Updated January 2022
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jordan Killam, former Director of Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, and originally published in January 2019. It gives an insider look into what the island is like in winter. For information on what businesses are open this year, please contact the Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce at 419-746-2360.
It was around late September when those calls started coming in. The calls from curious people wanting to know about what happens on our island in the dead of winter. They typically go something like this:
“Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce, how may I help you?”
“Oh, hi. I was just wondering...when does the island close for the winter?”
“Well, it doesn’t actually close. Approximately 150 people live here during the winter...but when the lake freezes over, the ferry boats stop running until the lake thaws and most of the island businesses take a recess until spring, if that’s what you mean.”
“You mean they’ve got stuff going on over there in the winter?”
“Absolutely! Ice fishing, art class, fitness class, community potlucks, and Wii bowling tournaments to name a few. There are even places to stay, too!”
“But how do you get there?”
“That sounds like fun!”
“It sure is!”
Kelleys Island is a wonderful place to be in the winter and contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot going on. About 153 individuals stay on the island all year round and they need stuff to do, too! Those who wish to engage in community activities actually do have a few choices.
Art classes take place at the former school on the first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of every month from 10 am-12:30 pm. Fitness classes are held on Wednesdays at 11 am. Every Sunday the VFW hosts a potluck as well as a Wii Bowling league on Thursdays and Fridays. There are also women’s gatherings, book clubs, and even a pickleball league!
The Village Pump is typically the last island restaurant and bar to remain open, and it closed for the season on December 22. The Kelley's Island Wine Co. has been open intermittently. The Island Market remains open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 am-1pm throughout the winter.
One of the most fun ways to spend the winter season in our area, if conditions are right, is going out for a day of ice fishing! Captain Joel Byer has facilitated these expeditions for years and is an experienced ice guide. His services include all necessary equipment, bait, and access to heated shanties. The ice fishing trips take place at least a half mile off shore on the north side of the island, where the water is deeper. For more information about ice fishing and to book your trip today, contact Captain Joel Byer at 419.656.4951.
Speaking of ice, islanders usually hold a party to celebrate the final days of the lake freeze sometime in February! It’s a fun event full of food, drinks, and merriment! Check out our Facebook page for updates on when this event will take place.
If you’re wondering how to get to Kelleys Island in the winter after the ferry boats stop running, please contact our friends and Chamber members at Griffing Flying Service. They have special packages to the Lake Erie Islands and will happily answer any questions you may have about flying to our island. Call 419.734.5400 to schedule your next winter excursion to Kelleys or any other Lake Erie Island!