Rental Sweet Rental

It takes work to find a rental that offers everything you want.
So we did lots of it for you.
Read on for advice on finding a lake home you’ll love.

Keith Johnson’s family vacation ended up as a wonderful memory, but it began as a business transaction — and he didn’t close the deal until he’d done his due diligence.

Johnson, who is from Weston, Conn., was planning a family reunion near Cedar Point Amusement Park last summer. After considering several options, looking at photos and asking questions, he rented a large house with its own Lake Erie beach. The newly remodeled home was jampacked with extra touches, such as luxurious linens, televisions in every room, a gourmet kitchen and plenty of lawn games for entertainment. The water-loving family also had a canoe and kayak at its disposal.

“We had a great experience,” says Johnson. “It was a beautiful setting, and the kids had a lot to do.”

Tina Erwin’s vacation, on the other hand, wasn’t as successful. She and her extended family rented a cottage on South Bass Island in Ohio and found it less than clean. “I finished giving my daughter a bath, and she was running all over the house,” says Erwin, who is from Avon, Ohio. “Her feet were black. The carpet was completely filthy. It was absolutely disgusting.”

Erwin says she’s open to the idea of renting a vacation home again, but she’d do a lot more research.

And that is exactly the point. Finding a great vacation rental isn’t a matter of luck. It’s the result of doing your homework and knowing what to ask (see “The Questions to Ask,” page 36). It’s also a question of expectations. What are you willing to pay for? And what should you get for the money you spend?

When Kathleen Osborne was planning her vacation, she knew she wanted a quick getaway for her family of five, but she didn’t want to pay a fortune. What she did want was a beach — very close by. She ended up in a two-bedroom cabin a short walk from Gem Beach on Catawba near Port Clinton, Ohio, that cost $450 for the week. Her three children (then ages 5, 7 and 9) spent all day on the beach, then learned Texas hold’em from their dad at night in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “It was nothing fancy,” Osborne says. “But a nice place to go.”

The cabin didn’t have a washer and dryer, necessitating a few trips to the laundromat down the road to wash beach towels but, because she knew that before she arrived, Osborne was prepared for it. It ended up being an inexpensive but memorable vacation.

Johnson, because he was hosting a family reunion, was looking for much more than that. He found the home through the popular Web site, which is owned by Each listing usually includes a description of the property, several photos, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the owner’s rental policies and other unique selling points.

“I look for a really accurate description of the property,” says Johnson. “And I like to see pictures and a map; I want to know how far my family will have to walk to get somewhere and what the views will be.”

Once he narrows down his options to two or three, Johnson speaks directly with the owner, something that isn’t always possible when working with a rental agency. “You can tell if they have a passion for it,” he says.

In Johnson’s case, the owner inundated him with extra photos and other materials. “She told me all the good things and the things they were still working on,” he says. “We were pretty well-prepared going in.”

“It all goes back to the basic principles that your mom told you: Don’t assume anything,” says Christine Karpinski, the director of owner community for “If there’s something that is important to you, ask before you solidify that reservation. If a picture shows a rocking chair, double-check that the rocking chair is there.”

As for Erwin, she might be back on the lake this summer, but there’s one thing she knows for sure: “I don’t think I’d rent a place with carpet ever again.”

What to Expect for Your Money

More than $3,500 —
At this price, your home should be absolutely amazing, sleep more than 15 people and be impeccable. It should also be on the water.

$2,500 to $3,500 —
You can expect to be on the water in a very clean house with a gourmet kitchen, multiple baths and plenty to do, whether it’s on-property kayaks or a swimming pool. It should sleep anywhere from eight to 15 people.

$1,000 to $2,500 —
A house at this price point should sleep a large family, up to eight people. It might not be right on the water, but should be close to area attractions. It could be outdated, but should be generally clean.

Less than $1,000 —
This would be a house for around five or six people. It would probably not be on the water and would, most likely, be very basic. Though likely to be outdated, the property should be decently clean. Several renters warned of houses at this price range in known party locations, such as Put-in-Bay. It’s also possible that renters would be expected to bring their own bedding and towels.

