We found the top five places to watch Great Lakes ships and freighters. If you are from Michigan you know it’s one of the great pastimes of living on the Great Lakes. Watching the big Laker freighters slip past is an awesome sight. With more than 25 companies operating commercial vessels in the Great Lakes, seeing these freighters is a common sight and a favorite pastime for many enthusiasts. The largest Great Lakes freighters are massive, with some exceeding 1000 feet in length, the equivalent of a 100 story building.
Here are a couple of places to view freighters in Michigan that offer the best up-close experience in the region.
#1 Blue Water Bridge and Thomas Edison Park – Port Huron
This river’s edge park and walkway offer excellent views of freighter traffic moving up-bound and down-bound on the St. Clair River.
#2 Calcite Near Rodger’s City
The amazing point with this site may not be the closeness of the freighters but this busy port is also home to the largest carbonate mine in the world. The Calcite Quarry operation can easily be seen from space and has been active for over 85 years. The rocks are processed to create crushed aggregate, building and soil enhancers, lime, and additives for steel production. The quarry ships over 9 million tons of calcite material each year.
The best views of freighters can be found at Harbor View Park.
#3 Old Mackinac Lighthouse
The lighthouse park along the Mackinac Straits offers some of the best backdrops for freighter gawking in Michigan. The straits are a convergence of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. A favorite shot is to capture a big freighter going under the Mackinac Bridge. You can check the estimated times that the freighters will cross the straits at boatnerd.com
#4 The Soo Locks – Sault Ste. Marie
The Soo Locks is considered one of the best places to view freighters in Michigan and in all the Great Lakes. Every up-bound or down-bound freighter must use the Locks to enter or exit Lake Superior. You can watch the ships as they are raised or lowered between the lake and the St. Mary’s River on a special viewing platform. Great views and photographs can also be had at Rotary Park, Aune-Osborn Park, Sherman Park, and the Parks and Recreation area near the Cloverland Hydroelectric.
#5 Marquette South Harbor
The South Harbor area is a short walk down the hill from downtown Marquette. We like to walk along the Ellwood Mattson Lower Harbor Park or drink on the patio at the Iron Bay Restaurant. Admittedly seeing a freighter in the harbor is rare but does happen. A better option may be to head up Lakeshore drive to the docks near the Presque Isle Park entrance. Here you can see the big freighters tied up and marvel at how big they are. You may see offload operations of coal or the onboard loading of taconite from nearby mines at this spot.
#6 Duluth Minnesota Ship Watching
On the western shore of Lake Superior in Duluth. Its Duluth harbor cam points out the canal located near the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center and Aerial Lift Bridge. It’s one of the top spots to watch incoming ship traffic in all the Great Lakes. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to Minnesota to see this neat site.