5 Ways to Add Water To Your Blue Water Area Vacation

There’s something about water and vacation that just goes together.  Maybe it’s the sense of renewal that water brings to the human soul, or maybe it’s that water gives us a free pass to get silly, to splash, jump and throw rocks.  Whatever the reason, the Blue Water Area welcomes you to the eastern shores of Michigan where water and great vaca to-dos go hand-in-hand.  Guest blogger, Danielle Kreger of the Blue Water Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, shares these five ways (amongst the many) to add water to your vacation in the Blue!    

1. Get Wet! 

Get your feet wet at any of the Blue’s sandy beaches.  The immensity of Lake Huron can be embraced whole-heartedly when there’s blue water as far as the eye can see and the waves rush in to lap at your ankles.  Beaches bring you right to the water’s edge and exist in most of the Blue’s waterfront towns.  Some beaches are tucked in along quiet coves and offer a lighter crowd, while others are busy with picnickers and activity.  For families looking for fun amenities, Lakeside Beach, in Port Huron has a newly installed splashpad.  The water sprinklers pay tribute to the area with water showering from a lighthouse, a Blue Water Bridge replica and other water infused structures.  Port Austin’s beaches offer a one-of-a-kind view because of their position at the tip of Michigan’s mitten thumb.  Being in this particular location, the sun rises in the east over Lake Huron and sets in the west over Lake Huron.  So, no matter if you’re enjoying the beach at daybreak or nightfall, you’ll still catch a fabulous show of glowing sunbeams at the horizon.

2. Dock and Dine 

One of the best parts of vacation is scouting new places to eat!  The Blue Water Area doesn’t make you travel too far from the water.  In fact, many waterfront locales have boat docks so boaters can pull right up and tie off.  Brown’s Bar of Harsens Island, has enough slips for a couple dozen boats and always welcomes a good time.  Tucked on the Middle Channel of Harsens Island, just north of Lake St. Clair, it has been a favored place amongst boaters (and ferry-goers) since 1946.  Patrons praise their come-as-you-are attitude and their signature Madison burger.  Other “dock and dine” locations in the Blue include downtown St. Clair for a quick walk to several bars and restaurants like Pepper Joe’s, the Voyageur or Murphy’s Inn, also the River Crab just north of St. Clair, Junction Buoy in Marysville, Thumbcoast Brewing Company, The H.A.C. and Zebra Lounge in Port Huron, The Windjammer in Lexington and Uri’s Landing in Port Sanilac.

Boats gather at Browns Bar on Harsens Island

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

3. Sightseeing from the Water 

Step aboard the Huron Lady II for a sightseeing tour and cruise past some of Port Huron’s landmarks and special attractions.  This narrated, two-level cruise boat takes passengers along the St. Clair River, beneath the Blue Water Bridges and into Lake Huron.  Along the way it will pass the Huron Lightship, Blue Water Convention Center, Thomas Edison Depot Museum, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and, if timing is right, alongside a churning Great Lakes Freighter.  Stand at the bow and feel the rush of the crisp lake breeze!  The upper level of the boat is open to the fresh air while the lower deck is enclosed with spacious windows.  The Captain and friendly staff are ready to show you the sites from a new perspective.

A Great Lakes freighter passes by on Lake Huron

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

4. Paddle Around 

Paddle the watery roads that nature has created.  Traveling by way of kayak, paddle board or canoe is a great way to experience the landscape and terrific water trails that weave through the Blue Water communities.  Discover a variety of routes ranging from tranquil inland rivers, and urban waterways to the dynamic challenge of the St. Clair River or the expanse of Lake Huron.  Missy Campau, resident paddler and owner of Missy’s Kayak Connection in Port Huron says, “Paddling, in and of itself, is a relatively easy task.  Anyone can paddle.”  She strongly suggests first-timers and novice paddlers head out with someone experienced and be familiar with the waterway and the challenges it can present.  She, along with PoHo Paddle Company rent paddle boards on weekends at Lakeside Beach in Port Huron so beginners can test-run in the shallow water just beyond shore.  Another waterway option is the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail that extends along the Lake Huron shoreline from Lexington to Port Austin.  There are many access points along the trail and paddlers will view earthy rock formations, caves and stacks.   For a fun and invigorating activity, add paddling to your vacation bucket list.

