From stand-up paddleboarding to snorkeling for fossils, the waters that surround The Homestead in Glen Arbor are waiting to be explored on your next Northern Michigan vacation.

Friends Erin, Kara and Ken were relaxed as the day was warm when they headed to the Beach Club at The Homestead resort in Glen Arbor to rent the gear for a stand-up paddleboard adventure. But, well, there were some small issues. Number 1 was their diversity of skill. Erin is experienced, Kara an intermediate and Ken had never before stepped foot on a paddleboard. Issue number 2 was the steady chop of waves rolling across Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay and lapping at The Homestead’s beachfront. Even Erin wasn’t sure she wanted to head out into it. Issue number 3 and perhaps the biggest conundrum: would the three amigos cap their adventure off with margaritas or frozen strawberry daiquiris from The Homestead’s outside bar?

As it turned out, the staff at the Beach Club helped solve the friends’ first two issues by setting their paddleboards into the shallow and serene Crystal River that empties into Sleeping Bear Bay at the Beach Club. That way, Erin could explore upriver as far as she wanted then glide back to the river-mouth and do it again. Kara found paddling back and forth on a relatively short stretch the perfect way to up her skills. And Ken? He fell in … a lot. But the river was warm and the bottom was sandy, so it turned out to be part of the fun.

As for that after-adventure drink? The three made that decision on their own. It was frozen strawberry daiquiris all the way! “It was an amazing day,” Kara tells us.

Ready to have your own adventure at The Homestead? Read on for more freshwater activities offered to guests of The Homestead and Beach Club members.

Photo by Andy Wakeman


Perhaps there’s nothing that makes you feel more one with the water and the waves than paddling a kayak. Even if you aren’t experienced, kayaking the inspirationally scenic shore of Sleeping Bear Bay where The Homestead is located feels like an extreme adventure. If you are a rookie, however, make sure to stay in shallow water close to shore.

Gear up: The staff at the Beach Club will set you up with a kayak, take it down to the water for you and introduce you to the paddling basics if you need a quick lesson.

Stand-Up Paddleboard

Take a tip from friends Erin, Kara and Ken and get your paddleboard skills on at The Homestead. It’s actually a sport that almost anyone can do—especially in the calm-water learning environment of the Crystal River. Of course, there are many days when Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay is smooth as a mirror. At those times, there is nothing like learning in the azure shallows of the bay, just off The Homestead’s beach. Experienced paddlers will be astounded at the wonders of paddling from Pyramid Point at the bay’s northern tip, to Sleeping Bear Point at the southern end—all with the mystical Manitou Islands floating on the horizon.

Gear up: The Beach Club staff will put your paddleboard into the river or the bay for you and offer the paddling basics—as in please, please don’t make the rookie mistake and hold your paddle backward!

Related Read: The Homestead’s Manitou Passage Golf Club is a Must

Snorkel for Petoskey Stones

The clear waters of Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay are perfect for rock hunting with a snorkel, mask and fins. While you’ll find all kinds of beautiful stones on the Lake Michigan floor, keep a special eye out for the prized Petoskey stone. The stone is a fossilized coral that once flourished in a sea that covered this area 400 million years ago. During the Ice Age, glaciers broke up the coral and over the years the action of the waves smoothed the fossilized pieces into stones. You’ll know you’ve spotted a Petoskey by the honeycomb pattern on the stone.

Gear up: Drop into Flip Flops at the Beach Club and pick up snorkeling gear on the way to the beach.

Tube the Crystal River

This sweetheart of a river winds through The Homestead’s grounds and empties gently into Sleeping Bear Bay. By early summer the water is warm as a bath and the sandy bottom makes stopping for dips along the way a must. The staff at The Homestead will set you up with tubes then shuttle you up the river for a leisurely float down.

Gear up: Stop into (or call) Flip Flops at the Beach Club to reserve your tube and a seat on a shuttle.

Related Read: 8 Things to Do and See on the Leelanau Peninsula

Photo by Andy Wakeman

More Adventures On the Water Near The Homestead:

Boat on Glen Lakes

Rent pontoons, ski boats and sailboats to head out into the nearby stunningly beautiful Glen Lakes from either of Glen Arbor’s two marinas: Glen Craft Marina (231.334.4456) or On the Narrows Marina (231.334.4891).

Canoe the Crystal River

The folks at Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor will load you and your canoe upstream so you can relax and paddle back. 231.334.4420.

Go Charter Fishing

Reel in a monster lake trout or a king salmon on a charter fishing trip aboard the Mariah and Pier Pressure out of Leland Harbor north of The Homestead.

Photo(s) by Andy Wakeman