A Day on an Ohio Lake

tubers on ohio lake

Owning a boat has always been my husbands dream. He grew up on Ohio’s lakes. There were fond memories of skiing and fishing and enjoying bologna sandwiches on the boat. He had hoped to provide our children the same experience.

Our family is different, though, and with our work schedules, the kids’ sports, and our other commitments it never seemed practical to invest in a boat of our own.  It never seemed worth the cost of ownership and time commitment when, in all reality, we might make it on the water just a few times each year. 

But Ohio’s lakes are calling. And while we enjoy bank fishing and skipping stones, there’s no substitute for being out on the water.

Renting Ohio’s Lakes

Fortunately, there are some wonderful rental options in Ohio with a wide variety of offerings. In calling around to the different marinas I found everything from small fishing boats, to pontoons, ski boats, and the ski pontoon that we eventually rented.

Golden doodle dog enjoying a ride on a boat.
A day at the lake is a perfect Ohio getaway, great for your kids (in tow in the background) and the family pet.

 With COVID-19 infringing on much of our usual summer plans, we were excited to rent a boat and get out on the water. The girls had a laundry list of requests in our hunt for the perfect rental. Each one wanted to bring a friend (boyfriend actually) and they wanted a rental where they could include our dog. They wanted to tube, but also wanted the option to try and ski. The boat had to have the horsepower to pull two people at a time on the tube. And it had to be an all day rental. 

We were only two weeks out, which wasn’t much notice. I started calling a few of the marinas where we had rented in the past: Paint Creek Lake (Bainbridge, Highland County), Buckeye Lake (Buckeye Lake, Licking County), Salt Fork Lake (near Cambridge, Guernsey County) and Apple Valley (near Mount Vernon, Knox County). On such short notice, none of them fit the bill exactly. 

Pleasant Hill Lake Marina

I set out calling marinas around the state. There were several strong contenders, but we eventually settled on Pleasant Hill Lake Marina (near Perrysville in Ashland County) . We’d tent camped there in years prior and were reasonably familiar with the area. 

We had just a one day available, but if you are looking for a longer trip the area won’t disappoint. Mohican State Park and Malabar Farm State Park are nearby. You can also follow the Shawshank Trail highlighting filming locations from The Shawshank Redemption and visit Loudonville, a touristy little town complete with small shops, go-carts, and canoe liveries. 

Pleasant Hill Lake Marina near Perrysville, Ohio.
The marina at Pleasant Hill Lake. Rentals, snacks, and gas are available.

Not only was the boat available for a full day rental, but they had tritoons, or ski pontoons available. The boat would afford us all the room of a pontoon, but the horsepower and pulling capacity of a ski boat. The rental came with both a ski tube and a set of skis. The price was reasonable and we would be able to take our dog. Score. 

A Day on an Ohio Lake

On the day of our rental, we arrived at our assigned time. Check in was an easy process. They collected our information and let us know that they’d be running us a tab for the day for gasoline and any supplies or snacks we would need. In addition to the tube and ski gear, all necessary life jackets were provided with the boat. 

We were the first ones on the water. It was beautiful and the lake looked just like glass, reflecting the clouds in a lovely blue Ohio sky. 

Pleasant Hill Lake near Perrysville, Ohio.
Much of the shoreline looks like this, low cliffs and trees.

Pleasant Hill Lake is a comfortable size, at 850 acres there is plenty of room to run but you’re never too far from the marina. Most of the 13 miles of shoreline is treed with some houses high above the waterline. There are two areas along the shore designated as beach areas for boaters and another beach and swimming area available by the campground. 

A Dog Friendly Outing

Our pup, at just under a year, had never been on a boat and had limited experience with water. On advice from the internet, we purchased him a life jacket. It was one less thing to worry about, and as we had read, the handle on the back made it easy to bring him back onto the boat.

Dog wearing a life vest on a boat.
Pumpkin enjoyed his first trip to the lake.

For the most part he enjoyed the boat. The seating arrangement on board put him smack dab in the middle of his favorite people, letting him assume his favorite spot as the center of attention. He liked splashing around in the water and only became distressed when one of his people got off the boat without him to get on the tube.

Tubing, Sandwiches and Swimming

The kids took turns riding on the tube, alternating partners with their boyfriends and sisters. One of the boys even skied for a bit. My husband enjoyed his role as captain of the ship and I assumed my usual role as photographer. 

After a few hours we anchored in a quiet spot to enjoy our packed lunch. Everyone was hungry and we had packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, and plenty of bottles of water. One of the boys had a birthday, so Natalie had made his favorite cupcakes. 

After lunch we headed over to the swimming beach. The kids swam around a bit and we tossed a ball around for Pumpkin. The water was reasonably clean and the spot was quiet. The shoreline was more woods than beach, but we mostly stuck to the water.

Pleasant Hill Lake beach near Perrysville, Ohio.
Not the official boaters swim area. This beach is available for both campers and boaters.

Following our lunch and swim, we headed back to the marina. Everyone made a bathroom run and we put a tank of gas on our tab before heading back out onto the lake for the second half of our day.

At the end of the day we settled our tab at the marina and headed the car toward home. While I’m certain that owning a boat is an amazing experience, the carefree practice of renting a day at the lake fits our family just fine.

Consider Renting a Day on an Ohio Lake

If you’d like to take your family for a day on an Ohio lake, consider renting. I’ve included below some of the questions I asked as I called around. If you are considering a visit to Pleasant Hill Lake, the marina phone number is (419) 938-6488 and you can find them on the web

Looking for more Ohio adventures? Check out our adventures under Day Trips.

Pleasant Hill Lake near Perrysville, Ohio.
A last look at Pleasant Hill Lake and that beautiful Ohio sky.

What to Ask When You Rent

Looking for a day on an Ohio lake? Here are some questions to ask:

What is the length of rental? Is it by the hour, half day, or day? What hours are considered a “day”?

What is the cost of rental? Is there a deposit? What is the usual cost of a days worth of gas?

What type of boat is available? Limited horsepower fishing boat? Regular pontoon? Ski pontoon? Ski boat?

What is the horsepower? Not knowing what horsepower was needed, I simply told them we would want a fairly fast tube experience, pulling two adult-sized people around the lake. I heard everything from 150-200 was necessary. The boat we rented had 150 which was great for tubing.

How many people are allowed on the boat?

Are dogs allowed on the boat? Is there a pet deposit? Does the dog count toward your number of people?

Are tubes included? Skis? If not, are they available to rent?

Before you call, jot down any other questions. This way you’ll know exactly what to expect.