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.

America’s Third Coast – 3 Tips for Surfing the Great Lakes

Though it is believed that Great Lakes breakers were first surfed nearly a century ago, and possibly much earlier by native peoples, the first significant wave of participants arrived in the 1960s. The west coast surf craze was leaking into Middle America, and small surfing communities sprouted across the Great Lakes. Michigan was at the forefront and today, surfing on the ‘Third Coast’ is more popular than ever!

Guest blogger Ryan Gerard of Third Coast Surf Shops shares more history on surfing in Michigan below, in addition to some tips for beginners. Hang loose and check it out!

The sheer size of the Great Lakes is what makes surfing on them possible. Containing 6 quadrillion gallons of water and more than 10,900 miles of shoreline (3,126 miles are in Michigan, more freshwater coastline than any other state!), the Great Lakes is one of the largest fresh water systems on earth and have more coastline than the East and West coasts combined.

Furthermore, while ocean waves are created by distant storm systems, waves on the Great Lakes are formed by localized winds. It’s not just a summer sport either. Thanks to ongoing improvements in wetsuit technology, surfers are now able to comfortably ride lake waves year-round, including in winter.

Surf Shop - VW Bus

Photo Courtesy of Third Coast Surf Shop

With its rise in popularity, lake surfing has been featured by national and regional news sources like CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today Show, The Weather Channel, Newsweek, The New York Times and NPR. The notion of surfing on freshwater lakes in the heartland of America, especially in winter, tends to catch people’s attention.

Since 2005, our mission at Third Coast Surf Shop has been to spread the joy of the surfing lifestyle in Michigan, the Great Lakes, and beyond. Owned and operated by Great Lakes surfers, the shop offers rentals, lessons, kids’ camps, repair, and a full line of surf and skate gear, clothing, and accessories; everything needed to get wet. Consider visiting the great surfing state of Michigan for your next trip! 

If your interests are peaked – here are a few tips for your first time in the water.

1. Best weather conditions for surfing in the Great Lakes:

  • The waves are typically small in the summer, which makes it the perfect time to learn to surf. The big waves and prime surfing time is during the fall, winter and spring.
  • In the summer, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the coolest new ways to get on the water.  Relatively easy to do with a little practice, stand-up paddling is similar to kayaking; all you need is a body of water and a paddle. While perfect for calm days on the lake, in the harbor and up the river, stand-up paddleboards can also be surfed when there are small waves as it is essentially a giant surfboard.

2. Types of Equipment Needed:

Ryan Gerard, New Buffalo, 2007 (mikekillion.com)

Photo Courtesy of mikekillion.com

Short surfboards are best for the advanced surfers, while long boards are better for beginners because there’s more surface area to work with and it provides greater stability.

Wetsuits are crucial for safe surfing, especially in colder seasons. There are various types of wetsuits for surfing in different conditions. A hood, booties and gloves are needed in colder conditions.

3. Tips for surfing on fresh water:

  • Take a lesson. There is no better way to start the process than with an experienced teacher.
  • Bring a friend. Learning together is safer and way more fun.
  • It takes time and perseverance to find good surf in the Great Lakes, but when you do, it makes it all worthwhile.
Photo Courtesy of Third Coast Surf Shop

Photo Courtesy of Third Coast Surf Shop

 

Ryan Gerard opened the first Third Coast Surf Shop in 2005 in New Buffalo. Since then, a second anchor store was opened in St. Joseph in 2010 and four kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental sites have been added in Southwest Michigan.  Gerard started surfing on Lake Michigan in 1998 and has surfed in nearly a dozen countries since. Check out their Facebook and Instagram.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town: Unique Upper Peninsula Day Trips

Fresh air, fresh water and fresh memories are what Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is all about. If you’re a native Yooper, you know all of the beauty and uniqueness the U.P. has to offer. If you’ve ever been curious what north-of-the-mitten is all about, here’s a roundup of some in-state adventure every Michigander should have on their bucket list.

Are you hungry? Either way, you will be after hearing about - the food.

