5 Kayak Trips For Exploring the Eastern Shores of Michigan


Looking to explore eastern Michigan by way of water, but not sure where to start?  Here are 5 water trails to explore in the thumb region of the mitten state and along the Lake Huron shoreline, plus some paddling tips for the region. 
 

1. The Island Loop – Port Huron

The Island Loop takes paddlers through city surroundings as well as tranquil woodlands, utilizing four bodies of water to complete its circular route including Lake Huron and the St. Clair River.  Most of the trail is calm and slow; however it can be a bit rigorous when heading beneath the majestic Blue Water Bridges.  It’s a beautiful sight to see, though the current is strong and waves can be choppy, so please, experienced paddlers only for this part.  For novice paddlers who want to experience the gentler waters of this route, feel free to play in Lake Huron a bit, but then head back to your starting point before passing Lighthouse Beach.    
   

2. Grindstone City to Port AustinPort Austin Area

Turnip Rock
Turnip Rock | Photo Courtesy of Justin Schnettler

A one-way trip from Grindstone City to Port Austin is one for the kayaker’s bucket list.  You’ll paddle the Lake Huron shoreline alongside grand cliffs and undeveloped coast.  Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles that soar over the lake and nest in the surrounding forest.  If possible, plan ahead and drop one vehicle at Bird Creek County Park Beach in Port Austin, then drive second vehicle with kayaks and get into Lake Huron at Grindstone City.  Begin your trip by heading east for a bit to view magnificent cliffs, then paddle back west towards Port Austin.  Stunning rock formations will distinguish themselves amid the natural cliffs, including Turnip Rock, one of the most unique rock formations in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  From there, follow the shoreline into Port Austin.  You’ll be able to see the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse and if you are an experienced kayaker, up for an adventure and in good shape, you can swing out to the lighthouse and back. 
 
  • Access: DNR Boat Launch in Grindstone City
  • Level: Beginner – Experienced
  • Length: 6.5 miles one way
  • Kayak rental is available at Port Austin Kayak & Bike Rental.
 

3. Broken Rocks TrailPort Austin

Broken Rocks Trail in Port Austin
Broken Rocks Trail in Port Austin | Photo Courtesy of Justin Schnettler

This is a fun and relaxing route that’s great for families.  Begin at Veteran’s Park where there’s a sandy beach to launch from.  Head west along Lake Huron’s shallow shoreline and come across several spots to explore huge boulders in the water.  The turn-around point is called Flat Rock, a spot where you can get out, picnic and play in the water.  Then head back the way you came.
   

4. Krispin BluewayHarsens Island

St. Clair River in Marysville
St. Clair River in Marysville | Photo Courtesy of Frank E. Quinlan

The Krispin Blueway travels inland across Harsens Island, which is part of Clay Township.  The waterway is a gentle trail through a natural environment and wildlife refuge.  Paddlers may come across animals such as ducks, beavers, birds and maybe even an otter.  The refuge area is managed by the DNR and entry into the refuge is not allowed between September 1 and January 1 because of duck hunting season.  Those looking to get to the Krispin Blueway can choose to paddle across the St. Clair River to Harsens Island and enter the waterway, or take the car ferry across the big river to the island then drive to an access point of the waterway.  One access point is located behind Schoolhouse Grille, a casual restaurant and bar and great spot for lunch.  However you get there, the Krispin Blueway’s marshland surroundings, wildlife activity and mellow twists and turns make for a fascinating and fun paddle.     
   

5. Pine River PaddleSt. Clair

St. Clair makes it easy to get in the water with kayak rentals by the hour and an ADA Accessible Launch, right in the marina.  The Pine River will lead paddlers through the marina, around the Pine Shores Golf Course and along quiet but interesting bends.  You’ll pass boat houses, homes and favorite fishing holes.  Take a breather at Turtle Beach, where you can stop for a picnic or stretch your legs along the wooded nature trails.  The return trip is back the way you came.
 
  • Access: ADA Accessible Launch
  • Level: Beginner
  • Length: 8.4 miles round trip  
  • Kayak rental is available at St. Clair Marina.