The Most Scenic Areas For Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Michigan
Paddleboarding is a wonderful way to experience Michigan's natural beauty. Thanks to the majestic Great Lakes and scenic inland lakes and rivers, Michigan offers some of the most variety of places with beautiful views to stand-up paddle (SUP) in America.
The areas compiled below offer options for both beginners and advanced riders, but keep in mind that the varying weather conditions may change the ease of paddling. Always use a personal floatation device and board leash when riding.
Home to the Pere Marquette River, and one of the largest and most beautiful beaches in the area, Muskegon offers protected flat water conditions between the channel arms. Riders can enjoy waist deep water and water temperatures that are 5-10 degrees warmer than Lake Michigan. And Lake Michigan is only steps away for more adventures in its clear water and uncrowded conditions. This year, Muskegon plays host to the first annual Great Lakes Surf Festival on August 18. SUPers, surfers, kiteboarders, windsurfers, kayakers, artists and even yogis are all invited for a day of celebrating the Great Lake's surf culture and history. All ages welcome.
This quaint coast town comes alive with nautical activity in the summer. Paddleboarding Harbor Springs is an awesome experience. Explore the historic Harbor Point and check out the amazing homes that extend all the way to the tip. When the water of this harbor—the largest natural harbor in the country—is calm, the conditions are ideal for beginners. But be aware that the wind, waves and heavy chop will kick up very quickly here, creating ideal conditions for advanced riders only.
Paddleboards are a simple (and fun) way to explore the beautiful waters of the Traverse City area – and there are A LOT of beautiful waters to explore in this large paddleboarding community. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the pristine, shallow waters of Grand Traverse Bay with the kids or you want to check out numerous nearby lakes that tend to be warmer (like Torch Lake or Crystal Lake), you are certain to have a memorable paddleboarding experience. Consider the nearby Paddling Acme Township Park or follow the winding shore of Long Lake just west of Traverse City as well.
4. Good Harbor
Located halfway between Leland and Glen Arbor, Good Harbor is a picturesque beach that is a favorite among the locals. Enjoy the stunning view that the Lake Michigan shoreline offers, lap the waters of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and take in the views of North Manitou Island in the distance. Water is colder here than of any inland lake, so come prepared with thermal wear.
5. Grand Haven
The Grand Haven area is an ideal place to take your board out. This scenic area offers numerous waterways that welcome paddlers to the interior waterways, as well as opportunities to head out on Lake Michigan. Ride the Pottawatomie Bayou for excellent flat water conditions that are ideal for beginners and riders seeking solitude. Or try exploring Grand Haven State Park if you feel comfortable riding open waters with occasional waves.
Another popular West Michigan area to for paddleboarding is Holland. This charming town is a lakeshore community devoted to all things water-related. The calm waters of Lake Macatawa make it easy for beginners to learn how to paddleboard in a safe and protected area. Holland State Park is for thrilling intermediate to advanced conditions while enjoying some of the best scenery on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
7. East Tawas
One of Lake Huron's incredible natural areas, East Tawas is a dream come true for a paddleboard adventure. Camping is available at the nearby Tawas Point State Park and the generally calm bay conditions are ideal for riders of all levels. While the water can be surprisingly warm here, come prepared with thermal riding gear earlier in the season.
If you’re located further south, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy the best of Michigan’s great outdoors. Kensington Metropark is made for solitude and scenic routes. This Metro Detroit inland lake is one of the best places to learn how to paddleboard, as no wake is allowed. Since the lake sits lower than the surrounding rolling hills, the water is generally calm. Enjoy stunning sunset views here and the beautiful natural surroundings, especially during fall colors.
9. Belle Isle Park - Detroit
Nestled in the Detroit River, just a few miles away from the heart of downtown Detroit, is Belle Isle. With the stunning Detroit skyline as the backdrop, Belle Isle offers a unique urban beach setting. Riding conditions here vary from beginner conditions on the north side of the island to advanced conditions on the south side. For advanced riders, paddle the 7-mile loop around Belle Isle for the ultimate test of stamina.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore extends 42 miles along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park offers spectacular scenery of the hilly shoreline between Munising and Grand Marais with various rock formations naturally shaped into archways, waterfalls and sand dunes. Paddling here requires some experience and the water is cold yearlong, so riders must be prepared with the appropriate gear.
About the Author: Joe Bidawid is a professional Great Lakes Waterman and the original pioneer of Great Lakes high performance windsurfing, kiteboarding and SUP.