The U.P. boasts some of the best culinary hidden gems that Michigan has to offer, and we wanted to have a taste for ourselves. Here are just a few of the many unique eateries you can find in the Upper Peninsula:

The Ambassador
On January 1, 1965, the Ambassador Restaurant opened under new ownership. The new owners, the Rossi family, had transformed the space from a tap bar into a restaurant that specialized in pizza and sandwiches. In 1978, the Ambassador was expanded into the space next door, and the second dining room was added. To explain the history of the Ambassador and the unique murals that line the interior walls, the owners conducted research and wrote a poem detailing the story. The poem, entitled “Come Fill a Bumper,” has since been printed on the cover of the Ambassador menu.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub 
Library and Brew PubThe Library is not your ordinary restaurant. They don’t worship the frozen or torture it in frying oil until it’s crispy. They cherish fresh ingredients and never take them for granted. The Library’s goal is simply for you to “Taste Something Great” in every entrée, every salad, every appetizer. This U.P. experience mixes traditional foods with unique flair and twists. The award-winning microbrew is the favorite of many, and premier drinks, wines and beverages bring it all together with a smile.

Kaleva Café
In 1891, Daniel T. Pearce opened a small saloon. The latest offered a warm retreat for hard working miners to gather over a welcomed spot of ale and to exchange tales. Eventually the business exchanged hands, becoming known as John’s Saloon. The new owner proudly promised his guest the “best brands of wine and liquor always on hand”. In 1918, Henry Moilanen took over at 234 Quincy with the idea of opening a restaurant. However, he needed a name. A contest was held and the name “Kaleva” was chosen, a direct take-off from the “Kalevala” national Finnish epic poem. In May 2006, Frank and Sandra Beauchamp reopened the Kaleva Cafe after an extensive renovation. They strive to carry on the Kaleva tradition of good home-cooked food in a friendly atmosphere.

Jampot Bakery
The Jampot bakery is a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite, under the jurisdiction of The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago, and belonging to the Ukrainian Metropoly in the United States of America, which is in union with the Pope of Rome, supreme pastor of the universal Church. They embrace traditions of the Christian East while making delicious confections, cakes and preserves year round. In our skete at Jacob’s Falls, on the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, we devote ourselves to a common life of prayer and work for the praise, love, and service of God and for the upbuilding of His Kingdom through the Arts.

The Mariner North
MarinerThe Mariner North holds a very large place as the hospitality center in the history of Copper Harbor. First established in the1920′s, it was called the Pontiac and was a thriving Inn / Restaurant / Bar as Copper Harbor launched its tourism era into a summer resort community with the shuttle service on the Copper Queen to Isle Royale National Park and the establishment of Fort Wilkins State Park. Over 40 years later, it changed hands and became known as the Keweenaw Inn North. The fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and the draw of Lake Superior made Copper Harbor a natural escape from the city confines. In 1977 The Keweenaw Inn again changed hands and renamed it “The Mariner North”. The early days of The Mariner involved the development of the snowmobile program to assist Copper Harbor in its goal as a year round tourism destination area.

Harbor Haus Restaurant
Without a doubt, the most frequently asked question at the Harbor Haus is “Can we have a table with a view?” Fortunately, that’s an easy request to fill as it’s situated right on the shore of Lake Superior. Through the large picture windows, each guest has a beautiful harbor view expanding onto the big lake. While dining, it’s not uncommon to see ore freighters in transit or small marine traffic and kayakers taking in the beautiful surroundings. All of this is framed by a patio adorned with flowers and trees, providing a German/Austrian flavor. The Harbor Haus offers a vast dining menu featuring fresh local fish, seafood, steaks and many more items, as well as Ahi flown in from Hawaii the day after it was “swimming.” Local berries and vegetables are utilized in the dishes when available.

Jamesen’s Fish Market
At Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery, freshly baked goods are highlighted through the use of local ingredients when possible.  The market offers fresh and smoked Lake Superior Trout and Whitefish.  Stop in for a great cup of coffee, as well!

Laurium Manor Inn
Laurium Manor Inn has been restored into an historic mansion hotel that has been welcoming guests since 1989. This mansion has 10 guestroom with private baths in its 13,000 square feet on four floors. A parlor, library, den, dining room, and third floor ballroom are all open for our guests to use and enjoy. Victorian Hall was purchased and restored into a bead & breakfast in 1993. Within its 7,000 square feet is eight guestrooms, each with its own private bathroom. The first floor library, music parlor and dining room are always open for visiting guests.

Paul’s Superior View Restaurant
Paul’s Superior View is committed to providing the best dining experience around. Paul’s menu features an eclectic mix of traditional favorites that is sure to satisfy any craving. Stop in & check out their nightly features, including: Friday Fish Fry & Saturday Angus Prime Rib. Pair your dinner with one of the daily drink specials in Porky’s Pub.

