Category Archives: Great Lakes Adventure

The Most Amazing Great Lakes Beaches

Minnesota – Singing Iona Beach on the North Shore of Lake Superior 

green trees near body of water under blue and orange sky during golden hour
Photo by Brandon Morrison on Pexels.com

Pink Rhyolite rock creates a beach about 300 yards long and seen from the Highway. The unique aspect that everyone finds amazing is the sound created by the waves on the stones. When the waves break and crash over the smooth rocks, they make a tinkling or clinking sound as they re-settle before the next wave. The beach it a bit hard to find but many consider it a must stop when traveling on Lake Superior’s North Shore.

The 10-acre park is one of the Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas on Lake Superior. The beach is about 200 yards from a public access parking lot off US Hwy 61, north of Duluth. Look for a small sign saying ‘Twin Points Water’ access at mile marker 42. Just north of Gooseberry Falls, State Park.


Illinois – The North Avenue Beach of Chicago on Lake Michigan 

ball shaped beach blur close up
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It has been called an oasis in a concrete jungle. The North Avenue Beach marquee attraction is its massive 22,000-foot beach house that looks like an ocean liner. Located within Lincoln Park, this city beach offers a million dollar view of the Chicago skyline. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the shoreline. Grab an ice cream or sandwich at one of several food stands. Even get a swimsuit and sandals from apparel shops.

If you are tired of all the sand between your toes, you can explore the main park or check out the chimps in the Lincoln Park Zoo. If the weather turns, you can get out of the sun or rain at the nearby Chicago History Museum on North Clark Street.

 


Ontario Canada’s Grand Bend & Ipperwash Beaches on Lake Huron

beach dawn dusk hd wallpaper
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This stretch of sand on the South shore of Lake Huron in the Grand Bend area is an experience to behold. The crowds tend to be young around Grand Bend and family oriented along Ipperwash beach. Regardless of where you end up, you can enjoy the beach, the dunes, the ice cream and the vibe. Since this stretch of beach is on the southeast shore visitors can enjoy some of the best sunsets in the region. Grand Bend is the quintessential vacationer town. Beach shops, pubs, restaurants, cottages and art galleries are a short walk away.

The Grand Bend Beach has been designated a Blue Flag Beach. This means it has been certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that the beach meets stringent environment and sustainability standards.


Ohio’s Headlands Beach State Park on Lake Erie

adventure backpack beach blonde
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Headlands Beach State Park offers a mile-long natural sand beach on Lake Erie, the largest in Ohio. Visitors can swim, picnic and fish along a nearby break wall. There are trails run through the park along the shore, which date back to the Iroquois.

The park began in the early 1950’s when the state of Ohio began acquiring land to create a state park. The park opened in 1953 as Painesville Beach State Park and changed to Headlands Beach in 1955. In the 1960’s the beach area modernized with the addition of parking lots, concession buildings, restrooms, and changing booths. CNN’s Travel program named Headlands as one of the top 20 beaches in the United States.


Michigan – Saugatuck’s Oval Beach on Lake Michigan

waves coming to shore during golden hour
Photo by Alan Cabello on Pexels.com

The Saugatuck community is known as a favorite get-a-way for those from Chicago, but the folks from Michigan love it too. Oval Beach is a large sandy, breezy beach with nearby dunes common along the Lake Michigan shore. Walk to the pier and around along the channel for a change of scenery. There is a concession stand for soft serve ice cream cones and drinks.

The best advice we got was to park at Mount Baldhead Park and walk up the narrow road to Oval Beach. Parking is $10/day.


Wisconsin’s North Beach at Racine on Lake Michigan

beach dawn dusk ocean
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

This famous beach is almost a half mile long on Lake Michigan’s western shore and rated #4 of the “51 Great American Beaches,”  by USA Today.  This 50-acre park also has the distinction of being rated as a Blue Wave Beach (The US version of the Blue Flag rating for environmental certification for beaches) This city beach has also been rated favorably by Parents Magazine and Midwest Living. 

Located in Racine, the beach experience rival’s Chicago’s with live music, volleyball, Kid’s Cove playground, kayak rentals, and food concessions.  The park is also friendly to those with disabilities with handicap ramps. 


Indiana – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan

grass beside the sea
Photo by Melanie Wupperman on Pexels.com

With views of the Chicago skyline on crisp clear days and large dunes, hiding remote enclaves and sections of beach this National Lakeshore is a taste of wilderness surrounded by urban and industrial growth. The lakeshore is also known as being a bird watcher paradise as flocks cross the area in migratory patterns extending into the northern Great Lakes. There are ten separate beaches within the large lakeshore park with West Beach, Mount Baldy and Portage Lakefront being the most popular.

