Lucky us to be within a day's drive of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands!

Lucky us to be within a day's drive of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands!

The area covers several counties and many cities of all sizes. It offers an enormous variety of pleasures that tempt a travel writer to invoke that well-worn cliche, "something for everyone."

To list all the wonders of the lakes region is impossible, and the following list is only a sample. Pasttimes such as boating, fishing and swimming represent warm-weather water activities. Now seems an appropriate time to mention that wet and wild fun is as popular in the winter as the summer, thanks to a plethora of indoor water parks. In fact, the largest such water park in the country, Kalahari, is there to be enjoyed during any time of the year.

The mother of all amusement parks, Cedar Point, attracts three million visitors every year. The magazine Amusement Today has awarded it the Golden Ticket Award for being the best amusement park in the world for the ninth straight year. It continues to be the park that will never know completion with the addition of a new roller coaster for 2010.

For history buffs, there is the Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The Maritime Museum of Sandusky depicts the history of Lake Erie with exhibits on boat building, recreational boating, shipwrecks, commercial shipping, fishing and Sandusky's role in the Underground Railroad.

Everyone loves the stories of Ohio's portion of the Underground Railroad. You can take a self-guided tour following a map or take a trolley tour of still-existing sites and hear stories of local Underground Railroad heroes.

How about the natural world? Bird watching is a popular activity in the area. There are thousands of species to see during the spring and fall migratory seasons. Bird watching is a leading recreational activity in the country, second only to gardening. The Lake Erie Wing Watch protects the habitats it promotes, and is used as a model throughout the state.

According to a 2008 Visitor Postcard Survey here are the top six reasons to visit Lake Erie Shores and Islands:

Lake Erie Islands Beaches Cedar Point Lighthouses Historical sites Waterparks
My family visited a wonderful resort that offers its own recreational activities as well as serving as a jumping-off point for area exploration. It's the Sawmill Creek Resort and Conference Center, a beautifully landscaped 235 acres adjoining a 500-acre nature preserve.

The good ship Explorer takes up to 70 people out to the islands of Lake Erie. The sandy beach is perfect for sunning and swimming, and is reached via a half-mile wooded nature walk. A lakefront marina has 176 boat slips.

The accommodations in the Sawmill Creek Lodge are comfortable and spacious. We particularly enjoyed the public areas where cozy fires blazed on massive hearths. It is perfect for all seasons of the year. We were there in November, and enjoyed scrumptious meals in one of two restaurants open in the winter. The lodge has both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. It offers fireplaces and Jacuzzi suites. Getaway packages are offered both in winter and summer.

My son-in-law is an accomplished golfer. He says the Tom Fazio-designed golf course is one of the best he has ever played. Apparently, the level of challenge depends on the direction of the winds off Lake Erie.

Most of the lodge's decor was custom-made by two artists who incorporated the area's Native American heritage into the overall plans. The walls and hallways are decorated with Indian blankets and a variety of ancient implements used by the Wyandotte tribes who came up from the south to hunt and fish in the bountiful forests and lakes. Spear points are still being found in the woods.

We visited a fantastic gift shop at Sawmill. It is in a converted century-old barn that carries as much merchandise as a small department store. Everything from clothing to personal items and home decorations is of the finest quality. We spent hours admiring the very unusual offerings filling the shop to the rafters.

It was a wonderful weekend, and it makes perfect sense for a family to make the homey Sawmill Creek Resort its headquarters for a vacation in the Lake Erie Shores and Islands.

Mildred Moss is Columbus Parent Magazine's travel writer.