As a kid, that meant camping at Pymatuning Lake or renting a cottage in Ashtabula or Geneva on the Lake, where we’d splash in the waves and build mammoth sand creations on the beach, then hang out by a fire or in town at night.
Breakfasts were big, but plans for the day were minimal at best. Amenities included a lake breeze, a sleeper sofa and a strong shower to wash away the sand.
So even though last summer’s cottage near Catawba Island’s Gem Beach was a small side-by-side without frills or even much room in the kitchen to open the refrigerator door, it had the appeal of a Jimmy Buffett tune.
The wooden door on the screened-in porch clapped shut, the sound of kids off to the beach. The porch swing was the perfect spot to watch the lightning and listen to the rain as a strong summer thunderstorm rolled in.
The front yard was big enough to toss the football around and for the kids to ride their bikes. At night, the sky unfolded the stars as silent guides for a stroll along the shore.
And though Buffett probably wouldn’t approve, the picnic table outside was close enough to some expensive condos that you could pick up a wireless signal to check email or get a quick weather report.
It was our little “Cheeseburger in Paradise”— the perfect spot to enjoy the best of Lake Erie’s islands. We were 100 yards from a private beach, a quick walk to the much larger, public Gem Beach and its playground, and a short drive from the ferry to Put-in-Bay, the charm of Port Clinton and the excitement of Cedar Point.
And our trip was made so much better by little tips and hidden secrets revealed by longtime island-goers that I felt we needed to share them with everyone else. Whether you’re looking for your personal “Margaritaville” or just a “License to Chill,” we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to the islands, starting on page 82.
There is so much to explore, enjoy and escape to that it was tough to cram everything in. Here’s some extra advice from a week on Catawba Island (Tip No. 1: It’s not really an island).: