Scenic from the water, intriguing to explore by foot, islands in the Great Lakes are among the best destinations for kayakers.
Power Island, a Grand Traverse County Park centered in the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay, is one of the state’s best island adventures. Push off a public boat ramp in Bowers Harbor, then follow Old Mission Peninsula’s shoreline south for three miles before crossing the bay to the 212-acre island a mile away. Once there, hike a trail, grill a meal in the picnic area or even spend the night in one of five rustic camp sites.
If you’re brand-new to the sport, a guided outing is the perfect introduction. From boats and paddles to life vests and skirts, an outfitter can provide you with properly-sized equipment and personal instruction before leading you out into a memorable Great Lake excursion. Visit some of Michigan’s top kayaking spots to learn more.
Inland Seas School of Kayaking: Learn to paddle on Beaver Island or venture off around it on a guided trip.
Woods & Water Ecotours: Trips primarily offered among the Les Cheneaux Islands and Drummond Island include excursions from two-three hours that are ideal for families with kids just starting out, woodswaterecotours.eco.
Kayak Leelanau: Join a Downwind Run — a paddle from Good Harbor to Leland with the wind at your back — or a sunset paddle on Lake Michigan in a handmade wooden kayak, Leelanau.com.
Keweenaw Adventure Co: Venture from Copper Harbor around islands and remote harbors at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, keweenawadventure.com.
Northern Waters: Day trips and overnight outings in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — one of the Midwest’s most popular kayaking destinations — include a paddle to Grand Island, northernwaters.com.
Paddling Michigan: A variety of day trips in the central upper U.P. include scenic spots like Presque Isle and Partridge Island near Marquette, paddlingmichigan.com.
Port Austin Kayak: Head to the tip of Michigan’s Thumb for adventures along Lake Huron’s shoreline.
Uncommon Adventures: Choose from a wide range of multi-day paddles throughout the Great Lakes from the Les Cheneaux Islands to the Beaver Island Archipelago, uncommonadv.com.
The Great Waters
Where mighty Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan meet, uncover quiet forests that unfold onto scenic shores, see eagles soar over majestic cliffs and discover the place that captured Hemingway’s heart. Cascading waterfalls, ancient lighthouses, turn-of- the-century shipwrecks and other natural and man-made sites can be explored by pedal, paddle or foot in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, Seney National Wildlife Refuge and Grand Island National Recreation Area through guided tours offered by The Great Waters (thegreatwaters.com).
Cruise a Chain of Lakes
In the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the most popular destinations for a day-long or longer cruise are the Inland Waterway and Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes.
The scenic Inland Waterway includes four lakes — Crooked, Pickerel, Burt and Mullett — along with three rivers — Crooked, Indian and Black — that flow 40 miles from Cheboygan to within six miles of Petoskey. These large lakes (Burt alone covers 17,120 acres and is 10 miles long) make up the only chain in Michigan on which you can rent a houseboat. Windjammer Marina in Oden offers 30- and 40-foot options to rent by the day or week that sleep six to eight people and include small kitchens, dining areas, open decks and wet slides for passengers who want to splash overboard (windjammermarina.com).
Based in Bellaire, Riverside Marina rents an array of small boats including kayaks, canoes and pontoons, too (riversidemarinas.com). Aboard any one of them or their own, visitors to Antrim County’s famed chain of 14 lakes stretching 75 miles from Beale Lake southeast of Ellsworth to Elk Rapids on Lake Michigan can enjoy 10 rivers, 200 shoreline miles and five villages in-between, though the only portage is a dam in Bellaire — plus Michigan’s second biggest, 18,770-acre Torch, also renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful.