Making s'mores at Salt Fork Lodge
Making s’mores at Salt Fork Lodge

Why is it so easy to forget about the great places to visit right in your own backyard? I was reminded of this recently on a press trip with fellow travel writers when I got to visit several of the fantastic Ohio State Parks. As an Ohio native and regular travel writer for DiscoveringOhio.com, I am aware of the many State Parks and the great attractions in the surrounding counties, but it is easy to take them for granted when you have such easy access to them.

So I issue this challenge the next time you struggle with a place to take your family, your significant other or just yourself…what great things sit right in your own backyard that you can visit or re-visit? In this two-part series I uncover two visitor-friendly parts of Ohio that you might want to check out on your next long-weekend or vacation…Guernsey County in Southeast Ohio and Maumee Bay/Toledo in Northern Ohio.

Guernsey County is only about two hours from Columbus, but because of it’s rolling and spacious landscape, it seems far away. It is not a huge tourist area, which I find to be one of it’s highlights. You can truly get away to find peace of mind, yet there are enough attractions in the area to fill several days.

 

Fishing on Salt Fork Lake
Fishing on Salt Fork Lake

Salt Fork Lodge sits within the largest state park in Ohio. Salt Fork State Park is 20,000 acres and has more than 74 miles of shoreline. That’s A LOT of fishing, boating, golfing, camping, archery, horseback riding, photography, s’mores, geocaching, swimming and hiking. The lodge has regular naturalist activities, like night hikes, as part of it’s offering to guests who might want to take advantage of all that the surroundings have to offer.

What’s more is that Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates five Ohio State Park lodges, including Salt Fork, has a strong commitment eco-tourism. This means as a visitor, not only can you enjoy the natural environment, but you are also taking part in preserving it.

After you rest up with some great food at the lodge, you might want to head out to uncover some of Guernsey County’s hidden gems like: the National Museum of Cambridge Glass, The Living Word Outdoor Drama, the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, the Dickens Victorian Village and the Great Guernsey Trail which is the centerpiece of a festival on June 15th in Lore City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Zip line at The Wilds
Zip line at The Wilds

Of course, if you are visiting the Cambridge area, you must explore your wild side at The Wilds. Here, you can get up close to giraffes, rhinos and hundreds of animals who call the 10,000 acre conservation facility home. For an extra memorable experience, I recommend taking the zip line course through The Wilds. The course runs 2 1/2 hours and takes you airborne over the animals and natural habitat. You will zip through trees, over lakes and get a bird’s eye view of this magnificent facility. I would plan a good half-day for The Wilds whether you zip line or tour the grounds by jeep.

Chef Bill Bird at Terra Cotta Vineyards
Chef Bill Bird at Terra Cotta Vineyards

For a relaxing evening during your stay in the region, check out Terra Cotta Vineyards in New Concord, Ohio. With many award-winning wines on hand and a relaxing view of the rolling hills in the area, there is no better way to end a busy day. If you plan ahead, you can register for their Chef In The Vineyard dinners that take place one Friday a month. Chef Bill Bird whips up a delectable meal comprised of several courses, topped off with an impressive dessert. The evening I visited, the chef topped off his creme brule by adding a touch of heat to a mouth-watering combination of fresh blueberries that had been marinated in Terra Cotta Concord Wine and dutch chocolate syrup. YUM!

You never really have to look far to find adventure and get-aways, oftentimes, you just have to look harder and remember to appreciate the treasures that reside in your own backyard. In part two of this series, we travel north to check out the get-away opportunities in the Maumee Bay/Toledo area.