BY SHERI TRUSTY
Firelands Adventure Tours, which provides recreational bus tours throughout the region, has come to Ottawa County. The business, which began in March 2022 with “Port to Freedom” Underground Railroad Tours, offers a wide variety of historical and regional tours, as well as wine tasting tours.
Now, it has expanded its bus tour schedule to highlight the history and entertainment available in Ottawa County.
Firelands Adventure Tours’ “Wine Tasting Adventure – West and East” has included Ottawa County to its three-stop tour of Lake Erie’s north coast wineries.
“We’re focusing on the resources in the area,” said Richard Ries, who owns Firelands Adventure Tours with Jim Ervin. “The wine tours include wine tastings, paired snacks, tours of the facility and the chance to meet the winemaker.”
Participants are provided with a wine log and lessons on wine judging.
“We tell people we want them to drink better,” Ries said.
New on the tour schedule is “Lighthouses of Lake Erie – Beacon on the Lakes.” Participants will learn about the history of four local lighthouses and the brave men and women who tended them in sometimes treacherous conditions.
“This is a brand-new tour. We’ll visit the Marblehead Lighthouse, the Port Clinton Lighthouse and two more,” Ries said.
Also new to the business is the “Catawba Island Historical Society” tour which is offered every other Wednesday.
“They’ll learn about the residential, recreational and agricultural history of Catawba Island, including information about the Native Americans and fur trappers,” Ries said.
Other tour options include “Brews and Bourbons” which features locally crafted IPAs, ales and stouts, and the “National Museum of the Great Lakes” tour which highlights thousands of years of Great Lakes history.
In October, Firelands Adventure Tours will offer a “Haunted Sandusky” tour featuring medium and tour guide, Donna Bretz. In December, the “Holiday Lights” tour will take busloads of holiday revelers around Sandusky to view Christmas light displays. The tour will make a stop at Sawmill Creek Resort’s “Season of Joy” event which offers cocktails, live music and holiday displays on the 200-acre wooded campus.
Although Firelands Adventure Tours was founded in 2022, Ries and Ervin are no strangers to the tour business. They first owned Sandusky Segway, which offered Segway tours of the city. When a storm destroyed their business, they had to look for other options. Instead of relocating, they reinvented the business and opened Firelands Adventure Tours with an 18-passenger bus.
“We can cover a wider geographic area with buses and do things we couldn’t do on a Segway,” Ervin said. “Weather is no longer a problem, and we are ADA compliant. We can take wheelchairs, which we felt was a very important component.”
Firelands Adventure Tours are interactive, educational and fun.
“We work to make them substantive and immersive – substantive in that you’re learning about things related to the topic and immersive in that you’re not just sitting on the bus. You’re standing where the freedom seekers were hidden,” Ries said.
A unique element of Firelands Adventure Tours is its ability to organically promote other businesses.
“An important component of our business is commerce,” Ervin said. “It’s a good partnership when you can let each other shine.”
The impact Ries and Ervin have made on local tourism in their first year of business was recognized when Firelands Adventure Tours was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Erie County Economic Development Corporation Annual Meeting at Sawmill Creek Resort on Aug. 8. The business was also presented with a proclamation from Gov. Mike DeWine.
“We were very humbled to accept the award,” Ries said. “We’re going to work hard to try to uphold the honor.”
For more information, call 419-734-9283 or visit www.firelandsadventuretours.com.