Thumbs Up for Huron County – A Guide to Pure Michigan’s East Side

Looking to visit Pure Michigan’s east side? From Harbor Beach to Port Huron, and everywhere in between, there are endless opportunities to lose yourself in nature and explore one of the state’s hidden gems. Guest blogger Barbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, shares just some of the amazing things Michigan’s thumb has to offer! 

I was raised in Mid-Michigan, only a few miles from I-75; our beachfront home in Bay City was a pit stop for friends and family on their way “up north.” While there are numerous points of interest up north in the Upper Peninsula, and throughout our great mitten state, my roots are in the Thumb, and I think has a lot to offer!

I’ve often joked, because Huron County is its own peninsula, nobody travels through it by mistake. If you are in Huron County, you mean to be there. Sadly, Huron County is easily and often missed. However, there are many wonderful reasons to live, visit, and play in Huron County.

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Caseville Beach, Photo by Barbara Sieman

Let’s start with the geographical fact that Huron County offers you a sunrise to sunset opportunity. Start your lakeshore tour of Huron County by spending the night in my city, Harbor Beach. Stay at a motel, a bed and breakfast, a cabin rental, or a county or city campground. The sunrise view of the Harbor Beach Lighthouse and pier are incredible; enjoy them while walking or jogging along our newly appointed Harbor View Trail.  Our Maritime Festival has been rocking for over 10 years now, and is our biggest event of the summer. Take a tour of the lighthouse, and dine at the beach or at one of our many restaurants before embarking on the rest of your journey.

Travel north on M-25, through Port Hope, but don’t forget to stop for a huge hand-dipped ice cream cone at Grindstone General Store. Enjoy it there, or take it to go. Then, continue on your way to Port Austin. If you enjoy shopping at farmer’s markets, then you are in luck! Port Austin boasts one of the biggest and most successful farmer’s markets in the state! I love picking up fresh vegetables at the market, especially for my Pico de Gallo recipe. I serve it with tortilla chips for a light party dish or afternoon snack, or use it to top off a cheeseburger or scrambled eggs. Of course it is delish in quesadillas, fajitas, or nachos too! Yum! Port Austin is also home to an impressive marina, many restaurants, and a spectacular Fourth of July show. You might even wish to take in a play or musical at the Port Austin Community Players.

Photo Courtesy of Farm Barbie.

Harbor Beach Pier, Photo Courtesy of Karen Murphy.

As you travel to the west side of the county, now going south on M-25, be sure to stop at Port Crescent State Park to see the beautiful beach and a favorite state campground.  You will travel through Bay Port, on your way to the quaint cottage town of Caseville, home to the infamous Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival. Caseville also hosts several other festivals and events throughout the year. Caseville is diverse in its accommodations, too, with choices ranging from campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, motels, to weekly cottage rentals. Grab a beer and a bite to eat at the new Thumb Brewery, before heading out on a fishing adventure with Team Gunsmoke.

After you limit out for the day, cuddle up on the beach at Caseville County Park and watch the sunset to complete your journey. You’ve accomplished a lot in Huron County! Congratulations! Now is a good time for you to begin planning your next trip back to HuCo! There are a lot more neat towns and points of interest in Huron County, I just can’t name them all! You” just have to come back soon.

FB Profile picBarbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. She’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She’s also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Check out her blog.

 

4 Ways to Celebrate a Bountiful Harvest at Michigan Wineries

Fall is a magical season in Michigan. Our autumnal activities are so beloved that they often become tradition as we return to the same sights and sounds that fill us with joy each year. Are you ready to embark on your next fall tradition? Michigan wineries across the state provide a number of ways to celebrate harvest.

Read more on four ways to enjoy the fall season at Michigan wineries courtesy of guest blogger Jenelle Jagmin of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Grape Stomping

Yes, grape stomping is still part of wine making! If you are in northern Michigan, check out Harvest Festival taking place at Chateau Chantal on October 1. In addition to grape stompin’, the festival also offers a Slurpin’ Seminar as well as a Distillation Seminar.  Marie-Chantal Dalese describes it like this, “Our annual harvest fest is a terrific way to experience the grape harvest and fall colors on Old Mission Peninsula.  We open our cellar doors and let guests see how we make wine while providing some fun and free experiences for visitors.”

Harvest season on Old Mission Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of Chateau Chantal

Do you want to show off your stomping skills in southwest Michigan? Check out Pappy’s Harvest Festival at Vineyard 2121 in Benton Harbor. In addition to grape stomping, the festival features wine slushies, hayrides, live music and a hog roast. Guests under 21 are free with an adult. The Festival takes place on September 17 & 18.

Take a 'step' back in time as you stomp grape similar to the old days

Photo Courtesy of Vineyard 2121

 Harvesting Grapes

Have you ever wondered what it is like to actually harvest the grapes from the vines? Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson offers you the opportunity to do just that. Since the exact time of harvest is unpredictable, it is best to contact the winery to provide your contact information. They will reach out to you with the harvest date with a few days’ notice. If interested, contact Carolanne at 517-764-0679.

Volunteers harvest grapes at Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Race Through Vines

Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail will host The Harvest Stompede on September 10 & 11, which gives participants the opportunity to run, walk or watch the race in beautiful Leelanau wine country. The race is paired with a self-guided wine tour and includes a souvenir glass.