The Questions to Ask

• May I see photos of the property? “Pictures, pictures, pictures,” insists Linda Letson, who owned a cottage in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, until last fall. “Pay attention to the details in the pictures. Does the furniture look attractive and well kept? Are the shots of the views taken from the property? A lot of places that aren’t very nice might not give you a lot of pictures.”

• What are the sleeping arrangements? Of course, you’ll ask how many people a house sleeps, but it’s equally important to check exactly where — and on what — everyone will be sleeping. If a house sleeps 10 but includes two 20-year-old sleeper sofas that are expected to hold two people apiece, that might not work for you.

• Do you have references? Find someone who can vouch for the property’s condition. “Try contacting the local chamber of commerce to see if they even know something about the place,” says Lauren Krueger, the owner of the Lake House at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

• Can I stop by to see the house first? If you live nearby and are planning a family reunion or other big event, it’s probably worth your time.

• Is smoking allowed? If it is, nonsmokers should realize that the odor might still be there.

• Are pets allowed? If you’ve never experienced the odor of cat urine, you might not realize the risks you run by renting a place where pets are permitted. Of course, such a house can be spotless, but it should at least raise a red flag to ask more questions.

10 Great Houses Still Available

The best places are booked years in advance, right? Not always. We scoured the lake on your behalf and found 10 amazing properties that, at press time, were still available. Even better, several of the homeowners offered to reserve a week or two for the first Lake Erie Living reader interested in renting their property at its regular price. The homes will be held until April 15.

The Lake House at Cedar Point
Sandusky, Ohio
Cost: $3,500 a week
Contact: Lauren Krueger, 216-513-9220
See it: At (search for No. 220710)
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding the week of June 19-26.
Details: This new home sits on the Cedar Point Chaussee, a narrow strip of land with the Sandusky Bay on one side and Lake Erie on the other. Includes a kayak, canoe and Hobie Cat. Sleeps nine to 12.
Newer Home with Private Beach
Colchester, Ontario (20 miles south of Windsor)
Cost: $950 a week in June, $1,450 a week in July and August
Contact: Jim Kremidas, 734-944-1605
See it: At (search for No. 191468)
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding a week in June.
Details: This immaculate home is fully stocked with the comforts of home. The private beach has a gently sloping sandy bottom. Sleeps nine.
Summer Hill Cottage
Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio
Cost: $1,850 a week
Contact: Tom Nelson, 330-720-5571
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding a week in summer.
Details: This lakefront cottage boasts chocolate chip cookies, beach towels in the summer and firewood on crisp fall days. Sleeps seven.
Luxury Lakefront Log Home
Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Cost: $3,000 a week in summer, $3,500 for a holiday week
Contact: 419-541-0949
See it: At (search for No. 250008)
Details: Who needs the nightlife of Put-in-Bay when you have your own bar, two decks, a grill and enough space for four couples to share? Pass the time watching planes take off or land at the adjacent airport or just enjoy the lakefront location. Sleeps eight.
Alma Villa
Port Stanley, Ontario
Cost: $3,500 a week
Contact: E-mail inquiries only to
See it: At by clicking on “Ontario,” then “South.”
Details: Beautifully restored in 2006, this historic manor is located in one of Canada’s beach towns, Port Stanley. Guests enjoy watching the harbor from the decks that span the entire length of the house. Sleeps 12.
Historic Lakefront Cottage
East Springfield, Pa.
Cost: $1,250 a week, $1,500 for a holiday week
Contact: 614-915-7570
See it: At (search for No. 243536)
Details: This updated home, originally a Sears kit house, sits on five acres bordered by Lake Erie, Raccoon Park and a wildlife reserve, making it a great getaway for outdoor lovers. Guests love roasting marshmallows over an open flame on the private beach, accessed by a footpath from the property. Sleeps six.
Benson Ford Freighter House
Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Cost: $4,500 a week or $3,000 a weekend
Contact: Emily Kasper, 419-366-9330
Reserved for Lake Erie Living: The owner is holding the last two weeks in June.
See it: At (search for No. 219370)
Details: Featured on HGTV’s Extreme Homes, the Benson Ford Freighter is the most talked-about vacation home on the lake. Jutting out of a cliff on South Bass Island, the former freighter has 7,000 square feet of living space. Sleeps 12.
Palermo Vineyard Estate
Westfield, N.Y.
Cost: $4,000 a week
Contact: Rea Palermo, 814-838-1922
See it: At (search for No. 166598)
Details: Staying at this 20-acre estate, set in the midst of a lakefront vineyard, has been described as an idyllic experience. Perfect for large family gatherings — think bonfire on the beach. Sleeps 10 to 20.
White Sails
North East, Pa.
Cost: $165 a night
Contact: Leonidas and Gary Vogiatzis, 814-725-1485
See it: At (search for No. 241884)
Details: If you time your stay right, you can pluck fresh fruit from trees on this lakefront property or watch the bald eagles soaring overhead. Sleeps four.
The Owl House
Lakeside, Ohio
Cost: $2,390 per week
Contact: Sotheby’s International Realty, 877-798-1123
See it: At (search for property 116 W. Second St.)
Details: Situated right on Central Park, this Victorian cottage is within site of the lake, shuffleboard courts, the playground, the gazebo and the stores and restaurants of the village. Sleeps 10.

