Fun Activities to Do Around Lake Michigan
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Lake Michigan is huge. Its shores are in four different states, and hundreds of towns and cities line its coast. Among those are some important US port cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, and Green Bay. The lake itself is a popular place for both commercial and sports fishing and tourism is a major industry in every single port town. You can enjoy relaxing on one of the hundreds of beaches or sign up for a cruise. Really, the possibilities are endless.
For that reason, it’s impossible to make the ultimate list of fun tourist activities around the whole lake. And no, our own list is nowhere near ultimate. But it does contain quite a few interesting activities that not too many tourists know about. So, if you decide on experiencing one of the Great Lakes the right way, let this article serve as your guide.
Holland State Park
Let’s kick things off with Holland State Park. Located in Holland, Michigan, it’s a spectacular area of lush greens, sandy beaches, and phenomenal sights. The park itself contains the beautiful Ottawa Beach, full of campsites, fire pits, grills, and picnic tables. It’s the perfect area to unwind with friends or family. And the best part is the fact that the park overlooks both Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. If you’re inclined to do a bit of recreational sailing, you can rent a paddleboard, a kayak, or a canoe at the Macatawa Boathouse.
One of the most alluring historical parts of the area is the Holland Harbor Lighthouse, also known as the Big Red. Constructed in 1872, this lighthouse overlooks both lakes and you can easily access it across the channel from the Park.
Glen Haven Historical Village
Glen Haven is a small village located some 5 miles north of the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is the perfect getaway if you’re the kind of tourist who wants to find a bit of peace and quiet. You can walk along the calm, serene beaches or take a stroll down the village itself. There are several interesting sights to see, such as the General Store and the Blacksmith Shop. Interestingly enough, both establishments were restored to their 1920s look, to evoke the spirit of the age when they prospered.
If you want to know more about the boating history and practices of the Great Lakes, the best place to do so is in Glen Haven’s Cannery Boathouse Museum. It offers the largest exhibit of Great Lakes small craft in the USA. Furthermore, every single boat was restored by local volunteers, who also operate the exhibit and answer all boating-related questions. It’s an interesting piece of US history that not too many tourists get to hear about.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
Aside from Glen Haven and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the northeast shores of Michigan offer a vast array of sights, vistas, and places of interest. Possibly the best way to see them all is to take a hike or ride a bike down the 20-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.
The trail stretches from Bohemian Road to the Northeast to the lakeshore town of Empire to the Southwest. You can cycle, run, or walk down the trail and cross the entire Sleeping Bear Dunes national park. As you progress, you can view the fabulous Glen Lake or take in the untamed wildlife. And if you’re feeling particularly sporty, the Trail is open to hunting. In the winter months, you can even cross-country ski on the trail section between Glen Arbor and Empire.
The Cherry Republic of Glen Arbor
Glen Arbor itself is a town as colorful as any in the region, with its unique history full of ups and downs. Of course, you can choose any number of activities while visiting. However, if you could have one authentic Glen Arbor experience that you’ll remember, we can’t recommend the Cherry Republic enough.
The Cherry Republic is, in essence, a chain of stores that specialize in making cherry products, such as ice cream, cookies, wines, etc. Their Glen Arbor location has become a local tourist fixture, with its own outdoor dining restaurant and winery. Every single product contains cherries that are farmed and grown locally and naturally, giving you the perfect, all-American product. But the most interesting part about the Cherry Republic is the fact that it looks historic, but it’s fairly recent. The original Cherry Republic was formed in 1989, but has proven incredibly popular and stands proud to this day.
Let’s step away from Michigan for a while and go a few states over, in Chicago, Illinois. Now, Chicago in and of itself has plenty of places for any tourist to visit, more than we can fit in our list. But our focus is Lake Michigan, and what better way to experience it than on one of Chicago’s best beaches, the Montrose Beach?
This beach is not the biggest nor the most popular in Chicago, which makes it the perfect getaway for any Great Lakes tourist who wants just a tiny bit of privacy. You can enjoy swimming in Lake Michigan, walking in the nearby parks, and even enjoying a bit of sport at the Lawrence Avenue Soccer Fields. Furthermore, if you’re vacationing with your pooch, you can also visit Montrose Dog Beach and let the puppy run free amid the warm, wet sand.
Getting to the beach is incredibly easy if you have the perfect place to stay, a place like The Lawrence House. This amazing establishment is only a mile away from the beach. And once you get there, enjoy a cup of coffee at their amazing Heritage Outpost establishment.
Finally, if you want to complete your Chicago experience, you can always book a decent lake and river architecture cruise. It will give you the chance to experience the lake up close and personal, while also admiring the splendor of Chicago’s phenomenal skyline.
Saugatuck Chain Ferry
One last stop that we highly recommend is the beautiful town of Saugatuck, once again in Michigan. Once there, you ought to take the ride on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the Kalamazoo River, all the way to the Oval Beach on the shore of Lake Michigan. Of course, there is another way you can reach Oval Beach that’s just as enthralling. You can enter Mount Baldhead Park and climb the famed 282 stairs to reach the summit. From there, you can actually view the Great Lake, as well as other spectacular sights. Furthermore, the climb will take you through the majestic, untamed wilderness.
As stated, this list is by no means exhaustive. So, let this article serve as a good starting point for getting to know Lake Michigan. But don’t stop there, by any means. Feel free to explore as many wonderful villages, towns, and cities that surround this lake as you can. You might just find a hidden gem that you’ll come back to over and over again in the future.