Being outside and enjoying the beauty of the state’s diverse landscape and waterways is the best part of camping in Michigan. Whether it’s by walking, riding, or paddling, there’s something that will pique the interest of every nature lover and outdoor enthusiast.
Whether you tube, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, the Platte River in Honor is the perfect Northern Michigan experience. A selection of outfitters is available for shuttles and equipment rental, or you can simply launch your own. Lower Platte River is a calm, slow-paced waterway, perfect for younger children and those looking for a leisurely afternoon. For the thrill seekers, give the Upper Platte River a go. The current is much quicker and there are far more obstacles to maneuver – low-hanging branches, downed trees, etc. The Upper Platte is recommended for experienced kayakers. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch to be enjoyed somewhere on the riverbank.
Experience the great outdoors on horseback! This family-friendly activity provides an opportunity to view nature from a slightly taller perspective. Maple Ridge Stables in Vanderbilt has guided trail tours, camps, special events, and lessons. There is something for every rider regardless of experience to enjoy. Afterwards, head south on Interstate 75 to Lewiston for dinner at Lewiston Lodge. Grab a seat on the patio to watch the sunset over East Twin Lake.
Coldwater Country, otherwise known as Branch County (fun fact: this county sells more fishing licenses than any other in the state), has more than 100 lakes, including two chains of lakes. Fishermen can enjoy catching panfish like bluegill and perch, as well as good-eating walleye. Don’t forget your fishing license from the Michigan DNR! Visit coldwatercountry.com for a list of lakes and their locations in the county.
Spend the day fishing along one of the chains of lakes: the south chain (eight lakes and 16 miles long) or the north chain (seven lakes). Sunbathe, catch a bass or two, and see some gorgeous waterfront scenery. In the north chain, there are a few restaurants and ice cream shops along the way that are accessible by boat. The south chain has several sandbars. Rentals are available if you don’t have your own boat.
Plan your outdoor adventure for the twilight and nighttime by visiting one of the state’s designated Dark Sky Preserves (and the first to be designated in the nation back in 1993): Lake Hudson State Recreation Area in Clayton, near the Ohio border. Night sky viewing opportunities are spectacular, especially in August when the Perseid meteor shower takes place.
So bring a blanket, a thermos of something to sip on, and your curiosity – and prepare to be awed by the majestic, unpolluted beauty of the Milky Way and the constellations. Local astronomical observers recommend finding a spot at the picnic or beach parking areas, as they are less used. A recreation passport is required and gets you into every other state park and recreation area for the rest of the year.
If you’re looking for something to do in southeast Michigan, try catching an adrenaline rush at TreeRunner West Bloomfield Adventure Park. This outdoor park offers fun activities for adults and children. Take a ride down one of the park’s multiple zip lines or explore the trees along one of seven different aerial ropes courses. Tickets are $48. You can purchase tickets and find park hours at treerunnerwestbloomfield.com.
Paddle out on the Detroit River to see Detroit from a new perspective. Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte offers kayak rentals and guided tours of the shoreline. You can find prices and tour schedules at riversidekayak.com. Riverside Kayak Connection also rents bikes to Belle Isle Park in Detroit, where you can pedal around to the island’s multiple attractions. This island is home to the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Belle Isle Nature Center as well as a beach and golf range.
The Upper Peninsula is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and you can begin your adventure by exploring the 95,238-acre Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of birds pass through Seney on their migration paths, and the refuge is home to beavers, otters, and a variety of wildlife. The Marshland Wildlife Drive is a seven-mile route that takes you through quintessential Northern Michigan hardwood and pine forests and wetlands, with multiple observation points along the way.
Several hiking trails crisscross the refuge, offering you a chance to stretch your legs and soak in the beauty of the area. To get an up-close view of the pools and marshes that characterize the refuge, rent a kayak in Germfask and paddle down the Manistique River. Visit fws.gov/refuge/seney for visitor center hours, trail maps, and safety guidelines.