Congress designated the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. The park covers 15,000 acres and incorporates the Indiana Dunes State Park within its boundaries. Indiana continues to manage and charge a separate admission fee to the state park. The park is split in two by the Port of Indiana and several steel mills. 


New York – Sandy Island Beach State Park on Lake Ontario

cold sun friends outside
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

Long considered underrated in upstate New York this park is situated on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario thus offering with the prettiest sunsets. The park offers a sandy beach on Lake Ontario, with a bathhouse, picnic area, fishing, and bird watching. If you bring a small sailboat or kayak there is a car-top boat launch. The current high water levels of Lake Ontario are causing erosion and loss of sand of the main beach. The net effect is a narrow strip of beach. This phenomenon is happening in the entire Great Lakes region

The Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland System is a 17-mile shoreline, which extends along Lake Ontario. The dunes are similar to those found on Lake Michigan in Indiana and western Michigan and are the only large freshwater dunes site in the northeastern United States.


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Paddle Turnip Rock – Five Things to Know

Turnip Rock is an Easy Paddle

One of the most amazing sites in the Upper Thumb is Turnip Rock. Carved over time by the force of constant wave action the soft limestone has been shaped to its namesake and separated from the mainland over thousands of years. CNN called it one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America and Pure Michigan featured it on it’s 2016 magazine cover. International travelers coming into Detroit Metropolitan Airport see Turnip Rock as their first view of Michigan’s wonder scenes coming into customs. It’s a marvel to behold and it’s an easy trip if the conditions are right.

This small guide offers a local point of view to avoid problems with the local law enforcement and property owners while being able to enjoy a unique natural wonder.


Paddle to Turnip Rock Port Austin Michigan


Turnip Rock is on Private Land

Despite its uniqueness as a natural wonder is located and surrounded by private land. Thus the only way to access it is from the water. Fortunately that can easily be achieved by canoe or kayak. This means that you can’t go feet dry. Stay in the water. If you must get out of our kayak stay as close to waters edge as possible. (Unless its an emergency)



Paddling  Near the Rock on Busy Weekends

During the weekends the number of paddlers can get quite large. If the area around the rock is crowded consider paddling a few hundred yards past and view the overhangs and cave features that border the Pointe Aux Barques community.  During the late 1800’s the cave were hideouts for fugitives. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore.  You may be tempted to get out of your kayak and climb the rocks for a view. This is a no-no and there are several signs reminding not to trespass. (IMHO these signs are obtrusive, and possibly illegal as they are posted under the high water mark of Lake Huron)


Pointe Aux Barques Caves


Heed Weather and Travel Time

Plan on 2-3 hours total travel time to Turnip Rock from Port Austin. This assumes that the winds and lake are calm. You will paddle north-east along the shallow coastline until you see the small cliffs that mark the start of Pointe Aux Barques. If the wind is strong and the there are waves it’s a wise idea to defer to another day. Novice paddlers have been pushed by southern winds out into the lake requiring assistance or rescue.



Can I Climb on Turnip and Fingernail Rocks?

Despite numerous YouTube and other postings showing people climbing all over the rock formation, you are urged to not imbibe. The shore formations above the high water mark is private land. People have been hurt trying to climb it and arrested for trespass. Also the limestone is rather fragile and prone to breakage and collapse. The best way to mark your visit is to capture the rock formation with digital photos of you and your peeps in unique light and weather. Stay wet and wild and get a great shot from the water.   


Turnip Rock what to Bring


What to Bring on Board

Life jacket, Sunglasses, sunscreen, small towel, cell phone and a dry bag. Bring water and something to munch on. Water shoes are also highly recommended. It’s not a strenuous trip but winds and weather can make it a challenge for the unprepared.



Leave No Trace

Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility. While paddling to the rock remember to minimize your impact so it can be enjoyed for the next generation. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare. …
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. …
  • Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out) …
  • Leave What You Find. …
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts. …
  • Respect Wildlife. …
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

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Great Getaways in Michigan’s Upper Thumb

This 15 minute video is a great review of some of the highlights of Michigan’s Thumb.  With 150 miles of shoreline the contrast between the rocky, rugged Lake Huron side is toured to the sugar sand and calm waters of Saginaw Bay. The thumb region is a great area to explore.

This video is from Great Getaways, a television travel series that spotlights active getaway adventures across the Midwest and Canada with an emphasis on the outdoors.


