Things to Do in Cheboygan: The Ultimate Pure Michigan Guide

Photo Courtesy of mariemcpheephoto

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Set on the picturesque Straits of Mackinac, at the confluence of the Cheboygan River and Lake Huron, Cheboygan promises a getaway in the heart of pristine northern Michigan. In spring and summer, opportunities for fishing and kayaking, hiking and patio dining draw visitors to this Pure Michigan gem. In autumn, a riot of colorful hardwood trees adds extra brilliance to crisp sunny days. And in winter, outdoor enthusiasts strap on their cross-country skis and snowshoes to explore Cheboygan cloaked in white.

1. Explore the Inland Waterway 

Cheboygan marks the eastern gateway to the Inland Waterway, a unique water trail that stretches 40 miles, nearly to the Petoskey Area. Joining seven state parks, 20 nature preserves, three rivers, three lakes and numerous quaint towns, boat ramps, marinas and campgrounds, the Inland Waterway reveals the natural charms of northern Michigan. Rent a kayak and head up the Cheboygan River. Continue through Mullett Lake and Burt Lake, the Crooked River and Crooked Lake, keeping watch for paddling duck families and long-legged herons. Cast a line and try your hand at fishing the pristine waters. And pull up to one of a dozen of family-owned groceries and restaurants to fuel your journey.

2. Take a Lighthouse Tour 

Learn about the history and lore of Michigan’s Great Lakes beacons in Cheboygan. Tour the Cheboygan Crib in Gordon Turner Park, originally built in Lake Huron’s waters until its collapse forced the lighthouse to be moved inland. The Cheboygan River Front Range Lighthouse guided sailors from Lake Huron into the Cheboygan River beginning in 1880. The restored red-and-white lighthouse opens its tower to the public and offers a gift shop. Farther away, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City has been dubbed the “Castle of the Straits.” The stately, honey-colored brick lighthouse served as an important beacon until the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. Today, the light offers a museum and tours with costumed interpreters.

3. Try a New Winter Activity 

When winter arrives, Cheboygan’s proximity to Lake Huron assures a thick cover of pristine snow. Embrace the season at Black Mountain Recreation Area or at a nearby Michigan State Park, such as Cheboygan State Park or Rogers City’s P.H. Hoeft State Park. All offer trails ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking and fat tire bicycling. Thick powder covers the trails, evergreen trees bow under the weight of snow and the rest of the world feels far away.

4. Shop and Dine 

Browse the shops and restaurants of downtown Cheboygan, many of them located just a few steps from the Cheboygan River on Main Street. Bittersweet sells home décor, gifts and works created by local artists. Kilwin’s sells premium ice cream, chocolate and fudge. At Purple Tree Books you can scoop up a weekend’s worth of good reading. And on Michigan’s impossibly long summer days you can’t beat dining outside at the Cheboygan Brewing Company or Pier M33 On The Cheboygan. 

5. Cast a Line 

With easy access to the Inland Waterway and Lake Huron, Cheboygan is an angler’s dream. Head to Elliot Creek or Duncan Bay in Cheboygan State Park for ample trout fishing. Or try your luck fishing Lake Huron. Downtown Cheboygan’s Anchor In Marina and Cheboygan Village Marina offer boat sales, service, fishing tackle and advice, and information about area fishing charters.

6. Take a Few Golf Swings 

Northern Michigan ranks among the nation’s finest golf regions. Cheboygan is home to two golf courses. Cheboygan Golf and Country Club offers 18 holes on a public course just north of town. Mullett Lake Country Club offers nine holes on a semi-private course south on Mullett Lake.

7. Cruise Lake Huron 

Book passage on a Lake Huron ferry or cruise ship to experience the Great Lakes’ vast beauty for yourself. In downtown Cheboygan, Plaunt Transportation - Bois Blanc Island carries passengers up the Cheboygan River to Bois Blanc Island, with its faded gray Civil War-era lighthouse and wide, secluded beaches. Farther north, Mackinaw City-based Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line Ferries carry visitors out to Mackinac Island. They also offer Lake Huron lighthouse cruises past Mackinac, Round Island, Bois Blanc Island and along the Cheboygan lakeshore.

8. Drift Down the Indian River

Set between the southernmost points of Burt and Mullett Lakes and taking its name from the narrow river that links the two, Indian River sits along northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway. Take a day trip from Cheboygan to explore the natural beauty of Indian River. Local outfitters Indian River Marina and The Landings rent boats and pontoons for cruising, fishing and waterskiing. BrassWind Landing offers silent water sports rentals such as SUPs, kayaks and canoes. 

9. Take a Day Trip to Mackinaw City

Mackinaw City, the Lower Peninsula’s northernmost city, lies an easy 15-mile drive up the Lake Huron shore from Cheboygan. Colonial Michilimackinac recreates 18th-century fort life, when French fur traders and Native American fishermen traded goods with the fort’s residents. The costumed interpreters of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse walk guests through the restored keeper’s quarters at the base of the Mackinac Bridge, known by Michiganders as the Mighty Mac. Downtown shops sell woolen goods, outdoor gear, children’s toys and Mackinaw’s iconic fudge. Ferries ply the waters of the Straits of Mackinac en route to much-loved Mackinac Island.  

10. Hike a Northern Michigan Trail

Michigan boasts one of the nation’s most extensive rails-to-trails systems, and Cheboygan County lays claim to more of those trails than any other in Michigan. The 62-mile multi-use North Central State Trail between Mackinaw City and Gaylord passes through Cheboygan and is open to non-motorized traffic year-round, snowmobiles from December through March. The 71-mile North Eastern State Trail from Cheboygan to Alpena ranks as another favorite among cyclists, runners and hikers. Just out of town, the Black Mountain Recreation Area provides another network of marked trails: 30 miles designated for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, 60 miles for ORV use, and 80 miles for snowmobiling.