Joey’s Seafood & Grill
Joey’s is famous throughout the Copper Country and the Midwest, as well as the rest of the world, for their seafood… but the spectacular seafood is just the beginning! The menu includes steaks, chicken, Baby Back ribs, steak burgers, pasta, tacos and quesadillas. Joey’s is a must for all seafood lovers visiting the U.P.

Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant
The Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant has become a Houghton staple. The famous Finnish French Toast is known throughout the state and Midwest as a taste explosion for the mouth. Get it with fresh fruit and you’ll melt in your chair. Enjoy Suomi’s small town ambiance and see for yourself why Suomi has been doing breakfast successfully for many, many years.

Roy’s Pasties & Bakery
RoysRoy’s moved to their current location on Houghton’s waterfront in October of 2013 and never looked back.  They’d love for youto stop by, have a cup of coffee and a Danish, maybe some soup or a sandwich, enjoy the free Wi-Fi and be their guest!

Of course, filling your stomach isn’t the only thing to do in the U.P. When you’re looking to have an adventure in Michigan’s north, consider these thrilling and unique trips and tours.

Quincy Mine Tour
rideintomineThe Quincy Mine Tour offers three unique tours for all visitors: Surface Tour only, Surface Tour with Tram Ride, and Full Tour.All tours include a visit to our museum, a video-tour of the No. 2 Shaft-Rock House and a guided tour of the enormous and complex Nordberg steam-powered hoist engine and the building it is in. On the Full Tour, you will take a ride on the cog-rail tram car down the hill to the mine entrance and then ride by tractor-pulled wagon into the mine, seven levels underground. For a family friendly adventure, check out the Quincy Mine.

Adventure Mining Company Copper Mine Tour
While visiting the Copper Country, you’re invited to experience the best in underground mine tours: a tour through the historic Adventure Copper Mine. Walk through part or all of the tunnels on the first level or try your hand at rappelling with a rope and harness to the second level of the mine…the choice is yours! Whatever your vacation plans in the U.P. may be, be sure they include a stop by the Adventure Mining Company to boldly go where no underground mine tour has gone before!

Sea Kayaking  and Mountain Biking with the Keweenaw Adventure Company
Originally founded in 1843 during the great copper boom of the 1800’s, Copper Harbor has long held a maritime significance as the largest natural harbor in the northern Keweenaw Peninsula where ships have taken refuge from Lake Superior’s furious storms. Today the same crystal clear waters allow paddlers to see to depths of nearly 20 feet below, including sights of rocky shoals, reefs and even the remnants of several shipwrecks.  The Keweenaw is home to some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and was originally formed by ancient volcanoes.

KeweenawCoInitially receiving an IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) “Epic Ride” recognition in 2009, the Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails were designated as an IMBA  ( “Bronze Level” Ride Center in October of 2011.  This designation was trumped in 2012 with that of an IMBA “Silver Level” Ride Center, which currently ranks these trails among the top five in the world!   Points were scored on a variety and quality of gateway, cross-country, flow and gravity trails, in addition to being considered as a mountain bike friendly community, complete with a bike shop and a brew pub!

Copper Harbor Lighthouse Boat Tour
Whether traveler or Keweenaw resident, don’t miss a tour of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse.  This single tour encompasses a total lighthouse experience, including a ride in a boat similar to an early 20th century lighthouse launch.  Because lighthouses are built in treacherous waters, it took a versatile boat to ferry supplies to lightkeepers and their families.  The time-proven “double-ender” hull design and dimensions of the launch are identical to the early wooden boats of the United States Lighthouse Service which tended to the needs of the lightkeepers of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  You will arrive at Hayes Point just as the lightkeepers did over 150 years before you.

Porcupine Mountains Lake of the Clouds
Surrounded by the silhouettes of the ancient Porcupine Mountains, the Lake of the Clouds is a blue gem amid the thick forests. The Lake of the Clouds is perhaps the most photographed feature in the Porcupine Mountains region. No matter what the season, it is a truly breathtaking sight to behold. The Lake of the Clouds Scenic Area is located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum 
MineralsLet’s be crystal-clear: the Seaman Mineral Museum is handsome, classy, and suitable—a fortune that houses a fortune. A hundred people gathered on a hot afternoon, across from the ATDC, and attested to a milestone more than a century in the making: a permanent home for the official Mineral Museum of Michigan. Appropriately, for a museum noted for its copper collection, the structure sits on an old mine shaft and the parking lot sits over a stope.

Do you know of any other unique eats or attractions in the Upper Peninsula? Tell us!