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Tawas – Fun Across the Bay

On summer evenings we can see the blinking lights of the Tawas area from our beach. Its a day’s sail from Caseville but a several hour drive from the Upper Thumb.  The bay is  clear due to the currents coming in from Lake Huron and the little town nestled near the harbor is a charming mix of tourist and art colony.


tawas bay

Small Town Charm

East Tawas might be a small Michigan harbor town located on Tawas Bay, but that doesn’t stop this fascinating area from being known as a four season destination. East Tawas is an exceptional port of call and vacation spot if you’re a passionate boater. The town is filled with charming restaurants, small artisan shops, lively pubs, and even a movie theater within walking distance of the harbor. The Tawas Point State Park with its iconic lighthouse is also not far away, so there’s a virtually endless list of things you can do while vacationing at or touring East Tawas.


Tawaspoint3
Boating and Sailing

East Tawas is located on Tawas Bay, and known as a prime cursing destination for sailing in Lake Huron. It has a safe and beautiful harbor, and this makes it the perfect fit for just about every float plan if you near Saginaw Bay. The East Tawas State Dock is a 140-slip marina that attracts boaters from all over the Great Lakes area. It has state-of-the-art features such as a comfortable dock office, a new shower facilities, a boat launch, and a park with a playground. The facility is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation so expect some construction impact if you plan to visit. There are also many boat rentals in East Tawas where you can motor a small boat or sail out on the bay.


tawas point
Visit the Tawas Area Beaches

You have a long list of options when it comes to the beaches at East Tawas. East Tawas offers public swimming beaches that are fitted with amenities including picnic areas and playgrounds. City Park in East Tawas has camping areas that are situated on the beach. The neighboring Tawas Point State Park offers miles of sandy beaches, either along the cooler waters of Lake Huron or, the warmer waters of Tawas Bay. Tawas Point has been referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” With its iconic lighthouse standing guard on the point.


East_tawas_newman
Enjoy the Local Food

While the food at your hotel, camp or on deck may be perfect, you can find a fine selection of cuisine within walking distance of the harbor or a short drive. Treat yourself to the fantastic locally caught walleye or great homemade fudge and candy. Some of the notables in town include G’s Pizzeria & Deli, Craving, Northwoods Steak House, and Tawas Point Grille.


Blue_morph_yellow_walleye
Go Fishing

Tawas Bay is a fishing spot, situated at the confluence of the Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay waters it’s known as the feeding ground for much of the fishery in Lake Huron. The waters of northeast Lake Huron are cool, while the waters of southwest Saginaw Bay are warm. As a result, many species are thriving here; walleye pike, yellow perch, and salmon are what the charter boat captains go for. If you’re after the elusive bass you can try at the Huron National Forest.


Cross-Country_skiing

Go Skiing

When the snow fly’s its time to rethink your activity. East Tawas is active during the winter, cross country skiing is a high impact option and draws enthusiasts from around the region. There are major trail systems for you to choose from in the Tawas area- the groomed Corsair Ski Trails, and the un-groomed Highbanks Trails. The Corsair Trail System, is situated in the beautiful Silver valley surrounded by the 120,000-acre Huron National Forest. The Corsair system is considered one of the largest groomed trail networks in Michigan. Iosco County has 94 miles of trails for snowmobiling that are spruced and ready for action in wintertime.

There are numerous activities in the Tawas area. Shopping, hiking in the Huron National Forest or check out the nightlife in town. Possibilities are endless, and your adventure in upper Saginaw Bay promises to be a memorable one.

Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, Tawas Bay USFWS photo by Frank Horvath

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Great Lakes Cruising

I’ll admit that I’ve taken a liking to cruise. It must be the influence of having a sailboat that we have taken from port to port on Lake Huron.  Great Lakes Cruising is making a comeback. Recently several cruise ships have announced routes and stops throughout the Great Lakes region. Currently, there are three curse lines that cover the Great Lakes. Victory Cruise Lines, Great Lakes Cruise Company and Blount Small Ship Adventures. The Great Lakes Cruise Company has four ships that cover a wide range of ports and destinations. One ship, the Pearl Mist is small enough to tackle the famous cruising grounds of Georgian Bay and the beautiful North Channel. 


Great Lakes Crusing


In the days before the highway and autos, the only way to travel the vast distances for the Great Lakes was by sail and steamer. In the mid-1800’s until well into the 1950’s one could travel most of the lakes in style and comfort. One of the most famous and beloved ships was the SS South American. The SS South American was a Great Lakes overnight passage steamboat built by the Great Lakes Engineering Works at Ecorse, Michigan. It was built in 1913 for the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company. The vessel was launched on February 21, 1914, and was the newer of two sister ships, the older one being the SS North American. 