The Questions to Ask

• How is the house cleaned between visits? “I’ve got a professional cleaner, and we make sure the place is spotless before a new renter gets there,” says Jim Kremidas of Saline, Mich., who owns a newer vacation home in Colchester, Ontario. “If the place is clean to begin with, the renters are more likely to clean up, too.” Also, be aware that at some rentals guests are expected to clean before they leave, and that is the extent of the housekeeping.

• Does the house have central air conditioning?

• When were the kitchens and baths last updated? For many, an out-of-date house is not a deal breaker, but the answer can shed light on the general condition of the property.

• When were the mattresses last replaced? Again, not necessarily a deal breaker, but if a mattress is older than you, it’s less likely to offer a good night’s sleep. “I do think you need to have nicer kitchens, better bathrooms and good mattresses on your bed,” says Krueger.

• What else is included? Are bed linens and towels on hand? Is there dish soap and laundry detergent (if there is a washer and dryer) available? Is there a grill? Are guests able to access the Internet from the house?

• What are your rental policies? Discuss the cancellation policy, fee assessments and when the deposit will be returned.

• Is this your best price? Don’t haggle, but it never hurts to ask — politely. Also, ask about specials.

How to Find Your Vacation Home

Canada’s Coast

Canadians enjoy vacationing on Lake Erie so much that their shoreline is known as “cottage country.” In the summer, Ontario’s fishing villages and port towns — particularly Port Stanley and Port Dover — are the heart of the action. “Cottagers” sunbathe on wide, sandy beaches, go fishing and listen to live music at lakeside bars. For those who enjoy peace and quiet, Point Pelee National Park and Rondeau and Long Point provincial parks are the best places to commune with nature. The dunes and marshes teem with songbirds, as well as spawning fish, turtles and frogs.

Western New York

This region is known as the Grape Belt — the oldest and largest Concord grape growing region in the world, where more than 30,000 acres of lush green vines give way to quaint lakeside villages. Attractions include wineries, farmers markets, the rocky cliffs of Lake Erie State Park and the city of Dunkirk, where you can tour its lighthouse or take a sunset cruise. To the south, the Chautauqua Institution is a favorite summer resort. Other attractions in that area include Midway Park and the city of Jamestown, known for being the birthplace of comedienne Lucille Ball.


Presque Isle State Park is the highlight of a visit to Pennsylvania’s sliver of Lake Erie shoreline. Crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails and ringed with more than seven miles of sandy beaches, the 3,200-acre wooded peninsula draws around 4 million people annually. Fishing, boating, water skiing, scuba diving, swimming, picnicking, and bird and wildlife watching are all possible. Across the bay, Erie offers museums, a variety of dining options and the 3-year-old Presque Isle Downs and Casino.

Once you have narrowed down your vacation destination, you need
to find your rental. A good first step is to contact the local chamber
of commerce or county visitors bureau for a list of rental properties — although be aware that some have more information than others.
There are three popular Web sites that allow owners to post their properties —, and Lastly, there are many agencies that deal in rental properties along the lake. They are listed below by region.




Contact Info

Pigeon Bay Cottages

1284 Graham Side Road South



Shoreline Property Management Inc.

720-195 Dufferin Ave.



