When people ask me about my favorite part of my home state of Ohio, I never have to think about my answer. Our national park, I’ll say, or our evolving cities. Our Midwest friendliness and the fact that we get all four seasons in a year. And, of course, the 850 miles of shoreline along Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes that span the border between the US and Canada. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the lakes, but covers a surface area of 9,910 square miles, making it the 11th-largest lake in the world by surface area.
While you may have heard of Lake Erie, you might not know that local Ohioans treat our stretch of Lake Erie shoreline like a beach destination during the summer months. We plan island getaways (yes, Lake Erie has islands!), take out boats and jet skis, and spend entire weekends hanging out by the water.
The secret is out about Lake Erie in Ohio. But if you've never heard of this spot as a summer destination before, this is where the Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourism board comes in.
Lake Erie Shores & Islands has come up with several “trails” to promote all sorts of cool things you can do along the lakeshore. There's the Thrills Trail that includes spots like Cedar Point (the best amusement park in the world), zip lining, parasailing, and more. There's a Foodie Trail of Put-in-Bay (the most popular summertime destination on an island in the lake). And there's also the Cheers Trail.
What is the Cheers Trail?
The Lake Erie Shores & Islands Cheers Trail is a trail covering 19 different wineries, breweries, and distilleries across northern Ohio. You may not know this, but not only do we brew beer up here, we also grow wine grapes!
The Cheers Trail, unlike a couple of the other trails, comes with a checklist of all the spots you can visit. Pick up a brochure at any Lake Erie Shores & Islands visitor center, get stickers at all the stops you visit, and earn free gifts along the way! (You get a gift after 6 and 12 visits, and if you check off all 19 before March 2020, you can be entered to win a trip!)
Whether you’ve never been to Ohio before, or have lived here all your life and are looking for some last-minute summer trip ideas, the Cheers Trail is worth checking out.
Note: I traveled part of the Cheers Trail in partnership with Lake Erie Shores & Islands and Tourism Ohio. As always, though, all opinions (and photos of giant pretzels) are my own!
Reasons to travel the Cheers Trail
So why bother to pick up one of these brochures and make it a point to travel the Cheers Trail? Well here are just a few reasons:
1. Support local businesses
All the stops along the Cheers Trail are locally owned business, sometimes generations-old. On top of this, many of them are using local ingredients, whether it's local grapes for their wines or local produce in their restaurants.
If you want to buy local in this part of Ohio, you really can't go wrong with any of the stops along the Cheers Trail.
2. Visit places the whole family can enjoy
I think what struck me the most about traveling the Cheers Trail recently was how family-friendly most of the stops are. Whether it's lawn games for the kids or dog-friendly outdoor spaces, this isn't something that's reserved just for adults.
Even as someone who doesn't drink very much, I was able to find something at all the stops we visited that I liked, whether it was an iced coffee or a giant pretzel the size of my head.
3. There's so much to do
The Cheers Trail is spread out across northern Ohio, from Avon Lake to Helena. It covers destinations along the lake like Vermillion and Sandusky and Port Clinton, as well as several island spots on Kelleys Island and South Bass.
Because the trail is so diverse, there are lots of other things you can do while traveling it. Spend a day at Cedar Point or Kalahari, rent bikes on Kelleys Island, visit the Marblehead Lighthouse, kayak through a coastal state park, and much more.
Cool spots on the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Cheers Trail
I haven't visited all 19 of the spots on the Cheers Trail yet, but the ones I've been to have been great! Here are a few of my favorites so far:
Twin Oast Brewing
3630 NE Catawba Rd., Catawba
Located on Catawba Island (not far from where the Miller Ferry travels over to Put-in-Bay), Twin Oast Brewing sits on a 60-acre farm. They craft unique beers, using local ingredients when they can – they call this their “Farm-to-Fermenter mission,” and even grow their own hops.
Along with craft beers, Twin Oast also has a full-service kitchen that serves up a mix of German-inspired and Lake Erie fare, from giant pretzels to perch tacos. I was also a fan of their homemade root beer.
What really makes Twin Oast shine, though, is the outdoor space. Along with a large indoor bar/seating area, they also have a second outdoor bar with seating, fire pits, a water feature, and a huge lawn for kids to run around on.
If I lived nearby, this would probably be my go-to weekend spot.
Rocky Point Winery
111 W. Main St., Marblehead
Just a couple minutes up the road from the Marblehead Lighthouse, Rocky Point Winery is a great summer spot for enjoying Ohio wines in a green outdoor space.
Along with an indoor bar and small seating area, Rocky Point also has a second outdoor bar and a lawn with bright red chairs where you can enjoy live music several nights a week.
The wine at Rocky Point is made using almost all Midwest grapes, including a lot that are grown on Isle St. George in Lake Erie. If you like sweeter, fruity wines, their Concord and Pink Catawba varieties will be right up your alley. Pick up a container of chocolates inside the shop to have with your tasting.
We visited this winery on a Sunday afternoon, assuming it would be quiet. Yet the parking lot was full, and the outdoor area was thrumming with people. This is clearly a local favorite.
Kelleys Island Brewery
504 W Lakeshore Drive, Kelleys Island
There are several spots on the Cheers Trail that are on either Kelleys Island or South Bass Island, the two most popular islands in Lake Erie. I've been to a couple of these, but I think Kelleys Island Brewery stood out the most.
It's a laid-back spot not far from “downtown” Kelleys Island that has both and indoor and outdoor bar, plus indoor and outdoor seating in the summer with a view of the lake. Park up your golf cart (the best way to get around Kelley's Island) next to the brewery, and head inside for hand-crafted beers and a full menu.
This family-run spot has been feeding hungry island visitors since 1960, and brewing American-style beer since 1999. They have some fun island-themed beer names like Anglers Ale, Island Devil, and Gale Ale, among others.
And, it's not on the main menu, but you can do a tasting here that comes on a wooden tray in the shape of Kelleys Island!
Other spots on the Cheers Trail
The other destinations currently on the Cheers Trail include:
- Klingshirn Winery, Avon Lake
- Quarry Hill Winery & Orchard, Berlin Heights
- Redhead Ciderhouse, Berlin Heights
- Mon Ami Restaurant and Historic Winery, Catwaba
- Chateau Tebeau, Helena
- Crooked Tree Vineyard, Kelleys Island
- Kelley's Island Wine Co., Kelleys Island
- D&D Smith Winery, Norwalk
- Sandy Ridge Vineyards and Mercantile, Norwalk
- Catawba Island Brewing Company, Port Clinton
- Heineman's Winery and Crystal Cave, Put-in-Bay
- Put-in-Bay Brewery & Distillery, Put-in-Bay
- Put-in-Bay Winery, Put-in-Bay
- Bait House Brewery, Sandusky
- Firelands Winery, Sandusky
- Paper Moon Vineyards, Vermillion
The Cheers Trail isn't something that's meant to be traveled within a day or even a weekend. Rather, it's something to keep in mind as you visit all the craft creators scattered across northern Ohio. (After all, make sure you can still drive responsibly, even if it's just a golf cart or bike on one of the islands!)
There are plenty of events happening at many of these locations throughout the year, so pick up your brochure and start planning some adventures!
Did you know that Ohio had wineries or breweries like this? Who's ready to travel the Cheers Trail?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!