Great Lakes Cruising


Along with its sister ship, SS North American carried passengers between Chicago, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Duluth, Georgian Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. These were the heydays of the industry. A businessman could board a ship in Chicago for an overnight trip to northern Michigan. Spend the weekend with the family in the cool northern cabin in the woods and take the ship back to the city on Sunday night for work on Monday. It was noted that Hemingway’s father did just that early in the 1900’s. 


Great Lakes Cruising


Only the South American visited Lake Superior and made a short weekly stop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula town of Houghton/Hancock. She carried over 450 passengers. The rare picture below hangs in the Rock Harbor Lodge on Isle Royal. It shows tourists being dropped off at the American Dock which still stands today. 


Great Lakes Crusing


The South American was well known for its High School trips in the 1950’s. Southeast Michigan high school seniors would take a small cruise from Detroit to Chicago. The last season for the South American was in 1967. Her final route was to offer trips to the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. 


Great Lakes Cruising


Sadly, both ships are now part of history. The SS North American sunk on the Atlantic coast while being towed and the SS South American rotted away and was finally scrapped in 1992. However, with the rapid popularity of cruising now taking place, I expect to see more of these small cruising ships ply their way among the Great Lakes.


Great Lakes Cruising

Related Stories on ThumbWind

Great Lakes Cruise Ships. 


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Paddle Turnip Rock – Five Things to Know

Turnip Rock is an Easy Paddle

One of the most amazing sites in the Upper Thumb is Turnip Rock. Carved over time by the force of constant wave action the soft limestone has been shaped to its namesake and separated from the mainland over thousands of years. CNN called it one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America and Pure Michigan featured it on it’s 2016 magazine cover. International travelers coming into Detroit Metropolitan Airport see Turnip Rock as their first view of Michigan’s wonder scenes coming into customs. It’s a marvel to behold and it’s an easy trip if the conditions are right.

This small guide offers a local point of view to avoid problems with the local law enforcement and property owners while being able to enjoy a unique natural wonder.


Paddle to Turnip Rock Port Austin Michigan


Turnip Rock is on Private Land

Despite its uniqueness as a natural wonder is located and surrounded by private land. Thus the only way to access it is from the water. Fortunately that can easily be achieved by canoe or kayak. This means that you can’t go feet dry. Stay in the water. If you must get out of our kayak stay as close to waters edge as possible. (Unless its an emergency)


 


Paddling  Near the Rock on Busy Weekends

During the weekends the number of paddlers can get quite large. If the area around the rock is crowded consider paddling a few hundred yards past and view the overhangs and cave features that border the Pointe Aux Barques community.  During the late 1800’s the cave were hideouts for fugitives. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore.  You may be tempted to get out of your kayak and climb the rocks for a view. This is a no-no and there are several signs reminding not to trespass. (IMHO these signs are obtrusive, and possibly illegal as they are posted under the high water mark of Lake Huron)


Pointe Aux Barques Caves


Heed Weather and Travel Time

Plan on 2-3 hours total travel time to Turnip Rock from Port Austin. This assumes that the winds and lake are calm. You will paddle north-east along the shallow coastline until you see the small cliffs that mark the start of Pointe Aux Barques. If the wind is strong and the there are waves it’s a wise idea to defer to another day. Novice paddlers have been pushed by southern winds out into the lake requiring assistance or rescue.


 


Can I Climb on Turnip and Fingernail Rocks?

Despite numerous YouTube and other postings showing people climbing all over the rock formation, you are urged to not imbibe. The shore formations above the high water mark is private land. People have been hurt trying to climb it and arrested for trespass. Also the limestone is rather fragile and prone to breakage and collapse. The best way to mark your visit is to capture the rock formation with digital photos of you and your peeps in unique light and weather. Stay wet and wild and get a great shot from the water.   


Turnip Rock what to Bring


What to Bring on Board

Life jacket, Sunglasses, sunscreen, small towel, cell phone and a dry bag. Bring water and something to munch on. Water shoes are also highly recommended. It’s not a strenuous trip but winds and weather can make it a challenge for the unprepared.


 


Leave No Trace

Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility. While paddling to the rock remember to minimize your impact so it can be enjoyed for the next generation. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare. …
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. …
  • Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out) …
  • Leave What You Find. …
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts. …
  • Respect Wildlife. …
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

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