Most states in our country have small towns tucked away from the hustle and bustle of state capitals and big cities. In Michigan’s greater Detroit area, Port Austin fits the bill. This harbor town is two hours away from Detroit in a straight drive up M-53 to the tip of the Thumb of Michigan.
Port Austin is Close to Metro Detroit But with A Northern Michigan Feel
This budding artist colony nestled between farms and pasture land to its south and the expanse of Lake Huron to its north. As a result of this unique position, the town offers breathtaking sunrise and sunset views over the big lake. With a small year around population just over 600, it’s a summer destination with cottage owners and weekend tourists seek the cool breezes of Lake Huron while the parents take the kids out to enjoy the numerous sandy beaches throughout the area.
Boaters and cruising sailors carefully motor past the rocks and the iconic Port Austin Lighthouse to utilize the strategic port to stock up with groceries or make repairs before heading over to Canada’s Georgian Bay or the pristine waters of the North Channel.
Port Austin and Grindstone City are a Budding Artist Colony
This historic and unique town embraces visitors and its community with activities that allow everyone to get out and fellowship with one another forming lasting bonds. There is an “Art in The Park” event every Labor Day weekend and the White Church gallery is minutes away in Grindstone City. During the summer months, the town holds a weekly farmers market full of fresh veggies and produce accompanied by arts and crafts. No need to ask for directions as it’s located downtown one block from the harbor. This laid-back event is much anticipated by the locals and serves as both a marketplace and social gathering.
The newest event to hit the town has been the Porchfest. Here famous and not-so-famous music groups perform folk, country, jazz, and even a little rock. Participants stroll from house to house and take in each entertainer. The event is held each June and we will update our readers with dates as the event gets closer.
Port Austin is Great For Sea Kayaking
The outdoor enthusiast will find no shortage of things do or places to explore in Huron County. Turnip Rock is at the foremost of many beautiful sites. Only accessible by water, the 5-hour kayak round trip is the best way to experience this natural treasure. The 2 hours heading out seem shortened by the anticipation of seeing something so marvelous and the 2-hour paddle back allows ample time to explore the rocky shore let the experience sink in. If you’re a fisherman, the Port Austin harbor is home to several charter boats that specialize in finding the numerous Lake Trout, tasty Walleye and Steelhead Salmon that are out in the big lake.
For those who like to enjoy their site seeing underwater, Port Austin has an entire underwater park full of shipwrecks from the 19th century. Scuba divers and snorkelers can be seen here daily in summer months. On the other hand, if you feel the need to stay dry and hit the links, head just south of town to Bird Creek Golf Club and test your skills at the “best greens in the Thumb”. If putting is more your style, Port Austin has several classic mini-golf attractions for the kids and the popular Sandy Dunes Adventure Golf which claims the only waterfall in the Thumb. Horseback riding is available for kids age 8 and up at the Knoblock Riding Stables and the stable offers Pony rides for the little ones.
The Tip of the Thumb as a Foodie Destination
The Upper Thumb offers some of the finest home cooked and Great Lakes fare in the region. With over twenty restaurants, grills and pubs there is a choice for just about every taste. Outstanding establishments include the epicureanism of The Farm Restaurant, the classic dishes of The Bank 1884 Food and Spirits and breakfast at the Lighthouse Café. For those who like a sense of history venture to the reopened Garfield Inn. The 20th President of the United States, James Garfield, did not build or own the landmark 1850’s Inn, but he was a rather frequent visitor. A few minutes from Port Austin in Grindstone City are the dueling ice cream shops of the Grindstone General Store and Rybak’s Ice Cream.
Enjoy A Wild Beach at the Site of a Ghost Town
If you like to enjoy the great outdoors Port Crescent State Park is the perfect place. Located on 640 acres with 3 miles of sugar sand beach, the park offers excellent scenery. Find the quiet by relaxing among the sand dunes and enjoy a good book. The park is located on the site of an 1860’s lumber town that has long since faded away. Some remnants of the original town of Port Crescent are still seen in
the park such as the chimney base from the salt works and lumber mill. Much of the park literally resides on a ghost town. The park supports canoeing on the gentle Pinnebog River with rentals nearby. For those who want to venture on foot, there are seven miles of dunes and woods trails for hiking. Other amenities include hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, and birding. Port Crescent State Park has been designated as one qualified to be listed as Dark Sky Preserve. With little light pollution from nearby metro areas, this park is a haven for astronomers each summer.
Port Austin is Family Friendly
Port Austin is an affordable resort town with a budding artist colony in a family-friendly atmosphere. Visitors can find numerous places to stay. Lodging is available on the waterfront overlooking the famous Broken Rocks, a favorite of kayakers. Or check out the cozy knotty pine cabins in town and near the shops. Couples can also experience the romantic and classic touches of several Bed & Breakfasts in town. Camping is also available at several commercial, county and at Port Crescent State Park campgrounds. Port Austin is a place to call home or to spend a long weekend.
Related Links About Port Austin
- Golfing in Port Austin Michigan
- Port Crescent – Lumber Era Ghost Town Site
- Port Austin History Center
- My Experience with Cruising to Charity Island