“The Harvest Stompede is such a fun and festive way to kick-off the fall harvest season.  And if they don’t want to run or walk, they can just come for the tasting tour,” said Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the wine trail.

Runners love the Harvest Stompede

Photo Courtesy of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Find a Winery Near You

From the far reaches of the U.P. to the southern border counties of Michigan, wineries dapple our gorgeous fall landscape. Each one celebrates the harvest in its unique way! Find your local wineries at michiganwines.com  & check out more events taking place around the state.

Harvest Festival at Lemon Creek Winery

Photo Courtesy of the Lemon Creek Winery

When you step into the vineyard this fall, you may notice an increased burst of elation. That is because Michigan is enjoying an abundant harvest – following two devastating seasons of crop loss. Support your local winery and join in the celebration!

Jenelle Jagmin is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Founded in 1985, the council was established within the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. For more information, and plan your trip to Michigan wine country, visit michiganwines.com.

Follow Michigan Wines on Instagram: @michiganwines

Unique Michigan Destinations for Budget-Savvy Travelers

Michigan is filled with top-rated destinations and attractions, both indoors and out. From museums and zoos to historical sites and national parks; from city markets and fantastic eateries to Rail Trails and beaches. Michigan is well-known for it’s scenic beauty, small towns, and fun cities. And the best part is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy what Michigan has to offer. All it costs you is time, and spending time at these Michigan treasures is time well spent.

Read more on some low-cost things to do in the Great Lakes state, courtesy of The Awesome Mitten’s Jackie Mitchell.

Visit a National or State Park

Michigan is home to one national park (Isle Royale), two national lakeshores (Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks), and over 100 state parks. In fact, you are never more than half an hour from a state park, forest campground, or trail system for hiking or biking in Michigan. You can access most of the national lakeshores for free. Climb a dune, explore trails, hike to a waterfall or lighthouse, or spend the day on a beach. The annual $11 Recreation Passport for your vehicle will gain you entrance into the entire state park system where even more trails, dunes, waterfalls, and beaches await. Camping is a nominal nightly fee in any of the national or state parks. Many parks also offer free interpretive talks, children’s activities, and a variety of programs.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a must-see for residents and visitors alike

Photo Courtesy of Alex Beaton and The Awesome Mitten

Go to a Drive-In Movie

There are 10 drive-in movie theaters in Michigan, scattered all around the lower peninsula. In the heyday of the 1950s, there were over 100 drive-in theaters in Michigan. While only a few remain, they are again growing in popularity. With arcades, putt-putt golf, playgrounds, and a picnic-like atmosphere, what better way to spend a Friday or Saturday night with family or friends than taking in a couple movies the old fashioned way? Ticket prices are similar to regular movie prices, but the double-feature makes a drive-in a deal for movie-goers. Danny Boy’s Drive In, Michigan’s newest theater that opened in 2012, offers a $20 carload special, for up to 6 people, and a $5 food ticket that allows you to bring in your own food and drink.

Take a step back in time and enjoy a drive-in movie

Photo Courtesy of Danny Boy’s Drive-In

Heidelberg Project

Started in 1986 as a response to blight affecting his neighborhood, Detroit-native artist Tyree Guyton began turning his childhood home on Heidelberg Street into a work of found-object art. Now stretching over the entire city block, Guyton, community residents, and other artists have turned abandoned houses, vacant lots, and even the streets themselves into a provocative community art project that hosts over 270,000 visitors a year. Facing skepticism and legal issues with the city from the beginning, the Heidelberg Project has evolved into a landmark of Detroit, winning numerous awards and revitalizing the local economy. Despite its grassroots popularity, the Heidelberg Project as it currently exists will be dismantled over the next few years. If you haven’t yet experienced the Heidelberg Project, now is the time. Organized tours have a fee, but just visiting the area is free.

Be a Lighthouse Keeper

Michigan’s lighthouses are iconic. If you’ve ever been to the shore of one of our Great Lakes, chances are you have a picture of a lighthouse, standing guard against the storms of Michigan’s inland seas. You might have even imagined you were the keeper of the light, living romantically at the edge of sand and surf. What you may not know is that it’s possible at one of the twenty lighthouses available with accommodations in Michigan. Four lighthouses are bed and breakfasts, five are vacation rentals, five offer couples or families the chance to be keeper for a fee (only a few hundred for a week or two), and six are available through a volunteer application. A listing of operational lighthouses and information can be found at the US Lighthouse Society website.

The Round Island Light House is as picturesque as any spot in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Alex Beaton and The Awesome Mitten

Visit a Ghost Town

Dozens of abandoned towns dot Michigan’s landscape. Many are in the Upper Peninsula, where the copper and logging industries once boomed, causing towns to rise up around mills and mines. When they resources ran out, the towns were left to ruin. Today, only a few foundations or headstones might mark the place where a town once stood. Sometimes the structures are preserved. The largest abandoned town is Fayette, which is now preserved along the shores of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula at Fayette Historic State Park . Entrance to the park is free with a Recreation Passport.

Are you brave enough to visit a Michigan ghost town?

Photo Courtesy of Fayette Historic Park

What Michigan treasures do you enjoy without spending a lot of money?

Jackie Mitchell writes for Awesome Mitten and works at Michigan State University. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, and camping with her family in any Michigan State Park.