Friday, March 18, 2011
Cedar Point's Castaway Bay: A Tropical Getaway That's Not Too Far Away
My family and I recently stayed at the Castaway Bay resort in Sandusky, Ohio and the most important thing you must know about this very fun, family-friendly resort is this: the purple Tropical Tube slide is the fastest of the three.
I know this, because for 90 minutes straight my two sons and I rotated among the purple, green and yellow slides to see which one was the fastest. Whichever one of us took the purple slide would consistently beat the other two to the bottom pool. Unless someone cheated. Which, of course, would never — okay, hardly ever — happen.
Castaway Bay, owned by the same company that also owns nearby Cedar Point and Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon, among other amusement parks and attractions across the nation, is a terrific weekend getaway for any fun-loving family.
The Caribbean-themed resort features 237 hotel rooms and suites, a 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark loaded with water activities for all ages, a day spa, fitness center, 6,000-square-foot arcade, a craft and child activity center, three restaurants, retail shops, adjacent marina and space for meetings, group events and birthday parties.
An enormous pirate ship festooned with singing parrots greets you inside the front entrance, immediately letting you know the chilly Midwest is behind you and a tropical island vacation awaits.
Our hotel room was adequate and comfortable. During a previous stay, we enjoyed a room that had two bunk beds for our three kids, plus a queen bed in a separate room for the parents. If they’re not all booked, that’s definitely the way to go. But even if you’re in a standard room with two double beds, as we were this last time, it’s still more than acceptable by most standards.
All rooms and suites feature a private deck or balcony, remote-control television, microwave, mini-refrigerator and coffee maker. Also, many rooms have access to adjoining rooms — perfect for extended families or large groups.
By far, the main attraction at Castaway Bay is the enormous indoor waterpark. This is where the tropical Caribbean theme is pulled off with convincing detail, and where you and your kids will spend hours of fun.
The elaborate waterpark is a five-story structure featuring a vaulted wood ceiling that covers a natural setting of palm trees, huts, inland lagoons and plenty of wet and wild water adventure. Palm trees, parrots, rock walls and even a huge Great White Shark hanging by its tail fin all added up to a fun adventure in the tropics.
I found myself marveling at the architecture and design quite a bit, and was impressed with how well designed it was from a traffic flow point of view. The hotel was completely booked during our stay, and when you add in the many locals who were there for the day, you would think the waterpark would be shoulder-to-shoulder with people. Yes, there were a lot of people, but it never seemed too congested, and the lines for the more popular attractions weren’t terribly long.
Each area had its own special attraction, which are as follows:
Tropical Tube Slides — Three indoor/outdoor covered body slides that curve this way and that before dropping you into a pool at their bottom. They’re roughly four-stories high and, as mentioned, the purple one is the fastest.
Rendezvous Run — A rousing 35-foot-high, 520-foot-long water roller coaster that propels riders uphill using water jets. This water coaster twists its way through the waterpark, shoots outside the resort’s structure in an enclosed slide and then spirals back into the complex.
Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse — A gigantic multi-story interactive play area with more than 100 different elements, including a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket that drenches you every two minutes with a downpour of water. Also in the Funhouse are four water slides for those too young for the Tropical Tube Slides: Mango Melee, Paradise Plunge, Pineapple Pipeline and Tropical Twister.
The Grotto — Two 50-person whirlpool spas, one indoor and one outdoor, where you can kick back and relax in a calming atmosphere. We found ourselves gravitating to this at the end of the night, eager to rest our sore leg muscles.
Creature Cove — A pool area with basketball hoops and numerous flotation devices, including a huge python.
Cargo Crossing — A neat little play area in which kids have to cross a pool of water using floating lily pads and a cargo net.
Castaway Bay Wave Pool — A 100,000-gallon wave pool that generates 3-foot-tall waves which you can body surf. A cascading waterfall serves as a huge scenic backdrop.
Surrounding the Wave Pool and all the other attractions were hundreds upon hundreds of Adirondack chairs, offering a perfect spot for towels and other belongings, or a place to relax and enjoy a beach novel, or a quick bite from Big Daddy’s Snack Shack, which is also located inside the waterpark.
It’s worth mentioning that the lifeguards at Castaway Bay are excellent. They are highly trained, highly visible and offer a very reassuring peace of mind. Many times I talked with them, just to pass the time as we waited in line, and they were all too happy to enjoy a brief conversation.
TGI Friday’s — Located adjacent to Castaway Bay Resort, the popular chain restaurant features tempting appetizers, entrees and desserts. I sincerely enjoyed my 8-ounce flat iron steak smothered in Jack Daniels grilling sauce, my wife had the Angus petite sirloin with sweet potato fries, my daughter had the California Chicken Wrap, my oldest son had the baby back ribs and my youngest son went with his perennial go-to choice: macaroni and cheese.
Big Daddy’s Snack Shack — As mentioned, Big Daddy’s is located within the waterpark. Menu items include pizza, wings and breadsticks, hot dogs, warm pretzels with cheese, fresh made deli sandwiches, nachos with cheese, salads, soft serve ice cream, cookies, beer, soft and frozen drinks.
Ebb & Eddy’s — Enjoy your morning cofffee or a relaxing break at Ebb & Eddy’s and the adjacent Woody’s Chart Room. Menu items include quick service breakfast items, fresh bakery selections, deli wraps, salads, ice cream, assorted cold beverages including beer, Starbucks coffee and other assorted hot beverages. Woody’s Chart Room features a 50-inch LCD TV along with three other TVs. Comfortable furniture and a relaxing atmosphere make this area a great spot to enjoy a snack or play a game with the family. We ended our long day at Ebb & Ebby’s with hard-serve ice cream, which is made by the Toft’s Ice Cream company on the west side of town.
Mango Mike’s – Mango Mike’s delicious breakfast buffet features fresh fruit, freshly-baked pastries, scrambled eggs, cold cereals, hash browns, pancakes, french toast, biscuits and gravy along with breakfast favorites. You can also enjoy made-to-order omelettes and fresh waffles.
Bay Harbor — Although not on site — it’s just a short drive from Castaway Bay at the Cedar Point Marina — Bay Harbor offers some of the area’s finest dining selections. Choose from fresh seafood dishes, pasta, steak, prime rib and much more. The main dining room offers sweeping views of the Cedar Point Marina.
Crabbie’s Quarterdeck Arcade — From the latest video games, basketball, air hockey and ticket redemption games, there is something for the entire family to enjoy. Many games award tickets that can be redeemed for awesome prizes.
Spa Services — Another feature of Castaway Bay is the on-site Spa. Despite my teen-aged daughter’s pleading, we didn’t opt for this service. I’m sure, though, that the spa offers pampered relaxation and rejuvenation that would be a welcome draw for many people. They have an extensive menu of offerings, most of which I’m sure my daughter would have loved if not for her mean dad.
Pearl’s Swimwear — Pearl’s Swimwear features brand name swimwear such as Roxy and Quicksilver.
Nick Knacks — The Original “Survivor’s Shack,” Nick Knacks features convenience items such as milk, snacks, toothbrushes, over the counter medications and water as well as Castaway Bay souvenirs.
All in all, Castaway Bay is a terrific little getaway that’s not too far to get away to. I would say that families with younger children will enjoy this resort more so than kids who are, say, 13 and older.