Soak up September’s still-warm lakes and sunny days while you spend a three-day weekend exploring Northern Michigan’s eastern shoreline from Oscoda to Rogers City.
The state’s sunrise side has an obvious claim to fame—the chance to greet the sun as it peeks over the wide expanse of Lake Huron. But the most fascinating attractions along quirky and beautiful US-23 take some digging (or diving). Here, we point the way to adventure.
Day 1 | Watch Waves with the Birds & Snorkel Some Mysteries
Your adventure starts at the Purple Martin Lakeside Inn & Nature Center, within walking distance to Rogers City and home to its own five-acre beachfront birding sanctuary. The owners nurture a colony of rare purple martins, leading to designations as a National Wildlife Federation accredited property, a purple martin sanctuary and a monarch butterfly way station. Eagle sightings are common from the second-story deck that also offers views of Lake Huron’s iconic sunrises—best enjoyed before the gourmet breakfasts.
Venture to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where you can wade into the mysteries of some 100 wrecks below at spots like 40 Mile Point, where the wreck of the Joseph S. Fay is a short swim from shore. Rent equipment from Great Lakes Divers in Alpena to see this wooden freighter, which sunk in 1905, and other accessible wrecks.
Day 2 | Dig for Treasure, then Dress for Dinner
Rockport State Recreation Area, once home to a limestone quarry, was abandoned because there were too many fossils amid the limestone. The company’s loss is your gain. The 300-acre former quarry has mounds of fossil-rich rock from the Devonian Period, the remains of what was once an ancient sea. Each visitor can keep 25 pounds of fossils/rocks per year embedded with corals, plants and shelled creatures.
After your afternoon dig, head to the Churchill Pointe Inn. With its nine guest rooms and shoreside setting on Hubbard Lake, the inn is a worthy destination for an elegant stay. The fact that it’s also frequently named one of the top two waterfront dining destinations in the state is just the icing on the cake. A date-ready menu features offerings like crab meat–stuffed whitefish in Dijon sauce and blue cheese–crusted filet mignon.
Day 3 | Beach Fun by Day & Sky Fun by Night
Mai Tiki Resort near Oscoda proclaims “life is fun” with its string of beach cottages painted vibrant shades of aqua, pink, lemon yellow and red, all near fire pits, volleyball courts, cornhole boards and thatched roof palapas. Amid that Key West vibe, there’s also Northern Michigan family-friendly fun, like outdoor movies on the beach.
Your adventure for the day is Negwegon State Park (ideally with a roadside pit stop along the way at the Paul Bunyan statue). Then find blissful solitude while you wander the park’s hidden beaches and trails. The 4,000-plus-acre state park is a hotspot on the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail and is also a designated dark-sky preserve. Come dusk, the Milky Way reveals itself brightly overhead.
Kim Schneider is a long-time travel writer specializing in Michigan adventures, food and wine. The Midwest Travel Journalist Association has named her Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year, and she’s the author of “100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die.”