Sunset on Kelleys Island

Kelleys Island, Ohio

Placed in the Western basin of the beautiful Lake Erie, Kelleys Island is the largest island in the "Buckeye State". The friendly locals welcome all tourists with open arms to show them their rich history, nature reserves, and laidback lifestyles. An island for all four seasons is what the local islanders class their rock to be. Guests hitch a 20-minute ride on the Kelleys Island Ferry from Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio, to access the secluded island.


Sunset on Lake Erie from Kelleys Island in Ohio
Aerial View of Kelleys Island

Off the coast of northwestern Ohio, Kelleys Island covers an area of over 11 sq. kilometers and rests at 182 meters above sea level. Today, witnesses can still see traces of glacial drifts carved into the limestone island. Kelleys Island is a component of the Lake Erie Islands, which includes the most southern point of Canada – Pelee Island, Ontario, Canada, just north of the island by nearly 10 kilometers. Kelleys Island sits less than 10 kilometers off the coast of The Buckeye State. Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio state lines adjoin roughly 200 kilometers west of Kelleys Island. Unswervingly south of the island, Columbus, the capital of Ohio, is just 215 kilometers away. The eminent Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, can be reached by a ferry journey and a two-hour drive east along the coast of Lake Erie.


Sailboats Docked at the Marina at Kelleys Island
Sailboats Docked at the Marina at Kelleys Island

The best time for tourists to make the trip from the mainland is from June until September – however, temperatures can rise above 32˚C. Kelleys Island's humidity index averages above 50% in the summer, when it can feel muggy and sizzling. June is the dampest month when an average of 94 millimeters of rain can saturate the island. Nevertheless, less than 900 millimeters of rainfall will fall on Kelleys Island annually. By mid-November, low temperatures dip below 0˚C, and the number of freezing days increases considerably throughout the wintery months. January is the most frigid time of year, where temperatures average around -6˚C, with nearly 20 centimeters of snowfall blanketing the island in the first month. Kelleys Island can see almost 60 centimeters of snowfall during the frigid months. Temperatures finally climb back above 10˚C by April when flurries turn into showers. Warmer temperatures aid the resident's gardens, and tourism increases on Kelleys Island by May.


The islands were known for excellent fishing conditions, and the land was favorable for tribes to live nomadically in the summer months. The indigenous Erie tribe that inhabited the southern shores of Lake Erie would make the trek to the islands during the summer months. Datus and Irad Kelley, two brothers from Cleveland, searched for business opportunities to strike gold until they stumbled upon the island. By 1833, the Kelley brothers started to purchase plots of the island for its red cedars – which were extremely valuable at this time. By 1840 the name Kelleys Island had been granted as a township, and then 47 years later, it was incorporated as a village. Shingwuak, an indigenous chief, interpreted an inscription found on a large rock in the south bay of Kelleys Island in 1852. The story describes what it was like for the Erie Tribe on the island between the 13th and 17th centuries. In the mid-1800s, the rock quarry industry was fully operational on the island. Early limestone mining conditions were highly hazardous for the workers, but the precious minerals were in high demand. Ohio's high-quality limestone aided in the construction of bridges, churches, and the first North American lock in Sault Saint Marie. Kelleys Island's population grew, and families started cultivating grapes and other profitable fruits.

Population & Economy

Kelleys Island is the largest population in Erie County, Ohio – unfortunately, its population has decreased over the past twelve years. According to the latest U.S. census, two hundred forty-four people inhabit the historical island today. However, the median household income is $97,698, and less than 3% of the population lives below the poverty line. The value of a stand-alone house averages around $298,300, and renters pay on average $850 monthly. The median age of Kelleys Island residents is 65 years old, the ethnicity is 98.2% White, and the remaining is two or more races. Less than half of the residents participate in the labor force, and the unemployment rate is more than 10%. Management, sales, and production occupations are the most common industries on the island. In contrast, the highest paid industries are the financial, management, and production professions.


Kelleys Island State Park

Spanning over 675 acres on the northern shores of Kelleys Island – its state park provides scenic campsites, excellent fishing from the coast, and kilometers of hiking trails. Inside the park, viewers can observe the remanence of glacial movement that carved grooves into the native limestone. Its multiple docks and the sandy beach offer excellent swimming spots for campers and visitors to feel refreshed on the hot summer days. Swimming off this section of the coast makes people feel like they're in the middle of the ocean.

Kelleys Island Historical Association

The historical association is a small museum that shares stories and artifacts about the island's past. From local cuisine, pharmaceutical medicine, fishing, and days before electricity – guests can learn about the unique lifestyle residents endured on the small rock in Lake Erie. Entrance to the museum is affordable, and a short slideshow with a speaker with an extra fee. It is a must-see museum while visiting the island - the information told in this facility makes guests' jaws drop. 

Inscription Rock

On the south coast of Kelleys Island, covered by a large pavilion, the original inscription rock is completely exposed for the public to witness. The stone has original indigenous pictographs that display the story of the Erie tribe's past. The National Register of Historic Places inscribed Inscription Rock for its rare scriptures recorded between 1200 and 1600. This piece of Indigenous history will take minds back hundreds of years, learn about their ways of life, and educate visitors about the hardships they had to endure.

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