Ask longtime Michigan residents where in the state they live and chances are that they’ll hold up their right palm and point out their hometown upon it—the shape of a hand held up approximating that of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Ask an outdoor enthusiast who’s in-the-know where Michigan’s best kayaking trip is and chances are said enthusiast will hold up a right palm and point to its thumb. It is at the thumb where paddlers find the wonderful cliffs and clear waters of Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay.
Nearly the entire length of the thumb’s coastline, from White Rock Park in the east to the Quanicasee River in the west, forms the Heritage Water Trail. The “trail” has 34 official access points for non-mechanized small watercraft; lodges and/or campgrounds are located at several of them.
Hardcore kayakers will find bliss is exploring the entire Heritage Water Trail. Fortunately for paddlers who are less ambitious, looking for a day trip and/or are out-of-shape, several of the trail’s highlights are conveniently concentrated in a small area around Point aux Barques at the tip of the thumb. These include:
• The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse and Museum – This 89-foot high (27 m) lighthouse has been a beacon for ships since 1848. The six rustic cabins near the lighthouse grounds require booking far in advance but make for a cool stay. Pic to right
• Port Austin Reef Light – Our personal favorite Heritage Water Trail site, this combination of solar-powered lighthouse and octagonal fortress is slightly more than a mile from the coast. The lighthouse is built on a large shoal; the water all around the lighthouse is only a few inches deep. The shoal causes some tricky waves and currents so only kayakers with some game should attempt the journey out without a guide. Pic below
• Turnip Rock – Jutting out from clear shallow waters near Port Austin, this might be the most picturesque rock formation in the Great Lakes. There’s a small sand beach nearby that’s perfect for landing a kayak. The rock sticking out from a cliff next to Turnip Rock is appropriately nicknamed “The Thumbnail.” Pic at the top of this post, video below
Spot Cool Stuff has long thought that Michigan is the most underrated state for travel in America. Explore the Heritage Water Trail and we think you’ll agree. Plus, you’ll have fun telling friends about your trip and pretending “kayaking the thumb” is a euphemism for something else.
If you go: Kayaks are available for rent in most coastal cities around the thumb, including Port Austin from where Port Austin Kayak Rental also runs kayaking tours for $30-$50 per person. Appropriate footwear is not for rent; the combination of boating and shore exploring make this trip perfect for a pair of Vibram’s FiveFingers.
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