There are miles and miles of cool, blue water to explore from Lake Charlevoix to the Upper Chain of Lakes. Speeding off into the sunset, anchoring just far enough from the shore, hopping among small towns and world-class marinas, paddling the Jordan River. This is summer in Northern Michigan.

Lake Charlevoix

There’s a reason this beautiful Northern Michigan lake placed second only to Lake Tahoe in USA Today’s readers poll of America’s best lakes. A boat tour of Lake Charlevoix will not only give you a beautiful day on the water but access to three of the North’s best small towns: East Jordan at the end of the lake’s south arm; Boyne City at the eastern edge of the north arm; and Charlevoix on the lake’s western edge. A shallow ledge, which outlines the entire lake, makes it ideal for anchoring and relaxing the day away. Find rentals at Sunset Watersports. 231.932.1800,

Torch Lake

Though Torch Lake wasn’t voted best anything in any recent polls, many locals swear Torch is Michigan’s most spectacular lake. And on sunny days, when the turquoise waters are reminiscent of the Caribbean, it’s hard to argue with them. For those who love to socialize, hanging out on the sandbars at the lake’s south end is a summertime tradition; those seeking a little more peace and quiet will find the lake’s northern stretches more their speed. Find everything from pontoon to powerboat rentals at Dewitt Marine near Bellaire. 6509 Crystal Springs Rd., Bellaire, 231.377.6611,

Lake Michigan Cruises

The inland lakes of Northern Michigan offer plenty to do, but nothing beats the romance of the “Big Lake” to the west. A sunset cruise on Lake Michigan is a particularly breathtaking experience. Keweenaw Excursions offers two-hour sunset cruises aboard the 110-foot Keweenaw Star. The boat departs from downtown Charlevoix and cruises Round Lake before peacefully sailing into Lake Michigan underneath the Charlevoix drawbridge. Reservations required. 109 Bridge Park Dr., Charlevoix, 231.237.9365,

Jordan River

For canoe and kayak enthusiasts, there are few more beautiful spots to paddle than the scenic Jordan River Valley. The high bluffs that surround the river reach nearly 500 feet in some places, and are particularly gorgeous during fall color season. Navigating the waters of the Jordan River doesn’t require a ton of expertise, but complete beginners may prefer a guided group trip with Jordan Valley Outfitters, which offers tours and a full line of kayak, canoe and tubing rentals. 311 N. Lake St., East Jordan, 231.536.0006,

Upper Chain of Lakes

The 75 miles of lakes and interconnected waterways that make up the Chain of Lakes is a paddler’s paradise. Though the lower chain boasts the larger, flagship lakes like Torch and Elk, the underrated upper chain offers a laid-back canoeing or kayaking experience on six smaller, intimate lakes. Experienced paddlers can make a journey out of them all, though exploring smaller sections from one of the many put-in sites also makes for some great trips. One note: There are no canoe or kayak rental shops along the upper chain, so if you’re not bringing your own gear, hit up Jordan Valley Outfitters in East Jordan on your way to the water. 311 N. Lake St., East Jordan, 231.536.0006,

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!