5. Walk Leisurely 

To stroll is to walk leisurely.  The Blue’s riverwalks invite you to stroll, ramble and wander along their paths to enjoy gorgeous waterfront views and shoreline activity.  Palmer Park in St. Clair boasts the longest freshwater wooden boardwalk in the world.  It’s a leisurely walk along the St. Clair River and its wide expanse of grass and shade trees provide excellent picnic and lounging space. Riverwalks also stretch along Marine City and Algonac waterfronts where the Great Lakes freighters pass so close they seem touchable.  Great efforts have been put in place to restore shorelines along riverwalk areas into healthy habitats for native plants and animals.  Marysville’s once eroding riverfront now has cobble and plants to restore aquatic habitats.  The Blue Water Riverwalk in Port Huron was formerly an industrial site and now thrives with a natural shoreline.  It features a former ferry dock that is now a lookout deck and many art sculptures depicting the area’s waterfront heritage.  Whether you stroll, sit or explore, be sure to enjoy!

It's easy to relax along the shores of Marine City

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Visit the Blue Water Area’s eastern shores of Michigan where splashing, jumping and lounging are encouraged!  For more details and info about the Blue, visit the website and Facebook page.

About the author:  Danielle Kreger lives and works in the Blue Water Area.  Though it is her home, she still sees the Blue as her getaway spot, loving the true-blue water and quaint hometown ambiance of each shoreline community.  She gets her kicks photographing her family as they make their own ventures every day.

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Jackson

If you’ve never been to Jackson, you may be unaware of the incredible history that lies within this city! From an iconic prison site to a booming auto industry, Jackson has its share of surprising (and sometimes shocking) stories. Fortunately, those stories live on today through businesses, museums, and architecture that are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Read on to learn more and discover some fun facts about Jackson you might not have known!

Delicious foods can be found at Jackson's Coney Island

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

 1. It’s Where The Coney Was Invented

I love a good coney as much as the next girl, but only recently realized that there’s a whole world of coneys outside of Detroit! Contrary to popular belief that the coney originated in Detroit, Jackson actually introduced its first coney restaurant in 1914 (that’s three years before the motor city opened its first location). Like Detroit, Jackson has two neighboring competitors—Jackson Coney Island and Virginia Coney Island, each of which has its own loyal following. As for which is better, I honestly found the results too close to call. You’ll have to visit to decide for yourself!

Explore a Jackson prison tour for fascinating history

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

 2. Law Abiding Citizens Live In Prison Cells

Once the world’s largest walled prison, Michigan’s First State Prison is now Armory Arts Village, a community of galleries, workspaces, and apartments. While this historic site has transformed into a vibrant neighborhood, tours are available from Jackson Historic Prison Tours for anyone who’s interested in learning about its controversial past. Get a first-hand look at the former prison’s amazing architecture and eerie basement (formerly solitary confinement), and peek into a current resident’s living space (a loft apartment that was once 36 cell blocks). From industrialism to rehabilitation, the influence this landmark has on Jackson’s history is remarkable (and not to be missed).

Prison cells at the Jackson State Prison

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman, Permissions given by the Michigan Department of Corrections

 3. Dr. Kevorkian Passed Through Here

Interested in seeing a more current representation of prison life? Cell Block 7, a museum located on the grounds of a functioning prison, was recently an active cell block that served as the entry point for convicts such as Kwame Kilpatrick and Jack Kevorkian. Inmate-free since 2007, Cell Block 7 is now open to the public and provides a look at how intense life behind bars really is. Whether you visit on your own or in conjunction with an historic prison tour, you’ll leave with a sobering reminder that freedom isn’t something to be taken for granted.

Jackson has a rich automotive history

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

4. It Once Rivaled Detroit As The Motor City

Most people associate cars with Detroit, but few know that Jackson was home to multiple auto manufacturers around the turn of the 20th century! Ye Ole Carriage Shop in nearby Spring Arbor features 18 made-in-Jackson vehicles, including a 1902 steam-powered JAXON and a 1908 2-cylinder Fuller (the only one of its kind known to still exist). Available for group tours, Ye Ole Carriage Shop also showcases several other classic cars and antiques, including vintage radios, toys, and an impressive Coca-Cola room (call ahead to schedule a group tour).

 5. It’s Home To A 500-Foot, Light-Up Waterfall

Each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Jackson residents and visitors are invited to enjoy concerts, fireworks, nightly light shows, and more at the Cascades waterfall in Sparks Park. Unveiled in 1932, this manmade wonder features colorful light and water shows, and can be synchronized to music for weddings and other events—quite a sight to behold!

