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.

Five Reasons to Make South Haven Your Next Summertime Getaway

Home to some of Michigan’s oldest resorts and bed and breakfasts, South Haven is where summer fun begins. Experience its beachtown history, maritime heritage, wineries and numerous art galleries. South Haven Visitors Bureau explains why it’s easy to make this West Michigan gem your new summer tradition.

Photo by Keshia Lynn Stone

Photo by Keshia Lynn Stone

Imagine a place where you can embrace the small town charm with more than 70 upscale shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Enjoy the warm summer sun on one of seven beaches. Feel the gentle breezes as you leisurely walk the pier of the often-photographed historic lighthouse. Experience the Great Lakes’ rich heritage in the Maritime District. Sail Lake Michigan on a tall ship or cruise the harbor on an old-fashioned water taxi. Travel Blue Star Highway where artisans, galleries and antiques converge on a 16-mile stretch of scenic roadway, and celebrate the bountiful harvest at plentiful year-round farmers markets and wineries.

Though we don’t think it will take much convincing, here are five reasons to make South Haven your next summertime getaway.

Seven Public Beaches – One for each day of the week

Photo by Jamie Garvison

Photo by Jamie Garvison

South Haven is known for beautiful, sandy beaches that stretch for miles. Our visitors love to experience a different beach each day of week. Choose from family-friendly beaches with playground equipment or secluded beaches perfect for that perfect romantic sunset, or if you’re up for some water play you’ll love that you can rental paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis, sailboats, and fishing boats.

Beautiful Scenery – Wooded bike trails, dunes for hiking, scenic drives, and a Covered Bridge

No matter where you go, whether it’s a stroll downtown eating an ice cream cone or biking the 34 mile Kal-Haven Bike Trail or a leisurely paddle down the Black River; the natural scenic beauty will take your breath away.

Shopping in Downtown South Haven – The river runs through it

The greatest part about shopping in South Haven is the family-owned, one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques you’ll discover. From resort wear to cottage decor stores to fudge, ice cream and everything in between; South Haven’s downtown is alive with activity – year ‘round! The best part is that it is only a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan beaches,  and several stores are located in Old Harbor Village, right on the river.

Photo by Jamie Garvison

Photo by Jamie Garvison

Wine Lovers and Foodies love Van Buren County

If you love dining, wine tasting and tours, there are fabulous restaurants and a dozen wineries in the area. Sample at St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, a scenic 35 minute drive from South Haven, and you’ll experience the history and flavor of Michigan as an emerging wine capital! St. Julian Winery is Michigan’s Oldest, Largest and Most Awarded Winery.

South Haven is walkable and convenient

Enjoy a mile walk on South Haven’s exclusive HarborWalk which extends from the Lighthouse on the South Pier around the harbor to the North Pier. Along the way, take in South Haven’s Historic Markers to see the many ways maritime history is woven into the story of South Haven.

Whether you’re coming to visit for a day or a week; you’ll go home with treasured memories from South Haven and Van Buren County that will last a lifetime! 

Inside Information: Helpful Hints for Planning Your 2015 Summer Vacation

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @john_a_gessner

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @john_a_gessner

Before we know it, the snow and ice will begin to melt and we’ll be looking forward to warm sunshine and long days. The only thing better than a Pure Michigan summer, is a Pure Michigan summer well planned. With that thought in mind, and summer dreams dancing in your head, check out this inside guide on the best times to book a warm weather Michigan getaway. Plus, see what’s new around the state in 2015 to help you plan your travels. 

When to book your stay

A stay at a Michigan resort is the perfect way to spend a summer getaway, and travelers from all over the country know it. The busiest times for these hometown hotspots are during the summer peak months of June, July and August. Typically, space sells out well before the busy season.

When planning a trip to a popular Michigan resort, it’s best to book a reservation months ahead of time to assure vacancy and lower prices. The Grand Hotel staff on Mackinac Island recommends booking summer trips as soon as registration opens in November, as rooms typically are sold out by August and sometimes even July!

