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.
343 E. Bay Street | Harbor Springs
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.
153 E. Main Street | Harbor Springs
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.
West Lake & Sheridan Street | Petoskey
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.
2517 McDougall Road | Petoskey
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.
3520 US-31 North | Oden
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.
Contributors: Jenny Buechel, Carly Simpson
Cornerstone article: Paddling and boating in Harbor Springs and Petoskey