Take a trip to the Jackson Train Station

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

6. It’s Where You’ll Find The Nation’s Oldest Continually-Operating Train Station

Jackson is a train town—a title that’s literally put it on the map for over 140 years! Welcoming travelers such as presidents (and presidential candidates) McKinley, Taft, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, the Jackson Depot has served passengers every day since 1873 and continues to receive Amtrak trains daily.

How many of Jackson’s historic activities have you experienced for yourself? Share your favorites (or activities that interest you most) in the comments! 

Jennifer-Bowman-BioJennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to metro Detroit in 2011. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. To keep up with her adventures, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Six Must-Visit Islands on Michigan’s Great Lakes

You’ve heard of the incredible beauty and fun of Mackinac Island, but what about some other islands found off the shores of Michigan’s four Great Lakes? Between natural and untouched landscapes to a state park not at all far from bustling Detroit, read more as Shalee Blackmer from The Awesome Mitten shares six island destinations to visit this year in Pure Michigan.

1. North & South Manitou
If you remember reading “The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes” as a child, you’ll know these two islands are the heart of Michigan. Sitting off the coast of Leland, they are serene, beautiful, and disconnected. A ferry drops eager adventurers off once a day, and once you have arrived there are no stores or restaurants to fill any needs. In fact, there are only a couple places on each island where campers have access to water. South Manitou is home to a freighter shipwreck, where snorkelers can swim around the structure and have a true Great Lakes adventure.

Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

The island is also home to some of the biggest and oldest trees in Michigan.The best part about these simple islands is that reality is far off on the horizon, with no way to connect to it. The only reason you’ll ever need a cell phone is for time, which simply fades with every worry.

2. Bois Blanc 

Have you ever heard of this island?  Would you be surprised to learn that it is Mackinac Island’s neighbor? Bois Blanc Island is much bigger than Mackinac Island, and also more desolate. A simple convenience store and old inn are two of the only buildings that stand here. The rest is filled with dense forests and rocky shorelines, beautiful and virtually untouched. The only way to get to the island is through the Plaunt Transportation ferry, which leaves from Cheboygan daily.

3. Isle Royale
Isle Royale is Michigan’s only national park, where roughly 17,000 visitors fall in love with Michigan every year. The small island in the middle of Lake Superior is filled with diverse wildlife and outdoor adventure. And although it is a national park, you won’t find many crowds.

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

 Isle Royale is one of the least visited national park in the country, but not for lack of beauty, but lack of accessibility. A five hour boat ride from the Upper Peninsula is the most common way to get to island. Its secluded environment makes it the perfect location for visitors to connect with the beauty around it. So pack up your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

4. Beaver Island
A couple hundred residents claim Beaver Island as their permanent home, but in the summer thousands flock to the small town of St. James for a one-of-a-kind Michigan vacation. Located some 27 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, the island is home to some of the state’s most beautiful beaches, brilliant stars, and crystal clear waters.  It is the prime vacation for those looking to come back refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Residents joke that it is always 3:00pm on the island, because the only reason to keep time here is to make sure you get to Daddy Frank’s Ice Cream Shop before it closes.

5. Belle Isle
The beauty of Belle Isle continues to win the hearts of Michiganders around the state. The southern point offers a near-perfect view of the Detroit skyline, where you can often watch freighters slowly venture up the river or sit next to an old fountain to watch the sunset over the city.

The Detroit skyline seen from Belle Isle, Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

There is never a wrong time to visit Belle Isle. Winter bring ice skating, summer brings picnics, and every day spent here is a day not regretted.

6. Grand Island
Filled with cottages, woods, and ice caves, Grand Island is not to be missed on your next trip to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In the summer, it is common for the island to be filled with families renting cottages, bon fires & s’mores, and calming waves against pebbled beaches.

Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

Winter brings daring adventures, where visitors make expeditions crossing a bay in Lake Superior to find ice caves lining the shore. They are majestic and mighty, each glowing with a tint of blue or green.Whether visiting for relaxing or excitement, Grand Island is always a good idea.

What is your favorite island found along Pure Michigan’s coastlines? Share with us below!

Shalee2

About the author: Shalee Blackmer is a 21 year old college student who grew up in the small town of Mecosta. She currently attends Michigan State University as an advertising student and spends her time exploring the outdoors. Her hobbies include running her own travel blog, which aims to inspire college-age students to see explore on a budget and taking photos to share her story. She enjoys camping, road trips, hiking and cliff jumping and enjoying Pure Michigan beauty.