Castaway Bay, Sandusky, OH
2001 Cleveland Rd. Sandusky, OH 44870 — (419)627-2500
by Rosie, DancingQueen, PandaCat

It's mid-February. It's cold, damp, and depressing. School is out for Winter Break and Boy, do we need it! We were just at Grandma's at Christmas and Florida is too far and too expensive. Plus — it's February and there's no guarantee that it would be warm enough to play in the water anyway. So where can we go? What can we do to get away, have fun, play in the water, relax and recharge the old batteries?

I had heard about some resorts both in Michigan and in Ohio which featured indoor water parks. Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio has long been a summer destination for the Roller Coaster ride inclined. An online search using Cedar Point as a starting point revealed a link to a brand new resort called Castaway Bay.

One click later there were photos of waterfalls cascading into a wave pool, leisure pools with eleven different slides, and — heaven! — a large spa pool all landscaped to look like a tropical island paradise and all enclosed and open year-round. The resort had just opened its doors in November so everything would still be in good condition and not worn and old looking. Several different room types were available to accommodate any budget. A perfect getaway at the right price and only two hours from home. I was sold!

There had been an ice storm the night before our departure, but by the time we left the roads were fine. It was an overcast, rainy day — ideal for driving and just the thing to let us appreciate our mid-winter escape. Mapquest directions in hand we had no trouble at all finding our way until we reached Sandusky. One would think that a resort such as Castaway Bay would merit proper signage, but no ... The only wrong turn we made however was a couple of streets too soon because the signs for the cross streets were too small to read from a distance.

Our room was ready so we were able to go straight there and get changed. We received waterproof, barcoded wristbands which would be scanned to admit us to the water park. Locals could also use the facility for an admission charge, but ours was included in the price of the room.

The water park was a huge expanse covered by a roof probably made of metal, but painted to appear to be wooden planks. Large skylights allowed natural light in, but because of the overcast sky outside, this natural light seemed a bit dull. The huge ductwork suspended from the ceiling to heat the space was painted a light tan color to blend in with the ceiling and make it less obtrusive. The walls were either painted with brightly colored tropical murals or covered with a nylon type fabric in blue with fluffy white clouds painted on it. Lights hidden up near the ceiling could make this artificial sky appear to darken toward sunset. Not quite Hogwart's, mind you, but a nice effort!

The floors were various shades of tan concrete to mimic sand, but rough enough to provide traction for walking on the wet surfaces. The palm trees and other greenery were artificial for easy maintenance, but lifelike enough to provide the tropical atmosphere. Hundreds of white vinyl Adirondack style chairs and tables provided seating and many even had brightly colored umbrellas — not to protect from blazing tropical sun, but from water splashing out of the many slides passing overhead.

The largest pool was the 100,000 gallon wave pool featuring two waterfalls cascading into the deep end and several four foot high water jets at the shallow end. Nice touch. The wave pool operated on a 10 minute on-off cycle with a PA announcement preceding the waves and outlining the safety rules. As soon as the buzzer sounded, everyone rushed to the center of the pool where the waves would be the highest and strongest making it a bit crowded, but still fun.

Lest you think the crowding became dangerous, it didn't. There were lifeguards stationed at every pool and there were perches that gave them good views from unblocked vantage points. This way, they could watch without being obtrusive, and could also jump in at a moment's notice if anything went awry. The facility also provided lifejackets for those who could not swim or were too young, so that everyone could enjoy the water park and not get left "on shore."

The largest and longest slide was called the Rendezvous Run. Two seat boats were moved into place from a conveyor belt that returned them from the bottom of the run. The heavier person was instructed to sit in the back of the boat, then the operator pushed the button for our run to begin. Much of the ride was through completely enclosed, dark tunnels, but the initial drop and a couple of other stretches were open, but covered with netting. These were the spots you didn't want to be sitting under ... Although one person could go per boat, it's more fun with two so you can hear each other scream.

Another set of stairs near an outside wall led up to the launch point for the Tropical Tube Slides. Colored pink, green, and yellow, we could race each other to the bottom. Lookout Lagoon featured a large climbing structure with many water jets, two more slides, and a giant bucket the filled and dumped water over the structure. Creature Cove and Cargo Crossing had large plastic critters (dolphin, snake, and turtle) and crates and barrels for kids to play on and climb over. There were also several basketball hoops and balls for practicing hook shots and free throws. Note: don't sit by the entrance to this pool unless you enjoy accidental basketball bombardment!

We really didn't spend any time in the Toddler Tide Pool because it was shallow and intended for the littlest pirates, but it was nice to see that they were not forgotten.

Last, but not least, was the Grotto. This was the warm, water jet driven spa pool next to the end of Rendezvous Run. This one was particularly fun because you could actually go through a curtain of plastic to an outside area. It was fun to be neck deep in warm water and watch the steam rise into the cool outside air.

Checking out each pool and slide in turn worked up quite an appetite, but we weren't quite ready to leave yet. Fortunately, Big Daddy's Snack Shack was right there to provide everything from soft drinks and sweets to soft pretzels and nachos and hot dogs to salads and sub sandwiches. Just the thing to hold us till dinner.

We played a little longer, then went back to the room to clean up for dinner. Castaway Bay is very relaxed so no fancy clothes were needed. We wore jeans, but we saw others in t-shirts over their still damp swimsuits and no one batted an eye. We decided to check out Mango Mike's, the house restaurant, which offered a very reasonably priced buffet dinner in casual surroundings.

After dinner we donned our swimsuits again and returned to the water park which was open until 10 PM. A nice long soak in the Grotto and we were ready to call it a night. We stopped in at Ebb and Eddy's Sweet Shop for a bedtime snack then wandered through all three of the lobby gift and sundries shops. We picked up cereal cups and small milk cartons for breakfast in the room and then retired to watch TV before conking out.

We must have been awfully worn out. We were all still dead asleep when the hotel fire alarm woke us up at 9 AM! It turned out to be a false alarm, possibly some kid who had pulled it for a prank, but we still had to grab coats, shoes, and wallets and evacuate to the parking lot. The fire department came quickly and cleared the building, but what a way to start the day! Our second and third days were much the same — really enjoying the tropical atmosphere in the middle of February in Ohio of all places. The Wooklets also checked out the large and well equipped arcade room and pronounced it "Really cool!"

We were not finished with unexpected excitement though. On the morning of our departure two of us were already dressed and packing our things while the third was still in the shower when the fire alarm went off again. The wet one quickly dressed and pulled a hood on over wet hair and we evacuated to the parking lot once more. This time it was more serious. Five fire trucks responded to the alarm. It was quite cold and many guests were either still in sleepwear or in wet swimwear. This made for many unhappy people. The problem turned out to be from the construction going on in a new health club area, but it did apparently inundate that area with smoke. Rather than stick around and listen to other guests get unreasonably irate over something beyond the hotel's control, we opted to take advantage of the Express Check-out Service and headed home.

Maybe a little more excitement than we bargained for, but definitely a really nice Winter getaway we all really needed. I will be happy to go back — but I think I'll wait till the construction is finished ... But when we got home, we found we might have to change our mind. As compensation for the disturbances, the management of Castaway Bay had written a note of apology and included a voucher for 50% off the next time we stayed. It was for one night only, but a nice gesture, and it made us realize we could go back for a short weekend for half price! It would certainly make the long winter more endurable.

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