Play Long Point

5 Beach Ave.

Long Point


Wilson Family Cottages
& Heritage Inns

206-224 St. George St.

Port Dover


Beach Side Cottage Rentals

347 Fourth St.

Port Stanley


Bauer Beach Houses

33 Cedar Drive

Turkey Point


Long Point Cottages

Long Point


Bayview Cottages

North Shore Road

Pelee Island


Westview Motel and Cottages

1075 W. Shore Road

Pelee Island


Pelee Places Luxury Cottage Rentals

Scudder Bay and Lighthouse Point

Pelee Island


Anchor and Wheel Inn

North Bay Road

Pelee Island


Southern Comfort
Cottage Rentals

478 Stewart Road

Pelee Island



ERA Vacation Properties

4478 W. Lake Road



Howard Hanna Holt
Real Estate

79 W. Lake Road




Kelso Beach Rentals

1004 W. Sixth St., Ste. 1W



Swanson’s Resort Cottages

161 Kelso Drive



The Cottages at
Presque Isle

2930 W. Sixth St.




Lakeside Chautaqua Realty

213 W. Third St.



Street Sotheby’s
International Realty

162 Walnut Ave.



Bay Point Resort

10948 E. Bayshore Road



Little Ted’s Cottages

8390 North Shore Blvd.



Rock Harbor Cottages

7487 East Harbor Road



Skipper’s Resort and Marina

7555 East Harbor Road



South Beach Resort Cottages

8620 E. Bayshore Road



Sportsman Cottages

2170 S. Sugar Bush Drive



Taylor’s Resort and Marina

10526 E. Bayshore Road



Younker’s Cottages

10538 E. Bayshore Road



Lake Erie Beach Front Properties

1623 Water’s Edge Drive

Port Clinton


Lake Erie Vacation Rentals

2039 East Harbor Road

Port Clinton


Rock Ledge Inn Cottages

2772 Sand Road

Port Clinton


Leisure World Rentals

5276 E. Ellithorpe Drive

Port Clinton



Craft’s Lakeview Lane

319 W. Lakeshore Drive

Kelleys Island


Pleasant View Cottages

629 W. Lakeshore Drive

Kelleys Island


Quarry Lodges

305/306 Lower Cliff Drive

Kelleys Island


Sunset Point Rentals

633 W. Lakeshore Drive

Kelleys Island


Middle Bass Rentals

1810 Fox Road

Middle Bass Island


St. Hazards Village on the Beach

1233 Fox Road

Middle Bass Island


Bay View Cottages

70 Chapman Road

South Bass Island


Blue Sky Rentals

P.O. Box 251

South Bass Island


Dave’s Rentals

P.O. Box 323

South Bass Island

Harbor Village Suites

185 Toledo Ave.

South Bass Island


South Shore Condos

1240 Tri-Motor Drive

South Bass Island


Sandusky and the
Marblehead Peninsula

The biggest draw here, of course, is Cedar Point Amusement Park, but packaging those thrills into a larger trip makes for an even better vacation. The gated village of Lakeside publishes a list of classes, lectures and activities each week, which includes everything from pottery to tennis to seminars on religion, history and politics. There’s a small beach, children’s pool and huge park with shuffleboard courts and a supervised playground. There are also shops, restaurants and plenty of places to get an ice cream cone. Staying in
Port Clinton, which has a number of
nice bed-and-breakfasts, gives visitors
a convenient base for island jumping (the Jet Express has a dock here), as
well as exploring local wineries, beaches and parks.

The Lake Erie

They’re only one short ferry ride away from the mainland, but the Lake Erie Islands feel worlds away. Put-in-Bay is well known for attracting partiers to its bar-lined streets, but is equally fun for families. The list of attractions includes Perry’s Cave, where kids can mine for gems, play miniature golf, tour the butterfly house and, of course, explore the cave. Kelleys Island is known as the quieter option, but there’s still plenty to do, including exploring the glacial grooves, hitting the beach, renting a kayak and more. Pelee Island (see the “Canada” portion of chart) is the least developed of the three most popular islands. It boasts the nicest beaches and, like Kelleys, offers a more subdued kind of fun. The Pelee Island Winery and Pelee Island Kite Museum are two of the attractions.