Category Archives: Great Lakes Adventure

Great Lakes Beaches Are Amazing

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

Great Lakes Beaches
From Pixabay CC0

One to the famous Great Lake Beaches can be found on the North Shore of Lake Superior. 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 

Great Lakes Beaches
North Avenue Beach – From Pixabay CC0

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

Great Lakes Beaches
Canada Beaches – From Pixabay CC0

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

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 Oval Beach on Lake Michigan

Great Lakes Beaches
Lake Michigan Dunes – From Pixabay CC0

The Saugatuck community is known as a favorite getaway 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

Great Lakes Beaches
From Pixabay CC0

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

Great Lakes Beaches
Indiana Dunes State Park – Pixabay CC0

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

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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