Consider planning and booking your trip months ahead to avoid the headache of overbooked resorts.

When to go on a summer vacation

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @oni_one

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @oni_one

Once you’ve decided where you want to stay, it’s time to pull out the calendar and pick when you want to go.

A great way to avoid the sunscreen-covered masses it to plan your trip during the slower times of the season, which are right before or after the peak summer months. For example, resorts like The Homestead in Glen Arbor are popular during both the summer and winter seasons due to the complex being a golf and ski resort.

Expert travelers might advise that a trip in May or September could mean a Pure Michigan paradise nearly all to yourself. Besides not having to fight to find a beach chair, many resorts will offer lower prices for stays outside of the busy seasons!

When to buy your tickets

If you’re looking for some summer fun closer to home, summer events and concerts are always happening around the state. Similar to resorts, buying tickets to a concert, show  or festival early could potentially save you hundreds. Tickets to a popular concert only increase closer to the event date, and can be harder to come by when looking last minute. An added bonus of buying tickets early is the assurance of being able to sell your tickets if you can’t make it through services like StubHub.

Now that you know when to book, you can plan the most important part of your Pure Michigan summer getaway – the attractions!  In 2015, travelers will discover a diverse offering of new and improved things to do, places to stay, food to eat and activities to explore. Here’s a just a sampling of them. See a full list here. 

New Attractions

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit opens at the Detroit Institute of Arts March 15 and runs through July 12, 2015. The exhibit explores the couples’ careers and their impact on Detroit with nearly 70 works of art.

Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE

Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE

- The Sea Life Michigan Aquarium opens at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills at the end of January. Measuring 35,000 square feet the aquarium features more than 5,000 aquatic creatures, including an exhibit highlighting the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Zoo will open a new, $21 million Penguinarium in late 2015. The 24,000 square foot center will be the largest center in the nation dedicated to penguins.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Gardens at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids will have its grand opening June 12, 2015. The garden will have an authentic Japanese teahouse, waterfalls, and zen-style gardens.

- The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum opens May 16, 2015 featuring more than 1,000 reproductions of items from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

- The exhibit Roadside America: From the Lens of John Margolies will be on display at The Henry Ford Museum May 9-April 7, 2015 and the revamped Ford Rouge Factory Tour opens February 2015 with full production at The Henry Ford.

- Grand Traverse Commons now features a botanic gardens on the grounds of Historic Barns Park. The 25-acre garden incorporates existing meadows, hillsides and a pair of massive 19th century barns.

- Two new exhibits have opened at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. The Lincoln Motor Heritage Museum was patterned after a historic Lincoln dealership and celebrates the Lincoln with more than 20 vehicles. The Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum is a premier attraction for enthusiasts.

- The Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson is now offering tours of Cell Block 7 – the only prison exhibit within the walls of an operating penitentiary.

- Owosso’s rebuilt, LEED certified Lebowsky Center has re-opened featuring live shows from the Owosso Players.

The Thumb Quilt Trail showcases barns and agricultural traditions in Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties.

- Ludington will be offering smartphone tours of both the Mason County Barn Quilt Trail and the Mason County Agricultural Trail.

What’s New to Do 

Adventure and Recreation

- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Outdoor Adventure Center on the Detroit riverfront will provide guests with exhibits, displays, and hands-on simulators to showcase the natural and cultural resources in Michigan.

Zehnder's - Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Zehnder’s – Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

-Zehnder’s Splash Village of Frankenmuth has opened its new 29,000 square foot atrium waterpark. The retractable roof is the only of its kind in the Midwest.

Trestle Park in Denton Township provides recreation opportunities in Roscommon County including campsites and swimming at Sullivan Beach.

Thumbs Up Wine Trail is a 275 mile trail spanning from Bad Axe to Clinton Township. The trail consist of vineyards, wineries, a meadery and a cider house.

