Five Great Lakes in 24 Hours

Kathryn Kinville and Shelby Kear are two proud Michiganders who met in college. They recently took on the challenge of conquering all five Great Lakes in one day. Today, Kathryn shares their adventure on our blog.

Shelby Kear and I have been friends since 2003 when we met our freshman year at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.  Shelby is from Petoskey and I am from Northville, and we are both proud to be called Michiganders!  When Shelby saw someone wearing a t-shirt that said, “I swam in all five great lakes in one day,” we knew what we had to do – a great adventure to all the Great Lakes.  And what a perfect day: 5-24-2012, 5 great lakes in 24 hours!

The Chevy Equinox was packed with beach towels, swimsuits, and a cooler full of Guernsey Farm Dairy Chocolate Milk and water.  Waking up at 5:45 a.m., we grabbed a quick breakfast, brushed our teeth, and put on our swimsuits.  By 6:15, we were at stop number one – beautiful Lake Michigan.  Let’s just say there was no need for coffee; the chilly water woke us right up!  

Stop number two was Lake Superior at 8:30 a.m. in Sault Ste. Marie.  The water was low so we had far to walk until the water was deep enough to swim.  By that time our toes were popsicles, but we still managed to go under water and swim around.  It was a beautiful morning, but we couldn’t stay long, as we still had three more lakes to swim in that day.

The longest drive of the trip was from Sault Ste. Marie to Sarnia, Ontario.  We made one stop to get gas, ate our turkey sandwich lunches in the car, and cruised right along.  After 5.5 hours we were ready to get out of the car and there was no hesitation getting into the water at Lake Huron.  It was 2:30 p.m. and the water felt refreshing!  It was a hot day and there were many people at the park. It was a perfect beach day, but we couldn’t stay.  We had places to go and more lakes to swim in. 

By 6:00 p.m. we had arrived at Hamilton, Ontario, just in time for rush hour traffic.  After a couple of “navigational corrections,” we finally found the lake front to swim in Lake Ontario.  It had already been 12 hours and we had been to so many amazing places. 

The sun was setting over Lake Erie at Port Stanley, Ontario at 9:00 p.m. It was beautiful!  The water was rejuvenating.  We were overjoyed by what we had just accomplished!  Something any Michigander would be proud of!

Two friends, 15 hours of driving, 882 miles, swimming in all five Great Lakes in one day!  Mission Complete!

Along the way there were a few things we learned and some advice we want to share:

  1. Bring a waterproof camera.
  2. Remember cell phones (and GPS on cell phones) do not work in Canada.
  3. The advice my dad gave me, “Don’t be shy about it.  Don’t think how cold the water is, just get in.”
  4. Remember your passport.
  5. Enjoy every minute of the trip!

Have you ever thought about taking an adventure like Kathryn and Shelby? For fun information on the Great Lakes, ideas for Michigan road trips and more, visit

20 thoughts on “Five Great Lakes in 24 Hours

  1. […] from my better half, is to visit the 5 great lakes. So instead of hitting it all at once like these people, who completed the task while swimming in each of the 5 lakes in the course of 24 hours, instead we […]

  2. A buddy of mine and I just made this same trip. Starting in Novi, and never leaving the country we got from Novi back to Novi in 29 hours, with the first lake at 4:22 am and last lake at 7:46pm. Adding in stops at Tony’s on I-75, the American side of Niagara Falls and Buffalo New York for some original buffalo wings, we had an absolutely amazing time and would suggest the trip to anybody.

  3. That sounds like a crazy good time! Glad to see you guys are both doing well back up there and making AQ proud!

  4. And because of this awesome blog with even more awesome idea, my friend and I will do this same thing just in reverse order.  Looking forward to a grand aventure and thanks for mentioning specific Canadian towns/cities, that is really helpful as we plan.

  5. What a great idea!  The one I love is the sunrise to sunset (or a great alternative a good friend suggested, sunset to sunrise) where you watch both by crossing the state in one day (or night).  I am curious though, GPS not working in Canada?  GPS signals come from satellites, and they don’t care about international boarders. My guess is you were trying to use a cellular based service *with* your GPS (like mapping), and as you couldn’t get cell service (different discussion) you didn’t get the maps.  The GPS was fine, it just didn’t have a service to use the coordinate data with.  Sorry, just the geek coming out in me, not meaning to be picky ;-)

  6. Vey interesting to read about Kathryn and Shelby`s trip to the Great Lakes. I `ve never been to any water bodies but still wish to visit these famous lakes one day !!

  7. Interesting adventure… You are brave to do it before late summer when the water would have been warmer!!! Thanks for sharing:)

  8. I look forward to doing this some day also, but over a week or two. Thanks for sharing this adventure.

  9. What an exciting adventure, I hope to at least swim in all 5 in my life let alone in 15 hours! Happy for the both of you!!!

  10. Cell phones do work in Canada, but you may have to temporarily adjust your cell plan.  I have Verizon and had to do this when I travelled to Toronto.

  11. What a cool thing to do!  FYI – my cell phone works in Canada but switches to roaming. Yet some features on my cell phone don’t work in the UP. Go figure.

Comments are closed.