Columbus Dispatch Review
Island retreat allows guests to enjoy fall in luxury
Sunday, October 05, 2003
A WATER’S EDGE RETREAT
By Lynne Thompson
KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio — Most people think of the Lake Erie Islands as a summer destination, a place to beat the heat as the mercury climbs into the 80s and 90s.
But vacationers continue streaming to the islands well into the fall. The lake’s warm waters keep temperatures up to 10 degrees warmer than those on the mainland. And the leaves are slower to turn, which means the annual foliage show contiunes through mid-November.
For those looking to enjoy the island in luxury, consider A Water’s Edge Retreat, a bed and-breakfast on the southern shore of Kelleys Island.
Proprieters Elizabeth and Tim Hermes say for the three story structure they built eight years ago modeled after a Victorian farmhouse near Cape May, N.J., down to the wrap-around front porch, gingerbread trim and teal green paint.
All six antiques-filled guest rooms have private baths. The house's double-drywall construction muffles voices and footsteps. A private lakeside deck and gazebo sit out front and a hot tub in back. Bicycles are available for borrowing.
Licensed personnel schedule massages, facials, body wraps and yoga instruction in a third-floor treatment room for an additional fee, and the Hermes offer two-hour cruises on their 35-foot sailboat in some package deals.
Alarm clocks, telephones and televisions are noticeably absent. Elizabeth Hermes believes they intrude on the relaxing, romantic atmosphere so many couples are seeking.
What the bed-and-breakfast lacks in small electronics, it makes up in food. As the weather cools, the spread of wines and cheeses — set out at 4 p.m. every day — expands to include brandy, port, mulled cider and heartier hors d’oeuvres such as homemade French bread stuffed with roasted garlic and rosemary; a fondue of gruyere and Emmenthal cheeses; caramelized onion and leek soup; and broiled puff pastry pinwheels rolled with spinach, mushrooms and gruyere cheese.
Guests can partake on the deck, on the front porch, or in the parlor by a fire that burns from morning until night.
The bedtime snack ranges from homemade amaretto chocolate-chip cookies to pear tartlets to French cheesecake.
Breakfast — a diet-breaking buffet — includes at least two hot items, fresh fruit and just-baked rolls, breads and pastries. Late-year selections include a decadent baked version of French toast made by layering caramelized and fresh apples, brown sugar and cinnamon with bread, then soaking it overnight in a custard base containing Grand Marnier and Amaretto. Guests are permitted, even encouraged, to come down to the formal dining room in their pajamas and bathrobes.
Even better than the food is the service.
The Hermes and their two French staffers go to unexpected lengths to please their guests: driving those who arrive without their cars to and from the ferry dock and airport, digging out an extra windbreaker for the woman who forgot hers, keeping a plate of huevos rancheros and blueberry pancakes warm for those who slept through breakfast.
The bed-and-breakfast is within biking distance of what passes for Kelleys Island’s downtown area, a smattering of shops, bars and restaurants near the water at the intersection of Division Street and East Lakeshore Drive. It comes to life at night, especially on weekends.
But the island has retained a distinctly small-town atmosphere, despite that it’s almost twice the size of its more commercially developed neighbor, South Bass Island.
Bicycles and golf carts outnumber cars on shady, quiet streets lined with beautiful old homes; some date to the mid-1800s. So much of the original architecture has been preserved that the entire island is on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the exception of swimming, the activities on Kelleys Island remain essentially the same summer through fall: boating, biking, hiking, sightseeing or sitting down with a good book.
Pat Hayes, president of the Kelleys Island Audubon Society, says that the Lake Erie archipelago provides a number of natural pit stops for birds migrating over the lake, making the islands one of the prime bird-watching spots in North America.
Hayes adds that scuba-diving boaters and their friends flock to the surrounding waters, where hundreds of shipwrecks litter the lake’s relatively shallow western basin. Underwater visibility is best in fall, when there is less algae and fewer boats churning the waters. (Diving charters are available only from the mainland.)
Landlubbers may want to check out the Bay Haven Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in Port Clinton that the Hermes’ son, David, opened this year.
Breakfast in the white-sided 1910 residence is served in an enclosed porch that overlooks the front lawn and Lake Erie, and visitors have access to an airy first-floor parlor with a gas fireplace, television and selection of board games. Vases of fresh flowers in every room — roses, lilies, carnations — are part of the charm.
Visitors using three of the four redecorated guest rooms share a single bath, and breakfasts are often served on plates instead of buffet-style.
David says he asks guests about any food allergies and aversions when they arrive before planning the next day’s menu.
The more reasonable room rates and kid-friendly policy — unlike A Water’s Edge Retreat, the Bay Haven welcomes children — attract a younger, 25-to-45 crowd who like the walking distance to a public sand beach, municipal marina, fishing charters, restaurants and ferry service to South Bass Island.
If you go
A WATER’S EDGE RETREAT The bed-and-breakfast on Kelleys Island offers luxurious accommodations on Lake Erie.
Kelleys Island is about 3.7 miles north of Marblehead in Lake Erie. It is part of an archipelago that stretches from Sandusky to Point Pelee in Ontario, Canada. To make the 153-mile trip, take I-71 north to U.S. 250 (Exit 186). Follow Rt. 250 west to Rt. 2 west, then to Rt. 269 north and finally to Rt. 163 east. Continue 5.5 miles on Rt. 163 east to the Kelleys Island ferry dock, located on the left side of the road. The Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line offers daily ferry service, weather permitting, for both passengers and vehicles from Marblehead to Kelleys Island. Round-trip fares for the 25-minute trip are $10 a person and $20 a car. (One car with two passengers, for example, would cost $40). Schedules change at the beginning of October, November and December. Call 419-798-9763 for up-to-date information or visit www.kelleysislandferry.com.
A Water’s Edge Retreat, 827 E. Lakeshore Dr., Kelleys Island, has six guest rooms. Rates are $149 plus tax for a deluxe, lake-view room Sunday to Thursday, and $179 plus tax Friday and Saturday. A two-night stay is required on weekends. Rates include a wine-and-hors d’oeuvre hour, an after-dinner snack and a gourmet breakfast buffet. The Inn is open daily through Dec.14, except Thanksgiving Day.
• Call Water’s Edge at 419-746-2455 or 1-800-884-5143 or visit www.watersedgeretreat.com.
• For information on the Bay Haven Inn in Port Clinton, call 419-734-2064 or visit www.bayhaveninn.com. Source: Lynne Thompson