- The 42-mile Fred Meijer Clinton Ionia Shiawassee State Trail is now open. The trail connects the communities of Ionia, Muir, Pewamo, Fowler, St. Johns, Ovid and Owosso, utilizing a former railroad corridor.

- Michigan’s new statewide trail running from Belle Isle Park to Ironwood is now open offering two distinct routes (one for hiking, one for biking) and serving as a link between many existing trails.

Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) has combined with Michigan state parks, the Michigan Historical Center and Michigan libraries to offer free passes to more than 120 historic and cultural destinations around the state.

Hanson Hills Recreation Area, in Grayling, has a new six mile Fat Bike trail.

- Au Train’s new trailhead was completed this fall. The trailhead includes a universally accessible kayak launch and fishing pier, railroad depot pavilion, log cabin interpretive center, picnic tables, restrooms, and trail head for multi-uses.

- A 9-hole footgolf course is coming to the Riverwood Resort in Mt. Pleasant and Hawk Hallow in Lansing is also now offering a footgolf course.

- Holland has created a new walking guide/map allowing people to take advantage of the snow-melted streets and sidewalks as well as enjoy the natural beauty of the town all year long. New walking and driving guides of historic and art sites in the Holland region is also now available.

River Town Adventures has opened in Lansing offering kayak, canoes or paddle boards available to rent and explore the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers. Taxi tours are now also available from the Lansing City Market, Old Town or REO Town.

- Traverse City’s Mt. Holiday now has a ten station zipline available with advanced reservations.
-Running Rivers in Douglas now offers a three hour kayak and stand up paddle board float trips on the Kalamazoo River.

Sports and Events  

- A new, reversible Tom Doak designed golf course will be built at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon.

- Bassmaster returns to Michigan with an Elite Series tournament at Lake St. Clair August 27-30, 2015.

- Kalamazoo hosts the U.S. Curling National Championships February 14- 21, 2015 as well as the PDGA Amateur Disc Golf World Championships July 18-25, 2015.

- ATV Riders will be able to travel across the Mackinac Bridge for the first time ever as part of the inaugural Trek the Mighty Mac event October 3, 2015.

DisArt Festival – a 15-day multi-faceted celebration of arts – is launching in downtown Grand Rapids April 10-15, 2015.

What’s New to Eat or Drink

10298784_10152849038958289_2327881022500686165_nWineries – New wineries opened or opening in Michigan include:

Walloon Lake Winery (Walloon Lake)

Petoskey Farms Vineyard (Petoskey)

3 North Vines (Croswell)

J-Tree Cellars Winery (Tecumseh)

Love Wines (Ludington)

Aurora Cellars (Lake Leelanau)

The Villa Mari Vineyard and Bonobo Vineyards (Traverse City)
Seasons of the North (Indian River)

WaterFire Vineyards (Torch Lake)

Breweries – Michigan’s craft beer scene continues to grow with the opening of the following breweries:

Thumb Coast Brewing Company (Port Huron)

Thumb Brewery (Caseville)

Cognition Brewing Company (Ishpeming)

Elk Street Brewery (Sandusky)

One Well BrewingBrite Eyes Brewing CompanyTexas Corners Brewing Company (Kalamazoo)

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Tecumseh Brewing Company (Tecumseh)

Territorial Brewing Company (Battle Creek)
Tripel Root Brewery (Zeeland)

Hop Lot Brewing Company (Suttons Bay)

Brewery Becker (Brighton)

Constantine Brewing Company (Constantine)

Elk Brewing (Grand Rapids)

Eternity Brewing (Howell)

Fetch Brewing Company (Whitehall)

Northport Brewing (Northport)

Railtown Brewing Company (Caledonia)

River’s Edge Brewing Company (Milford)

Upper Hand Brewery (Escanaba)

Other Spirits  

Grey Skies DistilleryLong Road DistillersFlatlanders Barstillery (Grand Rapids)

Detroit City Distillery (Detroit)

Ready to plan your trip? Visit michigan.org to see everything there is to do in the summer, and all year long.