Ohio’s Crystal Cave in Put In Bay: An In-Depth Guide for Curious Travelers

Crystal Cave is a geological wonder located on Lake Erie, about a mile outside Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The cave is located at Heineman Winery, which has been owned and operated by the same family for five generations.

Related: Journey to the Center of the Earth: The World’s Most Interesting Caves

History of Crystal Cave at Put In Bay

The area around Lake Erie is well-suited for growing grapes. Gustaf Heineman, a German immigrant, recognized the favorable conditions and opened a winery there in 1888. By 1897 the winery’s growth made a new well necessary.

As workers dug, they came across a “vug,” an empty limestone cavity lined with crystals about 30 feet below the surface of the ground. Further investigation of the 40-foot diameter cavern identified the crystals as celestite, or strontium sulfate, a pale blue mineral.

Some of the cave’s fragile crystals are up to 3 feet wide, and many are 8-18 inches long, weighing 200-300 pounds. Each crystal has 14 flat sides, or faces. This site is comprised solely of strontium sulfate crystals and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest geode in the world.

The cave was expanded as some of the crystals were initially harvested for the manufacture of fireworks–celestite burns with a bright red color. The crystals are too fragile for jewelry, but when ground fine they can be used for other commercial purposes, such as road flares.

After the start of the Prohibition, the many wineries in the area faced financial devastation. Hieneman was able to save his vineyard by opening the Crystal Cave to tourists. Because of his quick thinking, the Heineman is the oldest winery in Put-in-Bay, and countless visitors have had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of their unique cave discovery.

Visiting Crystal Cave

Put-in-Bay is an island in Lake Erie. Since there is no bridge, the area is accessed only by plane or boat. Two ferry services are available–the Miller Ferry and the Jet Express, which leave from Port Clinton for the about 20-minute trip. 

One-way ferry prices run under $10 for adults, with decreasing rates for children 11 and under. It’s around $20 one-way for a vehicle. Taxis, bicycles, and golf carts are available for rental on the island.

Crystal Cave is open for viewing from April 20 through October 29, seven days a week. Touring hours on Monday through Saturday are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday’s hours are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The current cost for a cave tour is $12 for adults, $7 for ages 6-11, and free for children under six. The cave can accommodate about six visitors at a time. It’s a good idea to bring a sweater since the cave’s temperature is cool, around 50 degrees. 

After visiting Crystal Cave, the island is lovely to walk on, and another point of interest, Perry’s Cave, is just across the street. Visit Put-in-Bay’s event calendar to coordinate your trip with yearly events and interesting places to see.

Contact info for the winery and cave:

Heineman’s Winery

978 Catawba Avenue

Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

Phone: (419) 285-2811

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