Northern Michigan Living: Lake Michigan sunsets are so gorgeous that sometimes a view from shore just isn’t close enough. Luckily, Northern Michigan has many options (beyond a jump in the waves) for total setting-sun immersion out on the water. Consider these nightly outings by catamaran, pontoon or ferry so special they’re worth planning a weekend around. By Kim Schneider
It’s sunset under the bridge (Mackinaw City)
Each Thursday of summer at about 8 p.m., the Star Line ferry company will pick you up at its dock in Mackinaw City, and each Monday eve in St. Ignace, and power you not to the usual destination—Mackinac Island—but instead to the vicinity of the Mackinac Bridge. There, the hydro-ferry will cruise under and around and catch the perfect sunset view at the perfect time. ($20 adults, $8 children 5–12; 800.638.9892, mackinacferry.com). Snacks are sold on board, and a room at the Riviera, the Mackinac City hotel closest to the bridge, extends your view into late-night sparkle (shadowofthebridge.com; 231.436.5577, sunshinecharters.com).
Before 6:45 p.m. any August evening, head to the Charlevoix Marina, find a kiosk that reads “Go Sailing,” and book passage. Chances are that won’t be the last sunset you view while aboard a 40-foot catamaran owned by Sunshine Charters (231.547.0266). About 80 percent of customers are repeaters, says owner Josh Mack, who conducts the outings as less guided tour, more personal sailing adventure. The $40/person evening cruise starts in Round Lake, moves into Lake Charlevoix and then into Lake Michigan in time to catch the sun sinking over the horizon. Everyone’s welcome to help raise a sail or toot the horn that signals the lifting of the drawbridge. Later, try Edgewater Inn on the Harbor, where each roomy condo boasts a water view (from $189, 231.547.6044, edgewater-charlevoix.com).
Sunset—and a bonus (Ludington)
On a Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals $25 nightly sunset cruise, you’re pretty much assured of both an unforgettable sunset and sightings of wildlife like the bald eagles that frequently nest nearby. Dinner’s as easy as calling one of the restaurants listed on the website (hamlinlakeboatrentals.com) and having pizza, pasta or salad delivered to the dock. Your room reservation is similarly easy because the same company operates the Sauble Resort cabins located right on the Hamlin Lake bluff, 231.843.8497.
A party in the sunset’s honor
The sunset is officially celebrated each night of Petoskey’s Festival on the Bay, August 17–18, with either a $15 sunset cruise via the Keweenaw Star at 8 p.m. Saturday or the shoreline party, where the Petoskey Steel Drum band offers the backdrop to “the moment”—8:45 p.m. Friday, 8:43 p.m. Saturday (Petoskey.com).
A dunes cruise and more (Leland)
The view from the Mishe-Mokwa is as captivating when looking toward the sandy, cliff-lined shore as it is when scanning the horizon sun as you cruise Good Harbor Bay near Pyramid Point and the North Manitou Shoal lighthouse watching the sun sink behind the Manitou Islands. The 1½-hour trip runs $19/person, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through August. There’s a cash bar on board, and you can preorder a picnic at the Village Cheese Shanty, just steps from the dock (villagecheeseshanty.com; 231.256.9141). You’ll fall asleep to the sound of rushing water with a room at Falling Waters Lodge, right at the harbor (from $192/night, breakfast included, but two-night stay required on weekends; fallingwaterslodge.com).
Traverse travel editor Kim Schneider writes from Suttons Bay. [email protected]