasailing.
For more information and suggestions, visit www.shoresandislands.com.