Kayak to Turnip Rock for an Amazing Adventure

See a photograph of Turnip Rock—one of Michigan's most iconic landmarks—and you'll want to get up close and personal. If you're a somewhat accomplished kayaker, paddling out to the “rock” is a bucket list item. The rock is accessible by paddlers with enough stamina to make the three to five hour trek from the “thumb” town of Port Austin.

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Turnip Rock at sunrise | Photo Courtesy of the Port Austin Chamber of Commerce

The Turnip Rock formation broke from the mainland, likely back in prehistoric times. It got its eventual name by the way the 20-foot high trees on top resemble turnip greens, the stacked limestone a turnip (if you use your imagination) and tapering at the bottom as the rock juts to the bottom of Lake Huron something akin to the way roots connect to the soil.

Today, the floating park is a favorite for avid paddlers, generally toting a camera along. The wise paddlers launch the adventure through an outfitter like local Port Austin Kayak & Bike Rental which helps with rental equipment, a launch spot and advice on the scenic route and safety. The company also monitors weather and wave conditions, only renting kayaks for the trek if Lake Huron conditions allow.

How to Kayak to Turnip Rock

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Kayaking to Turnip Rock | Photo Courtesy of the Port Austin Chamber of Commerce

Start the seven mile round-trip paddle at the Port Austin Kayak launch site behind their building, the closest place to get in the water for the trek to the rock formations. You'll also get a quick lesson on how to use the equipment, and then you can set off down what's known as the Point au Barques trail.
From here, you acclimate slowly to the adventure ahead. You first paddle a small river leading to the Port Austin Marina and a harbor area that is protected by the Port Austin Breakwater. The calm beginning is often the precursor to a still-as-glass paddle on Lake Huron too as you work your way toward the rock and tree formations. Along the coast, you pass clear-blue shallows and trees seemingly jutting out of the water in tiny strip-like islands. It's a bit like being transported to another time—a far quieter one.
Anticipation is part of the fun, too. As you paddle around each bend, you anticipate the huge rock formation and part of the fun is the way it at first evades you. You'll find the anticipation well worth it once you round a bend after some intriguing sea caves. Upon arrival, you'll likely be joining other kayakers in celebration—and photo taking. Turnip Rock for good reason has made many lists of the state's most photographed icons and Michigan’s top Instagram-worthy spots.   

What to Know Before You Go

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Kayaks at Turnip Rock | Photo Courtesy of the Port Austin Chamber of Commerce

Surrounding land is private, making kayaking the only way to reach the rock. But once you reach the formation, you can beach your kayak near the rock's base and explore (water shoes are a good idea because of the rocky shallows). 

Port Austin Kayak recommends the trip be taken only by those in good physical shape; it's a long paddle and significant workout.

Kayaks are only rented if weather permits, and the route is too shallow for tandems, so single kayaks are advised.

What to See and Do in Port Austin

Hit the beach, camp or star gaze at Port Crescent State Park. This is one of six dedicated dark sky preserves in the state, so designated for the lack of light pollution and particularly clear night sky. The park also boasts three miles of sandy shoreline and dunes on Saginaw Bay and an accessible fishing deck.
Book a charter. Fin-lander Sport Fishing Charters is one option. Then head to Captain Morgan's Grindstone Bar and Grill. They'll cook your catch and also offer a full menu—and lodging.
The Port Austin Farmer's Market (held Saturdays mid-May through mid-October) is one of the state's most comprehensive and one worth planning a trip around. The market features more than 150 vendors selling fresh produce and also cheesecake, maple syrup, cakes, shortbread, seafood, linens and hunting blinds. Live bands perform from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Stay for lunch; there are food trucks on site!