From the adrenaline-pumping whitewater rapids of Bear River to a sunset sail on Little Traverse Bay in Harbor Springs and Petoskey, this region of Northern Michigan is prime boating country. Didn’t bring your own kayak or fishing supplies? No worries. We give you resources for where to rent equipment and all the information you need to have a great day on the water.
Little Traverse Sailors
For a laid-back day on the water, charter a sailboat with Little Traverse Sailors, a nonprofit sailing school on the waterfront in Harbor Springs. Climb aboard Exit Strategy, a 34-foot J/105 sailboat with room for you and five friends, and head to Charlevoix or Beaver Island, or just tool around Little Traverse Bay for an afternoon. (Or, our favorite: Stargaze from the water on a moonlit sail.) If you get bit by the sailing bug after your trip, Little Traverse Sailors offers classes and private instruction for all ages. Harbor Springs, 231.838.4484, littletraversesailors.org.
Paddle Little Traverse Bay
Spend a dreamy morning kayaking the protected inlet of Little Traverse Bay, exploring the shoreline from downtown Harbor Springs all the way to the historic lighthouse at the end of the exclusive Harbor Point peninsula. Rentals, lessons and guided tours available through The Outfitter in Harbor Springs. 153 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, 231.526.2621, outfitterharborsprings.com.
Bear River Valley Recreation Area’s recent $2.4 million facelift included returning a spectacular stretch of the Bear River to its natural wild state. Dams were removed, industrial areas were cleaned, and the result is one of Michigan’s few true whitewater experiences, with challenging drops and rapids to thrill experienced paddlers. Bonus: You won’t have to travel far to find it; the park is just steps from downtown Petoskey. Find the park’s main entrances off Lake and West Sheridan Streets. petoskeyarea.com.
Bear River Canoe Livery
For a slower journey down the Bear River, rent canoes or kayaks through this laid-back livery, which offers one-, two-, and four-hour paddling trips along a quiet stretch of the river. Perfect for new paddlers and families with young kids, with lots of scenery and wildlife sightings along the way. 2517 McDougall Rd., 231.347.9038.
The meandering, 40-mile Inland Waterway is the state’s largest interconnected chain of lakes and rivers, stretching from Pickerel Lake, east of Petoskey, all the way to where the Cheboygan River empties into Lake Huron. Round up your friends and rent a pontoon for a leisurely day trip of fishing, swimming, and sightseeing; Windjammer Cove & Marina in Oden has rentals and can point you to the best spots for exploring along your trip. 231.347.6103, windjammermarina.com.
Shepler’s Lighthouse Cruise
The company whose name you might recognize from the Mackinac Island ferry docks also offers cruises around the Straits, where passengers can get close-up views of some of the area’s most remote lighthouses. Each trip includes narration about Great Lakes maritime history, shipwrecks, navigation methods and other cool facts. Cruises range between three and five hours each; reservations strongly recommended. 231.436.5023, sheplersferry.com.
For more summer vacation ideas in Northern Michigan, grab the 2013 MyNorth Vacation Guide!
Your Guide to Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Petoskey, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Benzie & More
From the same people who produce Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, this is a colorful, easy-to-use guide to Northern Michigan vacation ideas from Ludington to Traverse City, from Charlevoix to Mackinac Island and everything in between. It is filled with ideas, tips and hundreds of websites that connect you to fun, food, activities, lodging and recreation in every part of Northern Michigan.
- More than 140, full color pages with stunning photography and travel stories
- Maps of each region
- Hundreds of resources
Be sure to also check out our free online area-specific vacation guides!
Ideas for your ultimate vacation in Traverse City, Acme, Fife Lake, Interlochen, Kingsley, and Williamsburg
Ideas for your ultimate vacation in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Mackinac Island, and Boyne Country
Ideas for your ultimate vacation in Charlevoix, Alden, Beaver Island, Bellaire, Central Lake, Easst Jordon, Elk Rapids, and Torch Lake
Ideas for your ultimate vacation in Cedar, Empire, Glen Arbor, Lake Leelanau, Leland, Maple City, Northport, Peshawbestown, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Suttons Bay, and Omena
Ideas for your ultimate vacation in Benzie, Manistee, West Shore, Beulah, Benzonia, Crystal Lake, Frankfort, Ludington, Onekama, and Pentwater
Cornerstone article: Paddling and boating in Harbor Springs and Petoskey